'TUF 18' Recap: Episode 13

By Tristen Critchfield Nov 27, 2013
Tonight’s episode will conclude the women’s semifinal round, as Team Rousey’s Jessica Rakoczy squares off with Team Tate’s Raquel Pennington for a spot opposite Julianna Pena at the “TUF 18” finale.

The show begins with Pennington reflecting on her tomboy roots, which included playing football in the street with the neighborhood boys as a kid. “Rocky” was a gifted athlete and had several scholarship offers to go to college but lost out on those opportunities when she broke her back snowboarding. That injury would ultimately lead her to MMA.

Tate believes that Pennington’s wrestling and grappling skills will give her the edge against the smaller Rakoczy. Pennington plans on blending bullying with technique to get the win.

Not all is well for the Colorado-based fighter, however. Pennington has ice on her hand after injuring it in training. She is still having trouble turning it, and with that in mind, Tate has advised her charge to try and finish the fight as quickly as possible.

During the Team Rousey training session, Rakoczy works on her footwork in order to be prepared to move in and out against her larger opponent. Rousey is supremely confident in Rakoczy’s hands and hopes that her fighter can keep the action standing.

Rakoczy won multiple world titles as a professional boxer, but she says that the challenge of MMA keeps her motivated. After being embarrassed in her early MMA fights, Rakoczy feels confident in her developing skills.

During a sparring session with Chris Beal, Rakoczy takes a hard punch and re-aggravates a shoulder injury suffered earlier in the season. She complains about numbness in her arm and plans to take it easy for the rest of the time leading up to her fight.

After practice, Beal apologizes to Rakoczy for his role in the injury, but the boxer refuses to lay blame. “I shouldn’t have been sparring,” she says.

Rakoczy checks in at 133.5 pounds at weigh-ins, while Pennington tips the scales at 135. Fighters on both teams are eager to see if Pennington can use her superior size against the skilled hands of Rakoczy.

On fight day, Pennington tells Roxanne Modafferi about a disturbing dream where she got into a fight at a park while fireworks went off. According to Pennington, this was not a good omen.

Rakoczy, meanwhile, gets emotional when thoughts turn to missing her 4-year-old son. She vows that any tears shed will not affect her in the fight. As the last pick of the show, Rakoczy considers herself the underdog.

The shoulder injury has limited her sparring, but Rousey is confident that Rakoczy’s experience can overcome that issue. Pennington is hurting as well but says she is feeling better heading into the fight than she has in recent days.

Both bantamweights make their way to the cage and it’s time to fight. The bout begins with Rakoczy on the outside and Pennington in the center of the cage. Rakoczy is mixing in low kicks with her punches. The Team Rousey representative remains content to stay on the outside, landing jabs while Pennington looks for an opening. Pennington advances and connects with a straight right.

Rakcozy continues to work the legs with kicks and Pennington responds with a front kick. Rakoczy moves forward and backs her foe up with a combination against the fence. Pennington changes levels and drives the former pro boxer back with a body lock. Now “Rocky” hunts for a takedown against the fence and finally gets it with about a minute remaining in the first frame. Rakoczy works her way back up and attacks with elbows as Pennington clings to a rear-waist lock. Penningotn gets Rakoczy down again but eats some more elbows for her troubles. The round ends with Pennington inside her opponent’s guard.

Rakoczy works a nice body-head combination to begin the second round and continues to try and set the tone with her jab. Pennington attempts to keep the Team Rousey fighter at bay with kicks. Pennington presses forward and eats a combination. Rakoczy is doing a good job of moving in and out of danger while landing punches. Pennington presses forward and lands a right hand. Rakoczy doubles up on her jab and backs Pennington up with a right hand.

Pennington connects with a left hand and a couple low kicks. Rakoczy continues to land in greater volume as the two fighters have remained standing for the entire frame. With about 40 seconds remaining Pennington shoots, but Rakoczy has an underhook. Pennington is unable to secure the takedown before the frame expires.

Rakoczy resumes firing off quick jabs to the face of her opponent to begin round three. Pennington backs Rakoczy up with a front kick, but the Team Rousey fighter quickly responds with a combination. Rakoczy seems to be finding her rhythm now. Pennington charges forward for a takedown attempt, but Rakoczy easily moves out of danger.

Rakoczy tags Pennington with a right hand, and the Team Tate member appears to be bleeding from her nose. Rakoczy’s footwork and quick hands are giving Pennington fits and she backs up the larger fighter once again with punches. With 30 seconds left in the round Pennington shoots for a takedown and gets her foe to the canvas. Rakoczy is active with strikes from her back as the fight ends.

Rakoczy is the clear winner, taking identical 30-27 scorecards from the judges. “This experience has made me a better fighter,” said Rakoczy, who moves on to face Julianna Pena on Saturday. “I’m very pleased with everything that’s happened.”

Rousey believes that Rakoczy is the most improved fighter on the show. Meanwhile, Tate takes the blame for Pennington’s performance.

Shortly thereafter, the attention turns to Rousey’s title showdown with Tate at UFC 168. The show concludes with Tate giving Rousey a pair of socks decorated with middle fingers to commemorate the champion’s favored form of communication on the show. Predictably, Rousey is not amused by the gift. The coaches will settle their score on Dec. 28.

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