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TUF 18: Three to Watch

TUF 18: Three to Watch

Back in 2005 when The Ultimate Fighter debuted, did anyone foresee a TUF 18?

When Diego Sanchez summoned lightening… or as Chris Leben broke down a door… or as Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffen slugged it out for what seemed their (and the sport’s, for that matter) only shot at success… did anyone foresee this, an eighteenth seasons? No way. But, it seems nothing is certain in this game.

So, as Mike Goldberg likes to say, here we go! TUF is now officially of legal age and co-ed, and as Kelsey Mowatt reported here at Caged Insider yesterday, the cast for the historic eighteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter has been revealed.

So, who’s to watch out for on Sept. 4, when the show debuts with its new cast of male and female fighters? Three names stuck out as I saw the listing. They’re the same three names that stuck out to Kelsey. (Sorry.)

Their names are Shayna Baszler, Tara LaRosa, and Roxanne Modafferi; and combined they’re the veterans of 72 professional fights.

Baszler, pictured above slugging it out in her recent appearance for Invicta, is actually mostly a submissions specialist, true to her CSW background — scoring 14 subs in her 15 MMA wins. That’s gotten her to the highest level in women’s MMA: Invicta, Elite XC, and Strikeforce; but onve there, she’s struggled a bit against the very best (recently, losing to Alexis Davis in Invicta). But she’s been a fixture of women’s MMA for ten years, and her frequent finishes are always something to behold. Check out this highlight reel for a primer.

Tara LaRosa is another fixture of women’s MMA, amassing a 21-3 record fighting everywhere from Jeff Osbourne’s seminal MMA promotion HooknShoot back in 2002, to Invicta back in January of this year. This highlight reel does a nice job of showing her mix of fluidity and aggressiveness, and how it’s carried her to all those victories. Now fighting out of Jackson’s MMA, expect LaRosa to look as hungry as ever, coming off a rare loss to Vanessa Porto in Invicta.

Porto has continued to fight for Invicta since her victory over LaRosa; but who’s the fighter who handed LaRosa her only other recent loss? She’s in the TUF 18 cast too — and is our third name to watch out for: “The Happy Warrior” Roxanne Modafferi.

The ten year MMA veteran Modafferi is a New England native who has been based out of Japan for the last eight years, training with the likes of “BJ” Kojima at Reversal Gym. She’s primarily a grappler but has made inroads as an all-around MMA fighter in recent years as well.

The first round of Modafferi’s bout with LaRosa is on YouTube. She’s true to her Japanese MMA roots, mimicking Caol Uno’s famous drop to the mat during introductions. But then she shows some improved striking: establishing a clean jab and hitting the occasional leg kick. She would win that bout by decision, netting her greatest opportunities; first, stateside with Strikeforce, and later, in Jewels, Japan’s premier outlet for women’s MMA. Her success would not continue however, as she lost her next five bouts. The Ultimate Fighter would seem her last chance to take advantage of this surge of popularity in women’s MMA. Last month she announced she’s moving back to the US, as well.

So, what will the big three bring to The Ultimate Fighter? Maybe they’ll make up the bulk of the show’s semi finals.

Or maybe they’ll lose in the opening fights — the ones you have to win to get in the house. Maybe.

If anything’s for certain in MMA, I don’t know… maybe it’s that nothing is for certain.

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