To say it's been a demoralizing season for strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk would be a massive understatement, considering that her team is down 5-0 in the competition to this point on the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter.
It's tough enough for Jedrzejczyk to deal with her next opponent Claudia Gadelha getting over on her week after week on the show, but it's likely even more frustrating that she just can't seem to get the best performances out of her fighters. Even in the matchups that have been considered favorable for the 115-pound champion, Team Joanna has failed to live up to expectations while Team Claudia has continued to excel at every turn, with the momentum clearly on their side.
Last week saw Eric Spicely put down Elias Urbina in a two-round fight that ultimately saw the veteran out grind the newcomer over 10 minutes. It wasn't the most exciting fight to ever take place on the show, but sometimes those suffocating types of performances are even tougher to swallow, and Spicely put on a clinic as he grounded Urbina for the entire fight.
With her team still in complete control, Gadelha selected Amanda Cooper from her team to take on Jamie Moyle from Team Joanna. As the selections begin to dwindle down, it's tougher and tougher to make the right matchups, but Gadelha believes Cooper's striking will outgun Moyle's formidable ground game.
When the fight was made a week ago, Jedrzejczyk showed her confidence in Moyle, who had to be one of the top choices on her team to win the competition after her impressive showing in the opening round, as well as her pedigree working with a great team in Las Vegas ahead of the series.
"This is an easy fight," Jedrzejczyk said as the fighters stared each other down after the bout was announced.
Maybe it's confidence, or it could be false bravado, but Jedrzejczyk's words could certainly backfire on her going into the fight because that kind of a statement while down 5-0 in the competition could add even more fuel to a raging fire that's blazing over on Team Claudia. As the next episode picks up, it's clear that Gadelha, Cooper and everybody else on the team was listening to what the strawweight champion had to say when the matchup was announced, and nobody was amused.
"It's tough to talk when you lose every fight," Cory Hendricks comments after hearing Jedrzejczyk's verbal jab.
The reality of the situation is much more dire than Jedrzejczyk may realize, because she's already down five fights with only three more left to go until opening round is finished. In the 20-plus seasons of The Ultimate Fighter - both domestic and abroad - no team has ever gone undefeated in the opening round on the show. Back in season 20 - when the first strawweight champion was crowned - coach Gilbert Melendez faced a similar set of circumstances, as then-lightweight champ Anthony Pettis was running the table through the early part of the tournament.
Thankfully for Melendez, Rose Namajunas was on his team and she came out guns blazing in the seventh fight and put away Alex Chambers by rear naked choke just 22 seconds into the first round. Still, Melendez felt the pressure down 6-0 in the competition, and if Team Joanna can't get the job done this week, they are going to be in the exact same position with only two fights left to go before the quarterfinal round begins.
Elsewhere this week, former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw will stop by to try and help out and motivate Team Joanna to get the win. Dillashaw is a former Ultimate Fighter finalist and bantamweight champion, so his tutelage could be a huge addition for Team Joanna, especially now, while spirits are at an all time low.
Thankfully, UFC President Dana White also recognizes that the season is about halfway over at this point and the fighters are all getting a little stir crazy after spending several weeks in the house with no contact with the outside world. So this week's episode will continue the long tradition of allowing the fighters to have a night out on the town as they escape the same four walls that have haunted them all season.
RELATED CONTENT: Ep. 7 tonight on FS1 | Fighter blog: Amanda Cooper previews her fight | Jamie Moyle previews the strawweights on Rankings Report
Once the fighters get the chance to unwind with a night out on the town in Las Vegas, it's time to focus back on the task at hand this week and that means pitting Amanda Cooper up against Jamie Moyle.
Moyle was Team Joanna's second pick in the women's division after she made short work of Alyssa Krahn in the opening round of the competition. Moyle is a member of Syndicate MMA, the same gym that produced Khalil Rountree and Cory Hendricks, who are also on the show this season. Moyle is 3-1 in her professional career and she actually holds a win over JJ Aldrich, who is one of her teammates on the show this season. Moyle also put together an impressive 5-2 showing as an amateur, where she battled fighters like Tecia Torres in the past as well. Moyle is a strong fighter on the ground with good wrestling and technical prowess when working from the top. Moyle is only 5'1", so she's one of the shorter competitors in the house this season, but she's very adept at adjusting her range during her fights.
As for Cooper, she's a 1-1 pro thus far in her career, but she also suffered through a torn ACL that hampered her for several fights early on. Cooper is a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but she's very well known for her boxing skills on the feet. Cooper was raised in a boxing-first family, and she's regarded as one of the best strikers in the entire competition. She will enjoy a height and reach advantage over Moyle and chances are that the longer she keeps this fight standing, the better chance she'll win and move Team Claudia to 6-0 on the season.
Can Cooper keep the momentum rolling or will Moyle find a way to finally get Team Joanna on the board? Tune into the latest episode of The Ultimate Fighter tonight at 10pm ET on FS1 to find out.