The Ultimate Fighter Season 18 comes to its official close tonight, with TUF winners to be crowned in the men’s bantamweight and women’s bantamweight divisions at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The event features two finalists each from the teams led by Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey.
In addition, the TUF 18 finale show is headlined by the ‘rubber match’ between two former lightweight title challengers in Nick Diaz and Gray Maynard (pictured above), and will be televised on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 10 pm EST/7 pm PST.
Please join us! We’ll have full coverage here beginning at 7:30 pm EST/4:30 pm PST with the night’s preliminary bouts, which include a featherweight encounter between standout Brazilian grappler Rani Yahya and one of Europe’s fastest-rising MMA stars, Tom Niinimäki. Refresh often as we continue to update throughout the night.
Ryan Benoit vs. Joshua Sampo (Catchweight of 127.5 lbs.)
Benoit is a +110 underdog; he’s a Texas-based disciple of Saekson Janjira, a big name in Muay Thai. Late replacement “The Gremlin” Sampo is a former All-American wrestler with some solid MMA wins — unfortunately he missed weight, thus the catchweight. Both are making their UFC debut.
Round One: Benoit attacks with punching combinations, a left uppercut particularly crisp. The southpaw hits a 1-2, but a counter right from Sampo shakes him. High crotch takedown from Sampo brings the fight to the canvas. Sampo lands little punches and elbows from Sampo in half guard. Sampo in mount, but Benoit reverses immediately. Sampo attacks with omoplata and gets the reverse, but Benoit scrambles to stay on top. Ref stands them up and the two exchange jabs and straights. Good body kick from Sampo. Straight right draws blood from Benoit. 10-9 for Sampo.
Round Two: Sampo with a nice double leg. Sambo gets a reverse triangle on top and attacks with a Kimura, then an Americana. Benoit struggles to escape, again gives up mount — and again gets the bridge reversal! Benoit moves to the back and takes mount as Sampo tries to escape. Good punching but from Benoit, but Sampo bridges him off and lands in Benoit’s guard. Good elbows on top from Sampo. Benoit positions into half guard. Benoit tries to escape, but gives his back! Sampo loops in rear naked choke and gets the tap!!!
Josh Sampo defeats Ryan Benoit by submission (rear naked choke) at 4:31 of round two.
Sean Spencer vs. Drew Dober (Welterweights)
Dober is making his UFC debut on a four fight winning streak. This is Spencer’s third bout for the UFC; he bounced back from a submission loss to Rafeal “Sapo” Natal to defeat Yuri Villefort back in September.
Round One: Spencer advances aggressively, landing right hands as they engage and disengage. Dober is fighting above his weight division and it shows. Spencer easily shrugs off a Dober takedown. Big right from Spencer as the round ends. Tepid action after a great first bout. 10-9, Spencer.
Round Two: Spencer moving in and out with punches and kicks, punctuated by a right elbow. Southpaw Dober lands a series of kicks to the body. Spencer seems the bigger and stronger, presses Dober to the cage. The right hand lands again and again as they disengage. Dober fails with a “Superman” punch and staggers backwards. Spencer lands left hook as Dober’s hands drop, exhausted. The action isn’t exactly riveting but it’s another round for Spencer. 10-9, Spencer.
Round Three: Spencer moving in with three punch combinations. Dober bloodied. The action is stopped as Spencer lost his mouthpiece. Spencer keeps out-punching Dober, lands a good knee to the body. Dober lands the left kick to the body. Spencer with more punching, grinds Dober to the cage. Dober circles out and shoots a single leg. Spencer shrugs him off, lands a hard right. 2-1 combo from Spencer lands. Left hook hurts Dober. Flying knee from Spencer. Spencer forces him to the cage for some body punches. 10-9, Spencer.
Sean Spencer defeats Drew Dober by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Jared Rosholt vs. Walt Harris (Heavyweights)
“The Big Ticket” Harris, a +185 underdog, is a former college basketball player. Rosholt is a 3 time NCAA All-American wrestler. Both are making their Octagon debut.
Round One: Both guys pace away from each other in a slow start to the round. Southpaw Harris looks a little quicker, lands a good right hook. Both guys throw high kicks that are blocked. Nice right hook – straight left drops Rosholt! Rosholt recovers, tries establishing a jab… but to little effect. The action slows. Nice roundhouse body kick from Rosholt. Harris misses with wild punches. Both guys struggling to find range as time expires. 10-9, Harris.
Round Two: Good body kick from Rosholt. Harris with a punching combo. Rosholt hits a good knee to the body on the inside — he still hasn’t attempted a takedown, oddly. Good right from Rosholdt, Harris with a front kick to the body. Clubbing left hook from Rosholt. Harris has slowed considerably. Rosholt with a left hook-right uppercut combo. Left round kick to the body from Rosholt. Harris lands a good straight left counter. 10-9, Rosholt.
