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TUF 31 Episode 11 takeaways: McGregor wins coaches challenge, Holobaugh punches a ticket to the lightweight finale

Ahead of this week’s “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 31 lightweight matchup, coaches Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler competed in the traditional coaches challenge.

This season, the coaches went head-to-head in a UFC trivia game, but with an added twist: taking an ice bath in 39-degree water the entire time. Dana White said adding the element of the nearly 30-minute cold-tub plunge, made the game test the coaches’ mental and physical abilities. McGregor won the challenge. For winning the challenge, McGregor earned $10,000 and every fighter on his team was awarded $1,500.

This week’s fight featured two members of Team Chandler, as Kurt Holobaugh and Jason Knight squared off for a spot in the lightweight finale. Holobaugh picked up a second-round knockout and will take on fellow Team Chandler fighter Austin Hubbard for a UFC contract during the prelims of UFC 292 in Boston on Aug. 19.

Let’s look at the biggest moments from Episode 11 and what’s ahead next week on the final episode of the season.

Lightweight: Kurt Holobaugh, Team Chandler vs. Jason Knight, Team Chandler

Holobaugh beats Knight by TKO

The two fighters touched gloves and immediately proceeded to put on the best fight of the season. The matchup pitted two fighters who love to stand and bang, and the matchup didn’t disappoint, as they went toe-to-toe and traded punches for the entirety of the fight.

Both fighters had their moments in Round 1, but Holobaugh was leading the dance as he walked Knight down and continually landed big head strikes. In Round 2, Holobaugh picked up right where he left off, applying constant pressure until the referee stepped in to stop the fight with just over two minutes left in the round.

Before competing on TUF Season 31, Holobaugh, who has already had two runs in the UFC, last fought with Xtreme Sports Championship. Holobaugh made his UFC debut in 2013, then after competing on “Dana White’s Contender Series” in 2017, he had his second stint with the promotion from 2018 to 2019. During the second run, Holobaugh faced notable fighters Raoni Barcelos, Shane Burgos and Thiago Moises, Holobaugh lost each of those matchups.

Storylines to watch

An unusual position

While this isn’t the first time — in the sport or on the show — that training partners are forced to square off against one another, this circumstance feels a little different. It’s clear that Chandler and the members of his team have built real bonds with each other.

As we saw in the first fight of the semifinals between Austin Hubbard and Roosevelt Roberts, Roberts said after his split decision loss that he felt his friendship with Hubbard and other fighters on the show affected the way he approached the fight.

Although Holobaugh and Hubbard didn’t seem too bothered by facing a teammate for a shot at another UFC contract — the two said they would go right back to being friends and even enjoy a beer together after their fight — everybody is different. And that type of change ahead of a fight camp could affect their ability to adequately prepare for an upcoming opponent. It could also affect the team’s coaches’ ability to help their fighters prepare, as they don’t want to say too much either way.

Chandler even made a good point about this situation and why it’s even more difficult for coaches on the show. Whether their fighter wins or loses, it’s their job and should be their goal to help each of their fighters get closer to earning a UFC roster spot. But when helping one fighter on your team could cost another teammate the same opportunity, it’s certainly a hard line to walk.

Best tweets from Episode 11

McGregor didn’t like this question

During the coaches challenge trivia, one of the questions was about his submission loss to former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. Surely, McGregor wasn’t a fan of that question, but at least he showed that he’s a good sport.

Next week’s matchup

Bantamweight: Cody Gibson, Team Chandler vs. Rico DiSciullo, Team McGregor

Here’s everything we know about these two fighters:

Name: Cody Gibson
Record: 19-8
UFC record: 1-3
Age: 35
Fighting out of: Visalia, California
Last TUF fight: Gibson def. Mando Gutierrez by first-round TKO

Name: Rico DiSciullo
Record: 11-2
UFC record: N/A
Age: 36
Fighting out of: Somerville, Massachusetts
Last TUF fight: DiSciullo def. Hunter Azure by second-round KO

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