When the new season of The Ultimate Fighter was first announced with the theme of “Redemption,” no one exemplified that word more than season two winner Joe “Daddy” Stevenson, who will finally make his return to action this week in the final fight of the preliminary round matchups against Justin Edwards.
Of course, Stevenson’s fight with Edwards will also be his chance to make it a clean sweep for Team Dillashaw, as they’ve run roughshod over Team Garbrandt this season with six straight wins. Last week, Ramsey Nijem survived a couple scares from Julian Lane to pull out a first-round TKO, but now Stevenson has the rare chance to make it into the next round of the tournament while also attempting to eliminate bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt’s final fighter in the competition.
To return for this season of The Ultimate Fighter, Stevenson had to go to hell and back in his personal and professional life, which was no easy feat.
Stevenson last competed in the UFC all the way back in 2011 after he made the move down to 145 pounds after spending the majority of his career as a lightweight. Stevenson was a heavy favorite going into the second season of The Ultimate Fighter and he proved why as he ran through the competition en route to a successful career inside the Octagon. Stevenson even went as far as fighting for the lightweight title back in 2008 when he faced off with BJ Penn at UFC 80 in 2008.
While all of this was happening, Stevenson was also battling an addiction to alcohol, which only furthered his downward spiral in the sport.
Over time, Stevenson picked himself off the ground, got clean and sober, and began focusing on his team of fighters in California while also joining the hit television series “Kingdom,” where he portrayed himself, as well as serving as the fight coordinator for the show starring Frank Grillo, Nick Jonas and Jonathan Tucker. As time passed, Stevenson got the itch to fight again and he returned to action with two wins before he got the call to return to the UFC.
Now Stevenson truly has the chance to redeem himself as he returns to the place where he started his UFC career more than 12 years ago.
As for his opponent, Justin Edwards, he’s looking for a second shot in the UFC after putting together a 2-5 record in his previous stint with the promotion after first appearing on season 13 of the reality show.
A native of Ohio, Edwards seemed like a solid prospect when he joined the UFC, and he earned a couple impressive wins, including a Submission of the Night over veteran fighter Josh Neer back in 2012. Unfortunately for Edwards, he dropped his next three fights in a row, including a bout against fellow TUF 13 castmate Ramsey Nijem, and he was released from his contract. Since that time, Edwards began working a full-time job while driving to train at a gym in Dayton, OH, more than an hour away from his home, so he could continue to pursue his dream of returning to the UFC.
Of course, Edwards also stands as the last obstacle in the path of Team Dillashaw rolling to a dominant 7-0 run through the opening round of the competition, and that’s something Cody Garbrandt just couldn’t stomach. So he’ll turn to his fellow Buckeye in Edwards to get the job done against Stevenson this week.
Once the final fight of the opening round is completed, there will still be one more matchup to determine before the quarterfinals begin. This season of The Ultimate Fighter will invoke the wild card, which means two of the competitors who have already lost this season will have a chance to fight their way back into the tournament.
The wild card has come into play in past seasons, but most notably back in season 11, when Court McGee lost in his opening round matchup to Nick Ring before he was brought back and given a second chance. Not only did McGee return to the tournament, but he ultimately went on to win the entire competition to become the season 11 champion.
That means any of the fighters who have already lost this season will have a chance to jump back into the tournament with yet another chance at redemption. Of course, the final decision will be made between Garbrandt, Dillashaw and UFC President Dana White, who will then put those two fighters into a matchup next week, with the winner moving on to the quarterfinal round.
Of course, just because Garbrandt will have the majority of his fighters to pick from, that doesn’t mean Dillashaw won’t weigh in with his own opinion, and it’s not likely these two are going to agree on anything, much less the wild card matchup.
Will Team Garbrandt finally get a win in the competition when Justin Edwards steps into the Octagon or will Joe Stevenson live out his redemption story as he competes on The Ultimate Fighter for the first time in more than a decade? And finally, who will get the second shot at the tournament with the wild card selection? It all goes down on the new episode of The Ultimate Fighter tonight at 10 pm ET on FS1.