The Ultimate Fighter season 20 airs Wednesday, November 26 at 10pm ET on FOX Sports 1
It's been a rough few weeks on The Ultimate Fighter for Dublin native Aisling Daly.
When she came to the reality show, Daly was one of the most experienced fighters in the entire competition, with a well-rounded skill set and maybe the biggest win on her resume of anybody moving into the house: a submission victory over current UFC bantamweight star Jessica Eye.
The only problem is that moving from a very cold, wet climate to the kind of intense heat and dry desert air that swirls around Las Vegas in July, when the show was filmed, can be a shock to the system. It made Daly quite ill earlier this season before her first-round matchup against Angela Magana. Thankfully, Daly got the boost of adrenaline she needed when she watched a ton of her teammates perform beautifully on the UFC Fight Night card from her home country of Ireland over the summer.
Daly battled Magana and ended up with a third-round stoppage to move on to her next fight this week against Jessica Penne.
Daly has spoken openly about her battle with depression, and being far away from home probably doesn’t help matters much, but just like her last fight, she'll get another boost from a teammate stopping by the gym this week to pay her a visit.
"The Notorious" Conor McGregor is not only Daly's teammate, but a very good friend, who she's known since starting MMA several years ago. The two fighters were part of the original team that formed SBG (Straight Blast Gym) in Ireland, where several notable UFC fighters train now, including Cathal Pendred, Paddy Holohan and Gunnar Nelson.
McGregor's in town living the good life, so he stops by to see his teammate and check in to see how she's holding up at this point in the competition. Needless to say, whenever McGregor is around something interesting is bound to happen.
Will this end up as the thing that puts Daly over the top once again? Can she make it to the next round of the tournament and possibly all the way to the finals as further proof that McGregor was right all along – that the Irish fighters aren't just here to take part; they're taking over?
LIFE OF A LONER
As it turns out, Jessica Penne may end up being the best suited fighter to win this entire competition based solely on her desire to avoid making any friends on the show while focusing only on herself and the training to get ready for the next round of the tournament. Penne has stated in past interviews that she has a slight case of social anxiety where it's tough for her to go out of her way to meet people and befriend them, much less feeling comfortable in a house full of 16 strangers.
If you notice, whenever drama has popped up around the house, Penne is nowhere to be found. It's definitely on purpose.
Penne has done things her own way for many years, and that wasn't going to change just because she was competing on The Ultimate Fighter. Her loner attitude doesn't mean she isn't a good teammate or training partner. It just means she goes in, gets the work done, goes home and gets ready to do it all again. She's not here to play any reindeer games.
It may end up making her the least conflicted person on the entire cast when she's drawn into a "teammate vs. teammate" battle against Daly, who is also a member of Team Pettis.
JESSICA PENNE VS. AISLING DALY
The fight between these two top-ranked women is going to be impossibly tough to pick. Daly will have an overall size advantage, having fought for a big part of her career at 125 pounds, while Penne has always been a natural atomweight (105 pounds). What Penne has going for her, however, is the reach and length, because even though she normally fights at a lower weight, she's still extremely long and lean for the 115-pound division.
Penne does best when she attacks on the ground. She's a stifling submission fighter with rocks in her hands. Penne is masterful with her transitions on the ground, slipping from guard to half guard to mount and taking the back in a matter of seconds. She's extremely adept as making her opponents panic and then taking advantage in the scrambles. In many ways, Penne fights in a similar style as fighters such as Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez, who just wait for an opponent to make one simple mistake and they pounce, with the fight typically being over before the opponent knows what hit them.
Daly won't go away easy because she's been in there with some of the very best fighters in the world, going as high as bantamweight in past matchups. Daly isn't very technical with her striking, but she does hit hard and has developed a good overhand left and right when she hooks her punches when leaping in from the outside. Penne may have the reach advantage, but Daly probably has the power to counteract anything she does on the feet.
The ground fight in this one is much closer, but the edge still goes slightly to Penne, especially if she's the one that initiates the fight making it to the mat in the first place. Daly showed good defense in her last fight against Magana, but if she gets stuck in those same positions against Penne it might be lights out, night over.
To see Penne battle Daly for the next slot in the semifinals, make sure to tune in to The Ultimate Fighter this Wednesday night at 10pm ET on FOX Sports 1.