The first season of The Ultimate Fighter featuring heavyweights and women's featherweights has been nothing short of action-packed and drama-filled from the first day the competitors stepped foot into the house in Las Vegas.
With middleweight champion Robert Whittaker and top five-ranked contender Kelvin Gastelum leading the teams, the fighters are all vying for their opportunity to earn a six-figure contract with the UFC while jumping into two of the toughest divisions in the sport.
Right away, when the show got started, Whittaker and Gastelum set up a much different approach to how they would coach their teams and get the fighters ready for the war ahead.
Whittaker preferred to just keep his fighters in shape and healthy for the upcoming fights rather than trying to reinvent the wheel with their training schedules. Gastelum, who benefitted greatly from the education he had when he appeared on The Ultimate Fighter, decided to offer his team the wealth of his experience while also bringing in a slew of guest coaches to help out.
Following a coin toss to start the team selections, Whittaker ultimately got the first pick while Gastelum was able to make the first fight.
The advantage immediately went to the challenger's corner, as Gastelum selected heavy-handed striker Maurice Greene to take on Polish fighter Przemysław Mysiala in the first bout of the season. Greene was one of the bigger athletes on the heavyweight side while Mysiala was one of the most experienced, but he was also giving up a lot of size to many of the fighters in the competition.
That played out in the fight with Greene using his huge reach and massive power to stun and then finish Mysiala in the opening round to give Team Gastelum the first win of the season.
As Gastelum remained in control for the next fight, he selected the first women's featherweight bout of the season, with Pannie Kianzad from his team taking on Katharina Lehner from Team Whittaker.
RECAP THE MOST RECENT EPISODE OF TUF
Once again, Gastelum's selections paid off, with Kianzad getting the unanimous decision victory over Lehner to put their team up 2-0 in the competition.
That's where the first concern was raised from Gastelum after heavyweight fighter Justin Frazier was struggling to maintain his conditioning in practice. Frazier was barely able to keep up during training sessions, and after one particularly hard day on the mats, he ended up rushing to the bathroom to vomit.
Word of Frazier's struggles obviously got around because Whittaker had the next fight selection and he immediately targeted Team Gastelum's so-called weak link and matched him up against his No. 1 overall selection - kickboxing veteran and knockout artist Anderson da Silva.
On paper, everything was set up for Whittaker to get his first win of the season, but then in the days leading up to the fight, Frazier turned a corner in his training and impressed Gastelum with his improvements before stepping into the Octagon.
Frazier then shocked just about everybody - including da Silva - with a dominant two-round victory as he planted the Brazilian on the mat and used a solid control game on the ground to pick up the win for Team Gastelum.
Never one to be deterred, Whittaker stuck with the same game plan for his next fight selection as he once again turned to his No. 1 pick, this time in the women's featherweight division, as he chose Julia Stoliarenko to take on Team Whittaker's last selection in Marciea Allen.
That fight looked like it might backfire for Whittaker as well, with Allen coming out like a ball of fire, pouring on the punishment and showcasing a dominant offensive flurry as soon as the action got started. Thankfully for Stoliarenko, she maintained composure under fire and was eventually able to wrap up the fight with her signature armbar from the ground as she submitted Allen in the opening round.
Team Whittaker finally got its first win of the season and, from there, the middleweight champion started to gain ground on Gastelum.
The next fight showcased former Cuban Olympian Michel Batista against Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series veteran Josh Parisian.
On paper, Batista and Parisian could have been the top selections in the heavyweight division, but they ended up meeting in the opening round. Batista, who holds a win in wrestling over UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, didn't have as much experience, but his grappling was arguably the best in the whole house.
Meanwhile, Parisian was anxious to showcase his skills after earning a stunning spinning back fist knockout win on the Contender Series that bumped him from an alternate to a featured spot on the show.
As the fight finally played out, it was Batista's wrestling and ground work that got the job done as he continuously planted Parisian on the mat and bludgeoned him with shots until he finally got a second-round stoppage due to strikes.
With Team Whittaker relishing back-to-back wins, the next fighter up was Leah Letson, as she took on Team Gastelum's Bea Malecki.
Letson was one of the more experienced fighters in the women's featherweight division, but she had been struggling all season long due to a lack of communication with her team, as well as complaining that the training sessions under Whittaker weren't as tough as what she was used to at home.
Letson had even contemplated asking to switch teams after her first fight of the season was finished.
The good news for Letson was that things took a dramatic turn for the better after her name was called to fight next. Whittaker and his coaching staff put more individual attention on her preparation and Letson finally started to click in the days leading to her fight.
The end result paid off, with Letson out battling the Swedish fighter and earning a unanimous decision after two rounds.
With that win, Team Whittaker and Team Gastelum are tied up at three victories apiece, and the tournament rolls on with the heavyweights up again when The Ultimate Fighter returns on Wednesday night, Oct. 24.
The next fight will feature Ben Sosoli from Team Gastelum against Juan Francisco Dieppa in a heavyweight showdown with fireworks written all over it. The heavyweights have definitely delivered some jaw-dropping finishes this season, so don't blink when Sosoli and Dieppa step into the Octagon to face off when The Ultimate Fighter: Heavy Hitters resumes next Wednesday night.