The Ultimate Fighter Season 20 Strawweight Ultra Preview Extremely – Final Part
The final part of our four-part series on the athletes of The Ultimate Fighter 20 (see Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here) brings us four very high profile fighters, including a former Champion, a former title contender, and two of the very top prospects in the division. It’s the prospects that most observers think have the best chances of winning the tournament and the inaugural title.
The Ultimate Fighter Season 20 premiers Wednesday at 10 PM Eastern on Fox Sports 1.
The Athletes – Part 4
Rose “Thug Rose” Namajunas (2-1 pro, 4-0 amateur)
Team: Grudge Training Center | Height: 5’5” | Age: 22
Denver, Colorado, USA | Last 5 Fights: – – W W L
Unified Rankings: NR | FightMatrix Ranking: NR | Tapology Ranking: #10
Notable Wins: Emily Kagan, Kathina Catron
Styles: Karate, Kickboxing, Flying Armbar | Intangibles: She has won a fight using a fucking flying armbar
Jessica Hudnall: Thug Rose has basically anything you could ask for in a fighter – she’s got excellent kickboxing, her BJJ is crazy-good, plus she’s got golden pipes, daddy-o! Just remember, she was only one year old when Royce Gracie won the first UFC tournament. Let’s all cry over our squandered lives. Rose is good enough to survive anywhere the fight goes, and I think she’s young enough to really absorb a lot from her coaches. On that tip, Rose makes it to the semi-finals because she’s super-elite.
Intangible: She’s my friend on Twitter, so she’s both smart and classy.
Dan Frederick: I have to admit I’m biased here. Mainly because she is the only person on TUF 20 that follows me on Twitter. I swear, Pat Barry is a very lucky man. Also, she even got Ronda Rousey’s blessing as the fighter Ronda Rousey most wanted to win the tournament, because of her overall entertainment value.
Anyway, as an aside, since I may have family members that will read this, I want to recap an exchange that took place earlier this year between myself and my sister, who I will call K., who is a struggling fashion designer. This exchange happened after Ms. Thug Rose openly said in the MMA Underground forum that she might be willing to wear any free gear sent her way on the show. It went something like this:
Dan: “K, I wanna run something by you. I know it’s a long shot. I have this Twitter follower who’s a professional fighter. She’s about to be really famous, has charisma to burn, looks like a professional model, and is going to be on a nationally televised reality show for 12 weeks in the Fall, and there’s a slim chance I could maybe get her to wear one of your dresses or shirts and you could put your logo on it. I know it’s a long shot but it doesn’t hurt to try, and maybe you could get your name out there!”
K.: “Goddammit Dan, why are you calling me? You know January’s my drinking month!”
Dan: “….it’s March.”
K.: “Let me tell you everything that’s wrong with your life for the next 90 minutes.”
So, yeah. Anyway, Thug Rose is an awesome fighter with tons of upside, but she’s a bit inexperienced, plus she’s shown she can (barely) be outstruck if you’re a crazy-good fighter like Tecia Torres, and she could probably be outmuscled as well. As such, I’m not quite sure how she fares against the top three fighters on the cast. On the plus side, she is my official pick for Most Ninja-like Fighter on the entire cast because in addition to barely being above the 115 limit, she has aerial maneuvers and could probably kill you with her feet. Obviously it depends on who she’s facing, but I will designate her the #4 seed and I’m going with the over-under that she will make it to the Semi-Finals before bowing out.
Jessica Penne (11-2)
Former Invicta Atomweight Champion
Picture from interview with MMA Surge on YouTube
Team: Team Reign, Kings MMA, Checkmat | Height: 5’5” | Age: 31
Huntington Beach, California, USA | Last 5 Fights: W W W L W
Unified Rankings: Formerly #2 AW, now unranked due to inactivity | FightMatrix Ranking: #3 AW | Tapology Ranking: #2 AW
Notable Wins: Nicdali Rivera-Calanoc, Naho Sugiyama, Lisa Ellis, Amy Davis, Angela Magana, Sally Krumdiack
Styles: Grappling, Choking | Intangibles: Genetically part anaconda
Dan Frederick: Part woman, part python, all fighter, this Huntington Beach neighbor of Tito Ortiz is the former Invicta Atomweight Champion of the World, with an endless gas tank, surreal flexibility, and a triangle choke that squeezes the life out of you like a giant anaconda as it feeds on naive tourists.
For those of you who have never done jiu-jitsu, coming from someone who did at least, like, two months worth once, having your carotid arteries cut off is never sexy, I don’t care what position it’s in! The gym where I took jiu-jitsu in had what was basically a tiny unisex locker room / storage closet that was about as sexy as a refugee camp. After 45 minutes of being slowly murdered with grappling instruction, I really didn’t give a damn who was wearing or changing out of what, everything just smelled horribly and I was simply overwhelmed by the need to drink water and the gratitude of somehow still being alive.
Anyway, Ms. Penne is pretty badass. I suspect she’ll at least make it to the second round and I’d rank her in the top six or so. However—and this all has entirely to do with who she’s matched up with—in most scenarios I don’t see her making the semi-finals. She’s badass, se may well be the best addition from the supplemental TUF tryouts held in April, and she’ll be an important part of the division, but I just don’t see her being the UFC Champion unless they open up an Atomweight division.
