It’s time to step into the Octagon once again for the finals of the show I never watch, as well as the third meeting between Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz, at The Ultimate Fighter Finals 18, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on BT Sport here in Britain.
We begin with the preliminaries and the welterweight encounter between Sean Spencer and Drew Dober.
This proved to be a nice little three rounder. Spencer put on a great display of striking throughout. It was crisp and clean, and even though there was nothing overly flashy about his display his work rate was solid enough to give Dober quite a few problems, such as the bloody nose he suffered in the first round.
Dober’s striking was okay, but he seemed more intent on taking the fight to the ground. Sadly for him he failed in that respect when Spencer stuffed all of his takedown attempts, and things got even worse for him in the final minute of the fight when Spencer’s striking finally began to have it’s desired effect.
As for the judges they were in complete agreement as Spencer took the unanimous decision.
The big boys were up next as Jared Rosholt faced Walt Harris in the heavyweight division.
This was another of those encounters filled with solid action. Harris came into this one with a big reach advantage, and he used it to good effect in the first round with his striking, particularly when his left hand, which actually looked more like a pro wrestling clothesline, sent Rosholt down to the mat.
But from the second round onwards it was a different story. As Harris began to slow down Rosholt began to work his way back into the fight, first with his striking in the second and then with the takedown early in the third. Harris looked exhausted and a little helpless as Rosholt went to work with the ground and pound, and it probably came as a relief when the horn sounded at the end of the fight.
But with no finish it meant more work for the judges as Rosholt took the unanimous decision.
It was down to featherweight for the next fight as Rani Yahya took on Tom Niinimaki.
I really enjoyed this one. There’s nothing like a good old fashioned ground battle, and this one certainly ticked most of the boxes.
The debuting Niinimaki certainly wasn’t afraid to mix it with his more illustrious opponent. Whenever the fight went to the ground, and that was quite often, the Finn proved to be more than a match for Yahya as they exchanged a number of submission holds.
Yahya looked like he was getting the better of these particular exchanges, especially when he went for a couple of guillotines, but Niinimaki kept his composure and survived these particular scares, proving that he wasn’t phased by the situation.
So after three rounds of intriguing grappling action the judges were called up once again, and this time they couldn’t agree as Niinimaki took the split decision.
The featherweight action continued into the final preliminary fight as Akira Corassani faced Maximo Blanco.
This was the blink or you’ll miss it affair of the evening, but for all the wrong reasons. Blanco came out all guns blazing as the fight quickly went to the ground near the fence. Blanco then connected with a knee to the head. The only problem was that Corassani still had one hand and his knee on the mat, making him a grounded fighter.
So the referee stopped the action, and after the doctor examined a very groggy looking Corassani the official waved the fight. Blanco began to somersault across the cage, acting like he’d won the thing, until the ref caught up with him and told him that he was going to disqualify him. Needless to say that Blanco’s crew weren’t too happy with the decision, even though Corassani looked like his still groggy when the decision was announced.
The main show began in the women’s bantamweight division as Roxanne Modafferi went up against Raquel Pennington.
For me this was a good example of why women belong in the UFC. For three rounds these two put on a great showing. It was the perfect advertisement for their division.
Modafferi looked good in the first round. Her striking looked crisp as she worked the angles, and even though she wasn’t connecting with everything she was giving Pennington something to think about. Until the end of the round that is, when Pennington connected with a big right that sent Modafferi back a few steps.
Pennington started to come into the fight from that moment on. Her best work came on the mat when a failed Modafferi takedown attempt saw her ending up in top position, and even though Modafferi put in some good work in the guard as she looked for a few submissions Pennington’s ground and pound kept her in check.
It was more or less the same story in the third, but with a few slight difference. As Modafferi began to tire Pennington took control of the striking exchanges. On the ground it was a similar situation to the second with Pennington delivering some hard shots to the bread basket and Modafferi looking for a couple of submissions. Then, as the seconds ticked away, Pennington went for a standing guillotine before they went back to the ground. Modafferi held out for as long as she could, and she was probably grateful when the horn sounded to end the fight.
