The UFC has come under fire for spreading itself a little thin lately, running too many shows without enough talent to properly fill out the cards. But there’s really no knocking The Ultimate Finale on that score. The UFC is bringing its highest-rated season of The Ultimate Fighter to a close with what looks set to be a solid night of fights. Will the newly lovable Kimbo Slice beat the odds, or will Houston Alexander send him back to the boatyard? Will Brendan Schaub become the Ultimate Fighter, or will Roy Nelson’s belly rule the day? Will Jon “Bones” Jones do something awesome, or will Matt Hamil just kind of lay on him for a while? Let’s find out.
Matt Mitrione vs. Marcus Jones
As is Big Baby’s way, he takes Mitrione down early with an outside trip and establishes side control briefly before Mitrione manages to trap one of Jones’ legs in his half guard and escapes to his feet. Predictably, Mitrione has a clear advantage standing, and he connects with a couple of solid knees in the clinch. Jones wants no part of these exchanges, and takes Mitrione to the mat in a loose guillotine choke attempt. We come tantalizingly close to the vaunted Big Baby armbar from guard, but Mitrione escapes. In the final minute of the first round, Jones takes Mitrione down twice and works the step-over triangle position he so favours on the ground. A nice first round for both fighters, really. Mere moments into the second, though, Mitrione connects with a pair of rights as Jones comes dashing in, and that’s that: Jones is finished as Mitrione picks up his first proper UFC win.
As if that solid opening bout wasn’t enough, we learn that Hulk Hogan is in the building, making everything awesome.
Matt Veach vs. Frankie Edgar
Matt Veach is from Granite City, IL, which sounds tough as hell (although I have no idea). Veach starts strong, chasing Edgar around the octagon, grabbing hold of him against the cage and running him to the centre of the ring for the slam. Veach, who trains with Matt Hughes, looked an awful lot like the former welterweight champ with that one. Edgar regains his feet only to be slammed again. Veach looks great in the first two minutes. But as Edgar gets back up and the pace of the fight slows a little after the explosive start, Edgar’s superior boxing technique begins to exert itself. The bigger, stronger Veach fades a little in the final minute of the first. Veach opens the second much as he opened the first, working hard for the takedown. He doesn’t have the gas, though, and Edgar keeps his feet. A crisp right hand puts Veach on the ground, and although he survives Edgar’s initial flurry, he’s forced to give up his back and Edgar makes no mistake with the rear naked choke. In his post-fight comments, he remembers to thank his witchdoctor, which is nice.
Joe Rogan is interviewing Hulk Hogan! Hogan is calling him “my brutha!” This is amazing! Apparently Hogan and TNA Wrestling are going head to head with the WWE on Monday nights beginning in January. Hogan asks what we’re going to do when the UFC runs wild on… us. Rogan thinks this is a very good question indeed! Mike Goldberg suggests that, “If you are not a fan of Hulk Hogan, you are not a fan of entertainment.” And it is very, very hard to argue with that statement.
Mark Bocek vs. Joe Brammer
Next up we’ve got a lightweight bout from the preliminaries. This ought to eat some innings. Apparently the turnout wasn’t great for the prelims – empty seats abound. But this is a match-up of expert lightweight submission artists! I would totally show up early for that. Joe Brammer is introduced as a Jeet Kune Do fighter, clearly positioning him as the raddest guy on the card. No yellow jumpsuit, unfortunately, but I am nevertheless way in. Bocek, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, wants this fight on the ground, and a big suplex gets it there. Bocek takes the back from the bottom and establishes a nice tight body triangle to prevent Brammer from rolling into his guard. Brammer gets to his feet, but the clinging Bocek maintains his position on Brammer’s back and finishes with a standing rear naked choke. An impressive performance from Mark Bocek to be sure, but he has offended Brammer’s family and he has offended the Shaolin Temple. And that’s a bad move long term, a really bad move.
Houston Alexander vs. Kimbo Slice
Has anyone ever figured out what is up with Houston Alexander’s abdomen? It just looks kind of off, kind of Tara Reid. Kimbo, who weighted in at 212 for this catchweight bout, looks way bigger than Alexander. Alexander comes out cautiously, circling for the entire first minute, which gives s all a chance to consider what looks to be a Delicious Vinyl sponsorship patch on the front of Alexander’s shorts. How can that be? And we’re now at two minutes of circling. Three minutes into the fight, we get our first flurry, but nothing comes out of it. Alexander throws the odd inside leg kick, but man, there is nothing happening here. This is shocking.
And it’s more circling from Alexander to start the second. He throws the occasional leg kick, but looks uneasy doing it. You’ve got to wonder if he’s coming into this fight hurt, or something, because he looks not at all himself. Bad reaction to swine flu vaccination, is what I will speculate. And Kimbo connects! Right on the button! He takes him down! Kimbo! Mount! They’re up and they’re down, they’re up and they’re down, and Kimbo slams Alexander in massive ura-nage style. Kimbo is wilding out and you are a heartless fool if you do not love this. Kimbo takes the back, gets his hooks in (!!!) and after a messy rear naked choke attempt, mounts again. This Kimbo ground game, my goodness! Alexander, to his credit, scrambles back up, but the round ends with another Kimbo slam attempt. An amazing round for Kimbo.
