It took until the final week of the quarterfinals, but, in the last fight of the first round, coach Conor McGregor got his first win on “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 31.
Team McGregor’s Rico DiSciullo ended Team Chandler’s seven-fight win streak with a knockout win over Hunter Azure. With the win, DiSciullo claimed the last spot in the semifinals.
Let’s look at the biggest moments from Episode 8 and what’s ahead next week.
Lightweight: (1) Hunter Azure, Team Chandler vs. (4) Rico DiSciullo, Team McGregor
DiSciullo beat Azure by knockout
Azure immediately brought the fight to DiSciullo, scoring a takedown early in Round 1 and controlling him on the mat for most of the round. But after spending most of that round fighting off of his back, DiSciullo put his skilled striking on display in Round 2 and capped off an impressive performance with a knockout to get the win over Azure.
DiSciullo, who last fought with Combat FC, was a contestant on Season 2 of “Dana White’s Contender Series.” Before competing on TUF, DiSciullo had won five of his last six fights, with four coming via finish or stoppage.
DiSciullo’s performance in the first round, being taken down by Azure and then struggling to get back to his feet, proved that he is still developing his wrestling and grappling skills. But, in the episode, he was getting striking tips from McGregor, who built a reputation in the UFC for his precise striking, and those tips paid off. If DiSciullo can continue to improve his takedown defense to pair with his striking, he could make a run to the TUF finale.
Storylines to watch
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) July 19, 2023
After losing to Jason Knight in the last episode, Landon Quinones took the right approach to improving his game. Rather than sulking, Quinones decided to talk with Knight about the mistakes he made in their fight, and what he could do to improve for his next bout.
While that sounds quite simple, that’s not always the path people choose after suffering a loss. Because of that choice, Quinones could soak up game from a fighter with more fights under the UFC than any other competitor on the show and will likely be better in his next appearance. Quinones could have let his loss to Knight define his experience on the show. Instead, now it will reflect the experience and knowledge he gained even after his fight. Hopefully, others on Team McGregor choose that path as well.
Spoils of victory
There was plenty of pressure on DiSciullo’s shoulders when he entered the Octagon in the last fight of the quarterfinals. The pressure of winning for his coaches and his teammates. The pressure of winning his friends and family at home. The pressure of winning for himself. And, the pressure of winning to end Team Chandler’s win streak and prevent the first quarterfinal sweep in TUF history.
With one punch, DiSciullo washed all that pressure away. And because of his win, when DiSciullo asked McGregor for the chance of a lifetime — to drive McGregor’s gorgeous Lamborghini — McGregor happily obliged. Winning a fight always feels good, but getting a high-stakes knockout and then driving off in a supercar is priceless.
Best MMA fighter tweets from Episode 8
Coach in the making?
You have to meet a fighter where he is…the art of talking to a fighter in the locker room is under appreciated. #tuf31
— Michael Chandler (@MikeChandlerMMA) July 19, 2023
Despite the loss, Chandler has proven that he is one of the best coaches to appear on the show. In the first round, seven of eight fighters on Team Chandler won their fight in the quarterfinals. Could coaching be in his future?
Next week’s matchup
Lightweight: Roosevelt Roberts, Team Chandler vs. Austin Hubbard, Team Chandler
Here’s everything we know about these two fighters:
UFC record: 3-3 1 NC
Fighting out of: San Bernardino, California
Last TUF fight: Roberts def. Nate Jennerman by first-round knockout
UFC record: 3-4
Fighting out of: Denver, Colorado
Last TUF fight: Hubbard def. Aaron McKenzie by unanimous decision