As for the judges, they were back to their agreeing ways as Pennington took the unanimous decision.
More women’s bantamweight action followed as Jessamyn Duke took on Peggy Morgan.
This proved to be another enjoyable three rounder. From the moment this thing started Duke put on a good all-round display. Her striking looked good, especially her combinations, and she gave Morgan quite a few problems throughout. Morgan, for her part, did look a little one dimensional at times as she seemed to rely on her left jab a little too much.
The best work in this one came on the ground. In the first round Duke pulled guard when she went for a guillotine, and when that particular hold didn’t work she immediately went for a triangle before transitioning into a reverse triangle. Morgan looked somewhat helpless at this point, even though she was in top position.
Morgan’s best ground work came in the third. Duke made a mistake when she tried to use a good old fashioned side headlock to take her opponent down. Morgan ended up taking Duke’s back, but Duke’s sound defensive work meant that she couldn’t get the choke she was looking for, and it wasn’t long before Duke managed to get her back on the mat.
So after three rounds of solid action the judges were called upon once more as Duke took the unanimous decision.
The men’s bantamweight final saw Chris Holdsworth going up against Davey Grant.
The first main card fight that didn’t go the distance proved to be a riveting contest, the proverbial balls to the wall display. Both fighters went at it from the outset, and it was a timely reminder of just why these finals can be so entertaining.
Grant was the first to score with a few kicks, and as the fight went on Holdsworth began to get into things a bit more in the striking exchanges, and with their very futures on the line the tension levels rose by the second.
As they moved into round two Grant almost scored with the takedown when he caught Holdsworth’s kick, but a scramble a few moments later saw Holdsworth take control. It wasn’t long before he took Grant’s back, and with the body triangle in place he synched in a rear naked choke for the submission win.
The women’s bantamweight final saw Julianna Pena take on Jessica Rakoczy.
Remember what I said before about these fights being a good advertisement for the women’s division? Well, you can add this one to that ever-growing list.
Pena began her night’s work with a quick takedown, and after Rakoczy kicked her off a clinch against the cage saw them jockeying for position for a few moments until Pena walked them over to the middle of the cage so she could take the fight down again.
Rakoczy did her best to fight Pena off, but there was no stopping her as she took the mount and went to work with the ground and pound. All Rackoczy could do was cover up, but just when it looked like she was going to survive the first round the referee stepped with just one second remaining to give Pena the TKO win.
The main event featured lightweight action as Gray Maynard went up against Nate Diaz.
Well, this one certainly lived up to it’s billing. After the initial feeling out period Maynard took the fight to the ground, although Diaz managed to get back to his feet a few moments later. But when Diaz tried to take the fight to the ground with a judo throw it was Maynard who ended up with the advantage.
They didn’t stay on the ground for that long though. The striking battle began in earnest a shortly afterwards, and that was when Diaz came into his own. A big left staggered Maynard, and Diaz quickly followed up with a succession of lefts and rights, at one point gesturing to the referee that he should step in. When this didn’t happen the assault continued until the referee finally stepped in to give Diaz the TKO win.
In conclusion – even though I didn’t watch the actual series it doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy the finale, and I really enjoyed this one.
There were some really good fights here, especially on the main card. The women certainly delivered big time and showed that they definitely have a future in the UFC, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see an all-female UFC card sometime in the future.
As for my fight of the night, as I didn’t see the official winner I can’t really comment on that fight, so my no-prize goes to the men’s bantamweight final between Chris Holdsworth and Davey Grant, although Julianna Pena’s demolition job almost got the nod.
So with all of that out of the way there’s just one more thing left to do, and that’s to give the eighteenth Ultimate Fighter finale the big thumbs up.
By day I’m an unemployed retail worker, and at weekends I volunteer at a local museum, but by night I’m the author of The Two Sheds Review, Britain’s longest running professional wrestling and mixed martial arts blog. Visit my site at www.twoshedsreview.vze.com. It’s been online in one form or another since June 2000!