Alexander is finally convinced he needs to fight, and he picks up the pace in the third. Halfway through, he connects with a sweeping leg kick that takes Kimbo to the mat, but Kimbo is back up right away and he scores with a takedown against the cage. No action on the ground means a standup, and these guys are dog-tired at this point. Alexander connects with a nice elbow in the final seconds, and as time expires it’s hands-on-knees from both fighters. Kimbo deservedly wins the unanimous decision in a fight that was sloppy as hell, in all honesty, and completely non-combative for minutes on end. With almost anybody other than Kimbo Slice in the cage, that fight would have been borderline unwatchable. But it’s amazing what star power can do.
Jon Jones vs. Matt Hamill
Jones and Hamill look loose and easy in the opening minutes of the first round, not landing, really, but throwing. Some suitably wacky spinning stuff from Jones early. Hamill attempts the single leg takedown and fails, a great sign for Jones. In fact it’s Jones who first gets this fight to the ground with a tremendous outside reap. Jones mounts and pounds away with punches and elbows that slice Hamill up badly. Hamill is doing nothing but eating shots here, but the fight continues. Referee Steve Mazzagatti, loathed by Dana White, stops the action to penalize Jones for a series of illegal downward strikes with the point of the elbow. Hamill is unable to continue, and Jones is disqualified. Post fight we learn that the dejected Hamill suffered some kind of shoulder injury during the bout that had him fighting one-handed, basically. Jones, though obviously disappointed, wisely doesn’t make a stink about the disqualification. You can agree or disagree with the rule about downward elbows, but you can’t really disagree with Mazzagatti’s call here.
Darrill Schoonover vs. James McSweeney
Titties! Technical difficulties cost us the first minute and a half of the first round, and by the time we join the action, Schoonover is working for a takedown and McSweeney grabs hold of a guillotine choke. Schoonover escapes, and after some questionable twelve o’clock-to-six-o’clock elbows from McSweeney, avoids an armbar attempt as well. McSweeny sweeps from half-guard and first side control and then the mount. He takes the back, works toward the rear naked choke, but Schoonover escapes. Back on their feet, Schoonever starts to connect, first with a knee from the clinch, and then with a series of punches. McSweeeney looks exhausted as the first round comes to a close.
He looks comparatively fresh coming out for the second, though. McSweeney controls the pace of the round, getting the best of the brief exchange standing, and working almost exclusively from dominant positions on the ground. Schoonover’s best moment comes with a fleeting armbar attempt with a minute to go. This is clearly McSweeney’s fight to lose heading into the third.
McSweeney scores with an inside trip takedown as the third round begins, and it’s right back to positional dominance on the ground. McSweeney is clearly in control. After a standup, Schoonover connects with a decent right hand, but he’s too tired to do much of anything. McSweeney connects with a flying knee, a head kick, a couple of rights, and another solid knee. Great finish!
Before the main event, Dana White announces that the next season of The Ultimate Fighter will feature Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz as coaches. I’m sure that will make for great TV and no doubt a solid pay-per-view number, but man, I don’t know about Chuck/Tito III. As spectacle, I get it, but what does that fight really accomplish in terms of the light heavyweight division? Will Liddell beat Ortiz for the third time, or will Ortiz pick up a win over the badly reduced Liddell? Either way it’s inconsequential, isn’t it?
Roy Nelson vs. Brendan Schaub
At first it sounds like Roy Nelson is coming out to Michael Jackson’s “Bad,” which would have been great, but in fact it’s Weird Al Yankovic’s “Fat,” which is absolutely outstanding. Joe Rogan characterizes Nelson as “a big heavy dude who uses that gut to his advantage,” and that pretty much covers it. Bruce Buffer introduces Roy Nelson as “a kung fu fighter,” which is humorous, sure, but calling him anything but a kung fu panda is a missed opportunity.
Schaub’s jab looks good early. He shucks off Nelson’s takedown attempt and unloads on him against the cage. Schaub looks great standing, just great, and Nelson wants no part of any of this. He clinches and takes Schaub down with a solid outside trip, and methodically works his way from half guard to side control only to see Schaub explode and scramble back to his feet. Schaub gets the best of the exchanges for the most part, but Big Country lands a couple of decent rights. Out of pretty much nowhere, Nelson connects with a big right hand that lands just behind Schaub’s ear, and Schaub is out, completely, utterly out.
And with that, Roy Nelson takes the tournament title and earns the six-figure UFC contract. Schaub looked great for as long as he lasted, though, and will no doubt find a home in the UFC heavyweight division given his youth, athleticism, and the skills he’s shown already. Nelson holds the championship plaque against his pendulous gut to give us a nice pressed-ham-under-glass effect, a fitting image to end both the night and the chubby odyssey that was The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights.