(Only then did Diego realize that a childhood full of frighteningly intense staring contests had been preparing him for this one perfect moment. Photo courtesy of Combat Lifestyle’s TUF 9 Finale weigh-in set.)
After a season that promised heated national rivalries and hilarious cultural misunderstandings produced very little of either, we finally get our payoff tonight. Sure, aside from the two finale fights there are hardly any fighters from this season of “The Ultimate Fighter” on the card, but to make up for it we’ve got the positive-to-the-point-of-insanity Diego Sanchez, who nearly gave himself a heart attack during his bouts of flexing and staring at yesterday’s weigh-in.
Will his blood pressure be similarly jacked through the roof tonight? Will he find a way to incorporate the Tony Robbins firewalk into his entrance? Might Clay Guida surprise us all by fighting like the blur of hair of fists that he used to be? We’ll be waiting for those answers right along with you, so jump on board and remember to hit refresh often. This train is fixin to leave the station.
Diego Sanchez tells us this fight is about his destiny, and Clay Guida is the only thing standing between him and a title shot. Does it seem to anyone else that he’s gone from saying that winning this fight should get him a title shot to insisting that it absolutely will?
Nate Diaz vs. Joe Stephenson
After a failed attempt to touch gloves, Stephenson shoots for a takedown and gets it, nearly working his way into a guillotine in the process. He works his way out of it and gets to side control, then locks up a crucifix and lands some decent punches. Diaz tries to roll out of it and Stephenson locks up a tight guillotine. We know that’s Daddy’s move, but Diaz is holding on and rolls to give up the mount in exchange for getting out of the submission. Diaz escapes and briefly tries another guillotine himself, but Stephenson ain’t having it and he’s all over Diaz right now. The round ends with Stephenson locking up Diaz against the fence and kneeing him at his leisure. That’s Joe Daddy’s round, easily.
In between rounds Greg Jackson talks calmly to Stephenson. Jackson always seems like that great tenth grade English teacher who changed your life, doesn’t he?
Stephenson eats a punch and shoots for a takedown right away, with Diaz trying for another modified guillotine. Stephenson scrambles out and gets another takedown once they’re on the feet. Stephenson is effective from the top, but can’t keep Diaz down for long. Diaz is back on his feet, pressed against the fence with Stephenson kneeing him in the thigh. They’re up and down for the rest of the round, with Stephenson maintaining control and negating Diaz’s attempts at offense. Another round in the books for Stephenson.
Stephenson again tries to touch gloves and again Diaz scorns the effort. Burn me once, Joe Stephenson… Stephenson gets an early takedown and Diaz gets back up and manages a throw of his own to put Stephenson on his back. Diaz lands some decent punches from the top, but Stephenson works out and gets Diaz back against the fence, feeding knees into his thighs as Diaz stays down on one knee to avoid eating any to the face. Diaz implores Joe to “get to work, bitch,” and Stephenson replies, “get off your knee.” Diaz does and we get a little more of an exchange before the round ends, but nothing to change the outcome. This looks like Joe Daddy’s decision all the way.
Joe Stephenson def. Nate Diaz via unanimous decision.
Stephenson says having Greg Jackson on his side is like having Chuck Norris in your corner. Then he gives us a shot out to the troops and the fathers “with boys” in honor of Father’s Day tomorrow. Oh, shit. Father’s Day. Well, he’s used to disappointment by now.
Andre Winner’s video segment shows us his training at the “rugby grounds,” and we meet his mum and dad. Seems his mum told him to give up this fighting stuff and get a job. Who feels like an asshole now, Andre’s mum?
In Ross Pearson’s segment we meet his blond girlfriend and “cool ass dog.” He seems more attached to the dog. Can’t say I haven’t been there before.
Andre Winner vs. Ross Pearson
Mike Goldberg has a tough time figuring out how to differentiate the fighters from one another due to their almost identical shorts, and Joe Rogan helps out: “One’s a white guy and one’s not.” You know you were thinking it. They feel each other out early, both men looking fast on their feet. They clinch against the cage and trade some knees to the body and short knees in close. Pearson seems to have taken a knee to the groin, but Rogan ain’t buying it. They trade punches after the restart and then go right back to the clinch. Winner lands the most effective strikes of the fight so far just before the round ends.
Pearson lands a couple leg kicks to start the round, then a knee to the head in the clinch. Yep, we’re back to the clinch game against the fence. Pearson tries a takedown and Winner defends. Pearson lands a good uppercut of the fence. The Chris Lytle/Matt Serra TUF finale fight has been mentioned at least three times by now. If you recall, that was the fight that was so boring it made Lytle change his style. They end the round in the clinch. Again.
And we’re back in the clinch almost immediately. They move to the center of the Octagon and exchange combinations, with Pearson getting the better of the punching exchange. Pearson lands a good shot to the body and then follows with an uppercut. Winner responds by pressing back into the clinch. Pearson tries a single-leg and almost gets it, but not quite. Back to the center of the Octagon in the final minute and Pearson lands a good short left. A hard knee to the head from Pearson ends the round. Was it enough to seal the decision? Regardless, this was no Griffin/Bonnar finale.
Ross Pearson def. Andre Winner via unanimous decision.
Pearson is handed the cheap-looking glass trophy that looks like something you’d give as a "Perfect Attendance" award. Safe to say no one is going to look back on this one as the fight that saved MMA. Let’s hope the other finale bout makes up for it.
