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The semifinals are set on The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rousey vs. Team Tate, with the final pieces of the puzzle falling into place last week. Cody Bollinger not being able to cut weight and thus being booted from the show gives Team Rousey's Anthony Gutierrez an automatic pass into the next round, which means he's fresh and uninjured heading into his fight.
The ladies also closed out the quarterfinal round with Canadian grappler Sarah Moras finishing Peggy Morgan with a nasty armbar to punch her ticket to the semifinals.
The semifinals for the show are set like this:
Michael Wootten vs. Chris Holdsworth
David Grant vs. Anthony Gutierrez
Jessica Rakoczy vs. Raquel Pennington
Julianna Pena vs. Sarah Moras
An interesting aspect to keep an eye on now with the eight semifinalists set is how the other fighters in the house react with no bout coming up - in past seasons that has meant a little more partying and less regard for their teammates' preparation. The fighters who are no longer in the competition don't have as much to risk now, so will they still be there to help their teammates get ready and avoid the pitfalls of past participants, or will they up the house antics, which could disturb the semifinalists from fully preparing for their upcoming bouts? Coaches Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate may play a major part in helping their teams stay focused with four fights remaining and a lot of fighters with nothing to do except wait for their plane ticket home.
Before we kick off the semifinals with an intriguing bantamweight men's matchup between Chris Holdsworth and Michael Wootten, the fighters will first get to try their hand at riding a Harley-Davidson.
This season, more than most in the past, has given the fighters a bit of levity by allowing them to exit the Ultimate Fighter house on numerous occasions. From fight viewing parties at Red Rock to poolside adventures with the Hooters girls, the cast of The Ultimate Fighter season 18 have had it better than most of the competitors in past seasons and they continue their journey outside the house in the next episode.
Who has the chops to ride a Harley-Davidson Street Glide just like Jax rides in Sons of Anarchy? We might just find out on the next episode.
Once the motorcycle fantasies come to an end, it's back to the cage, where the real action begins and that kicks off the semifinal matchups with Team Rousey's Michael Wootten taking on Team Tate's only remaining male fighter in Chris Holdsworth.
Michael Wootten was a big underdog heading into the season, not because he wasn't talented, but he was a bit of an unknown. Wootten carried a perfect 7-0 record into the house, but with most of his fights taking place at home in England, he didn't carry the same kind of marquee value into the show that some other competitors did.
Wootten certainly proved himself, however, with a win to get into the house and then a second victory defeating grappler Josh Hill in the quarterfinal round. Wootten had to dig deep after a tough early going, where Hill was able to drag the fight to the mat and control the British fighter with his wrestling. Luckily, Wootten had the kind of perseverance and conditioning to wear Hill out as the fight wore on and win a unanimous decision after three full rounds.
Meanwhile, Chris Holdsworth remains one of the favorites to win the entire show. A black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Holdsworth now trains with Team Alpha Male, arguably the top lighter weight camp in the sport along with Brazil's Nova Uniao (UFC champions Jose Aldo and Renan Barao train there). Holdsworth took on Team Rousey's top pick Chris Beal in his quarterfinal round matchup and made short work of him, finishing the fight in the first round with superior striking before catching a guillotine choke submission.
Wootten won't be an easy out for Holdworth, but he does come into the fight with a tough proposition to face. Thus far in his Ultimate Fighter career, Wootten has fought for five rounds in total, 25 minutes in all through two fights. Now, Wootten has shown fantastic cardio in both fights, especially the battle with Hill, where his conditioning played a major part in the victory. He also went through both fights without taking any kind of serious damage, but it can't be ignored that with two bouts inside of a few weeks on the reality show, he's fought more than any other fighter in the house. Wootten is a pretty large bantamweight as well, so cutting the weight for a third time while going through five full rounds could be a factor in this one.
Wootten now has to deal with an equally tough opponent with a finishing rate that matches his own. Holdsworth has long arms and quick striking that gave Beal trouble, and he could do the same thing to Wootten. In addition, Holdsworth has a grappling game that matches a fighter like Josh Hill, except he's super aggressive on the ground, constantly working for submissions, which is a much different animal than what Wootten dealt with in his last fight.
Holdsworth will look to punch his ticket to the finale by putting Wootten down on the ground and knocking the Brit around with strikes before going for the submission to finish the fight. Wootten is a solid underdog, especially after his win over Hill, but it's hard to bet on him this time around with such a tough opponent staring him down from across the Octagon.
Holdsworth is a strong pick to not only make the finals of the show, but to win the entire series. If he can put together a similar performance as his last bout, Holdsworth should get the job done and pick up another victory to keep Team Tate alive in the men's division while he awaits the outcome of the other bout to see who he would be facing in the November 30 final in Las Vegas.