It's been a back-and-forth battle all season long between Team Whittaker and Team Gastelum on The Ultimate Fighter: Heavy Hitters, but the final fight of the opening round is ready to go down this week before the semifinal matchups are announced at the end of the episode.
Last week saw Juan Espino from Team Whittaker outgrapple noted striker Ben Sosoli from Team Gastelum in the final heavyweight matchup of the elimination round. The win by Espino also put middleweight champion Robert Whittaker up 4-3 over top-ranked contender Kelvin Gastelum, whose team has now suffered four defeats in a row.
To try and steady the ship while evening up the total number of fighters from each team moving into the semifinals will be Macy Chiasson, who will represent Team Gastelum in the final women's featherweight fight from the opening round.
She will go up against two-time UFC veteran Larissa Pacheco as she looks to keep the momentum going for Team Whittaker ahead of the semifinal round starting next week.
Pacheco joined The Ultimate Fighter this season off a win in her last fight, but she's never forgotten her ill-fated time in the UFC, when she came into the organization as a bantamweight contender.
Debuting inside the Octagon in 2015, Pacheco found little success in her two fights in the UFC, but she also faced an incredibly tough pair of tests in back-to-back matchups. First up was top-ranked strawweight contender Jessica Andrade, who was competing at 135 pounds at the time.
Andrade ended Pacheco's debut at 4:33 into the first round with a guillotine choke. In her next fight, Pacheco drew former women’s featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie. That fight ended in a second-round TKO after Pacheco suffered a broken arm in the second round and then got finished with a barrage of punches from the Dutch striker.
Afterwards, Pacheco was released from her UFC contract while she had to wait for her injured arm to finally heal. She finally returned to action earlier this year, when she picked up a submission victory that probably helped cinch her spot on the show this season while competing in the women's featherweight division.
Outside of those two losses, Pacheco has gone undefeated in her fighting career with 11 victories - all by knockout or submission - and she holds a win over current UFC women's bantamweight contender Irene Aldana. Perhaps what's craziest about Pacheco is that she has 13 fights under her belt, including those two performances in the UFC, and she's still only 23 years old.
Standing across the Octagon from her this week will be Macy Chiasson, who was the top overall pick for Team Gastelum from the women's featherweight division. Gastelum judged many of his selections based on the performances he saw during the coaches' trials when the fighters first arrived at the competition, and he immediately pegged Chiasson as his favorite as the top 145-pound woman on the show.
What Chiasson lacks going into the tournament is much experience, with only a 2-0 record as a professional thus far in her career.
To her credit, Chiasson has looked very good in those two fights, and her second bout took place as part of Invicta Fighting Championships, which is one of the top mixed martial arts promotions in the world. There's no doubt competing on that stage not only helped Chiasson earn her spot on the show, but it certainly assisted in her ability to handle those kinds of high-pressure situations that she'll feel on The Ultimate Fighter.
Long before she found MMA, Chiasson actually started her journey into martial arts while in college when she discovered Krav Maga, the self-defense and fighting system that first started in Israel and later gained popularity on a global scale. Chiasson transitioned from there into MMA, where she's already found a lot of success.
Coming into this fight, Chiasson definitely seems like the kind of prospect that could make serious waves in this tournament. She's one of the bigger and taller fighters in the competition, which bodes well for her as she competes at featherweight. Chiasson doesn't have the experience as many of her opponents, but she's a ferocious fighter whenever she steps inside the cage, and she never seems to show any signs that she's not ready to compete on a stage as big as this one.
Of course, Pacheco is also one of the larger competitors in the women's featherweight division and she's got a world-class ground game that could give anybody problems. Pacheco's veteran savvy will serve her well if she's able to punch her ticket to the semifinals, but first, she's going to face an arduous weight cut this week and then prepare to face Chiasson in the final opening round matchup of the season.
Away from the fight, the upcoming episode will also showcase more of Maurice Greene, as he continues to get attention for all the wrong reasons as he's started to drink more and more alcohol in the house after he was involved in the first fight of the season.
Now Greene immediately showed that he was going to be a problem for a lot of the heavyweights this season with his massive reach and huge power on the feet. Unfortunately, Greene has let the reality show portion of his time on The Ultimate Fighter get the better of him week after week.
In the last episode, Greene engaged in a heated war of words with Juan Espino just days before he was getting ready to compete. This week will see Greene's continued drinking start to become a problem for some of his housemates.
Greene isn't the first fighter in the history of the show to struggle with a balance between staying ready for the competition and then just living life a little too hard when the cameras are rolling at home. Greene has already rubbed a few people the wrong way this season and his behavior continues to be a problem with what unfolds in the upcoming episode.
Find out what happened when The Ultimate Fighter: Heavy Hitters returns tonight at 10pm ET on FS1, and don't miss the end of the episode when the semifinal matchups are announced.