In the ninth episode of The Ultimate Fighter 29, we got to see our first semifinal matchup. In the bantamweight division, Team Ortega’s Liudvik Sholinian took on Team Volkanovski’s Ricky Turcios. Both fighters competed to earn a spot in the bantamweight final. In the end, it was Turcios who got his hand raised after a three-round battle.
This semifinal fight produced possibly the best round of competition so far this season. Sholinian, the decorated grappler, was able to use that weapon to win a three-round decision in his first fight on the show. Turcios, a freestyle fighter, mixed it up en route to a three-round decision win of his own. With that, let’s look at these fighters and recap the bout and episode.
The Ultimate Fighter(s)
Liudvik Sholinian is a thirty-year-old martial artist from Armenia. Sholinian is primarily a grappler, with an Armenian National Championship in wrestling on his resume. He is an intense individual and competitor. With a sharp mind and good understanding of the sport, Sholinian planned to use his pressure and offensive wrestling to earn a spot in the finals.
Across the Octagon, Ricky Turcios is a 27-year-old freestyle fighter from Texas. A very spiritual and mindful individual, Turcios is a bit unorthodox outside the cage, but has clear skills inside. Turcios holds a black belt in Taekwondo and brown belt in BJJ. He planned to use distance striking to start in order to set up the fight. Then, he planned to mix in all aspects, including grappling, to try and earn his spot.
This fight figured to have lots of fireworks. Both guys are pressure heavy and like to mix it up in all facets of the sport. Now that we are familiar with the competitors, let’s break down the fight. Note: Semifinal bouts are three rounds.
Turcios opened up the fight quickly and sharply. Early on, he was able to strike from distance with great success. Mixing in high and low kicks, along with punches, Turcios seemed to be gaining an early advantage. Soon, after a taking a few blows from Sholinian, Turcios decided to mix in the grappling by initiating the clinch. In the clinch, he was able to control his opponent and land good strikes. Towards the end of the round, Turcios was able to utilize his boxing, starting to really land heavy. As the horn sounded, it was a clear 10-9 lead for Turcios.
The second round began with much of the same, as Turcios took center and began to strike with success. After not having much of an answer, Sholinian decided to mix in his strength, grappling. Landing a takedown, Sholinian was able to get a dominant position. However, it was Turcios who continued to land the more damaging strikes, particularly elbows from the bottom position. Soon, Turcios was able to scramble to his feet and disengage.
As the fighters disengaged, it was Sholinian who was the aggressor. However, he was still being out struck by his opponent. After a takedown attempt, both fighters ended up on the ground, scrambling for position. Sholinian was able to get his opponent’s back and threaten a finish, but Turcios eventually scrambled to his feet. For the last seconds of the round, both fighters were content to stand and trade, both landing good strikes on each other.
As round three began, both fighters screamed at each other and acknowledged that they were about to go to war. Facing off in the middle of the octagon, both guys threw punches with lots of heat, and were able to land. Turcios landed more frequently, but it was also Turcios who began to bleed first after a big overhand from Sholinian. Turcios began to unload long combinations of strikes, but Sholinian refused to back down, standing his ground and landing strikes of his own.
As the round began to draw to a close, the fireworks became bigger and bigger. Both guys taunted each other and continued to land haymakers. Ultimately, it was Turcios who landed more efficiently and more often. As the horn sounded, both fighters got a standing ovation from coaches, fellow competitors, and UFC President Dana White.
The Ultimate Fighter Semifinal #1 Aftermath
Ultimately, after an exciting three rounds, it was Turcios who got the nod on the judge’s scorecards. It was a great fight and both guys really left it all in the cage. After the fight, the viewers could see the highs and lows of this sport. An ecstatic Turcios will be moving on to the The Ultimate Fighter 29 Finals, where he will face the winner of Josh Rettinghouse vs Vince Murdock. On the other hand, Sholinian showed lots of emotion, as his journey on The Ultimate Fighter has now come to a close.
In other storylines, Coach Volkanovski and team had some retaliation for the prank played on them by Team Ortega. Ortega has been a little tardy to training sessions during this TUF season. Volkanovski was able to use that to set up a humorous prank. He and his team gathered clocks and scattered them around the Team Ortega team room. In this display, Volkanovski stripped to his underwear and posed with a clock between his legs. Both coaches shared a laugh in a lighthearted moment before the intensity of fighting.
Along with the prank, the semifinalists were allowed a call home this week. It was clear to see how big of a part family and friends play in the motivation for these fighters. Both competitors were able to recharge before their big fight with this call home.
The Ultimate Fighter Episode 10
Next week, we will see our second semifinal bout. In the middleweight division, Team Ortega’s Andre Petroski will take on Team Volkanovski’s Bryan Battle. You can catch TUF episodes streaming live every Tuesday on ESPN+. You can find last week’s recap here.