The Ultimate Fighter
Three fights into The Ultimate Fighter: A New World Champion and there hasn't been a single upset yet as the higher seeds continue to dominate.
The latest matchup saw No. 6 seed Montana Stewart from Team Gaethje take on No. 11 seed Ariel Beck from Team Alvarez.
Stewart entered the competition as the youngest fighter in the house at just 22 years old, but she's grown up fast not only because of her 11 professional bouts but also because she's raising a six-year-old daughter that means the world to her. Stewart comes from Texas, where she was a member of standout high school wrestling team. After school was finished, Stewart spent most of her time being a dedicated mom before transitioning into her other passion - mixed martial arts.
It was heartbreaking for Stewart to leave her little girl behind as she went off to Las Vegas for the better part of six weeks to pursue her dream, but she knew the opportunity to compete for the inaugural UFC women's flyweight title was too great to pass up.
As for Beck, she enters the competition out of Montana, where she trains full-time with her boyfriend, who also happens to be a mixed martial artist in his own right. Beck grew up on a ranch where she would regularly work with animals, and that made her very strong throughout her childhood. Beck has now transitioned that strength to her advantage as a fighter, where she's amassed eight pro fights in her career thus far.
When it came down to training for the fight, it was clear the coaches had two very distinct game plans. As a wrestler, Stewart knew that her best path to victory was going to be on the ground, while Beck is best known as a heavy-handed striker. Coaches Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje played to those strengths as they got ready for the fight.
Unfortunately, Beck's training session was interrupted after she suffered through a crippling panic attack ahead of the fight. According to Beck, she's been dealing with these panic attacks for several years and it leaves her in a state where she's nearly inconsolable. Once Alvarez realized that Beck was missing from practice, he went back to the training room to check on her and it turns out he was able to relate his own story that helped lift her out of the panic attack.
Alvarez explained how he faced down the embarrassment of being knocked out in front of millions of people when he suffered a loss to Conor McGregor last November that cost him the UFC lightweight title. As heartbreaking as the defeat was for him, Alvarez realized the next day that life still moved forward and his family would always be by his side no matter how many wins or losses he had on his record. That realization helped Alvarez move past a tough loss and it also made Beck feel better knowing that her life wasn't going to end based on any victory or defeat during this tournament.
While Stewart and Beck wrapped up their respective training days to prepare for the fight, Emily Whitmire was headed out to the UFC Performance Institute to get some therapy for the rib injury she suffered in training.
It was last week when Whitmire screamed out in pain during a grappling session that ended after she felt like perhaps a rib had been broken. The pain was severe, but a trip to the UFC physician revealed that she only damaged some cartilage around the ribs and no bones were broken. The good news is that means she can continue on in the competition, but the bad news is that Whitmire has to recover quickly because her name could be called at any time to compete.
Thankfully, the lead physical therapist at the UFC Performance Institute has dealt with dozens of rib injuries similar to this one while working with so many combat sports athletes over the years. Whitmire goes through her rehabilitation session and it looks like she's on the road to recovery while hoping she'll be completely healed when the time comes that her name is called to step into the Octagon.
Whitmire wasn't the only fighter to experience the new UFC Performance Institute this week, as the other athletes were also invited to check out the new state of the art facility in Las Vegas. From cryotherapy chambers to saunas to hot tubs and everything in between, the fighters were blown away at the kind of treatment they received at the UFC Performance Institute.
"Going to the [Performance] Institute is like fighter heaven," Nicco Montano said. "If you can think of anything your body needs to recover, it's there."
From there, it was time to get ready for the fight as two more flyweight hopefuls battled it out for a slot in the second round of the tournament.
MONTANA STEWART VS. ARIEL BECK
Both fighters come out winging punches immediately, with Stewart as the aggressor and Beck playing counterstriker. Stewart continues to press forward with a barrage of punches but Beck defends well and lands a couple good knees in response. A little over a minute into the opening round, Stewart finally rushes forward looking for her first takedown. Beck defends for a moment, but she can't reverse the position and Stewart takes her to the ground. Stewart immediately begins working from the top with punches while also looking to advance her position. Stewart is methodical with her attacks before finding an opening to grab on to a D'Arce choke. Beck does her best to wiggle free but she can't get free of the hold. Stewart adjusts her arms while tightening the grip and Beck has no choice but to tap out from the submission.
Montana Stewart def. Ariel Beck by submission (D'Arce choke) in Round 1
"I felt amazing, but back to work," Stewart said after the win. "I'm not just fine with one win. I'm ready to go in there and finish all the fights and get the belt."
With Stewart into the next round of the tournament, it was time for another fight selection to be announced. This time around, No. 3 seed and UFC veteran Lauren Murphy, who represents Team Alvarez, got the call as she faces off with No. 14 seed from Team Gaethje, Nicco Montano.
Can Murphy keep the streak alive with all the higher seeds moving on to the next round of the tournament, or will Montano pull off the upset against the UFC veteran? Watch next week's episode of The Ultimate Fighter to find out who is moving on.