So… here we are again. Jessamyn Duke vs. Raquel Pennington. Two of my friends. Shades of Roxy vs. Rage-koczy. Two people I had grown close to. Two emotions at one time.

Jessamyn was my homie going into this thing. But being on the show gives everyone involved a certain connection, like we did time together. A special understanding of things that we can’t explain. A connection because we don’t have to try to explain those things we need to around each other. A connection because we will always understand that part of each other that no one else really ever will. So, add that to us already being friends. This thing made us all closer than being in regular life would have. Jessamyn was my apprentice.

There was a group of us, about four or five, that would stay up later than everyone else, usually by the fire. And one by one, everyone would go to bed. And it would usually be me and Rocky left. On the night after Roxanne Modafferi and Jessica Rakoczy fought, it was me and Rocky again. We were talking about the emotion of the day. I said, partially jokingly, “I swear to God, if you and Jessamyn get matched up, my heart won’t be able to take it. It’s too exhausting. I’m done!”

Then they got matched up. I started preparing for the emotional roller coaster.

As they said in the episode, this is a fight that Jess has actually been wanting since her pro debut. Her management didn’t think it a good idea. And that turned out to be great, actually, as this fight, after watching it, deserves to be on the biggest stage in our sport. Rocky always thought Jess turned the fight down, but Jess was actually chomping at the bit for it. It was her management at the time that knew the fight would be far too awesome to be the win that everyone wants as their pro debut.

You can tell that Rocky was not the type to get all made up and wear heels and hoochie dresses like Juliana Pena put her and Sarah Moras in. So it is quite hilarious to see them both attempting to walk in those godawful shoes, haha! To be fair to them, all the rest of us girls in the house would walk that way in that crap too. Quite entertaining, and a little taste of just what the boredom will make you willing to do for entertainment in the TUF house.

The Hooters party was pretty uneventful as far as drama goes. There was delicious food, fun in the pool, the fights are always fun to watch. It was fun to get to hang out with the coaches in a social atmosphere, too. It’s just a breath of fresh air to be able to get out and see other people and do something not in the house or at the gym. In some ways, it’s worse too. Getting to see real humans that you can’t talk to and watching them use their cell phones makes the ache away from home a little bit louder those days. But the reminder that life exists outside of TUF is always a good thing, especially this far into the season at this point.

Anthony Gutierrez is actually pretty hilarious most of the time. Everyone generally loved the guy. He was part of the late-night crew, so I liked him. Our shared enjoyment of pro wrestling bonded us! But when he got drunk at the Hooters party that night, he even annoyed me. And I don’t get easily annoyed by much. I mean, right outside of Rocky’s room, the night before cutting weight?? I would have come out too. Although I don’t know if you’ll agree, but the way the girls “got back” at him was a little anti-climactic. At least he is a good sport about it.

I was in the back during Jess’s warm-up. A nervous wreck. I always get way more nervous cornering or watching people I know. It’s so helpless. And I can say that Rocky was in my locker room during the fights to get into the house. And we have fought on the same cards before, so I have seen her warm up. I can tell you she is solid, hits hard. I knew this was going to be a great fight. Seriously…a nervous wreck.

I truly believe this fight, for many, will be the fight that solidifies women in the UFC for many fans. If there is anybody out there that was on the fence about it, if this fight didn’t change your mind, well, dare I say, you are just stupid or sexist. Or both.

Jessamyn was, of course, bummed when she lost. It’s always that way, no matter how good you did, close decision or not. I came home and had shots with her at the house. I took my apprentice and shared in the bummer of losing a fight and not getting to go home and have your friends and family comfort you. I told her, “It’s hard to hear right now, and you don’t see it cuz you didn’t see it from the outside, but I am telling you, this fight is going to make you a star. This fight is going to be the definition of women being in the UFC.” It’s like the Stephan Bonnar/Forrest Griffin fight of females, and dare I say more technically based! I stand by these statements to this day. They spend a good portion of the end of the episode showing us all gushing about how amazing the fight was, and for good reason. However, they still didn’t do our emotions justice.

I have been joking with Jessamyn that this will be the week that she surpasses me on social media. We have been racing to 10,000…go give her a follow if you haven’t already. Her and Rocky both deserve it.

So Michael Wootten (or “WOOOTANG,” as we all called him) got picked to fight Josh Hill. Both have been quiet so far, but I can tell you Woot is a funny and awesome guy. I didn’t know much about either of them before the show. I knew Josh was a grappler. I knew Woot was a great technical fighter from training with him and that he was very coachable. But I was about to learn a lot more through watching the fight.

Photo: Shayna Baszler (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Shayna Baszler
TUF 18 Blogger

Shayna Baszler, also known as the “Queen of Spades,” is a veteran fighter and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt who is competing on season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter. She made her professional debut in 2003 and has appeared in such notable promotions as Strikeforce, Invicta FC and EliteXC. Baszler has faced many of the sport’s most notable names, including Tara LaRosa, Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, Sarah Kaufman, Sara McMann, Julie Kedzie, Roxanne Modafferi and Sarah D’Alelio. Training with Josh Barnett at CSW, she has a background in catch wrestling and is widely considered to be a top-10 bantamweight fighter. Outside of the cage, the South Dakota native is a certified EMT and counts roller derby and heavy metal among her interests.

  • lavonne eggink

    We love hearing your “behind the scenes” commentary that really makes the show come alive.Watching this weeks fight left me exhausted too. Love both those girls!

  • Zanne

    Awesome rundown as always Shayna! I’m telling you this fight Blew my MIND!!! Whoever has kept women’s MMA under the radar all these years, let the masses roundly deSPISE them! Ha Truly, I’m a fan forever.
    Zanne

  • Andy

    Magnificent blog as always Shayna. You’re so intelligent, so impressive. I can’t wait to see you fight again.

  • lizzybet1

    I wake up early on Thursday morning just to read this. Love your insight and the way you get the moods and feelings right there. Great write up.

  • darbycrash81

    I cant believe it but after reading every fighters blog yours is the most enjoyable and best written of the bunch for several weeks now. Good stuff.

  • darbycrash81

    One other thing, that was a hell of a fight but I still think julianna is the one to beat.

  • SamuraiJack

    Great blog… I personally thought Rocky took all three rounds, but could see round 1 going either way. She just hits so freaking hard. Jessamyn got some shots in but they didn’t seem to phase Rocky that much. On the other hand Jessamyn would back up hurt everytime she got smacked. Very good fight should do WMMA some good.

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  • Michelle Laney

    I love reading your views in the tuf house, and I agree it is making the show better to watch.

  • wjd

    When I watched this episode, I paused right before the fight, went to cook a meal, then came back to watch while I ate. Huge mistake lol. I sat there transfixed for 15 minutes while my food got cold. It was a great way to remind me why it’s bad to eat and watch mma at the same time. I love these blogs so far btw. They really help show the whole story in a way the episodes don’t.

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