The Ultimate Fighter 29, Episode 9: A Review

Pranks! Family! Joy! Heartbreak! Several other breaks, probably! Who says we can't have it all?

Roses are still red
Violets are still blue
We got another prank on The Ultimate Fighter 29
And it was not necessarily life-changing but Volk was excited about it so I love it and you need to love it too


The episode starts with Ricky Turcios being Ricky Turcios, and if that’s not a good omen I don’t know what is. He tells Bryan Battle about the positive sides of being isolated without a TV or phones and having time to be with his own thoughts, and while I would personally rather die a slow and painful death, it does make sense from a competitive standpoint. Battle talks a little about their friendship and their vibes and how Turcios is known by the house as “the cult leader” and that's alarming information for several reasons, including but not limited to the fact that I never really pegged myself as the cult-following type but I would take a bullet for my one true ruler and captain Turcios. Turcios then talks about this being his one shot and opportunity and I will refrain from making mom’s spaghetti references because one of my 2021 resolutions was to sound less like a basic millennial bitch.

We’re then off to the moment we’ve been waiting for since Jersey Donkey forever altered the course of our lives: Alex Volkanovki’s payback time! After keeping us under unimaginably cruel suspense, he’s finally delivering on his promise to repay rival coach Brian Ortega for his Episode 5 prank and it’s… Well, it's something. Basically, to poke fun at Ortega’s perpetual tardiness, his team adorns a room with several types of clocks. Volkanovski then strips down to his underwear and positions one directly in front of his crotch area so as to mimmic being naked and covered only by it and I… Appreciate the commitment?

Honestly it’s not the best prank if analyzed in a vacuum, but paired with Volkanovski’s joy and the information we already had about the rest of his personality, plus Ortega's reluctant appreciation, it is actually kind of charming. I will refrain from referencing New Girl episode when we find out that Winston is bad at pranks because he either goes too big or too small on account of the previously mentioned 2021 resolution.

The Ultimate Fighter 29 E09 Volk and Ortega

We quickly move on to discussing the episode’s fighters, which are heading into the season's very first semifinals.

Supreme leader and messiah Turcios, who beat Dan Argueta in a bantamweight banger on Episode 6, is set to face Liudvik Sholinian, who took out Mitch Raposo on Episode 2. Sholinian says intense things and has the quasi-cubistic nose of a man who has seen it all and fears nothing but he also wears cute little hats so it’s a little confusing. He gets a chance to call his family, and his pure joy in talking to his parents and his best friend almost makes me feel like my heart isn't just a lump of ginger, duct tape and resentment.

The Ultimate Fighter 29 E09 Happy Sholinian

Turcios also gets a chance to call home and talks to his dad, who — and I say that as the highest of compliments — sounds exactly like someone who would be Turcios' dad. There are some training montages of both men and Turcios says more philosophical things to the camera and I don’t remember any of them but they are all now my personal gospel.

Unlike the show’s previous bouts, which were set for two rounds with the possibility of a third “sudden death” round, the semifinals are scheduled for three regular rounds. And while that probably didn't end up being good news for the integrity of Turcios' and Sholinian’s bone matter and soft tissue, it sure was good news for us terrible people, who got massive displays of heart by two beings who may or may not actually be dangerously resilient shape-shifting extraterrestrial invaders like the thing on “The Thing."

Sholinian had his moments, found some success with his wrestling and ascended to legendary status when the fact he was getting pieced up against the cage didn’t stop him from lowering his hands and taunting Turcios like some mad violence scientist. Throughout what turned out to be yet another 135-pound banger, though, it was Turcios who emerged the sharpest striker with a clear decision win.

Turcios then celebrated with his typical hadouken and encouraged children everywhere to believe in themselves and not fear failure, which is objectively great advice I'm never going to take. The show could have ended there and allowed us to believe if even for a second that the world is actually an OK place but no, "TUF" wants us to be sad. So they cut to a thoroughly distraught Sholinian, who refused to talk to the cameras before being consoled, in tears, by Ortega.

Turcios is now the first official finalist of “TUF 29," which continues next week with a middleweight semifinal between Team Ortega’s Andre Petroski and Team Volkanovski’s Bryan Battle.