Round Three: Tepid standup action until Rosholt attacks with a big double leg, slamming Harris to the mat. Harris positions to half guard. Rosholt with rights to the head and body. Short elbows from Rosholt. Rosholt tries an Americana keylock but Harris slips out. Rosholt looks to advance and go for a guillotine as time expires. 10-9, Rosholt.
Jared Rosholt defeats Walt Harris by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Rani Yahya vs. Tom Niinimäki (Featherweights)
Yahya is one of the most decorated jiu-jitsu players in the featherweight division. UFC debutant Niinimäki, of Finland, enters the Octagon on a 10-fight winning streak. He’s a +110 underdog.
Round One: Left leg kick from southpaw Yahya. Yahya shoots for takedown and gets it, but Niinimäki attacks with a guillotine. Niinimäki with the reversal! Yahya looking for a heel hook as Niinimäki stands. Yahya rolls with the leg, Niinimäki follows and ends up on his back. They scramble again, now Niinimäki’s on top. Elbow to the body from Niinimäki. Yahya scrambles to Niinimäki’s back! Niinimäki reverses, ends up in Yahya’s half guard. Yahya positions in deep half guard as Niinimäki attacks with elbows. Round sounds on a very interesting ground fight. 10-9, Niinimäki.
Round Two: Yahya attacking with 1-2-3 combinations, and forces Niinimäki to the cage. They switch positions, and Niinimäki scores a double leg takedown. Yahya attacks with a guillotine. Yahya tries flipping Niinimäki over his head, but Niinimäki lands on top and gets side control. Yahya gets half guard, and they’re stood up. Good front kick from Niinimäki. Yahya catches a guillotine and falls to guard. Niinimäki escapes, Yahya stands — trying to punch and pass guard a la Fedor as time expires. 10-9, Niinimäki.
Round Three: Niinimäki scores with a takedown right into side control to start. Yahya positions to half guard, and Yahya struggles to pass. They’re stood up again. Yahya lands a 3-2 combo. Niinimäki shoots again, and Yahya gets the guillotine. Yahya rolls to top, still with guillotine. Yahya releases and hits a few elbows. Yahya looking for a Kimura, then more elbows… as time expires. Nice fight. 10-9, Yahya.
Tom Niinimäki defeats Rani Yahya by Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27).
Akira Corassani vs. Maximo Blanco (Featherweights)
Venezuela’s Blanco is a wrestler with a 1-1 UFC record. Sweden’s Corassani is a creative striker with a Tae Kwon Do background who now fights out of New York with Team Renzo Gracie. Blanco is a -165 favorite.
Round One: Blanco attacks with a flying kick and a big right. Corassani stumbles back and is on one knee as Blanco pounces, hitting a knee to the face. Referee Mario Yamasaki stops the action. Corassani cannot continue.
Blanco does a backflip thinking he won the fight, but Yamasaki tells him he’s going to disqualify him. NSAC’s Keith Kizer is in the cage and can be heard telling Yamasaki that he can see the replay if he wants. Replay shows that Blanco had a hand down on the mat when Blanco connected.
Akira Corassani defeats Maximo Blanco by disqualification (illegal knee to a downed opponent) at 0:25 of round one.
Roxanne Modafferi vs. Raquel Pennington (Women’s Bantamweights)
Such a contrast. “Happy Warrior” Modafferi is 15-10, one of the vanguards of women’s MMA. The much more imposing “Rocky” Pennington is listed as only 3-4 as a pro but a +330 favorite. Both are wearing the Team Miesha Tate blue and yellow.
Round One: Modafferi with an inside leg kick. She feints often, attacking with punches and ending with a nice right kick to the body. Good leg kick from Pennington. Modafferi with a solid right. Pennington with a leg kick and a crisp right. Another leg kick from Pennington. Modafferi bouncing forward with 1-2’s. Spinning back fist from Modafferi. Three punch combo from the more active Modafferi. Pennington avoids a throw from Modafferi as they clinch against the cage. Good jab from Pennington. Big right from Pennington, but I think she was out-landed here. 10-9, Modafferi.
Round Two: Modafferi misses a spinning back fist to begin. Pennington lands a right. Modafferi swarms with punches again, forcing a clinch. They grapple against the cage and briefly tumble to the mat. Back up, they exchange 1-2’s. Modafferi just a little busier. Pennington lands a right. Pennington stuffs a Modafferi shot, who falls to guard. Pennington with a hammerfist as Modafferi moves into a high guard. Modafferi keeps trying to isolate an arm but Pennington escapes and gets a few punches. Still on her back, Modafferi is breathing hard. Back on their feet, Pennington lands a right leg kick and a hard left hook. Both land jabs as time expires. 10-9, Pennington.
