Nothing came easy to Ricky Turcios at UFC Vegas 35 but he still found a way to become the bantamweight winner for The Ultimate Fighter season 29.
Battling his fellow Team Volkanovski training partner Brady Hiestand over three rounds, Turcios showcased a scrappy ground game and deceptively good striking to edge out a hard fought split decision. To his credit, Hiestand refused to give Turcios an inch as he was scratching and clawing his way through every round but ultimately came up short on the scorecards.
In the end, two judges gave Turcios the fight with 29-28 scores while the one dissenting official had it 29-28 for Hiestand. While Turcios will leave with the trophy, it’s tough to imagine that Hiestand won’t join him on the UFC roster after they put on an instant classic over 15 minutes.
“It’s a dream come true,” Turcios said about his TUF 29 win. “I want to go ahead and give a message to the children. Believe in yourself. Don’t fear failure, dream big, work hard, stay positive, enjoy the journey.”
Determined to use his wrestling, Hiestand secured an early takedown in the opening round but he had to really work to keep Turcios under him. While Hiestand was able to get the fight to the ground, it was Turcios who was offensive minded as he was constantly moving and throwing punches until the fight eventually got back to the feet.
From there, Turcios was directly in Hiestand’s face throwing punches and looking to turn the fight into a slugfest. While Hiestand was still looking to close the distance and rely on his wrestling, he was dealing with some wild exchanges on the feet as Turcios managed to open a couple of cuts on his face.
Just when it looked like Turcios was taking over, Hiestand clubbed him with a huge shot and it appeared momentarily that the tide was turning again. Of course, Turcios refused to go away as he was scrambling off his back, looking for guillotine chokes and making Hiestand work during every second of the fight.
With five minutes remaining, Turcios’ coaches were warning him that the first two rounds may have gone to his opponent, which forced him to look for the finish. Turcios nearly delivered after tagging Hiestand with a lightning quick punch that earned him a flash knockdown.
While Hiestand recovered quickly, Turcios was surging as he attempted to secure the victory and The Ultimate Fighter trophy. As time was ticking down to the final horn, Turcios threw caution to the wind and just started winging punches, which paid dividends with Hiestand stunned again.
Still, Hiestand refused to go away and he just started throwing heavy leather of his own as the fighters ended the night just trading a series of savage punches.
While Turcios got his hand raised at UFC Vegas 35, Hiestand can still hold his head up high after both fighters left everything in the cage in what will undoubtedly be remembered as a fan-favorite fight.