Volkanovski and Ortega served as opposing coaches on recently filmed The Ultimate Fighter 29 (dubbed “The Return of The Ultimate Fighter”), and it was Team Ortega that was victorious in Tuesday’s season premiere on ESPN+ as Andre Petroski needed less than a round to submit Aaron Phillips with a guillotine choke.
The two middleweights were the first fight of the season, and Petroski’s wrestling background paid dividends in a big way as he defended against Phillips’ striking before exploding for a takedown with less than two minutes remaining in the first round. Phillips did his best to tie up Petroski and avoid danger, but Petroski eventually snatched Phillips’ neck and advanced to mount to complete the submission. Phillips tapped out at the 4:42 mark of the opening frame.
This fight closed out the premiere of the first season of TUF since 2018 as the long-running reality series went on hiatus while programs like Dana White’s Contender Series provided other avenues for up-and-coming fighters to pursue their UFC dreams. In its return, TUF featured many familiar trappings of the series, including the traditional TUF house in Las Vegas.
Before they could enter the TUF house, Volkanovski and Ortega worked out the 16 fighters (eight middleweights and eight bantamweights) vying for contracts this season and then selected teams. The ceremonial coin flip went Volkanovski’s way, and he decided he wanted to select the first fighter, leaving the first two matchup choices to Ortega.
With the first overall pick, Volkanovski went with bantamweight Mitch Raposo (5-0)*, while Ortega’s first bantamweight pick was Daniel Argueta (5-0). The first middleweight pick, Ryder Newman (3-1), also went to Team Volkanovski, with Petroski (5-1) becoming Team Ortega’s first 185er.
The picks went as follows:
- Mitch Raposo (BW)
- Ryder Newman (MW)
- Dustin Lampros (BW)
- Gilbert Urbina (MW)
- Ricky Turcios (BW)
- Aaron Phillips (MW)
- Brady Hiestand (BW)
- Bryan Battle (MW)
- Daniel Argueta (BW)
- Andre Petroski (MW)
- Liudvik Sholinian (BW)
- Tresean Gore (MW)
- Josh Rettinghouse (BW)
- Miles Hunsinger (MW)
- Vince Murdock (BW)
- Kemran Lachinov (MW)
Ortega then selected Petroski to fight Phillips first.
We learned that Petroski was a successful NCAA Division-I wrestler who currently trains with Renzo Gracie in Philadelphia, while Phillips (5-2) was mostly self-taught while growing up in the Inupiaq community in Kotzebue, Alaska. Both entered the show coming off of losses in regional main events, with Petroski losing to Aaron Jeffery at a Legacy Fighting Alliance show in October and Phillips losing to Collin Huckbody at a Cage Fury Fighting Champinshpis show in December.
Following Petroski’s win, Ortega had to select the first bantamweight fight of the season, and he chose Liudvik Sholinian to go against Volkanovski’s first overall pick, Mitch Raposo.
Here are the first-round results so far:
Andre Petroski def. Aaron Phillips via submission (guillotine choke) - Round 1, 4:42
On next week’s episode, Team Volkanovski’s Mitch Raposo fights Team Ortega’s Liudvik Sholinian in a bantamweight bout.
(*TUF bouts are considered exhibitions and fighters’ pro records will not be changed by the results on the show)
Season 29 of The Ultimate Fighter is being coached by UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega. The two are expected to fight on a date to be announced following the airing of TUF 29.
The finalists of the TUF 29 middleweight and bantamweight tournaments will compete for a six-figure UFC contract at a finale event with a date still to be announced.
Here is the TUF 29 roster divided by team:
Advancing to Round 2: Petroski