Team Alvarez and Team Gaethje are tied at 3-3 after six fights on Season 26 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” With two spots left in the quarterfinals, Hungary meets Hawaii, as Melinda Fabian faces Rachael Ostovich in the latest pairing. While the season has been filled with upsets, the seventh-seeded Fabian and the 10th-seeded Ostovich are much closer in terms of seeding.
Episode 7 opens with UFC President Dana White making an unannounced visit to the fighter house. He stops by to catch up with the competitors and to discuss what the tournament represents. The reality series launched in 2005, with a six-figure contract as its grand prize. The Season 26 winner will walk away, not only with a long-term deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship but as the organization’s inaugural women’s flyweight titleholder. White, who once swore that women would never compete in the UFC, tells this latest crop of athletes that they can become stars and that his promotion will treat them better than any other. He also claims that MMA is the only professional sport on the planet that will give women the opportunity to make as much money -- potentially even more -- as their male counterparts.
Coach Eddie Alvarez meets with Fabian ahead of her showdown with Ostovich. She has battled several injuries throughout the competition. Fabian greets Alvarez with a meticulous list of what she wants to train, when she wants to train and how she wants to train. Some of the preparation includes taking notes and not actually drilling techniques on the mat. Alvarez questions her approach but seems hard-pressed to do anything other than go along with it.
While Fabian strategizes about fight preparation, Ostovich puts in the work with coach Justin Gaethje, who sounds confident in her ability to win the fight. Ostovich, a state champion in judo, embodies the warrior spirit that seems to permeate Hawaii. A second-generation fighter who trains alongside her father, brother and husband, Ostovich loves a good fight, even if it means getting away from her grappling base: “Sometimes,” she said, “the banger just comes out of me.”
Fabian’s home video sheds some light on her home country. Walking the streets of Budapest, she shows the many sides of her city. Fabian takes pride in her homeland and plans on becoming the first Hungarian to compete inside the Octagon.
Ostovich takes us to Hawaii in her home video, the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean complemented by plunging cliffs. We are afforded a look inside the Jesus is Lord gym, a staple in Hawaiian mixed martial arts history. She details her family’s ties to fighting and interacts with her daughter, Ruby Rose. Despite suffering from a birth defect that resulted in her internal organs being on the outside of her body, we see the 4-year-old running around, smiling and acting like your average, everyday child. Ostovich admits that her daughter has helped provide meaning and purpose to her life.
The pre-fight narrative was easy to see. Fabian wants to put herself and all of Hungary on the map. Favored as the No. 7 seed, she will need to avoid Ostovich on the ground if she wants to advance. Meanwhile, the Hawaiian has already enjoyed success in promotions like Invicta Fighting Championships. Ostovich now has the opportunity to push toward UFC gold, an achievement that would make all her hard work worthwhile.
Referee Chris Tognoni oversees the fight. Fabian immediately takes the center of the cage and looks to set the range with her jab. Though far from defensive, Ostovich is forced to the perimeter of the cage. While Fabian throws single punches and kicks, Ostovich throws in combination; and it pays off. After their initial exchanges, the Hawaiian doubles up on her jab and cracks Fabian with an overhand right which results in immediate swelling underneath her left eye. Moments later, Ostovich secures a takedown. It becomes only matter of time from there, as Fabian gives up her back and then taps to a rear-naked choke. With that, Ostovich delivered the fourth win for Team Gaethje and punched her ticket to the quarterfinals, where she will face Team Alvarez’s Barb Honchak.
The next episode features the last opening-round matchup, as Emily Whitmire battles Christina Marks. Plus, the ongoing drama between Alvarez and Lauren Murphy looks to boil over.