Well, it’s that time again, The Ultimate Fighter is about to kick off a new season full of drama, angst and fisticuffs. This has the distinction of being the first season to feature an all female cast in the shape of 16 athletes from the strawweight division. Tiny in stature but packing a big punch in terms of talent the cast range from some of the best known names in womens MMA to some relative unknowns. There’s also plenty of pedigree in the coaching as the spectacular Anthony Pettis takes on Gilbert Melendez.
I’ve been asked to make my predictions for this season, so here’s my take:
In terms of who will win, I truly feel that Joanne Calderwood is the number one contender. She’s exceptionally talented, powerful for the weight class and has steamed through all of her previous opponents. Her striking is accurate and vicious and she is a calm and collected fighter who never seems to lose her focus or act without thinking. Whilst there are others in there who have some exceptional skills and real abilities, there are none who seem so quietly capable. The Dinky Ninjas are producing some truly top class fighters and Calderwood is right up there with the best.
My prediction for the most likely challengers to Calderwood’s dominance start with Jessica Penne. She comes carrying an impressive 11-2 record with 9 of those wins coming through stoppage, she has a BJJ brown belt and significant power behind her strikes, as well as a lovely, fluid fighting style. If anyone is likely to give Calderwood real problems I feel it may be Penne, she has a very well rounded MMA game and is a hard working fighter with an obvious desire to win, she will not be coming with any intention other than to take a strong victory and I feel that she will assert real dominance over most in the house.
The other lady I feel contestants may need to be wary of is Tecia Torres. Although her last performance (a decision victory over Felice Herrig) was lacking substance in places, the ‘Tiny Tornado’ holds wins over Rose Namajunas and Paige VanZant, both formidable names in their own right. Torres holds Taekwondo and Karate black belts, making her fast and, at times, unpredictable in her lines of attack. Her unconventional striking and speed may prove baffling to the other contestants and may give her a considerable advantage over those who prefer a more settled pace, such as Ais Daly.
The cast contains some real characters this year, there are those such as Bec Rawlings and Felice Herrig who are mistresses of self promotion and thrive on being the centre of attention, but maybe lack the skills to contest with the most talented. There’s the talented wrestler Carla Esparza, a self confessed cookie fiend, whilst I greatly admire her talents I really feel that this season will end as a battle of the strikers. Carla will be sure to provide sunny smiles in the house though. Then there are some well seasoned veterans of the sport such as Lisa Ellis and Aisling Daly who will bring a wealth of experience and level headedness to an overall rather young group of women.
Predictions are just that, they are based on opinion and educated guesses, so let me give you a fact… No matter who emerges the overall victor, this may just be one of the most charged and entertaining seasons that The Ultimate Fighter ever sees.