Three weeks into the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter and it’s been all Team Dillashaw.
The latest fight that took place saw season seven competitor Jesse Taylor out work and out muscle Team Garbrandt’s Mehdi Baghdad over two rounds to earn a unanimous decision and move into the next round of the competition.
It was another sore spot for bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt, as he suffered a third consecutive loss to No. 1 contender TJ Dillashaw, culminating in the two coaches getting into yet another heated war of words.
It’s been well documented that before they were working against each other on the show that Garbrandt and Dillashaw were training partners at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, albeit at different stages of their respective careers. Dillashaw grew up in the gym after joining when his college wrestling days were finished, before eventually developing into a world-class fighter who would go on to win the UFC bantamweight championship.
Dillashaw eventually split with Team Alpha Male in late 2015.
Meanwhile, Garbrandt was still relatively young in his career when he showed up at Team Alpha Male after starting out in his home state of Ohio, but he quickly learned the ropes while working with fighters like Dillashaw and future UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber. Garbrandt just made his UFC debut in early 2015, so clearly he was still at the early part of his career when Dillashaw was on his way out of the gym. Needless to say, they’ve both learned a lot since the last time they’ve trained together, but that didn’t stop Garbrandt or Dillashaw from jawing at each other non-stop during the latest episode.
While Garbrandt was promising to settle the rivalry in the cage, Dillashaw fired back by reminding the bantamweight champion who is up in the competition thus far, with his team currently 3-0 through the first three fights.
“Maybe you should worry about your team. Maybe they’ll win a fight,” Dillashaw said to Garbrandt this week.
The coaches certainly remained at odds, but the fight this week also presented a very interesting matchup between two former teammates as well.
Jesse Taylor and Mehdi Baghdad were actually both mainstays at Dan Henderson’s Team Quest facility in Temecula, Calif. for three years and they worked together quite often. Despite those prior ties, Taylor and Baghdad had no problem facing each other in the Octagon, especially considering what was on the line this season.
For Taylor, The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption might serve as the last shot he’ll ever receive to make it into the UFC.
As part of the season seven cast, Taylor was by far one of the most talented and gifted athletes on the show, but he blew his opportunity when he went on a drunken tirade in Las Vegas just days after making it to the final fight. Taylor was eventually booted from the show and only ended up with one fight in the UFC before he was released from his contract.
Since that time, Taylor has stayed very active and busy fighting all over the world against a litany of top opponents, but he didn’t get another crack at the UFC until now. It’s safe to say Taylor knew exactly what was riding on his appearance on the show this season, which meant every fight will have do-or-die consequences for him.
And in many ways, Taylor is the poster boy for what this season is all about.
“You wanna talk about a redemption story? Jesse’s the guy,” UFC President Dana White said of Taylor.
As for Baghdad, he felt he never lived up to his potential when competing in the UFC previously and he was released following back-to-back losses after he was brought into the promotion from The Ultimate Fighter 22. Baghdad admitted this week that competing at lightweight was at least part of his problem because he was shedding far too many pounds before facing an opponent in the Octagon. This time around, Baghdad is competing at a more natural 170 pounds, where he hopes to make another run at the UFC roster.
For all the talk about what it meant to get back to the UFC, Taylor and Baghdad still had to meet in the Octagon to prove it.
JESSE TAYLOR VS. MEHDI BAGHDAD
It took only seconds for Taylor to rush forward and take Baghdad to the ground with a big double leg takedown. As a former college wrestler, Taylor knew that his grappling and power would be the best possible weapon to negate Baghdad’s striking attack. Once Taylor got the fight to the ground, he immediately passed guard and started to work to take the back. Taylor transitioned flawlessly from the mount to take the back while looking for the rear naked choke. Baghdad did eventually manage to get up from the bottom, but Taylor wasted no time planting him back on the ground before the round came to an end.
The second round proved to be nearly a carbon copy of the first except Taylor did have to work a little harder to get the fight to the ground this time. Baghdad managed his best strike of the fight when he clipped Taylor with a quick left hand that stunned the former Cal-State Fullerton wrestler for a moment, but it ultimately only forced him to push that much harder to take the fight back to the mat. Taylor put on a punishing performance over two rounds while Baghdad was just locked underneath him fighting for air.
In the end, Taylor earned a lopsided decision over Mehdi Baghdad to move into the next round of the competition.
With Team Dillashaw already up 3-0, they will now return back to the fight that was supposed to take place earlier this season before Hector Urbina was forced off the show when he was unable to make weight. The No. 1 pick from Team Dillashaw, James Krause, will meet late replacement Johnny Nunez, who hopes to pull off the upset to get Team Garbrandt on the board.
It all goes down next Wednesday night at 10pm ET on FS1.