Season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter is now a wrap in its entirety. After tonight’s Finale we have 2 new TUF winners, a few other newcomers who could be interesting, the answers to a few questions, and the emergence of some new ones. Overall it was a solid night of fights and storylines, and we didn’t even have to pay the cost of a PPV to see it – can’t complain about that. A few things about the card that stood out were:
What a blow
In the lead up to this event we took a look at where Gray Maynard stands in his career and contemplated what got him there and what the future would likely look like for the former number 1 contender. Unfortunately for The Bully tonight was likely another nail in the coffin containing his hopes of remaining anywhere near the top half of the 155 pound division. While I am not yet convinced that he is no longer a UFC caliber talent, 2 knockouts in a row at this stage of a UFC career is obviously a huge setback. Ironically I thought that Gray looked fantastic physically in the early goings of his fight with Diaz tonight. He looked to be in great shape, his offense seemed very crisp, and he was certainly not timid at all. But the fact is that Maynard has won just a single fight in all of 2011, 2012, and 2013 and he didn’t exactly set the world on fire in that win either. After all that he has been through in those wars with Frankie, the change in gyms, the injuries, etc, we have to ask ourselves, how much does Gray Maynard have left in him? Personally I’d like to see him in at least one more fight to better gauge his current standing. A rematch with Jim Miller after Miller’s upcoming fight seems about right.
The “TUF” get going
With Julianna Pena and Chris Holdsworth winning their respective brackets of the show and getting the contract and the Harley we now know we will be seeing more of both of them. Honestly I saw the potential for fun fights in both of their matches and in the end neither disappointed. When breaking down Davey Grant vs. Chris Holdsworth it was clear that both men possessed tools to win and both could fight their arses off. But Holdsworth having much better coaching and quality of competition up to this point was a clear advantage. Holdsworth proved his hype was justified again tonight and showed the difference between a good grappler and a BJJ black belt; I suspect he will have one of the better UFC runs of the recent TUF champs. Grant looked sharp as well tonight and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on a fight night/UK card in the not so distant future. As for the women, when analyzing Jessica Rakoczy vs. Julianna Pena, it was more of a throwback to the style vs. style matchups of the older days. And as is often the case when 2 relatively 1 dimensional fighters go at it, the grappler prevails. History has shown that it is just so damn hard to stay upright against a tenacious grappler like Pena. A hell of a showing from Pena and while she does need a bit more polish she could do well in the UFC. Rakoczy on the other hand may be better served by going back to the regional’s for some time before taking another crack at the UFC. With those hands it’d be a shame if she never fought in the Octagon again, but she has some holes in her game. Regardless of which course Rakoczy takes, it appears 125 is a better fit than 135.
Better late than never
Usually there are not many things one can gather from witnessing a 25 second fight. But tonight in his fight with Akira Corassani we saw the ruthless aggression and physicality that made Maximo Blanco a legit prospect when he came out of Japan a little over 2 years ago. After 2 previous UFC performances that left many people a bit unsatisfied, Blanco at least now showed that he hasn’t lost that inner beast forever. Aside from that it is obviously very disappointing that we didn’t get to see what had the makings of a great fight between these two. Akira is now 3-0 and Blanco 1-2 in the UFC but I hope Maxi gets another shot since he looks to be finding his groove, C’mon Joe Silva book the rematch, after Akira’s nose is healed of course.
When it was initially announced that the UFC had added a women’s division and then that the 18th season of TUF would feature women Dana White stated that he was committed to making women in the UFC work and that he would put considerable muscle behind the effort. He has certainly made good on that promise thus far. After given such a huge platform and the women shined on TUF 18 the exposure continued with the Finale show. For the first time in UFC history the main card featured more women fights then men’s with 3 of 5 slots going to them. On top of that the coaches Meisha Tate and Ronda Rousey were heavily featured and given a ton of face time on TV, overall this whole run has been huge for WMMA.
The other guys
Tonight’s card also featured some new, fun, additions to the UFC that could be significant down the road. Jared Rosholt and Walt Harris didn’t deliver anything particularly spectacular but 2 big agile heavyweights are always worth a second look, especially with the big time wrestling background of Jared Rosholt. Let us not forget the impact that legit wrestlers have always had in the UFC HW division. We have always known about the world class BJJ of Rani Yahya but how about Tom Niinimäki not only hanging in there in the grappling exchanges with him, but doing well? Very impressive was Niinimäki and with the well rounded skills he has and street cred he garners from the hardcore European MMA fans he could make some noise. And finally there is Josh Sampo and Ryan Benoit who deserve a shout out for both taking relatively short notice fights and delivering a fun fight with some good action, well done guys.
I was thoroughly entertained by the card and without the high price tag it was even more enjoyable. Sure it was a little short on name value but these cards are necessary to keep this thing going and ensuring we get new stars coming up in the ranks.