If you haven’t been keeping up with a television series, taking the time on a Saturday night to watch the series finale is a gigantic waste of time. Heading into the finale of a season that we could not have cared less about, the UFC realized that they were facing this exact problem. The promotion realized that if the finale was going to generate any kind of interest, it would have to actually place as little emphasis as possible on the fighters from the show. Rather than focusing on the contestants, the finale was a card packed with current UFC talent.
In an effort to ensure that this wouldn’t backfire, the promotion made sure that the guys filling in for whoever was actually on this season of The Ultimate Fighter were guys you’ve heard of. One great fight led to another great fight, and pretty soon we were anticipating one of the best free shows we’ve been given in a while. As we wrote yesterday, on paper, this card wasn’t so much a TUF Finale as it was a genuinely stacked lineup of free fights that included one main card match between two guys you’ve never seen before.
Even though injuries scrapped the fight between this season’s coaches (as is tradition), and Jamie Varner was forced off of the card at the last minute (more on that later), this event exceeded all of our expectations. Actually, that puts things too mildly: this may have been, top to bottom, the best event of 2012. Let that sink in: A TUF Finale produced a legitimate candidate for Event of the Year – when was the last time we’ve been able to say THAT?
If there was a sour note to be taken from last night, it was the postponement of what appeared to have Fight of the Night written all over it, a lightweight fight between Jamie Varner and Melvin Guillard. Given the way that the rest of the fights played out, it’s hard to remain too upset that the fight didn’t go down last night as planned, but it’s still unfortunate that such an exciting fight was moved to UFC 155 at the last minute due to Varner’s stomach illness. A lot of people on Twitter are being quick to accuse Varner of pre-fight bitchassness, but then again, a lot of people on Twitter also think that having Bieber Fever is something they should advertise to the rest of the world (Keep your illnesses to yourselves, people – you don’t see me talking about my crippling drinking problem on the internet).
The main event of the evening pitted TUF 10 veterans Matt Mitrione and eventual winner Roy Nelson against one another. Given Roy’s experience advantage, as well as Mitrione taking the fight on short notice, the quick victory for Big Country wasn’t much of a surprise. We all know that Nelson packs one hell of a punch and has no problem taking out the lower-to-mid level heavyweights, the question now is whether or not he can start picking up victories against the deep end of the heavyweight division.
Also, let’s not be too hard on the Blackzilian by association, Matt Mitrione. It’s hard to imagine that Mitrione’s decision to take the fight on short notice wasn’t at all influenced by the public shaming his boss put on him for turning down Daniel Cormier, because Matt simply isn’t at Roy’s level yet. He entered the fight with six professional bouts, and even though all of them were in the UFC, only two of those fights were victories over fighters still employed by the promotion (and only one of those fighters still competes as a heavyweight). With a little more time, Matt Mitrione can develop into one of the UFC’s better heavyweights, but for now, he’s not ready for fighters as experienced as Roy Nelson.
Elsewhere on the card:
-It was obvious from the start that despite Barry’s unimpressive 4-5 UFC record and Shane Del Rosario’s successful Muay Thai career that the former WBC Muay Thai heavyweight champion wanted absolutely nothing to do with HD on the feet. I don’t exactly blame Del Rosario, as Barry is a powerful puncher who lacks a competitive ground game. Still, his strategy was for nothing in the end. Barry may not have much of a ground game, but as he demonstrated in his victory over Christian Morecraft and continued to demonstrate last night, he has enough of one to avoid submissions from fellow strikers. Once the second round began, Barry ended the fight before Del Rosario could attempt another takedown, picking up Knockout of the Night.
- Yes, Barry took home Knockout of the Night on a card that produced six of them. Personally, I think Rustam Khabilov should have been given the KOTN bonus, although I highly doubt he left the arena without some sort of locker room bonus. Khabilov was absolutely flawless in his UFC debut, making Vinc Pichel look like just another TUF washout (which makes sense, considering he is one). Besides, how many fights end via knockout by suplex?
- I don’t agree with Mike Pyle that his victory puts him in the Top 10, but he delivered a quick, entertaining knockout over James Head last night, making it three victories by knockout in a row. Three straight knockouts certainly make a case for a step-up in competition. We’ll talk about the rankings once we see how he fares with stiffer competition.
- Can someone please hook Jonathan Brookins up with a boxing coach? Brookins is a tough fighter with a passable ground game, but his striking hasn’t changed since his TUF days. While it was good enough to beat the not-quite-readies of reality television, a fighter of Dustin Poirier’s caliber can weather the early storm that Brookins brought last night. Once Poirier was able to regain his composure, it was business as usual, as Poirier put Brookins away with a D’arce choke at 4:15 of the first round.
- No, Poirier did not take home Submission of the Night. Instead, TJ Waldburger took home SOTN honors for his more competitive battle against Nick Catone, which ended with a technical submission by triangle choke just over one minute into the second round.
- Fight of the Night went to Tim Elliott vs. Jared Papazian, although FOTN honors are a bit misleading. Usually, the best fight on the card is the closest, most competitive fight on the card. While this fight was certainly entertaining, it sure wasn’t close and it damn sure wasn’t competitive. It was fifteen minutes of Tim Elliott doing whatever the hell he wanted while Jared Papazian offered minimal resistance. The scorecards read 30-25, 30-25 and 30-26 for a reason.
- One last note: At the beginning of this season of TUF, I wrote “Cool reality show, bro. Let me know who wins it.” Dude’s name is Colton Smith. Wrestlehumping, free Harley, tending to my crippling drinking problem…hey, remember how this card had six knockouts? That was awesome.
Roy Nelson def. Matt Mitrione via TKO (punches), 2:58 Round One
Colton Smith def. Mike Ricci via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)
Pat Barry def. Shane Del Rosario via KO (punch), 0:26 Round Two
Destin Poirier def. Jonathan Brookins via submisison (D’Arce choke), 4:15 Round One
Preliminary Card Results:
Mike Pyle def. James Head via TKO (knee and punches), 1:55 Round One
Johnny Bedford def. Marcos Vinicius via TKO (strikes), 1:00 Round Two
Rustam Khabilov def. Vinc Pichel via KO (slam and punches), 2:15 Round One
TJ Waldburger def. Nick Catone via technical submission (triangle choke), 1:04 Round Two
Hugo Viana def. Reuben Duran via KO (punch), 4:05 Round One
Mike Rio def. John Cofer via submission (armbar), 4:11 Round Three
Tim Elliott def. Jared Papazian via Unanimous Decision (30-25 x2, 30-26)