The cast of 16 women flyweight competitors fighting to become the inaugural UFC women’s 125-pound champion on The Ultimate Fighter: A New World Champion is down to four. The final two semifinalists emerged on the season’s tenth episode with the top two seeds advancing and two underdogs hoping to write their own Cinderella story.
Former Invicta FC flyweight champion Barb Honchak faced a game opponent in No. 10 seed Rachael Ostovich-Berdon while the lowest seed left in the competition, No. 14 seed Nicco Montano, took on submission specialist Montana Stewart. Both bouts went to a decision.
Honchak won the Invicta FC flyweight title in April 2013. She defended the belt twice before stepping away from the sport in late 2014. When the opportunity to appear on TUF 26 arose, Honchak jumped at the chance to win a UFC championship. She faced a game opponent in Ostovich-Berdon in the quarterfinals.
Ostovich-Berdon had success with her striking in the early going of the opening round. Honchak decided to take the lesser experienced fighter down. Ostovich-Berdon defended the first takedown attempt but fell victim to a single-leg takedown moments later. She scrambled back to her feet and landed combinations.
In the second frame, Honchak’s experience became a factor. She took Ostovich-Berdon down three times and kept up relentless pressure. She mounted the No. 10 seed and hammered away with punches. Ostovich-Berdon gave up her back and Honchak flattened her out and continued to land strikes. It was a dominant round by the No. 2 seed. After ten minutes of fighting, the judges scored the fight for Honchak by unanimous decision.
“I didn’t get the finish, but it was a great fight. Rachael is tough, a tough opponent,” said Honchak following the win. “I’m two wins into the tournament and that title feels obtainable. It feels good. It feels like I’m getting closer to what I’m here for.”
“I just can’t accept it,” said an emotional Ostovich-Berdon. “I feel like I sacrificed so much and that I could have beat her. That’s what hurts the most is that I know that. It’s just very hard to deal with right now.”
In the final quarterfinal match-up, Team Gaethje members Montana Steward and Nicco Montano fought for the last sport in the semifinals. Seeded at No. 14, Montano was the lowest seed left in the competition. But sometimes seeding and rankings are completely wrong. She proved that by making the No. 6 seed a bloody mess.
Stewart was holding her on when the fight was standing, but she was unable to get the fight to the ground when she wanted to. Montano shook off two takedown attempts and opened up a nasty cut on Stewart’s forehead with a knee late in the opening round. From that moment on, Montano took over the fight.
One minute into the second frame, Montano took Stewart down. Stewart quickly applied a guillotine choke and Montano escaped the submission attempt and moved into side control. For the remainder of the round she battered Stewart with punches and elbows. She delivered heavy shot, but Stewart survived. The fight went to the judges and all three scored the fight for Montano by unanimous decision.
“I feel awesome. I appreciate every amount of effort I know she gave,” said Montano following the win. “I have one more week here in the TUF house, so if I can just keep on keeping on until the end that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
“She was just the better fighter tonight. She was strong. I tried all I could but she was the better fighter,” said a humble Steward in defeat.
It’s down to four ladies. The first semi-final bout will be between No. 2 seed Barb Honchak and No. 14 seed Nicco Montano while top seed Roxanne Modafferi will take on No. 12 seed Sijara Eubanks to dwindle the field down to two.