Chris Lytle vs. Kevin Burns
As promised, they start this one exchanging blows on the feet and the pace is somewhat frantic at first. A good shot from Burns, and Lytle follows up a few seconds later with a sharp body punch. Lytle seems to be alternating between overhand rights and jumping in with left hooks. Burns kicks him right in the pills, so we’ll pause for a moment. Lytle gets dropped by a right hand and Burns tries to capitalize while he’s on shaky legs, but Lytle hangs on and makes it to the end of the round, though he seems to be a little dazed as the horn sounds.
A huge right from Lytle wobbles Burns early on and Lytle is on the attack now. Burns recovers and shoots for a takedown. He gets it but can’t do much on the mat and they’re back on the feet. Lytle is hammering Burns with some hard hooks to the body and it seems to be weighing on him, bringing Burns’ hands down a little. Another kick to the groin from Burns, and this time Lytle lets his frustration show. After a very brief break Lytle is back stalking Burns, who’s content to circle away as we enter the final minute. And yet another groin shot from Burns, this time off a knee. Herb Dean offers nothing more than another exhortation to knock it off. The round ends, and we’re probably tied 1-1.
Lytle catches a Burns body kicks and counters with a right hand that leaves Burns’s left eye gushing blood immediately. This is some horror movie stuff. Lytle continues winging those right hands in there and they are landing with greater frequency. Burns is keeping his composure, but he definitely doesn’t have the same pop he did in the first. More big rights, one at a time, from Lytle and one staggers Burns. Lytle backs Burns up with a flurry, battering him with both hands now. They end the fight trading in the middle of the cage. Lytle’s plan to get another Fight of the Night bonus may have just panned out.
Chris Lytle def. Kevin Burns via unanimous decision.
Joe Rogan really puts Dana White on the spot by saying that if Lytle and Burns don’t win Fight of the Night, he’s calling the cops. Lytle gives out a shout-out to his daughter’s softball team, then poses for a picture with his cornermen, Ken Pavia and G. Gordon Liddy.
After another segment of Amir Sadalloh’s “Inside the Octagon,” Rogan interviews Brock Lesnar via satellite. Lesnar has decided to grow a ridiculous mini goatee. Is he a sophomore at Florida State? Oh, but he won Spike TV’s “Most Dangerous Man” award, so everything else in life is secondary, even shaving.
A 1-2 from Wilks goes right down the pipe and hurts Johnson right away. They clinch against the cage and Wilks unloads with more good combos. A takedown from Wilks and he finds himself in Johnson’s guard. Wilks tries for a heel hook and loses the top position. He moves to leg compression and Johnson defends while dropping hammer fists on his face. Wilks tries an omaplata and then nearly locks up a triangle. Somehow Johnson survives, but he’s been able to mount zero offense against Wilks so far. Wilks takes his back and fights for a rear naked choke. Johnson defends well and looks like he’ll survive the round. But Wilks sinks it in tighter and Johnson taps with less than ten seconds left in the round. The lone American hope goes down.
James Wilks def. DaMarques Johnson via submission (rear naked choke) at 4:54 of round 1.
Wilks’s jiu-jitsu was just too much for Johnson. Wilks uses the post-fight interview to plug his new gym, which seems way more important to him than a UFC career somehow.
Diego Sanchez vs. Clay Guida
Guida comes out with his usual high-energy entrance before taking off at least three shirts to get in the Octagon. Diego comes out shouting “yes!’ as before, and he’s mad-dogging Guida all the way down to the cage. These guys can barely wait for the introductions to get underway before they go at it.
Sanchez charges across the Octagon and immediately unleashes a furious barrage of punches. Guida fires back but Sanchez’s uppercuts are hurting him. Guida is bloodied up and getting battered now from the non-stop attack from Sanchez. Sanchez nails him with a flying knee to the head. Guida recovers and scores the takedown, going to work in Sanchez’s guard. After some brief ground-and-pound they’re back on their feet. Guida’s nose is gushing blood. A head kick from Sanchez lands cleanly and drops Guida flat on his back. Sanchez goes after him, but somehow Guida recovers, only to get back up and take more of a beating. Sanchez goes for the takedown now and gets it, but Guida works back to his feet and, amazingly, presses the action just before the round ends. What a battle in the first round.
They start a little slower in the second frame. Sanchez attempts another head kick but Guida’s wise to it this time. Guida gets the takedown and tries to slow the action down inside Sanchez’s guard. Sanchez unloads with elbows from the bottom, just like he told us he’d do, but Guida keeps trying to grind him into the fence. The round ends with Guida on top, bleeding all over Sanchez. Believe it or not, Guida may have just evened things up after barely surviving the first round.
Sanchez is more cautious to start the third, trying to keep things standing. Guida tries to reach for a single-leg but Sanchez easily thwarts it. A good right hand from Guida sneaks through Sanchez’s defenses. Two more right hands land for Guida, though Sanchez seems unfazed. Guida shoots for a sloppy takedown and Sanchez nearly takes his back. Guida quickly adjusts and has Sanchez on his back. Sanchez tries a kimura and then transitions to a straight armbar, but Guida slips out and lands a good right followed by some flailing hammer fists as the round ends. This could be a tough one to call.
Diego Sanchez def. Clay Guida via split decision.
There goes Lytle’s Fight of the Night bonus, and even Joe Rogan agrees. Sanchez admits that Guida is a machine who never stops, and that’s a little difficult to deal with but hey, he loves when a guy bleeds on top of him. Meanwhile, Guida is bouncing around like he could still go three more rounds. He doesn’t even seem bothered by all the damage he took.
That’s it for me. We’re on to the Joe Rogan comedy special. So stick around for that, but I’m not liveblogging it. Come up with your own pithy comments.