Which is something they should totally do at some point.
“Rowdy” Bec Rawlings (5-3)
Team: Gamebred Combat Club | Height: 5’6” | Age: 25
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia | Last 5 Fights: W W L W L
Unified Rankings: #12 | FightMatrix Ranking: NR | Tapology Ranking: #9
Notable Win: Jasminka Cive
Styles: Brawling, grappling | Intangibles: Can convert internet memes into cardio boosts | Mortal Enemy: Jasminka Cive
Jessica Hudnall: Rowdy Bec is a really cool, rad person. Typically, this means fighting skills are lacking, because “good person, good fighter” is usually an alien concept. However, Bec’s pretty solid. She didn’t have a great showing against Carla Esparza or Mizuki Inoue, but heck, those two are pretty fantastic fighters. Bec should be able to make the quarter finals, but I see her having trouble with really good grapplers.
Intangible: Has the tenacity of a dingo and the toughness of a wombat
Dan Frederick: Rowdy Bec certainly lives up to her name. Um, I don’t have anything clever to say here. Bec is a like a LOLCat brought to life off the internet. Also, she has a ton of heart, and a rather suspect ground game. Plus she’s a highly entertaining interview with charisma to burn. I’m not sure how far she’ll get in the tournament but she’s hell of a lot of fun to watch.
Sydnie Jones: I haven’t been very impressed by Bec Rawlings in the past and don’t anticipate that will change. I don’t think she’ll be a serious contender.
Tecia “The Tiny Tornado” Torres (4-0 pro, 7-0 amat.)
Team: American Top Team | Height: 5’1” | Age: 24
Coconut Creek, Florida, USA | Last 5 Fights: – W W W W
Unified Rankings: #6 | FightMatrix Ranking: #7 | Tapology Ranking: #5
Notable Wins: Felice Herrig, Rose Namajunas, Paige VanZant, Amber Stautzenberger (amateur win)
Styles: karate, taekwondo, | Intangibles: , profound, undiagnosed ADHD | Mortal Enemy: Ritalin
Jessica Hudnall: Torres has very quickly become one of my favorite fighters. She has really good striking and I keep getting impressed by her grappling. My hatred over her beating Thug Rose has basically diminished to nothing on the basis of Tecia being so dang rad. Torres is one of my picks to make it to the finals, and honestly, I’m giving her a very good chance of winning the belt.
Dan Frederick: Tecia Torres is a different breed of athlete with incredible striking technique, speed, cardio, and all around composure. She’s combined axe kicks that do actual damage with jabs and push kicks to leave opponents utterly confused and helpless, and every bit lives up to the name “Tiny Tornado.” Unfortunately, when you hone your mind and body to such incredible lengths at such a young age, you sometimes lose things, like a filter between your brain and your mouth. Incapable of lying, when asked postfight how she thought she did against Felice Herrig, she said the following verbatim “what shocked me was total domination, um, no for real wait a second!”*pause* “Felice is my idol.” This caused World Champion Carla Esparza, in a moment not orchestrated by the promotion, to walk into the ring 60 seconds later and personally call her out.
Although the title fight never materialized in Invicta as both were signed to the UFC very shortly later, there is a more than fair chance these two will clash some time down the road.
As the only things the Gods of MMA respect as much as violence and heart are unintentional comedy and awkwardness, TTTT is pretty much a quadruple threat. As such, I’m considering her my #3 seed, and really, the entire top 3 are all pretty close together and I wouldn’t be shocked to see any of them become the first UFC Strawweight Champion.
Bonus: When asked for comment by a real life ninja, Roxy Modafferi declared Tecia Torres her NINJA PICK OF THE TOURNAMENT: “Tecia Torres has hands and feet the speed of the wind! Definitely a ninja-like ability.”
The Ultimate Fighter Season 20 Strawweight Ultra Preview Extremely – Recap
Dan Frederick: To reiterate, there’s heck of a lot of talent on this show. There’s also a number of top Strawweights who are not on this show, but as far as division-relevant talents, this has far more talent than any previous season of the Ultimate Fighter. Will it determine the top Strawweight in the world? Probably not, as the winner will have yet to face Claudia Gadelha or Jessica Aguilar (hopefully Aguilar is in the UFC by next summer or so), but it will definitely create a credible world champion and one hell of a strong starting point for the division, if things go decently. Again, my top picks in order are Carla Esparza, Joanne Calderwood, Tecia Torres, and Rose Namajunas, but this show is laden with Championship-caliber talent. We’ve yet to see what Justine Kish’s ceiling is. We’ve yet to see how much Jessica Penne may have improved.
Even if reality television can be skewed to create a narrative, the fights, at least, are very real, and I’m hoping this tournament both answers some questions and gives us the sort of amazing fights similar to what many of these women have already had in Invicta FC and elsewhere. I think they’ve already proven that the Strawweights are ready for the UFC, so I’m just hoping for more of the same.
You can follow Dan Frederick on Twitter @DCDry
You can follow Jessica Hudnall on Twitter @LegKickTKO