We’re officially at the midpoint of the first round for “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 31, and Michael Chandler‘s team remains undefeated. Meanwhile, Conor McGregor‘s team has yet to win a round through four fights.
Team Chandler’s Timur Valiev was the fourth consecutive UFC veteran to get a win this season, a unanimous decision over Team McGregor’s Trevor Wells. The win earned Valiev a spot in the bantamweight semifinals.
Let’s look at the biggest moments from Episode 4 and what’s ahead next week.
Editor’s note: The matchups for this season are determined by seeding. This season, the coaches ranked their competitors in each division first through fourth. After the seeding was determined, the matchups were made in a tournament-style bracket.
Bantamweight: (3) Timur Valiev, Team Chandler vs. (2) Trevor Wells, Team McGregor
Valiev beats Wells by unanimous decision
It was the closest fight of the season, but Team McGregor came up short as Valiev picked up a unanimous decision win to continue the trend set by his fellow UFC veterans.
Valiev, of Dagestan, Russia, was cut from the UFC roster last year. His last professional fight was with the promotion — a unanimous decision loss to Jack Shore at a UFC Fight Night in March 2022. Valiev, who has a 2-1-1 record inside the Octagon, fought in the UFC from 2020 to 2022 with wins over Martin Day and Raoni Barcelos.
During his fight with Wells, Valiev showed his wrestling prowess, but it was also evident that he was wearing down as the fight continued. He’ll need to continue to work with Chandler and his staff to build his endurance. If so, Valiev could find himself in the bantamweight finale.
Storylines to watch
A game of inches
— The Ultimate Fighter (@UltimateFighter) June 21, 2023
Sometimes there is no better way to develop than trial by fire: a fight with a UFC veteran in the Octagon at the UFC Apex with a chance to earn a roster spot. The expression “a game of inches” is probably used too often in sports, but it’s fitting here. We’ve reached the halfway point in the opening round of fights, and while Team McGregor is still inching toward their first win, they’re running out of chances for someone on the team to get their hand raised this season.
It might be plodding progress, but it seems McGregor’s team is moving in the right direction. With each episode, the prospects are closing the gap between themselves and the veterans. From the first two fights that ended in first-round knockouts for the veterans, to the last two fights that ended in unanimous decision losses for the prospects, the game plan for Team McGregor has likely been adjusted.
Although Wells lost, his fight against Valiev was easily the closest fight we had seen this season. Even McGregor and UFC president Dana White appeared shocked that the fight didn’t go to a third round.
“Wow, they gave [Valiev] both rounds then,” White said with a sense of surprise after it was announced that the judges came to a decision after Round 2.
Spending time working with McGregor and his team, and now Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, could be what helps the next four fighters get their team a win.
Best MMA fighter tweets from Episode 4
Chandler has a simple question
No joke… WHERE THE FOOK IS THAT GUY? pic.twitter.com/pX5RmOFSdK
— Michael Chandler (@MikeChandlerMMA) June 21, 2023
Today marked the deadline for McGregor to enter the USADA testing pool for six months to be eligible to compete in the last UFC pay-per-view of the year, which is expected to take place on Dec. 16. According to Chandler, McGregor missed that deadline today. Clearly, Chandler isn’t happy about that.
Valiev and Wells had the best fight of the season, thus far
Best fight so far them boys both deserve a ufc contract wells vs valiev put on a show 🔥🔥🔥
— Terrance McKinney (@twrecks155) June 21, 2023
UFC veteran Terrance McKinney was impressed with what he saw from both fighters during tonight’s episode.
Next week’s matchup
Bantamweight: (2) Brad Katona, Team Chandler vs. (3) Carlos Vera, Team McGregor
UFC record: 2-2
Fighting out of: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
• Former Brave CF bantamweight champion
• Winner of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Season 27
• Lost to Hunter Azure at UFC 158 in 2019
• Lost to Merab Dvalishvili at UFC 151
• Trains at SBG Ireland; the same gym as McGregor
UFC record: N/A
Fighting out of: New Orleans
• Last fight was with Fury FC
• Riding a four-fight win streak
TUF 31 Episode 4 takeaways: Valiev keeps Chandler’s team undefeated