Round Three: Modafferi gets more active again, switching stances for 1-2’s. Pennington sprawls out of a takedown, lands a straight right. Modafferi lands a jab as Pennington advances. Nice left hook – straight right combo from Pennington. They clinch against the cage, but quickly break. Pennington stalking Modafferi now. Big 1-2 from Pennington. Modafferi shoots, Pennington sprawls, and Modafferi falls into guard again. Pennington with hammer-fists to Modafferi’s body. Modafferi trying to get high and attack an arm but Pennington keeps her posture well. Modafferi fights to her feet but is caught in a guillotine. It looks tight and Pennington rolls her to the mat, and into mount. Modafferi hangs on to the final bell. 10-9, Pennington.
Raquel Pennington defeats Roxanne Modafferi by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
Jessamyn Duke vs. Peggy Morgan (Women’s Bantamweights)
Round One: Duke and Morgan exchange from range to begin. They clinch to the cage, and Morgan lands with a good knee to the head from the Thai plum clinch. Duke clamps on a guillotine, jumps to guard. Morgan lands a punch to the body. Duke releases, goes to high guard. Duke holds in a reverse triangle, lands an elbow, and switches to a regular triangle. Good elbows from Duke. Good short punches from Duke from the bottom, as time expires. 10-9, Duke.
Round Two: Good jab and left hook from Duke. Duke lands a right-left hook combo. Morgan advancing with her jab. Duke with right. Morgan tries a high kick which fails. Duke with another 3-2. Morgan leans her against the cage but is shrugged off. Duke lands the left hook seemingly at will. Duke easily avoids Morgan’s jab, lands a right. Duke scores a takedown as time expires. 10-9, Duke.
Round Three: Duke lands a right over the top of Morgan’s jab… and again. She steps in and lands a right kick to Morgan’s body. Series of hard punches in the Thai clinch from Duke. Morgan is backed to the cage where Duke continues to unload. Morgan fights for underhooks in the clinch. Morgan falls on top of Duke who is looking for a schoolyard headlock takedown. Morgan gets Duke’s back! But the groundwork goes nowhere and they’re stood up. Duke with a big 3-2 combo and they fight in the clinch as time expires. 10-9 Duke.
Jessamyn Duke defeated Peggy Morgan by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Chris Holdsworth vs. Davey Grant (Bantamweights — to decide The Ultimate Fighter 18 Winner)
Round One: Grant with a nice leg kick to begin, then another. Big right hand from Grant as Holdsworth is backed to the cage. Holdsworth escapes, hits a nice right hand. They clinch to the cage again. Good knee to the body from Holdsworth. Holdsworth tries to get a double leg, Grant backs against the cage and keeps his footing. Grant keeps pressing the action with straight punching but mostly missing now. Holdsworth gets on top as Grant fails with a throw. Holdsworth misses with a punch and Grant positions to guard. Close round. 10-9 Holdsworth.
Round Two: Holdsworth attacks with a high kick whihc lands flush to the chin of Grant. They tumble to the mat and Holdsworth lands on top, attacking with punches to the body. Holdsworth moves to the back from Grant’s half guard and gets back control with a body triangle. Rear naked choke from Holdsworth ends it!
Chris Holdsworth defeats Davey Grant by submission (rear naked choke) at 2:10 of round two. Holdsworth is The Ultimate Fighter (season 18).
Julianna Peña vs. Jessica Rakoczy (Women’s Bantamweights — to decide The Ultimate Fighter 18 Winner)
Round One: Peña shoots in almost immediately, advancing quickly to half guard. Rakoczy scrambles to her feet and presses Peña to the cage. Peña comes barreling off the cage to rush in for another takedown. Rakoczy establishes half guard. Peña postures up for some hard punches and passes to side control. Peña is non-stop with punches, quickly advancing to mount. More punches from Peña, a hard elbow and some hammer-fists. Rakoczy eating shot after shot. Yamasaki stops the bout just before the final bell, and it’s a Team Tate sweep.
Julianna Peña defeats Jessica Rakoczy by TKO (strikes from mount) at 4:59 of round one. Peña is The Ultimate Fighter (season 18)
Gray Maynard vs. Nate Diaz (Lightweights)
Both guys use 2pac for their ringwalk. I think that’s a first. I like it. Respect the classics.
Diaz circling away, lands a straight left, and a right hook. Maynard shoots in for a single leg, Diaz gets butterfly guard. Diaz scrambles to his feet, hits a harai-goshi throw but both bounce right back up. Round kick to the body from Maynard. Front kick from Diaz. Diaz avoids a takedown, staggers Maynard with a straight left! Diaz blasting Maynard with rights and lefts! Maynard bloodied and out on his feet. The action is halted at 2:23 of round one!
Nate Diaz defeats Gray Maynard by TKO (punches) at 2:23 of round one.
Thank you for joining us!!! We’ll see you next time!