Everything You Wanted To Know About The TUF 29 Finalists (But Were Too Reasonable To Ask)

Also, maybe some things you didn't want to know, and might not even be entirely based on reality, but that I said anyway.

And so the time has come.

You kept telling yourself over and over, “I’ll catch up on this when I get a chance.” You maybe saved some links, bookmarked some tweets, took a cursory glance at a highlight or two. But then life happened, as it usually does, and you never did get around to really digging into them.

Before you knew it, it was too late. The Ultimate Fighter 29 finale is upon us and you are about to go into it ill-informed and disoriented, distanced and disengaged, thinking “Sure, I can catch up on the season’s fights and read breakdowns and develop some technical understanding of these men, but then how will I know where to invest my emotional energy?”

That, my friend, is quite a predicament.

A predicament so tricky, indeed, that a “normal” person with a “real job” and “reasonable interests that actually work toward helping them connect with others” might not be able to help you with.

It is a fortunate twist of fate, then, that you are not in the presence of such person.

As some of you may know, on account of me talking about it literally all the time, I have watched and reviewed every single one of this season’s episodes. The reviews — complete with images, embedded links, pros and cons lists and basically everything that doesn’t have to do with the actual fights — can all be found here at Fanbyte and should help you navigate the the stuff that really mattered (such as: hairstyles, dog sightings, Jersey Donkey™, defamatory statements on horses, that one time when I said I tend to be a harsh judge of babies, etc). They’re generally short and quick, made with love and a moderate-to-low amount of effort. A true product of its time, I would argue, made for the lazies by a lazy.

All available now, for your bingeing pleasure.

If that’s still too much commitment for you, though, don’t worry. I mean, maybe do worry in the general context of your life, but not about this particular situation. For I, my valued reader, have come through once again. Below, you’ll find short but detailed notes on what we discovered about the finalists throughout the season, plus some stuff we didn’t discover at all but I still decided to irresponsibly speculate about. And while there are probably better ways of learning actual facts and information out there, I am confident that my patented scientific method* will be just the thing to help you figure out what’s really important at the end of the day, which is who among the “TUF 29” finalists is most deserving of your useless but well-meaning positive vibes.

*Due to ongoing legal issues, I can’t tell you exactly what my patented scientific method is. What I can tell you is that it is *not* not just typing random thoughts but, like, using a lot of words.

Ricky Turcios (Team Volkanovski)

Ricky Turcios is a fan-favorite or at least that what I say he is in my headcanon because in my headcanon the fans are people of sophistication and good taste.

Turcios’ introduction happens via a home-made video in which he: pretend-awakens from a pretend-sleep, asks his dog to join him in bed, says “what’s up” to the camera and proceeds to shadow-fight it. He seems to be constantly smiling, and while that would annoy me about literally anybody else, he can get away with it. He can get away with anything, the charming bastard. At one point he speaks Spanish to the camera and says “put the subtitles here,” which doesn’t sound that cool when I describe it but I guess you just had to be here.

He seems close to his family and talks about his girlfriend like she’s some type of sublime celestial creature gracing his life with her godlike presence. As he should. He has a daring sense of style and rocks bold prints. He coaches children and seems to do it because he genuinely likes it, which is something that I could never relate to but still respect and admire. From a safe distance. I bet he was the kind of kid who’d always take injured animals home so he could at least give them proper burials. I bet he still does that as an adult.

Turcios constantly said profound things to the “TUF” camera and while I can’t remember any of them I am sure they have seeped into my brain and have permanently altered my outlook on life. For the better. The other day, I saw a grown person making some remark about their Hogwarts house and barely even judged them. Maybe that’s the Turcios effect. He seems like the kind of friend you’d call when you’re expecting a new couch that you’re not quite sure is gonna fit through the elevator and just know you’re going to need the support of someone who’s both physically gifted and able to transmit serenity in stressful situations.

He might also claim he can manipulate the aura of the couch so that it fits and while your conscious brain will know that’s not possible, you will be willing to give it a shot. It will probably work.

He also fights like he’s in a video game and gave us two of the season’s best fights. His dad sounds exactly like him. I keep calling Turcios the One True Leader and joking that I would totally join his cult if he started one. I’m actually only half-joking. At this point I honestly wouldn’t be mad at having someone to help relieve me of the unbearable weight of self-governance. He celebrates his wins with Hadoukens, but not in a douchey way.

Brady Hiestand (Team Volkanovski)

At first I disliked Brady Hiestand on account of him being 22 and therefore in violation of my rule against young people accomplishing things.

Upon further inspection, though, I realized that was more a me thing than it was a Hiestand thing. So I reassessed. The fact he has a warm demeanor and seems like the kind of guy who would bottle-feed baby koalas during a forest fire helped. This scenario, while mostly hypothetical, is loosely based on reality, as Hiestand also happens to be a volunteer firefighter. Because why settle for one scary occupation that the vast majority of human people wouldn’t have the courage or the basic physical requirements to perform when you can have two scary occupations that the vast majority of human people wouldn’t have the courage or the basic physical requirements to perform.

He explains in a home video that his stepdad is a horse trainer and his mom has 16 horses, which means their family ranch will be ground zero for the upcoming horse rebellion. I’m on to you, horses. 

