The Ultimate Fighter
Last week on The Ultimate Fighter: A New World Champion, No. 1 seed Roxanne Modafferi and No. 12 seed Sijara Eubanks punched their tickets into the semifinal round with only a few matchups still remaining until a UFC women's flyweight champion is crowned.
This week, the other two semifinalists will join them in the final four of the tournament as former Invicta FC flyweight champion Barb Honchak takes on tough-as-nails Hawaiian competitor Rachael Ostovich-Berdon, while submission specialist Montana Stewart faces off with Nicco Montano, who surprised everybody in the competition when she knocked off No. 3 seed Lauren Murphy in her first win of the season.
In the opening bout taking place this week, Honchak will look to continue her run towards the title after returning to action for the first time in more than two years away from the sport. Honchak wasn't even 100-percent certain that she was going to fight again following her last bout, but when the opportunity came up to fight for the UFC in her natural weight class at 125 pounds, she couldn't pass it up.
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While it's never easy to return from a long layoff, Honchak didn't look like she had skipped a beat as she came out of the gate guns blazing in her elimination round fight against Gillian Robertson. Honchak is known for her incredible ground skills, and she wasted no time showing off what she could do as she dominated the fight with Robertson before finishing her in the second round by TKO.
It was exactly the kind of statement that Honchak wanted to make in the opening round of the tournament. The same could be said of Ostovich-Berdon, although her motivations were slightly different because she wasn't wearing a giant target on her back the way that Honchak was when the season started.
Instead, Ostovich-Berdon was a complete underdog who came in as the No. 10 overall seed in the tournament, which meant she had to go for an upset if she wanted to make it into the quarterfinal round. Not only did Ostovich-Berdon pull off the upset, but she looked like one of the most complete fighters in the tournament as she absolutely dismantled Melinda Fabian on the feet and then on the ground before wrapping up the first-round submission. Ostovich-Berdon was more well known for her grappling but she showed off some very strong hands in that opening round matchup and that might be her primary weapon this time around as she will undoubtedly have to fend off some takedown attempts from Honchak.
Honchak is relentless with her forward pressure, and the last place that Ostovich-Berdon wants to end up is stuck on the ground underneath the former Invicta champion. If that happens, Ostovich-Berdon needs to do whatever possible to get back to her feet because Honchak is a ferocious finisher in that position.
In the second quarterfinal round matchup this week, Montana Stewart will look to build upon her opening round win against Ariel Beck when she takes on her fellow Team Gaethje member Nicco Montano.
Now it's safe to say very few had pegged Montano as a dark horse to make it deep in this tournament when the show started. Not only was Montano a relative unknown who entered the competition with a 3-2 record, but she was the No. 14 seed taking on a multi-time UFC veteran in Lauren Murphy in the opening round.
Montano had to show a lot of grit in that battle with Murphy, but after two rounds she proved that she not only belonged in the competition, but she would be a threat to anyone facing her in the quarterfinals and beyond.
Away from the show, Montano trains with a top-notch team in New Mexico where she works under head coach Tom Vaughn and a group of fighters that include welterweight human highlight reel Tim Means. Vaughn is known for building his fighters into some of the toughest competitors in the sport and it's clear Montano is no different.
This week, Montano will need to show that grit and determination when she takes on a grappling specialist in Montana Stewart, who looked equally impressive in her opening round matchup as she defeated Ariel Beck.
At 22, Stewart is the youngest competitor on the show, but that doesn't mean she's not experienced. Stewart actually has 11 pro fights on her resume, with an impressive list of opponents. Her only recent losses have come to current UFC strawweight contender Cynthia Calvillo and rising women's star and noted Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist Mackenzie Dern. Now if there's one concern about Stewart coming from those fights it's not that she was defeated, it's that both of her losses came against fighters who are natural 115-pounders. That means Stewart might be giving up a bit of size and power when she steps into the Octagon with fighters naturally built for flyweight.
That being said, Stewart gets by with excellent technique and she's got some of the best grappling on the show this season. Stewart is very slick with her transitions and a single mistake from Montano could give her the opening she needs to wrap up a submission. Of course, Stewart and Montano have been training together all season long, so it will be interesting to see how well they know each other once they step into the Octagon.
Obviously, coach Justin Gaethje will bow out of the preparation for this fight, but he knows one of his fighters will move on to the semifinal round this week. Unfortunately that also means it's going to come at the expense of another of his fighters to get there.
Can Stewart showcase her world class grappling skills or will Montano continue to surprise everybody with her gritty, hard-nosed performances? In the other fight, will Honchak prove to be the superior fighter in this competition or can Ostovich-Berdon pull off another upset and completely shake this tournament apart?
Find out when the two quarterfinal round matchups unfold tonight on the new episode of The Ultimate Fighter: A New World Champion at 10 pm ET on FS1