Your deeper look into The Ultimate
For the 22nd time, the UFC set out to name their “Ultimate Fighter” as “The Ultimate Fighter: Live Finale” hit the Palms Casino in Las Vegas to round up the series’ 15th season. The card was lined with pairings of this season’s housemates with the two remaining finalists set to determine who would be getting the coveted six figure contract.
The evening’s main event featured a welterweight clash with future title hunt implications, as Jake Ellenberger took his six-fight win streak into the Octagon against the unflappable Martin Kampmann. After the smoke cleared at the Palms there was a story book ending, a few questionable stoppages, and a “comeback kid” who more than earned the nickname
There is no weight class hotter than the UFC welterweight division, and “The Hitman” may be the most underrated of the bunch. If you take away the highway robbery he suffered at the hands of the judges against Diego Sanchez and a razor-thin split against Jake Shields, Kampmann would be sitting on seven victories in a row, including his win over Ellenberger. Time and time again the Danish fighter has proven he’s dangerous from bell to bell. Despite getting dropped and battered in the early goings of the fight, Kampmann regained his bearings only to come off the stool in the second frame and score a knockout victory over Ellenberger.
It was a short right hand which set the end in motion, as Ellenberger staggered away looking to create distance. Never being a fighter to lack killer instinct, Kampmann pounced, landing three flush knees on Ellenberger’s chin. The final strike crumpled Ellenberger to the canvas where the fight was immediately stopped by referee Steve Mazzagatti. A bloody Kampmann celebrated, Ellenberger sat in disbelief, and the crowded welterweight division’s upper tier reshuffled.
The spectacular finish was Kampmann’s second consecutive come-from-behind victory. In March he found a “Hail Mary” guillotine choke to put away Thiago Alves and last night it was his striking which made the difference. While Kampmann’s pension for getting caught up in slugfests is cause for concern, his ability to remain dangerous is perhaps his greatest strength. Kampmann’s striking is amongst the division’s best and his ability to finish a fight from anywhere makes him a threat at all times.
In the post-fight interview commentator Jon Anik said Kampmann would next face surging contender Johny Hendricks in a title eliminator later this year and, if this bout comes to be, Kampmann will be in a prime position to get his title shot. Hendricks’s power and wrestling will certainly be difficult to overcome, but Kampmann’s takedown defense is top notch. He stuffed 13 out of 14 attempts when facing a tenacious Sanchez and, while Hendricks’s wrestling is on a different level than “The Dream,” if Kampmann can keep the fight standing, his output and accuracy could certainly make the difference.
Momentum was strong for Jake Ellenberger going into the TUF Finale with Kampmann. “The Juggernaut” had put together six consecutive victories including a star making performance against Diego Sanchez in front of his hometown crowd in Omaha. Unfortunately for Ellenberger, the surge was brought to a halt as he suffered a second round knockout loss to Kampmann on Friday night.
The fight started off great for Ellenberger, as he landed a series of hard shots to get the action going, eventually catching Kampmann with a left hook which put him on the canvas. It appeared as if the fight was going to be stopped as Ellenberger jumped in and set about pounding his opponent, but Kampmann was able to weather the storm and survive. The rest of the round was spent with Ellenberger in top position as he took the opening frame on the judge’s cards.
The second frame was a different story, as Kampmann returned fire in every exchange. As Ellenberger came in looking to land another power shot, he was clipped with a short right hand that led to his undoing. After being dropped by Kampmann’s knees the fight was immediately stopped and while Ellenberger initially seemed more upset with his performance than the stoppage, comments made at the post-fight press conference revealed he was equally unhappy with how the fight ended.
Following the fight Ellenberger made his case by referencing the fact that when Kampmann was in trouble during the first round he was ultimately allowed to fight his way out of it. Ellenberger did not feel he was allowed to do the same when he was put in the same position.
While a victory would have launched him ahead of the pack at 170 pounds, the loss shouldn’t cost him too much traction in the division. The title picture is currently on hold until champion Georges St. Pierre is medically cleared and a date is set for him to dance with current Interim champion Carlos Condit. With that time frame left open, there is a window for Ellenberger to get back on track in quick fashion. In order to do so he will need to face a big name in his next outing and with former number one contender Josh Koscheck recently suffering a loss to Hendricks; a matchup between Ellenberger and Koscheck makes sense.
The TUF franchise is constantly under fire and criticized for its lack of freshness, but you would have to be a robot to not be at least a little bit moved by Chiesa’s story. The Washington state native entered the TUF house with his father suffering from illness only to learn of his father’s passing after he had earned his entry into the tournament. Despite the tragic circumstance, Chiesa scrapped his way into the finale against Al Iaquinta and had the opportunity to put the finishing touches on a story book run.
Iaquinta came out swinging as he brought the fight to Chiesa and took the action against the cage. Chiesa knew he had to stay away from Iaquinta’s power and in the ensuing scramble was able to take his opponents back while standing. After dragging Iaquinta to the ground he was able to secure the choke which ended the fight early in the first round.
The victory was an emotional moment for the Chiesa family, as they stood by for the trophy presentation from UFC President Dana White. While the contract and Harley Davidson are the spoils of war, entrance into the current shark tank of the UFC lightweight division will not be so comforting. The weight class is more competitive than it has ever been and Chiesa will not be able to sit in the shallow end until he feels comfortable. I would like to see his first post-TUF matchup come against former winner Tony Ferguson. Both are tall, lanky fighters and Ferguson has had some success in the UFC, therefore it would be a solid measuring stick for where Chiesa fits into the picture.
After getting off to a hot start in the UFC “Da Bronx” saw his momentum crushed by a few of the lightweight division’s finest. Following a TKO loss to Donald Cerrone, Oliveira decided to make the cut down to 145 pounds and it appears to have been a wise decision. After notching an impressive submission victory in his debut, he squared off with the hard-nosed Jonathan Brookins in his sophomore effort.
Oliveira wasted no time getting to work as he landed on Brookins early and often. Not known for his striking, Oliveira looked impressive as he walked his opponent down at every turn. After eating punches for the majority of the round, Brookins returned fire in the final minute of the opening frame but it wasn’t enough to steal the round. Early into the second, Oliveira’s speed clearly made the difference as he continued to land clean on Brookins. Once the fight went to the ground, Brookins fell into Oliveira’s world and eventually tapped to an arm in guillotine. It was his fourth victory via submission since entering the UFC and his second consecutive as a member of the featherweight division.
In his post-fight interview Oliveira stated he was going after his belt. While the ambition can be appreciated, Oliveira will have to do some heavy work to earn a title shot. The featherweight division hasn’t completely filled out just yet but the weight class is becoming increasingly competitive. Oliveira’s skill set will certainly make him dangerous in the division but a clear cut path to the top of the mountain isn’t there. I would personally like to see Oliveira get matched up with fellow submission ace Jimy Hettes.
The Best (And Worst) Of The Rest
Other notable performances on the card came in patches as highly touted Team Cruz pick Justin Lawrence tallied a vicious head kick knockout over John Cofer and Joe Lauzon protégé Joe Proctor bested Jeremy Larsen. Myles Jury picked up a submission victory over Chris Saunders and Sam Scilia put Cristiano Marcello’s high chin to task as he scored a second round TKO.
The worst moment of the night undoubtedly went to referee Kim Winslow as she used the “verbal submission” angle to explain the stoppage of the fight between John Albert and Erik Perez. In a sport where anything can happen, at least Kim Winslow’s poor officiating is consistent.