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The Ultimate Fighter returns on Wednesday night with two pivotal fights to close out the preliminary round matchups, as Cody Bollinger takes on Anthony Gutierrez while Canadian Sarah Moras takes on 6-foot-1 striker Peggy Morgan.
Besides the final two slots in the quarterfinal matchups being on the line, bragging rights are still up for grabs as the two teams headed up by women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and top contender Miesha Tate are tied up at three wins a piece so far.
These final two matchups are also crucial to the next round matchups, because depending on how things play out, it could be teammate vs teammate in either the men or women's side when the numbers game forces a showdown like that to happen.
Looking ahead at the episode, which features both fights during the one-hour broadcast, the hard times for all four fighters start long before they step into the Octagon. The arduous process of weight cutting isn't an easy one for the greatest fighters in the world or the ones starting out their professional careers.
Weight cutting has really become an art form in many ways with the true masters being able to step on the scales happy and with a full belly of food, while others hit the stage looking frail, depleted and depressed. Another obstacle that gets thrown in the way of the competitors on the Ultimate Fighter is the much talked about 'food list'.
The way it works on the reality show, fighters are allowed to leave a daily food list and the producers and production folks will then hand deliver whatever items have been requested. Now that list can be a huge benefit for a fighter that's trying to stay in prime shape and wants only natural, organic items. It can also be a hindrance to a fighter that sees the list as a standing order for anything they can engulf during the six weeks they spend in the Ultimate Fighter house.
Looking ahead, this week it appears that weight cutting could play a major factor in both bouts, as many of the competitors on the show are fighting at bantamweight, but walking around well above 135 pounds.
In the final preliminary round fight for the men, Team Tate's No. 1 pick Cody Bollinger takes on Team Rousey's resident loudmouth Anthony Gutierrez.
Throughout the entire season of The Ultimate Fighter, Bollinger has been a consistent pick to make the finals given his veteran experience and impressive record. Training under former Ultimate Fighter winner Joe "Daddy" Stevenson in California, Bollinger is a well rounded competitor with the ability to pull out a win by submission or knockout. At 5-foot-10, Bollinger is usually going to be the taller fighter in his bouts, but Gutierrez actually matches him at the exact same height.
Gutierrez, regardless of his brash and outspoken nature in the house, is still a great prospect, with a perfect 4-0 record in his career and a strong finishing game, as he’s put away all four opponents by either submission or TKO.
Bollinger is definitely the favorite in this fight given his experience against some very tough competition in his career, and he's picked up a number of wins along the way. As good as Bollinger is, however, being heavily favored to win can also come back to haunt a fighter. Just ask Shayna Baszler, who was expected to cruise to the finals of the show and then proceeded to lose in the opening round.
When it comes to picking the winner, Bollinger is going to be the overwhelming selection and he's the smart choice as well, but Gutierrez could repeat what Julianna Pena already did this season, so don't count him out for the upset.
In the other fight, Team Tate's Sarah Moras takes on Team Rousey's Peggy Morgan in the final women's bout in the opening round. Both fighters are relatively young in the women's MMA game, with Moras possessing a 3-1 record overall while Morgan is still undefeated at 2-0.
A grappler by trade, Moras is a tough customer who holds a win over Team Tate teammate Julianna Pena, while also having a defeat thanks to Raquel Pennington. Moras has the experience edge in this fight as well, although just slightly, but her level of competition has been remarkably better than her opponent’s.
At 6-foot-1 tall, Peggy Morgan will probably have a reach advantage over any women's fighter in the UFC, but she has to know how to use that before it really becomes a factor. She has developed a strong straight punch, which is key to her pulling off a victory in this fight by keeping Moras away with her reach.
Morgan is one of the fighters to also keep an eye on when it comes to cutting weight in the show. She's one of the biggest competitors in the house, and making weight numerous times over a six-week period could definitely take its toll. If she gets dragged into the second round and Moras is smart to push the pace, Morgan could struggle to maintain her energy levels.
Like all of the women's fights this season, expect the bout between Moras and Morgan to be another war, and this really could go either way. Moras will give up a huge reach advantage to Morgan, but overall she still has the kind of style and adaptability that could give her the victory. Moras needs to get inside quickly and work this fight to the ground. If she's able to get Morgan to the ground, expect Moras to put on a strong performance, methodically picking her opponent apart on the mat.