It was a good week for Team Miocic in the previous episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Undefeated, as the heavyweight champion finally got his first win of the season when Mike Trizano moved into the next round of the tournament with a win over Thailand Clark.
Now the featherweights are up to bat again, with grappler Suman Mokhtarian taking on Team Cormier fighter Ricky Steele.
Of course, Mokhtarian took center stage last week after he suffered a knee injury in training that forced him to undergo some rehabilitation and recovery at the UFC Performance Institute. It also ended up causing some friction between Mokhtarian and Team Cormier assistant coach Deron Winn after he was joking around with the Team Miocic fighter about taking notes regarding his injury and handing it out to the other athletes.
Regardless of that injury, Mokhtarian was healthy enough to book the next fight in the competition, and while he originally wanted to face Tyler Diamond, Stipe Miocic and the rest of his coaching staff felt a showdown with Steele made more sense with Mokhtarian's background in grappling, where he's gone 8-0 in his career with six of those victories coming by way of submission.
Plus, Mokhtarian has a well-versed ground game, with five of those wins coming from different forms of submissions, including the rarely seen Twister as well as several chokes in his arsenal.
If the name Mokhtarian sounds familiar, it could be thanks to his older brother Ashkan being a current fighter on the UFC roster, where he competes in the flyweight division.
Mokhtarian grew up idolizing his older brother as they grew up in Australia, but unfortunately Ashkan eventually began abusing drugs and that led him down a dangerous path. After watching some fights on television one day, Ashkan decided that was something he could do and Suman challenged him to try it.
Before long, both Mokhtarian brothers were deeply embedded into a mixed martial arts gym where they were addicted to training with both just itching for the chance to fight. Suman will be the first to admit that he's followed his older sibling his entire life and now they've both managed to make a career out of their shared obsession with fighting.
With this opportunity on The Ultimate Fighter, Suman will attempt to follow Ashkan one more time as he looks to earn his spot on the UFC roster, but the first step towards that will be getting a win over his Team Cormier opponent this week.
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Meanwhile, Ricky Steele comes to the show from Boise, Idaho while boasting a 5-0 record in his career. Steele trains out the same gym in Idaho that produced former UFC and WEC standout Scott Jorgensen.
Steele's nickname is “The Karate Kid,” so it's easy to see where his martial arts roots started before he transitioned into MMA. Back at home in Idaho, when Steele isn't preparing for an upcoming fight, he's father to his 11-year-old daughter. As a single father, Steele has dedicated his life to giving his daughter the best of everything, and he hopes to do just that by making his way into the UFC by way of The Ultimate Fighter.
Stylistically, Steele is the exact opposite of Mokhtarian, which makes this such an interesting matchup. Steele is primarily a striker with an emphasis on a strong kicking game, where he loves to use his feet to keep the distance during a fight. Much like fellow karate stylists such as Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson or Lyoto Machida, Steele can employ a sideways stance and then unleash a nasty kicking game where he's just as happy to punish the legs as he is to go up high and look for the knockout strike.
Of course, Steele has a ground game when necessary, but there's little doubt that going up against a grappler like Mokhtarian he'll want to keep this fight on the feet. The key for Steele will be employing his striking technique without allowing Mokhtarian to drag this fight to the mat. If he can do that, Steele definitely has the striking acumen to give his Team Miocic opponent headaches over both rounds. Then again, Mokhtarian has a very slick submission game, so the last place Steele probably wants to find himself is fending off a grappling attack on the mat.
Elsewhere in the house this week, the always vocal Dulani Perry is flapping his gums again as he gets that much closer to his matchup against Tyler Diamond.
With Perry and Diamond as the last two remaining featherweights, they already know they are going to face each other, so that puts them at odds back at the house with just days remaining until their fight. Perry has spent a big part of this season getting on the nerves of his potential opponents and that doesn't change now that he knows he's facing Diamond in the final featherweight bout of the opening round.
Perry may talk a lot, but he's definitely got the skills to back up what he's saying. Still, Perry has to be wary of who he's calling out because there's a chance someone on Team Cormier might just answer.
One other key storyline to watch this week will be the fallout from Luis Pena dropping out of the competition due to injury. That leaves a spot open in the lightweight tournament with Pena being forced out following a win over Jose Martinez Jr.
That means UFC President Dana White has to make a decision on which fighter will return to the competition to replace Pena for the next round of the tournament. There are a few names available, but this week will see at least two Team Miocic fighters turn to White to let him know that they are more than willing to step into Pena's place if he'll have them.
One of those fighters vying for Pena's spot is a featherweight willing to bump up to lightweight if it will give him a second chance in the tournament.
It's well known that White loves fighters who are willing to step up to the toughest challenges, so he'll undoubtedly have quite a few choices to look at once it's time to decide on Pena's replacement.
Don't miss that and an action packed fight coming up between Mokhtarian and Steele on the next episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Undefeated tonight at 10 pm ET on FS1.