The UFC has reached the 18th season of its flagship reality program, The Ultimate Fighter. And, for the second time in the last four seasons, it will have a new home, Fox Sports 1. It also has a new night, as the show will debut on Wednesday, Sept. 4, following the completion of UFC Fight Night 28.

That’s not all that’s new for TUF 18, as women join the show for the first time. The cast will be split between 16 bantamweights of each gender, with each vying for a six-figure contract with the promotion. Also a first, UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and bitter rival Miesha Tate will be the first female coaches in the show’s history. The pair will clash on Dec. 28 for Rousey’s 135-pound strap at UFC 168 in Las Vegas.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at the cast heading into the elimination fights to get into the TUF house. The MMA Corner’s Bryan Henderson takes a look at the men’s side of the roster, while Rob Tatum shines the spotlight on the ladies, with each revealing which fighters should be considered favorites and longshots to win the show.

The Favorites

Shayna Baszler (15-8)
Sioux Falls, S.D.
Age: 33
Height: 5-foot-7
Twitter: @QoSBaszler

At 33 years old, the South Dakota native has been a staple of women’s MMA for the decade, competing for EliteXC, Strikeforce and Invicta FC along the way. A decorated submission grappler who trains with UFC heavyweight Josh Barnett, “The Queen of Spades” has coerced a tap in 14 of 15 careers wins. Like many of the experienced women on the show, Baszler has faced a who’s who of the bantamweight division. The BJJ brown belt holds wins over current UFC fighters Julie Kedzie, Alexis Davis and castmate Roxanne Modafferi, but has come up short against Sarah Kaufman, Sara McMann and castmate Tara LaRosa.

Tonya Evinger (11-6)
Lake St. Louis, Mo.
Age: 32
Height: 5-foot-7
Twitter: @tonyaevinger

Another experienced veteran, the 32-year-old Missouri fighter has proven to be a finisher throughout her career, stopping nine of her victories by submission or knockout. Evinger has proven to be a scrappy opponent against a gauntlet of competition that includes UFC fighters Sara McMann, Alexis Davis and Julie Kedzie. Entering the show, Evinger is riding a three-fight winning streak, but her recent success has come in the 125-pound flyweight division. With five of her six defeats coming by way of submission, the Hit Squad product will have her work cut out for her.

Tara LaRosa (21-3)
Albuquerque, N.M.
Age: 35
Height: 5-foot-6
Twitter: @TaraLaRosa

If there’s one name synonymous with the progression of women’s MMA throughout the past decade, it’s the 35-year-old New Jersey native LaRosa. Considered one of the pioneers of the female side of the sport, LaRosa holds wins over castmates Shayna Baszler and Roxanne Modafferi, as well as current UFC fighters Julie Kedzie and Alexis Davis. A purple belt under Royce Gracie and a brown belt in judo, LaRosa has submitted her opponent in 12 of her 21 wins. A veteran of HOOKnSHOOT, BodogFight and Invicta FC, LaRosa has been stopped just once in her 24 career bouts. Now training out of Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, N.M., LaRosa is the longest competing fighter on the show.

Roxanne Modafferi (15-10)
Pittsfield, Mass./Yokohama, Japan
Age: 30
Height: 5-foot-6
Twitter: @RoxyFighter

Of all the fighters on the show, the 30-year-old Modafferi—who now lives and trains in Japan—may have the most deceiving record. A veteran of HOOKnSHOOT, Smackgirl and Strikeforce, Modafferi enters the show on a five-fight losing streak. However, those losses include a Strikeforce title loss to Sarah Kaufman, a submission defeat to current Invicta FC flyweight champion Barb Honchak and decision losses to current UFC fighter Rosi Sexton and Japanese veterans Hitomi Akano and Takayo Hashi. Sixteen of the judoka’s 25 bouts have gone the distance, including fights against castmates Shayna Baszler and Tara LaRosa.

The Longshots

Revelina Berto (3-1)
Winter Haven, Fla.
Age: 24
Height: 5-foot-8
Twitter: @RevelinaBerto

At just 24 years of age, Berto is working hard to escape the shadow of her fighting family, which includes former EliteXC lightweight Edson, former boxing IBF and WBC welterweight champ Andre, former state wrestling champ Cleveland and former multi-time NAGA champion Rachelle. The former featherweight suffered her first defeat in March, a decision loss to castmate Peggy Morgan under the CFA banner. That outing marked Berto’s first fight in nearly four years. The 5-foot-8 Floridian will move to bantamweight for the show.

Jessamyn Duke (2-0, 1 NC)
Richmond, Ky.
Age: 27
Height: 5-foot-11
Twitter: @jessamynduke

Kentucky’s Duke appeared to be on the fast track to stardom under the Invicta FC banner after finishing her first two bouts with the promotion. However, the 5-foot-11, 27-year-old was womanhandled from the clinch in her last outing against Muay Thai champion Miriam Nakamoto. The knockout loss was later overturned to a no-contest after the Missouri commission deemed Nakamoto’s finishing knee was delivered while Duke was grounded. Nevertheless, the loss showed that despite Duke’s immense talent, there is still room to grow.

