“Anyone *else* want to punch me in the face?!?” (Photo: Louie Abigail/FightBulletin.net)
Still in the wake of last week’s heavyweight rumbles, Friday’s ‘The Ultimate Fighter: Live’ Finale drew little hype. It could be because it was sandwiched in the middle of a busy schedule, or because it’s the closer to the least-watched season of the franchise thus far. Either way, it was a night of action worthy of your eyeballs, particularly considering the pricetag.
Jake Ellenberger wasted little time in bringing the hurt to his opponent. Ellenberger swarmed Martin Kampmann, a notoriously slow starter, with a barrage of heavy hands right out of the gate, sending the Dane crashing to his back against the cage. “The Juggernaut” followed him to the ground, unloading with heavy ground and pound in search of the shot that would turn Kampmann’s lights out. The death blow wouldn’t come, and if Kampmann prayed for a moment’s rest the gods shined upon him with nearly four minutes of a protracted ground battle that allowed him to shake out the cobwebs and regain his composure.
“The Hitman” briefly took control of round two, connecting with a right hand that backed Ellenberger up against the cage. Kampmann pursued and got off a few shots before the ‘King of the Jakes‘ returned fire, again unleashing a torrent of heavy hands that had Kampmann in trouble. True to form, ‘The Hitman’ weathered the storm and connected with a short right to the top of the head that had Ellenberger doing the fish dance across the cage. Kampmann tied him up in a thai clinch and delivered three targeted knees to the face that dropped the ‘Berg to the canvas where referee Steve Mazagatti quickly—very quickly—stepped in to end the bout. The TKO stoppage broke Elleberger’s six-fight win streak and earned Kampmann one of the evening’s $40k Knockout of the Night bonuses. It also likely earns him a dance with Johnny Hendricks in a number-one contender bout, whatever those are worth these days.
In the evening’s titular bout, Team Faber products Mike Chiesa and Al Iaquinta squared off for the most coveted piece of glass in MMA. Iaquinta went on the attack early on. His aggressive standup had Chiesa covering up and backing away, and his takedown defense thwarted his former teammate’s early attempts to bring the fight to the ground. But a fruitless single leg or two were not enough to break the spirit of Chiesa, who bravely marched on through the grueling 13-week TUF trials after losing his father early in the season. As Iaquinta waded in winging punches, “Maverick” countered and took his back, sinking in his hooks and dragging him to the canvas. Chiesa tirelessly worked for the rear naked choke, alternating from one arm to another until one finally sunk below Iaquinta’s chin. The choke was in deep, and Iaquinta fought it off until going to sleep. In a time when ‘feel good’ stories are being forced and manufactured, even the most jaded of us have to feel good for Mike Chiesa. Along with his plaque, he’s won the infamous ‘six-figure contract’, a sponsorship from TapouT, the $40k ‘Submission of the Night’ bonus and a brand new hog.
Speaking of TUF champs, season 12 kingpin Jonathan Brookins returned to the cage to face the dynamic Charles Oliveira. Unfortunately, Brookins still looks ill-equipped to compete in the striking portion of an MMA bout. With a high chin and low hands, he took the worst of the exchanges, including the flying knee he ate before body-locking Oliveira and slamming him to the mat. ‘Do Bronx’ was not on his back long, though, and he confidently resumed battering Brookins on his feet. Brookins did put together a few combos in the second frame, even drawing a bit of blood from Oliveira’s forehead, but he also broke the cardinal rule of bringing slaps to a fist fight (no offense, El Guapo). Caught in a standing guillotine, Oliveira tried to slam his way free only to wind up in Brookins’ guard, but the Brazilian worked his way out of the sub. After delivering a pair of hard elbows, Oliveira exited his opponent’s guard and secured a modified guillotine of his own. Brookins would tap to the choke, reducing my hopes of witnessing a beautiful lateral drop to zero.
Earlier in the evening, youngster Max Holloway showed off an impressive striking game in a lopsided decision victory over Pat Schilling. Holloway’s clinic included flying knees, crippling body punches, even an attempt at a jazzed-up Showtime Kick—basically everything but a shred of killer instinct. Holloway left Schilling defenseless and barely able to ease himself off the canvas throughout the bout, but at no point did he move in for the coup de gras. Looking superb on your feet is one thing, but when you’re standing over a wounded animal the only humane thing to do is put him out of his misery. As his bloody piss circles the toilet this morning, I’m sure even Schilling wishes Holloway had pulled the trigger.
Justin Lawrence kicked off the action, and John Cofer’s head, in the broadcast’s opening bout. Things looked good for Cofer early on as he scored a short-lived takedown and a big left hand that momentarily staggered Lawrence, but ‘TUF: Live’s’ first draft pick was far from flustered. Cofer was game to trade on his feet, though he found himself on the bruised end of the exchanges. As round two drew to a close, the wrestler grabbed Lawrence from behind and took him for a ride, suplexing him to the ground. Lawrence escaped Cofer’s back control and ended the round with a little ground and pound. The third frame was short and sweet, for “The American Kid” at least. As Cofer backpeddled from an exchange Lawrence landed a perfectly timed right high kick to the jaw that had Cofer doing “The Captain” as he careened toward the ground. Both men picked up the $40 g’s for the “Fight of the Night”, while Lawrence’s thunder foot scored him the night’s second KOTN bonus.
FULL RESULTS: (via MMAWeekly.com)
Main Card (on FX):
-Martin Kampmann def. Jake Ellenberger by KO (Knees) at 1:40, R2
-Michael Chiesa def. Al Iaquinta by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 2:37, R1
-Charles Oliveira def. Johnathan Brookins by Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 2:42, R2
-Max Holloway def. Pat Schilling by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27), R3
-Justin Lawrence def. John Cofer by KO (Kick) at 0:19, R3
Preliminary Card (on Fuel TV):
- Daron Cruickshank def. Chris Tickle by Unanimous Decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-27), R3
-Myles Jury def. Chris Saunders by Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 4:03, R1
-Sam Sicilia def. Cristiano Marcello by TKO (Strikes) at 2:53, R2
-Joe Proctor def. Jeremy Larsen by TKO (Strikes) at 1:59, R1
Preliminary Card (on Facebook):
-Erik Perez def. John Albert by Verbal Submission (Armbar) at 4:18, R1