Episode No. 5 of “The Ultimate Fighter 26: A New World Champion” opens with a still-emotional No. 3 Lauren Murphy riding back to the TUF house with the rest of Team Alvarez following her upset loss to Team Gaethje’s No. 14 Nicco Montano on the previous episode.
Murphy says she expected to reach the finals and be one half of the inaugural UFC women’s flyweight title fight, but she admits some moments of self-doubt began to creep into her mind just moments before the bout. Back at the TUF house, Murphy is upset she can’t get the comfort of her family after the disappointing result.
The next morning, Murphy is feeling better but decides to skip practice. She says she hopes coach Eddie Alvarez doesn’t give “some big speech at the gym about how, like, I should be back in there already.” That’s exactly what happens, though.
“She lost, and you’re not here? You’re probably not built for this,” Alvarez tells his fighters at the next Team Alvarez training session. “I appreciate you being here. Shana (Dobson) did the same. She came in, she lost, took it on the chin, came out and started training again. It’s not what happens, it’s how we react to it. So let’s react properly today. Thoughts and feelings mean nothing here. Zero, zilch. They’re not going to win you a fight here, your thoughts and feelings. I just need you girls to fight.”
Focus shifts to preparation for the next fight, where No. 12 Sijara Eubanks of Team Alvarez will fight No. 5 Maia Stevenson of Team Gaethje. Coach Alvarez says he believes Eubanks’ seeding in the tournament is way off, and her power and well-rounded ability are going to become advantageous in the upcoming bout.
At the second Team Alvarez training session of the day, Murphy returns to practice. She’s greeted by Alvarez and the rest of the coaching staff. They have a discussion about Murphy’s loss, and coach Alvarez attempts to lift Murphy’s spirits. She doesn’t say much at first but in confessional vents a lot of frustration in Alvarez’s direction.
The TUF gym is later overtaken by Team Gaethje. Stevenson, who is the wife of 16-fight UFC veteran and “TUF 2” winner Joe Stevenson, is feeling some pressure to make her own name in the sport. She doesn’t want people to think she’s only in the competition because of her husband and says it’s a “mental game” to get it out of her mind, but coach Justin Gaethje believes she’s capable.
As the fight approaches, there is some concern within Team Alvarez regarding Eubanks’ weight cut. She still has 10 pounds to cut, but believes, “everyone else is more concerned about my weight than I am.” At 126.5 pounds, though, Eubanks runs into a wall with her weight loss. She’s having difficulty ridding herself of the final half-pound, and the drama begins.
Instead of putting herself through anymore physical strain, though, coach Alvarez suggest Eubanks cuts off a sizable portion her lengthy dreadlocks. Eubanks takes it in stride and says, “My girlfriend is not going to be happy.”
The official weigh-ins for the fight take place, and both fighters hit the 126-pound women’s flyweight limit. A tense staredown follows.
Fight day arrives, and the fifth tournament bout is nearly underway. Stevenson and Eubanks finalize preparation with their coaches, and the athletes walk to the cage.
#5 Maia Stevenson (6-4) vs. #12 Sijara Eubanks (2-2)
Round 1 – Eubanks pumps the jab to begin the fight and tags Stevenson with a left hand. Eubanks shoots for a takedown, but it’s easily stuffed. Stevenson comes in with some combinations and is tagging Eubanks with clean shots. Stevenson’s jab is on point early, and Eubanks shoots for another takedown. She gets Stevenson down and immediately spins to the back. Stevenson works up to her feet slowly but Eubanks is working her with her with hard, short strikes. Stevenson is pinned against the cage and struggling to deal with Eubanks’ strength. Eubanks is landing shots at will against the fence then decides to change to a single leg and drag Stevenson back to the canvas. Eubanks postures up and batters Stevenson with some heavy strikes until the end of the round.
Round 2 – Eubanks misses on two big punches and eats a counter combination. She shoots for a takedown and Stevenson defends until her back is against the fence. Eubanks drops for the single-leg takedown and gets Stevenson down again. Eubanks advances to half guard and applies an americana. Stevenson squirm her arm free but Eubanks easily controlling her. She switches to the kimura and wrenches Stevenson’s arm behind her back, forcing her to tap out and end the one-sided fight.
Sijara Eubanks def. Maia Stevenson via submission (kimura) – Round 2
“The fight went really well,” Eubanks says after her victory. “It felt like all the suns and stars and stuff aligned for me, because it was a rough day yesterday, but we doubled down and had a super great day today.”
Team Gaethje’s lead is cut to 3-2 in the competition with Eubanks’ win for Team Alvarez, who take control of fight selection. With his choice, coach Alvarez selects No. 2 Barb Honchak to go up against No. 15 Gillian Robertson of Team Gaethje next.
Catch new episodes of “The Ultimate Fighter 26: A New World Champion” every Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT) on FS1. MMAjunkie recaps each episode of the reality series.