It's been a tough run on The Ultimate Fighter thus far for strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
After getting the first fight selection of the season, Jedrzejczyk's team has been on a downward slide ever since with three consecutive losses while three of her top fighters - Khalil Rountree, JJ Aldrich and Myron Dennis - have all been eliminated. Jedrzejczyk's anger and frustration with her team has also reached a new boiling point lately, as she believes she's not getting the best effort out of her fighters.
This week, Jedrzejczyk will watch Helen Harper try to battle back from a bout with bronchitis, as well as a slight elbow injury, when she faces dangerous striker Lanchana Green from Team Claudia.
In an attempt to jumpstart her team's enthusiasm, Jedrzejczyk will bring in former strawweight champion Carla Esparza as a guest coach this week.
Oddly enough, Jedrzejczyk beat Esparza to win the women's strawweight title in 2015 before the former champion was forced to the sidelines with a shoulder injury that kept her out of action until just recently when she returned with a win at UFC 197. Despite their rivalry in the Octagon, Jedrzejczyk respects Esparza as a fighter and that's why she's trusting her to bring a high level of training to her team this week.
Esparza is a former All-American wrestler from Menlo College, so she's got the kind of grappling that could give Harper the exact lessons she needs to counter Green as a striker. In a way, Harper has the best of both worlds, because Jedrzejczyk is undoubtedly one of the best strikers in the UFC while Esparza is a stifling and suffocating wrestler on the mat. She'll need both of those weapons if she hopes to stop Gadelha's win streak this week.
Away from the fight this week, the first real drama surrounding Team Claudia unfolds after Abdel Medjedoub gets an emergency call from home that will force him into an impossibly tough situation as his future on the show hangs in the balance.
Fighters on the show are strictly forbidden from having any contact with the outside world, but in emergency matters, the competitors are allowed to deal with serious family issues or situations that could cause them peril.
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Back in season three, Noah Inhofer famously received a letter from his girlfriend back home that accused him of cheating on her that left him teetering on the brink of madness thinking that she was going to leave him while he was still competing on the show. At that point in the competition, Inhofer had already won a fight and it looked like he could be a solid prospect for the future, but he decided that his relationship was worth more than a UFC contract and he left the show completely to deal with his personal life at home.
During The Ultimate Fighter Live season, Michael Chiesa faced a tragedy as his father passed away while he was filming the show. It was an incredibly difficult situation for Chiesa to deal with, but he promised his father when he left to film The Ultimate Fighter that he would see the competition through to the end. UFC President Dana White ultimately stepped in and allowed Chiesa to return home for a few days so he could attend his father's funeral and grieve alongside his family before coming back to the house. Chiesa ended up winning the entire show.
So without giving away too much detail, Medjedoub is clearly distraught after getting a call from his wife that he believes could change his life forever. The question then becomes how serious the emergency is and whether or not Medjedoub will decide to stay with the show or head home to deal with a situation that calls for his attention. Needless to say, it's an emotional episode, with Medjedoub facing possibly the biggest decision of his life.
As far as the fight goes this week, Green and Harper match up in a battle of striker versus brawler as these Brits look to get a win to move to the next round of the strawweight tournament.
Green showed incredible toughness in her elimination fight after losing a lopsided first round to veteran fighter Ashley Cummins. Green was taken down repeatedly and nearly submitted on multiple occasions before the round ended and allowed her to avoid the finish. The second round was a complete shift, as Green took over on the feet and absolutely punished Cummins with strikes from inside the clinch. Green brutalized Cummins with elbows and knees until she crumbled to the mat, giving the British striker the win by TKO.
Most believe Green could be the best striker in the competition, coming from a Muay Thai kickboxing background, but she's going to have a war on her hands with Harper charging at her like a bull from the time the referee says go.
Harper isn't as technically proficient in any one area like Green, but she's a gamer and a grinder. Harper is in your face from the first minute until the last second and her ability to pressure Green could be the key to her coming away with a victory. Harper has won previous fights with ground-and-pound on the mat, and that could be her best course to victory this time around, especially considering how Green barely survived her first fight once it hit the canvas. Harper just needs to avoid Green landing strikes at distance or grabbing on to the head and opening up a barrage of knees or elbows from the clinch.
Harper is desperate to get a win, not only to put Team Joanna on the board for the first time, but also to erase the bad memories she's faced from the first few weeks of the competition. As for Green, she wants to keep the momentum rolling for Team Claudia as they look to go up 4-0 with another victory this week.
Can Team Joanna finally get a win on the back of the ultimate underdog in Helen Harper or can Lanchana Green move Team Claudia to 4-0 on the season? Tune into the latest episode of The Ultimate Fighter tonight at 10pm ET on FS1 to find out.