Hiestand made it the finals by beating Josh Rettinghouse, who happened to be not only his “TUF” roommate but a friend back home, and Vince Murdock, who not only has a cool name and a cool story but was also one of the season’s most well-known and experienced names. Hiestand later revealed he did it all through a strained meniscus. That all might sound like a lot to you, but that’s probably because you’re you and not Brady Hiestand. You are, generally speaking, worse than Brady Hiestand. No offense. We all are.

He also has a brother named Bryson and that’s honestly some A+ child-naming. They are very close. He also had the proper reaction to Brian Ortega’s snake prank, which was freaking the fuck out. He looks like the kind of friend who will let you know if he thinks what you’re doing is stupid but will be nice about it and help you figure it out. He comes highly recommended by Michael Chiesa, who had pretty much the most brutal “The Ultimate Fighter” experience in history and still won, so that’s significant. I forgive him for his youth.

Bryan Battle (Team Volkanovski)

Bryan Battle was Team Volkanovski’s last pick and still made it to the final, thus vindicating all of us who got picked last in gym class just because we weren’t popular.

Battle isn’t vindicating those of us who got picked last in gym class because we were lazy and lacked basic hand-eye coordination, though. There’s no vindicating us. We deserved it. Battle’s nickname is “Pooh Bear,” which would be totally acceptable for any fighter whose literal last name isn’t “Battle.” In which case it’s just a waste, honestly. I know I’ve said this a lot but I will keep saying it until someone listens and does something about it. Because that’s how change happens.

In fairness to Bryan, though, I will admit: Whenever I tried to associate his last name with the most famous battles in history I realized all of them had their actual name after the word “battle” (for example: Battle of Waterloo, Battle of Gettysburgh). So I can see how that would be challenging for a nickname. At the same time, who wouldn’t know immediately who “Bryan Battle Of Stalingrad” is? I’d stay away from “Battle of Killiecrankie,” though. That’s just not very intimidating.

Battle seems like a chill dude and was one of the season’s main providers of Good Vibes™. We later found out he ran around naked not once, but twice during tapings, and somehow the “TUF” people decided to leave it out. I guess they needed more time for that neverending game of cornhole that robbed us of our youth. In any case, we now know that happened, which means we can adjust our appreciation for him accordingly.

Battle is a carpenter and seems to be into it, which is cool. People should be into the things that they do. That’s truly the biggest privilege in today’s society, isn’t it? We’re all so sad all the time. But I digress. He’s married and the way he talks to and about his wife is nauseating but like in a good way. The wife doesn’t appear a lot but we know she’s a karate black belt and wears a “Jaws” shirt and we love her already. She is pregnant. Battle has five sisters. Not only did he make it to the finale despite being his team’s last pick, but he did so by beating season favorite Andre Petroski in the semis. It was a weird fight, which involved a weird (non? quasi?) headbutt situation, and that was really the only time we saw Battle get heated. A man with multitudes, which I respect. He’s only 5-1 in his pro career but had a significant amateur run.

If I had to pick one “TUF 29″ to partner up with during a post-apocalyptic situation, it would probably be Battle. Criteria includes: Adaptability, cardiovascular conditioning, chillness, ability to lull threats into a false sense of security. He can build cabinets and things, too. That could be helpful.

Gilbert Urbina (Team Volkanovski)

Gilbert Urbina is the third Urbina to make it into a season of The Ultimate Fighter and it is honestly refreshing to have finally found a dynasty that I can get behind.

Urbina has the best hair of the season and it’s not even a competition. He lives in Mercedes, Texas, with his parents and his little brother. He loves food. During the show, he talks about early memories of sharing a small bedroom with his entire family while living in a migrant camp. He doesn’t say it in a sad way, though. In fact, nothing he says sounds sad. Maybe it’s his “that one friend who doesn’t say much but knows how to reassure you with his eyes” energy. I bet he has good instincts. I would 100 percent trust him with picking the right wire in a bomb defusal kind of situation. OK, maybe like 80 percent. It’s still a good percentage.

He is 25 and seems incredibly close with his family. He says wants to make it to the top so he can lift them up with him, but he says that in a matter-of-fact way and not in a “please praise me for speaking like a true king” way. I will still praise him for speaking like a true king, though. Sorry. I don’t make the rules.

As far as the show goes, Urbina had a weird run up until the finale. After his first opponent (Miles Hunsinger) got injured, he was paired at the last minute with a new arrival to the house (Michael Gilmore). Urbina won that one quickly and moved on to a semifinal bout against Tresean Gore, with whom he shared a cute pre-fight friendly rivalry moment by the grill. Urbina was knocked out, but remained gracious in defeat and said he would be rooting for Gore.

The day after the final episode aired, however, we found out that Gore was out with an injury. Urbina was chosen to take the spot. That’s truly a shame for the very talented and musically inclined Gore but you’ve got to appreciate the narrative value of the plot twist. Urbina took the fight in 10 days’ notice and said it was his father, who’s also his manager, who told him to stay ready for a short-notice call. Gilbert is now the first Urbina to make it to the “TUF” finale and we love that for the dynasty. His three brothers are going to be in his corner and if he does pull it off I expect nothing less than mayhem.

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