On this season of The Ultimate Fighter, the flyweights have really come out to prove themselves in this tournament of champions, where the winner will ultimately move on to face UFC flyweight king Demetrious Johnson. Johnson has been arguably the most dominant champion in the UFC since winning the title and he's turned back every challenger - some of them twice - while climbing up the mythical pound-for-pound rankings in the sport as well.
Finding a worthy contender to face Johnson hasn't been easy, so the 16 fighters brought into the show this season were competing for that opportunity and they've been showing up huge to this point in the season. If the flyweights wanted to send a strong message to Johnson that they were ready, consider this mission accomplished.
This week will cap off the final opening round matchup, as former UFC fighter Tim Elliott looks to make an impact in the tournament as the No. 3 seed as he takes on the No. 14 seed from Team Cejudo, Charlie Alaniz. Elliott was definitely considered a favorite going into the tournament considering he has a wealth of big fight experience, including several wins in the UFC, and since leaving the promotion, he's gone a perfect 3-0 while becoming the Titan Fighting Championships flyweight champion.
Ahead of the fight, there will be some blowback from the bout that took place last week when Matt "Danger" Schnell submitted noted wrestler and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Matt Rizzo to move into the next round of the tournament. Rizzo was a lower seeded fighter going into the matchup, but he was supremely confident that he could get the job done against Schnell. Unfortunately, Rizzo was wrong and he suffered a submission loss that eliminated him from the tournament.
So following that fight as we pick things up this week, some of the competitors who have already been eliminated start commiserating while sharing a few drinks out by the hot tub. Mixing alcohol and testosterone can be a bad combination, as witnessed by several altercations throughout the history of The Ultimate Fighter, and that will be no different this week. The fallout between Rizzo and Schnell will soon bleed over to the other fighters in the house, and it's not long before a pair of competitors are standing nose-to-nose ready to have an unscheduled fight outside the gym.
This week will also see the return of the coach's challenge, as Joseph Benavidez squares off with Henry Cejudo for bragging rights and a cool $10,000 in prize money, along with $1,500 for each of the fighters on the winning side. Benavidez and Cejudo have clearly been at odds all season long and there's little chance that these two are going to be friends once this show wraps up in a few weeks. The rivalry for the coaches won't be settled until December, when they face off at the finale, but until then, the challenge will serve as the proving ground between Benavidez and Cejudo.
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Once the coaches finish their competition, it's time to focus on Elliott versus Alaniz as each fighter looks to punch their ticket to the next round.
For Elliott, The Ultimate Fighter is not only providing him with a chance to get a shot at Demetrious Johnson, but it's also an opportunity for redemption following a three-fight losing streak that saw him bounced from the UFC roster. Elliott was always considered one of the toughest matchups at 125 pounds, and he gave former two-time title contender John Dodson everything he could handle in his debut, but ultimately he suffered a trio of tough losses that saw him exit the promotion.
Rather than sit on the sidelines sulking about what could have been or never recovering after being handed his pink slip, Elliott was more determined than ever before to get back to the top of the division and he did that in spectacular fashion over his past three fights while becoming the Titan FC champion. Now Elliott has a chance to earn a shot at the flyweight title if he can get through this tournament, and the first step comes this week when he faces off with Alaniz.
Alaniz joins the show fighting out of Australia, although he was born and raised in Torrance, California. While he started out his career in the United States, Alaniz eventually found success while fighting in the “Land Down Under” while putting together an impressive 8-1 mark. Alaniz has won five straight fights coming into the show, and he's another potential dark horse that could upset the apple cart if he can get past Elliott this week.
Of course that's much easier said than done considering Elliott might be one of the top picks to win the entire tournament, but he also has a mighty big target on his back. Alaniz is an aggressive, heavy-handed striker with knockout power in his hands and an underrated wrestling game. Alaniz will probably need to go on the attack early and often to stifle Elliott's biggest advantages, which will likely come on the ground. Elliott is a very experienced college wrestler who is also a massive fighter for the flyweight division, so he'll likely have a size and strength advantage in this one.
To beat the odds, Alaniz needs to punish Elliott early and often while never allowing the veteran fighter a moment to breathe. Alaniz could also capitalize on a tough weight cut, as Elliott will undoubtedly have to shed quite a few pounds before hitting the scale. That being said, Elliott is still a force to be reckoned with and there's little doubt he's going to look to make quick work of Alaniz and move into the next round of the tournament.
Will Elliott get the job done and move into the next round or will Alaniz pull off the upset and eliminate a heavy favorite in the early part of the tournament? Tune in to The Ultimate Fighter tonight at 10pm ET on FS1 to find out.