Having recently taken a look at the first of this past weekends Ultimate Fighter finales we’re now going to move forward 24 hours for the 16th final of the main competition, a massive five hours of fights shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on ESPN here in Britain.
We begin with the preliminaries and the welterweight encounter between T.J. Waldburger and Nick Catone.
The first round proved to be an interesting affair. Both fighters jockeyed for position around the cage, looking for an opening, the best moment coming when Waldburger tried to lock in a kimura.
The action suddenly sprang into life shortly after the second round began when Waldburger connected with a big right that sent Catone crashing. Waldburger quickly followed him down, and within seconds he switched from a guillotine to a triangle choke. Catone held out for as long as he could, with the referee stopping the fight when he passed out, giving Waldburger the submission win.
Lightweight action followed as Vinc Pichel took on Rustam Khabilov.
I was really impressed with this one. Khabilov came forward early and scored with the takedown, but Pichel managed to get back to his feet soon afterwards.
It was then that the Russian showed tremendous strength and took Pichel down with three suplexes, which reminded this particular writer of Dan Severn’s UFC debut all those years ago.
The third suplex was a killer for Pichel, and when Khabilov added a spot of ground and pound into the mix the referee stepped in to give the Russian the knockout win.
Then it was down to bantamweight as Johnny Bedford went up against Marcos Vinicius.
Bedford put in a great performance in this one. He came forward early and soon scored with the takedown, and although Vinicius applied a guillotine he survived that one quite easily.
After putting in some good work on the ground he let the Brazilian up because he wasn’t too happy with what was happening. It turned out to be a good choice as he upped his striking game and connected with some crisp shots that caused no end of trouble for his opponent.
Vinicius’ only meaningful strike in the second round was a kick that went south of the border, and after he was given time to recover Bedford picked up where he’d left off before. A big right sent Vinicius crashing down against the cage, which was followed by a kick to the body and a couple of right hands. That was enough for the referee as he stepped in to give Bedford the knockout win.
The final preliminary fight featured welterweight action as Mike Pyle took on James Head.
This one began with a brief feeling out period, and it wasn’t long before Head began to find his range as he got off some good blows that rocked Pyle against the cage.
It looked as if Head knew he had the power to take this one, and for a few seconds it looked like he would until Pyle connected with a knee from a Thai clinch that sent him down. Pyle followed up with a brief moment of ground and pound before the referee stepped in to give Pyle the TKO win.
The main show began in the featherweight division between Dustin Poirier and Jonathan Brookins.
This was another one that began with a brief feeling out period, but it wasn’t long before Brookins had his man on the proverbial ropes with some well-placed combinations.
Poirier managed to weather that particular storm, but the storm was on him again a few moments later. Once again he gutted it out, and as the round entered it’s final two minutes he came back with some nice striking of his own.
It wasn’t long before it took it’s toll on Brookins, and as he fell to the mat trying to counter with some grappling Poirier applied a d’arce choke for the impressive submission win.
After a second showing of the Pichel/Khabilov fight it was on to the heavyweight clash between Pat Barry and Shane Del Rosario.
This one began as expected, with Barry looking to attack his man’s legs. However, it wasn’t long before Del Rosario went against type and turned this into a grappling encounter.
He soon took the fight down to the mat, quickly taking Barry’s back and applying a rear naked choke. Barry managed to survive this scare, although Del Rosario went for an arm submission before Barry escaped into top position as the round came to an end.
Speaking of ends, that came just a few seconds later. Barry connected with a big left that rocked his man. He followed up with some well-placed combinations before Del Rosario slumped against the cage, with the referee stepping in to give Barry the knockout win.
After a second showing of the Pyle/Head fight it was on to The Ultimate Fighter welterweight final between Colton Smith and Mike Ricci.
This has to be one of the most one-sided fights I’ve ever seen. For the majority of the three rounds Colton dominated his man on the ground. He was all over Ricci like a cheap suit as he out grappled him all the way.
It looked as if Ricci just didn’t know what to do. He managed to escape a couple of times but Smith soon took him back into his world.
Smith was so dominant that Ricci’s only moment of offence came towards the end of the fight when he finally managed to take Smith’s back. But by then it was too little too late as Smith quickly regained control as the fight came to an end.
No surprise with the decision here as all three judges gave everything to Smith.
The main event featured heavyweight action as Roy Nelson went up against Matt Mitrione.
As a fan of both of these fighters I was onto a winner before the fight even began, and when it did Mitrione looked good, especially with his kicks.
Nelson countered with a clinch against the cage, but it wasn’t long before they went back to the striking game. The fight then turned into something of a slugfest. Both guys got in some good shots before Nelson took control. A right uppercut rocked Mitrione, and a left/right combination sent him down to the mat. Big Country followed him down for a few more shots before the referee stepped in to give Nelson the TKO win.
With some time to spare it was on to filler material, beginning with the bantamweight clash between Reuben Duran and Hugo Viana.
If you ever wanted to see a good striking display then this could be the fight for you. Duran had no end of trouble of this one after Viana put him on his backside early. His only good moment in the fight came when he instigated a clinch against the cage.
That didn’t stop Viana for long though, and as the round progressed his striking got better and better. Duran looked almost reluctant to engage before Viana knocked him down again. Duran tried to counter by grabbing his man’s legs before he got back to his feet.
Seconds later he was back on the ground courtesy of Viana’s big overhand right, with the referee stepping in to give Viana the TKO win.
The show rounded out with a second showing of the Bedford/Vinicius fight.
In conclusion - it certainly has been a marathon MMA session for me over the past couple of days, but it’s been worth it.
If anything this finale was even better than the one in the land down under. We’ve seen some great three rounders on the Octagon recently, and while that’s all well and good it’s also great to see a show packed with some top notch finishes.
Every fight delivered, and then some, which once again meant I was spoiled for choice for my fight of the night. At first I was going to go for the Smith/Ricci fight, and then for the Nelson/Mitrione encounter, but then I remembered Rustam Khabilov’s suplexes against Vinc Pichel, so it’s this demolition job that’s going to get the no-prize this time around.
So with all of that out of the way let’s wrap this MMA marathon up by giving the 16th Ultimate Fighter finale the big thumbs up.