In the seventh episode of The Ultimate Fighter 29, Team Volkanovski’s Brady Hiestand took on Team Ortega’s Josh Rettinghouse. However, these two competitors are hometown friends, which added another element to the already high stakes battle. Ultimately, Hiestand was able to get the split decision victory in a three-round war.
This bantamweight matchup was full of fireworks. Rettinghouse was the veteran with over 20 professional fights, but it was Hiestand, the relative newcomer, who was able to pick up the victory. Let’s dive into each fighter’s backstory and experience before breaking down the fight.
Hailing from Spokane, Washington, Hiestand is one of the youngest fighters in the competition. At only 21, with six professional fights, Hiestand is a green prospect, but one with large potential. Reminiscent of Stipe Miocic, Hiestand doubles with a day job as a firefighter. He has a very likeable personality, and seems to be a blue-collar, hard working fighter. Despite being good friends and roommates with Rettinghouse, Hiestand was ready to make the most of his opportunity.
Hiestand is training partners with Michael Chiesa back in Spokane. “Bam Bam” came into the competition as a self-described “well rounded fighter”. Typically, Hiestand likes to use his striking and forward pressure to set up grappling situations. This is where he feels he is most comfortable and has the largest advantage. With a black belt in karate and brown belt in BJJ, it is clear that Hiestand is dangerous wherever the fight takes place. However, his main weakness was thought to be his relative lack of experience, especially when compared with his opponent.
The main gameplan for Hiestand was to use his pressure to walk his opponent forward. From here, he would look to initiate grappling situations, and use his slick submission and ground and pound game to finish the fight.
Like Hiestand, Rettinghouse also comes from Spokane. Despite this, they are more different than you would think. Unlike Hiestand, Rettinghouse is one of the older competitors, coming in at 31 years of age. He views this competition as one of his last chances to reach his ultimate goal of competing in the UFC. With a day job as an accountant, Rettinghouse is the white-collar counterpart of his opponent. Rettinghouse viewed this as an advantage, stating that he is one of the more intelligent martial artists in the sport today.
Rettinghouse is primarily a striker who likes to maintain pressure on his opponents. A technical competitor, he “likes to play chess” as Coach Ortega put it. Another advantage for him was his experience. Combining this experience and technical prowess, Rettinghouse is a dangerous fighter. This has led him to a 16-5 record as a pro, with more fights than many of his fellow competitors.
The main gameplan from Team Ortega was to use the experience. As Rettinghouse put it, he wanted to “be better everywhere.” This included being superior in the mindset, technique, and planning parts of the fight.
This fight, while still with high stakes, had a much different feel than many we have seen so far on TUF 29. With both guys being roommates and close friends, they were talking and joking throughout most of the episode, even at the weigh-in. However, they would soon be locked in a cage to do battle. As Dana White put it, it was time to put this friendship to the test. Both guys would have to flip the switch on their friendship to do battle. This bout did not disappoint, so let’s dive into the breakdown.
Coming in with a reach advantage, Hiestand was aggressive from the opening bell. With early forward pressure, he was able to land strikes and get to the clinch, executing his gameplan. However, it was Rettinghouse who landed the first takedown of the fight, attempting a guillotine after catching his opponent’s kick. Hiestand was able to get out of this position and get back in the clinch, starting to land some damaging blows. Soon, he had taken Rettinghouse’s back, and was working on a rear naked choke attempt.
After defending the submission and scrambling to get back to his feet, Rettinghouse ended up being taken right back down. Hiestand took the back once again and began to land more strikes. Allowing his opponent to get up into the clinch, Hiestand landed some powerful knees to the body. Hiestand took his opponent down once again. From here, he was able to land ground and pound to close the round. This first round clearly went to Hiestand.
Both guys came out aggressive once again in round two. Hiestand, however, seemed to be landing more volume and damage. From this, he was able to get an early takedown, and it looked as if round one might repeat itself. But this time Rettinghouse was able to get to his feet and land a huge knee to the head of his opponent. Both fighters continued to stand and throw huge shots, but it was now Rettinghouse beginning to put a lot of damage on his hometown friend. Hiestand began to slow down, now showing clear signs of damage and fatigue.
Rettinghouse began to defend the takedowns effectively. Landing an elbow, he was able to gash Hiestand and blood began to pour. Rettinghouse’s uppercut began to be an effective weapon as he landed big shot after big shot. Finally, Hiestand was able to get the takedown. From his back, Rettinghouse threw up a triangle attempt and began to land elbows from the bottom. However, Hiestand was able to get out of this and neutralize his opponent while the clock ran out.
With two pretty clear rounds for each fighter, a third round was in order. Early in the third, it seemed to be Rettinghouse getting the better of his opponent. He was able to land some big shots and string combos together. However, Hiestand would not go away, and continued to walk forward.
After a few missed attempts, Hiestand finally landed a takedown midway through the round. From here, he was able to use his offensive wrestling to neutralize his opponent. Every time Rettinghouse would get back to his feet, another takedown awaited him. With these takedowns and dominant positions, Hiestand was able to land strikes. In desperation, Rettinghouse threw up another triangle attempt, but it was too late as the final horn sounded.
This fight was extremely entertaining. Both guys were very aggressive throughout the bout. In my opinion, Rettinghouse was the more technical fighter of the two. He landed cleaner and more damaging shots in the fight. However, Hiestand had the heart and toughness. Every time he seemed to be hurt, he would continue to come forward and pressure his opponent. Ultimately, it was enough to get the split decision victory in the end. Hiestand will be a tough matchup for his opponent in the next round, based on this toughness. On top of that, winning a war like this will only help to increase his confidence. This was also a big win for Team Volkanovski, as they moved to 3-4 in the competition.
Next week on The Ultimate Fighter, middleweights Miles Hunsinger (Team Ortega) and Gilbert Urbina (Team Volkanovski) will square off. New episodes air every Tuesday night at 9 p.m. EST on ESPN+. You can find the previous episode recap below.