I don’t know many things about myself, or anyone else, or literally any other thing that exists in the world. I know I don’t like papayas. I know people who like papayas are untrustworthy. I know papayas smell funny and have unreasonable texture and shouldn’t exist. And I knew, going into episode four of The Ultimate Fighter 29, that my days of crying watching TUF were long gone.
Well, I guess I knew even less than I thought.
(not about the papayas, fuck papayas)
Right off the bat, I realized feelings were about to happen. See, I’ve never been in a cage fight, which means I never lost a cage fight, which means I have no way of knowing how I would react to losing a cage fight. What I can tell you with some certainty, however, is that I wouldn’t react with as much grace as Ryder Newman. Still wearing the damage from his loss to Tresean Gore, first Newman tells the cameras he would like this foe to win the whole thing. Then, he and Gore sit down for a meal, discuss their fight, talk about how proud they are of each other and say “bro” a lot.
Dudes do, indeed, rock.
We’re then off to the gym, where coach Alex Volkanovski tries to instill some positive attitude in his team after yet another loss. Volkanovski calls their 0-3 situation “character-building,” which I appreciate because that's what I’ve been telling myself about my several personal, professional and spiritual failures for the past 31 years. After the pep talk, TUF winner and current UFC contender Michael Chiesa shows up to help Team Volkanovski — including training partner Brady Hiestand — with practice and talk about some of the mentally challenging aspects of the show. He doesn’t discuss why he doesn’t have a mullet anymore, but that's OK, he's still cool.
At the house, coach Brian Ortega bonds with his team over steaks and haircuts and sea moss smoothies (?). The guys bond and talk about their kids and, inspired by his team’s sincerity, Ortega opens up about his own personal life. It's very sweet and you almost forget they're still wearing their hideous team jerseys. But we don't. Because they are very hideous and there's no forgetting them. Vince Murdock, who’s set to meet Dustin Lampros later in the episode, says he is moved by how much his coach and his assistant really do seem to care. Dudes remain rocking.
We cut to a conversation between Hiestand and Lampros, which I will tell you right now I was *not* emotionally prepared for. Hiestand talks about how he lost his dad to alcohol, which is why he doesn’t drink. Lampros then shares his mom’s struggles with terrible neck pain, which ultimately led to a fatal battle with addiction. Lampros discusses having to move away to pursue his dream of fighting, and receiving a call from his little brother after he found her.
He's crying and we’re all probably crying with him. Lampros also talks about meeting former UFC champion Tyron Woodley in church and being encouraged to move to Florida, where he currently trains at Sanford MMA. He says he’s fighting for his brother, who now lives with their sister. They FaceTime and I don’t know about you but I may or may not be crying again.
Lampros’ opponent, as we know, went through some battles of his own to make it to the show.
Back in 2019, ahead of what would have been his UFC debut, Murdock was diagnosed with a serious brain disease called moyamoya. The condition required an 11-hour emergency surgery that, he speculates, he may never have gotten had he not taken the tests required to compete in the UFC. Basically, several terrible things could have happened, but thankfully they didn’t, and Murdock took his recovery so seriously that a year later he was ready to compete again. At 30, Murdock currently trains at Team Alpha Male, is married and has a baby on the way. He also has cute dogs (two that appeared on screen, unsure if there's more, will report back when I found out).
The fact that we then get to watch a bit of Lampros’ weight cut doesn’t strike me as a good sign, and it turns out it isn’t. Despite Volkanovski’s valiant efforts to rally with his fighter through the cut, there’s a bit of drama at the weigh-ins, with Lampros needing an extra hour to make 136 pounds. He does make the weight, though, and the bantamweight fight goes on as scheduled.
We’re then treated to a short, but worthy scrap. Despite Lampros’ efforts to bring in the pressure, it is Murdock who finds success, first with a massive right hand and then with a gnarly-looking knee to the face that forces the referee to intervene at 2:40 of Round 1. Team Ortega is now 4-0.
But wait, there’s more.
As they all gather around for the next fight’s announcement, tensions rise between the coaches. After Volkanovski complains about Ortega’s tardiness, the two exchange words that leads to Volkanovski calling Ortega a “shit person.” Ortega’s assistant coach Paul Herrera and Chiesa end up joining the conflict, as Chiesa takes issue with Herrera’s comments about the team’s losing streak. “Have a little class,” Chiesa says, urging Herrera to limit his criticism to the coaches. “Let the games begin,” Ortega smirks to the camera, “I've got you pissed off now. Now I’m going to get you worse.”
Bryan Battle and Kemran Lachinov are the next middleweight fight.