Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
While the stakes weren’t quite as high as their UFC 269 championship fight, which saw Peña upset Nunes to win the bantamweight title, Peña can claim her share of the bragging rights after the season premiere of The Ultimate Fighter 30 concluded with her fighter Zac Pauga (5-0) defeating Team Nunes’ Nyle Bartling (6-0)* via unanimous decision.
Pauga was Peña’s second heavyweight selection and he didn’t disappoint, showing off his well-rounded game — Pauga is a training partner of Curtis Blaydes at Elevation Fight Team in Denver — by out-striking Bartling and stuffing his takedowns for the duration of the two-round bout. Bartling had success with a heavy left hand and did some damage on the ground early in the second, but Pauga was continually escaped bad positions and put his hands on Bartling both on the ground and on the feet to win on the scorecards.
It was an entertaining fight to kick off the 30th season of the UFC’s long-running reality show, which features eight heavyweights and eight flyweights competing to win a tournament title and a contract with the UFC.
Earlier in the episode, the rival coaches picked their teams with Nunes taking flyweight Claire Guthrie and heavyweight Eduardo Perez off the board first, while Peña’s first fighter selections were Helen Peralta and Mohammed Usman, the brother of UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.
See the full team selections below (Nunes went first, coaches alternated between picking flyweights and heavyweights):
Claire Guthrie (3-1)
Eduardo Perez (4-1)
Brogan Walker (7-2)
Chandler Cole (8-3)
Kaytlin Neil (5-4)
Mitchell Sipe (5-2)
Kathryn Paprocki (3-2)
Nyle Bartling (6-0)
Helen Peralta (5-2)
Mohammed Usman (7-2)
Juliana Miller (2-1)
Zac Pauga (5-0)
Hannah Guy (4-1)
Jordan Heiderman (5-0)
Chantel Coates (2-1)
Bobby Maximus (5-4)
All the women competing this season have experience fighting for Invicta FC, with the exception of Guy. Guy — an alternate for Melissa Parker, who withdrew for undisclosed reasons — recently fought for the BKFC and is best known for a decision win over Valeria Loureda in Bellator.
Of note on the men’s side, last pick Bobby Maximus is participating in his second TUF season. The Canadian was also a contestant on TUF 2, back when he was billed as Rob MacDonald.
Following the result of the first fight, host Forrest Griffin announced that Peña would also pick the next fight and she chose her top pick Peralta to fight Nunes’ third flyweight pick Neil.
Here are the first-round results so far:
Zac Pauga def. Nyle Bartling via unanimous decision
On next week’s episode, Team Peña’s Helen Peralta fights Team Nunes’ Kaytlin Neil in a flyweight bout.
(*TUF bouts are considered exhibitions and fighters’ pro records are not affected by the results on the show)
Season 30 of The Ultimate Fighter is being coached by UFC bantamweight champion Julianna Peña and UFC featherweight champion Amanda Nunes. The two are expected to meet in a rematch on a date to be announced following the airing of TUF 30.
The finalists of the TUF 30 heavwyeight and flyweight tournaments will compete for a six-figure UFC contract at a finale event with a date still to be announced.
New episodes premiere at midnight every Monday exclusively on ESPN+.
Here is the TUF 30 roster divided by team:
Advancing to Round 2: Pauga