Following a rough start to the season on The Ultimate Fighter: Heavy Hitters, Team Whittaker finally got on the board last week with a win in the women's featherweight division, and they looked to follow that up with another win in the heavyweight division in the latest episode, as former Olympian Michel Batista made his debut against Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series veteran Josh Parisian.
Batista wasn't necessarily one of the most talked about fighters coming into the season, but his wrestling pedigree is unmatched by the majority of athletes on the entire UFC roster, much less the eight heavyweights on the show. Batista is a multi-time champion representing his native Cuba while coming just one win short from taking home a bronze medal in the Olympics. He also split a pair of matches with Daniel Cormier when they were both competing on the international wrestling circuit.
Meanwhile, Parisian was looking to build on the reputation he gained after stepping into a fight on four days’ notice on the Contender Series and earning a jaw-dropping first-round knockout by spinning backfist.
Following that stunning victory, Parisian had hoped to get the chance to join the UFC roster, but instead he was offered a spot on this season of The Ultimate Fighter and now this is his chance to make the most of it.
In preparation for their fight, Batista is sticking to his strengths by drilling his wrestling constantly while knowing that his best chance to beat Parisian is by taking him to the ground and controlling the action on the mat. Batista expressed some concern about his striking going into the fight but thankfully working alongside middleweight champion Robert Whittaker and his team of coaches, it definitely helped boost his confidence.
As for Parisian, his preparation included doing everything possible to stop Batista from taking him to the ground. Top ranked middleweight contender and coach Kelvin Gastelum knew that Batista's strength would be taking this fight to the ground, so Parisian was working tirelessly on stopping his opponent’s wrestling and then doing whatever he could to get back up from the ground if he does end up on the canvas.
Gastelum also upped the intensity of his training this week by bringing in strength and conditioning coach John Walker, who he actually met through former Ultimate Fighter housemate and opponent Uriah Hall. A former NFL player, Walker helped transform Gastelum into a well-conditioned athlete who is able to go five hard rounds if necessary, and he hoped to pass along some of that same knowledge to the fighters on the show this season.
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As for the rest of Team Whittaker, women's featherweight contender Leah Letson is still struggling to deal with the language barrier with her training partners and coaches and it's beginning to cause a rift. When Gastelum and his coaching staff bring food over to the house to spend some time with their team, Letson joins them for dinner and expresses her dissatisfaction with how training has been going under Whittaker thus far this season.
Needless to say, Letson's concerns will eventually come to a head as she continues to struggle with her current team while fighters from Team Gastelum encourage her to join them.
From there, it was finally time for the fight as Batista attempted to keep the momentum going for Team Whittaker while Parisian looked to win back control for Team Gastelum.
JOSH PARISIAN VS. MICHEL BATISTA
Parisian is aggressive right away, pushing forward with his jab, but he moves too fast and Batista explodes with a takedown to put him on the ground in the opening seconds of the fight. Parisian fights to get back to his feet while Batista is doing everything possible to control him and keep him on the ground. Parisian is able to get back up against the fence while Batista maintains a body lock before he drags him back down again. Parisian once again works back to his feet after eating a couple of punches while trying to break free of Batista's grip. Batista is relentless with his takedowns and he puts Parisian back down with another double leg takedown. Unfortunately for Batista, he can't seem to keep Parisian down as he works his way up yet again. This time, Parisian starts unloading some big elbows to the head but Batista keeps the pressure going until he launches him into the air for another takedown. Batista attempts to take the back while punching away at Parisian, but he can't keep him on the ground. Parisian is up again but he still can't break free from Batista's takedowns. Once Batista gets Parisian down again, he lands in side control and starts working his ground-and-pound attack. Batista continues to punish Parisian with punches while constantly pressing to keep the fight on the ground. Batista lands yet another takedown on Parisian with less than a minute remaining. Parisian attempts to get up again, but this time Batista jumps on his back and latches on to a rear naked choke as they fall back to the ground. Parisian is able to work his way free before the round comes to an end.
Once again, Parisian charges across the Octagon and, within seconds, Batista has wrestled him down to the ground again. Batista maintains better control this time around as he presses Parisian against the cage and starts raining down punches. Batista starts unloading a series of heavy knees to the body and then unleashes a barrage of punches to the face. Parisian goes for a half-hearted kimura attempt but he just can't break free of Batista's grasp. Parisian gets up again but Batista is quick to get his grip again as he lifts him up in the air and then brings him crashing back to the mat. Batista is punishing him with punches and the referee has finally seen enough and he stops the fight.
Official result: Michel Batista def. Josh Parisian by TKO (strikes), Round 2
It was absolute dominance from Batista from start to finish as he earns the TKO victory and punches his ticket to the next round.
Following the fight, it was once again time to shift gears back to the women's featherweight division, with Swedish striker Bea Malecki being selected from Team Gastelum to face off with embattled Team Whittaker fighter Leah Letson.
Who will move into the next round of the tournament as the opening round matchups are nearly at an end? Tune in to The Ultimate Fighter next Wednesday night at 10 pm ET on FS1 to find out.