Bethany Marshall (4-1)
Newport News, Va.
Age: 25
Height: 5-foot-8
Twitter: @bethanymma

A strong grappler, the 25-year-old Marshall is yet another flyweight moving up in weight to compete on the reality show. In her most recent outing, the Virginia fighter fell victim to current Invicta FC flyweight champion Barb Honchak by TKO. Prior to the loss, three of Marshall’s four wins came via submission, but her opponents outside of Honchak hold a record of just 5-10. Having been overwhelmed by the smaller Honchak, Marshall will want to avoid standing and trading with some of the larger combatants on the show.

Sarah Moras (3-1)
Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada
Age: 25
Height: 5-foot-7
Twitter: @sarahcheesecake

The Toshido Mixed Martial Arts product Moras is one of the most well-rounded prospects on the reality-show roster. At just 25, the Kelowna, B.C., fighter known as “Cheesecake” has shown she can finish fights with her strikes and her go-to move, the armbar. Despite holding a win over fellow castmate Julianna Pena and a decision loss to Raquel Pennington, Moras’ opposition is just a combined 7-11.

Raquel Pennington (3-3)
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Age: 24
Height: 5-foot-7
Twitter: @RockyPMMA

If there’s a darkhorse on this season of TUF, it has to be Colorado’s Pennington. Just six fights into her pro career, the Invicta veteran has already gone the distance with current Invicta FC No. 1 contender Leslie Smith and lasted into the second round with current UFC No. 1 contender Cat Zingano. At just 24 years of age, the gritty, 5-foot-7 Pennington holds a stoppage win over Kim Couture, as well as decision win over castmate Sarah Moras.

The Rest

Laura Howarth (4-0)
Hove, East Essex, England
Age: 26
Height: 5-foot-4
Twitter: @LauraHowarthMMA

Hailing from Hove, East Essex, England, Howarth is the show’s lone overseas competitor. The 26-year-old is perhaps the biggest wild card on the show as she’s never competed outside of Europe. At just 5-foot-4, Howarth appears undersized on paper, but with many flyweight fighters moving up to 135 pounds for the show, Howarth may be able to shock a few people during her run on the show.

Valerie Letourneau (4-3)
La Prairie, Quebec, Canada
Age: 30
Height: 5-foot-7
Twitter: @ValTroubleMMA

Another potential darkhouse competitor, Tri Star MMA’s Letourneau has faced her fair share of tough competition in her short career. The 30-year-old has fallen short against countrywomen—and current UFC fighters—Sarah Kaufman and Alexis Davis, as well as Brazilian Claudia Gadelha. The loss to Gadelha in Letourneau’s most recent outing is the most concerning, as the Brazilian normally competes at 115 pounds. Three of the Canadian’s four wins have come by strikes, but none of those opponents carry a winning record.

Peggy Morgan (2-0)
Nashua, N.H.
Age: 33
Height: 6-foot-1
Twitter: @peggymorganmma

At 6-foot-1, Morgan is the tallest competitor on the show. “The Daywalker” put herself on the UFC’s radar with a March decision win over castmate Revelina Berto. What is concerning for the towering 33-year-old is the fact that she will be competing at bantamweight for the first time.

Gina Mazany (3-0)
Seattle, Wash.
Age: 25
Height: 5-foot-6
Twitter: @GinaDangerAK

Originally hailing from Alaska, the 25-year-old Mazany has transplanted to Seattle. Competing sporadically over the past five years, the 5-foot-6 fighter has accumulated a 3-0 record against three fighters who have yet to post a single win between them. “Danger” has competed at 145 pounds in the past and will face an uphill battle against her more experienced castmates.

Julianna Pena (4-2)
Spokane, Wash.
Age: 24
Height: 5-foot-7
Twitter: @VenezuelanVixen

Dubbed “The Venezuelan Vixen,” Pena began her career 4-0. However, the 24-year-old has dropped back-to-back fights leading into the show. Training out of Sikjitsu in Spokane, Wash., Pena will move up from flyweight for the show. Pena fell short against castmate Sarah Moras via doctor’s stoppage in April of last year.

Jessica Rakoczy (1-3)
Las Vegas, Nev.
Age: 36
Height: 5-foot-7
Twitter: N/A

Without question, the fighter with the most combat experience on the show is the 36-year-old Canadian Rakoczy. Now training in Las Vegas, Rakoczy holds a 33-3 record in boxing and has claimed WIBA and WBC titles. However, the Canadian has not fared well in MMA. She started her career 0-3, falling to Michelle Ould, Zoila Gurgel and Felice Herrig under the Tachi Palace and Bellator promotions. She secured her first win last September with a knockout over Kristen Gatz, earning a shot on the reality show. Like many of the competitors, Rakoczy will move up in weight to compete, having boxed at 121 pounds in her last bout.

Colleen Schneider (4-4)
Las Vegas, Nev.
Age: 31
Height: 5-foot-9
Twitter: @ColleenFights

A product of Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas, the 31-year-old Schneider carries a wave of momentum into the show. After opening her career 0-3, the 5-foot-9 fighter has won four out of five fights. Unfortunately, only her last opponent, Sanja Sucevic, possesses a winning record. Her four losses have come against top-flight competition, with Schneider having fallen to former UFC title challenger Liz Carmouche, Invicta veterans Vanessa Mariscal and Sarah D’Alelio, and Bellator veteran Casey Noland. Schneider has the ability to end fights at flyweight with her power, but it will interesting to see if her power translates to 135 pounds.

Photo: TUF 18 Cast (Zuffa, LLC)

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