Last week, 16 men qualified to enter “The Ultimate Fighter 19” house, and B.J. Penn selected Cathal Pendred to battle Frankie Edgar’s Hector Urbina.
Urbina earned a first-round submission last week, and Pendred was not even required to compete after multiple contestants fell out of the competition at the last minute. As a result, both men should be fresh for this middleweight showdown.
The competitors move into the fighter house and then hit the gym. Team Penn is up first, and the former two-division UFC champion introduces his coaching staff: Nova Uniao leader Andre Pederneiras, boxing coach Jason Parillo, and ex-UFC heavyweight king Mark Coleman.
Edgar reminds viewers that he previously locked horns with Penn twice at 155 pounds, winning both bouts via unanimous decision. While Penn has coached “TUF” once before, this is Edgar’s maiden voyage on the reality show. In contrast to Penn’s all-star coaching staff, Edgar has brought his own coaches from back home, including boxing coach Mark Henry, wrestling coach Stephen Rivera, former middleweight King of Pancrase Ricardo Almeida, and World Series of Fighting matchmaker and judo Olympian Ali Abelaziz.
Pendred relays that MMA was not popular in Ireland up until this past year, and he is now proud to represent his country in the Octagon. Penn works with the Irishman on keeping his opponent at punching range in hopes of avoiding wrestling exchanges with a scrambler like Urbina.
While Pendred admits that he fights only for himself, Urbina reveals that his three younger brothers provide him with a great source of motivation. Born in Mexico, Urbina moved to Ohio at the age of seven, first wrestling in school before picking up MMA.
The fighters make weight and then face off while wearing the flags of their respective countries. I had no idea that there was bad blood between Ireland and Mexico, but this is apparently a thing.
“Our noses were touching,” Urbina recalls in an odd confessional. “I could feel his nose on my nose.”
In a new wrinkle to the show’s format, Team Penn’s Mike King takes a seat on the KFC couch to give his fight pick, predictably foreseeing a Pendred victory. As King explains his opinion, his impressive display of stamina in the qualifying round suddenly takes on the type of ironic quality that can only be acquired by a professional athlete sitting on a piece of furniture sponsored by a fast food chain. Do the winners of “TUF 19” also get a lifetime supply of KFC Double Downs in addition to the Harley-Davidsons and the UFC deals?
Both men are now in the cage, and Urbina leads with a low kick. Pendred counters with a step-in uppercut and then easily defends a pair of takedown attempts. Undeterred, Urbina charges with wild punches, some of which connect. Pendred presses him into the cage, but Urbina creates separation and wobbles the Irishman with a hard flurry of hooks. Pendred falls face-first to the mat but covers up from the turtle position and works back to his feet. However, Urbina grabs a gut-wrench and slams him right back down. The Mexico native pounds away from side control, but Pendred explodes to his feet, avoiding a guillotine attempt on his way up. Both men look tired, but that doesn’t stop them from clubbing each other in the face like maniacs for the final 90 seconds of the round.
The second stanza begins with more striking exchanges, but Pendred turns the tables with a takedown. Urbina rolls to his belly, and Pendred grabs a front headlock. The Irishman lets his man stand but blasts him with a few clean shots on his way up. After both men score brief takedowns, Pendred hits one that sticks, landing in side control. Urbina again manages to scramble up, but Pendred grabs a front headlock and delivers several knees to his mug. Urbina tries to play the “three-points of contact” game, and Pendred does clock him with one illegal knee, but referee Steve Mazzagatti ignores it. Pendred continues to pull his foe upward to force his hand off the ground and then land those knees to the head -- a smart strategy to combat a stupid rule. Urbina manages to sit out of the front headlock and finishes the round on top.
With the fight tied at one round apiece, a third period is required to decide a winner. Urbina drives a round kick into Pendred’s ribs, but “The Punisher” takes him down again. Urbina scrambles to all fours, though Pendred controls him well. Urbina pops to his feet and tries to drive on a takedown of his own, but Pendred sprawls out and locks up that same front headlock. Though Urbina eventually manages to escape, Pendred quickly drives him back down to the mat with a power double-leg takedown. Urbina once again explodes to his knees and then his feet, but he cannot escape Pendred’s pesky front headlock before the round expires.
Pendred earns a hard-fought, if not spectacular, decision victory, and Penn retains control of the fight pick. Next week’s contest will be held at 205 pounds, and it will feature Team Penn’s Dan Spohn taking on Team Edgar’s Todd Monaghan.