‘TUF 26’ Recap: Episode 3

By TJ De Santis Sep 13, 2017
With the series tied at 1-1, Episode 3 of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 26 saw the Eddie Alvarez-coached Ariel Beck square off with the Justin Gaethje-led Montana Stewart.

The No. 6 seed Stewart lives in trains in Texas. We learn of her journey to mixed martial arts was one that started through high school wrestling. The 22-year-old transitioned to MMA after a successful amateur wrestling career took her all the way to the nationals, where she finished third. Despite the opportunity to wrestle while going to college, Stewart made the choice to stay home and continue to raise her young daughter. With 11 fights on her books, the 7-4 Stewart is favored to win her opening round matchup. Coach Gaethje shares his thoughts on how he feels Montana will not only win this fight, but how she has the ability to go far in the tournament.

While confidence is high for Stewart, it appears to be non-existent for the Montana native Beck. While the rest of Beck’s team is working out, she finds herself in the back suffering from a panic attack. Alvarez assistant coach Rich Pohler asks Beck if these are common. She confirms that they have been happening for years. Despite suffering from these issues, Beck states that she has never been treated by a physician. Beck is now in store for some counseling from the former Bellator MMA and Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight champion Alvarez.

One may wonder how the hardened Kensington-raised Philadelphian will respond to a sign of mental weakness. While Alvarez searches for Beck in the back with the intent of asking “What the hell are you doing?” His tone immediately changes once he finds that his charge is feeling down.

“This isn’t normal. What we do, Ariel. Most people see confrontation and they walk the other way. That’s what separates us from the norm,” Alvarez opens up to Ariel. Coming off of a difficult loss to Conor McGregor, Alvarez puts himself back to the night where he was knocked out in front of a sold out crown in Madison Square Garden. Beck immediately starts to feel a bit of encouragement and gets her mind right.

Beck has made her trade in MMA as a striker. Alvarez runs her through sprawl and brawl techniques by using a yoga ball. Alvarez discusses strategy with Beck and states that he feels they only need to worry about Stewart’s grappling come fight night.

While Stewart is definitely taking the fight serious, she is able to take a night off and go out bowling with the rest of her Team Gaethje training partners. To spice the night up, the former World Series of Fighting lightweight king puts out a cash prize for the top three bowlers. Unable to bowl due to a rib injury, Emily Whitmire tasks Montana to bowl for her as a proxy. It pays off literally and figuratively as Stewart takes home first and third places. In second, very pleased with her winnings, was Rachael Ostovich.

As we get closer to the fight we learn more about Beck and Stewart by watching home video shot days before their departures to Las Vegas for filming. For Beck, we learn how she grew up tough by wrangling horses on a ranch. Stewart’s video focuses more on her daughter who already has interest in combat sports herself. We also learn that both Beck and Stewart have men in their lives. For Beck, her boyfriend Shea O’Neil is also her coach. While Stewart is engaged to fellow mixed martial artist Mark Delarosa.

After both fighters come in on weight, it’s time to fight. Beck comes out aggressive and appears to have put any nerves she may have had behind her. Throwing caution to the wind, “Sunshine” lands a nice combination of punches to the body and chin of Stewart. Standing southpaw Beck is able to find the body of Stewart with a long straight left hand. It is here Beck starts to add in a kick to the inside of her opponent’s lead leg. This is where Stewart starts to take over.

Confident that she can handle Beck’s power, Stewart starts to counter effectively. This leads to the clinch where we find the Texan more than comfortable trading shots. Beck is able to get free, but finds herself on the floor after the wrestler secures a takedown. At just 90 seconds in to the contest Beck is forced to fight off of her back. Stewart wastes little time passing guard and ultimately wrapping up a fight ending brabo choke.

With the momentum now on Team Gaethje’s side, coach Alvarez announces a fight he hopes will swing the pendulum back to his team’s side. As next week we see Alvarez representative and No. 3 seed Lauren Murphy battle No. 14 seed Nicco Montano.

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