History Made in Vegas (TUF 20 Finale Review)

tuf_20_finaleWomen’s fighting in the UFC took another huge step in Vegas as the year continues to come to a close. It wasn’t long ago that women in the UFC were not even thought of as the executives at the promotion refused to consider them. That has changed in recent years and a division that was said to have nowhere near the talent has become one of the most entertaining divisions in the UFC. Ronda Rousey rules the division with little to no competition but her star power alone can boost any weight division. Aside from Rousey though, the division has shown its true colours putting on close fights that have been some of the best on every card they are involved in. That success for the Women’s Bantamweight division led the UFC to look to expand their female roster in order to continue to build their roster and continue to be the biggest promotion in the world. That next step came in the form of the strawweight division when the UFC signed almost the entire 115lbs division from Invicta. That brought a brand new division into the UFC and one that the UFC is hoping to capitalize on with great fights from lighter women fighters. To showcase this new division and what the lighter weight class had in store the UFC decided to take another big step and feature the 115 lbs fighters in The Ultimate Fighter 20. There had never been a TUF season that featured only women as there had only been one to feature women, who fought alongside men’s flyweight fighters. The move was a vote of confidence from the UFC as they were allowing the women to take the spotlight in one of the biggest spotlights the UFC has. It showed that the UFC has fully accepted the women fighters in the promotion and they will continue to support it. Through the show fans were able to see the lives of these fighters and get to know some of the biggest names in the division that were relatively unknown to most UFC fans. It built personalities of the longtime women fighters and some new fighters. More than any of that though the new season of TUF was the first time that the UFC would ever not reward the winning fighter with a contract. After all they already had contracts. Instead they would take it one step further and hand out the women’s strawweight title at the end of the show. It was the biggest prize yet in the reality show’s history as the show became a show about a tournament between the greatest 115 lbs fighters in the world. Rivalries were created and every fighter was all-in as they pursued a dream, winning a UFC belt. Through all of the insanity of the Ultimate Fighter house two fighters emerged and stepped into The Ultimate Fighter Finale looking to make history as the first ever strawweight champion. In one corner is the expected in Carla Esparza who came into the house as the champion of the Invicta strawweight division. She was the champion and ranked #1 in the tournament. She proved that the ranking was accurate as she got through every round and although not every fight was easy she still looked like one of the best fighters on the show. In the other corner is the relatively unexpected in Rose Namajunas. Coming in as the #7 fighter she was expected to be good but as the youngest fighter on the show many thought she might fall just short. With a mix of exciting standup and attacking ground game she worked her way through the show to challenge the champion for the first ever strawweight title. The fight began with Esparza showing her experience and taking the fight exactly where she wanted it. Trying to avoid the creative strikes of Namajunas, Esparza took the fight to the ground and used her superior wrestling. As the fight progressed it seemed like Esparza was ready to grind out a unanimous decision. Her wrestling was clearly better and she was able to control the fight from start to finish. That finish came a little sooner than some expected as Esparza continued to control the fight and got the back of Namajunas. That is where she sunk in a rear naked choke and end the fight. The loss for Namajunas is far from the last time you will see the 22-year old as she has a lot of time to get better and for the rest of the division including the new champion that is a dangerous proposition. For Esparza the list of contenders is big but she may be headed for a fight against Claudia Gadelha who fights at UFC on FOX 13 and is the consensus #2 strawweight in the world. If Gadelha does not win her fight TUF participant and #4 strawweight in the world, Joanne Calderwood, could get the shot after winning her own fight on the night.

Before history was made in Vegas two featherweights squared off looking to make an impact in their division. For Charles Oliveira it was all about trying to get back to where he was when he began his UFC career. Beginning as a lightweight in 2010 Oliveira was one of the most exciting prospects in the UFC. He came onto the scene in a big way after winning his first two fights via submission and earning two straight submission of the night bonuses. The two wins made him one of the most exciting fighters and the UFC looked to bring him through the ranks of the lightweight division. Then it all came to an end against Jim Miller where he began a run where he went 0-2-1. It was the end to his rise up the lightweight division and with the division only getting better it looked like he may never get back to the top. Then in 2012 he made the switch to featherweight and showed his promise once again. He won his first two featherweight fights and again did it via submission, earning one submission of the night bonus. That momentum would not continue though as he again began to lose and again looked like he might fall completely out of the conversation. Recently he has picked things back up though and finished his last two fights via submission and picked up two submission of the night bonuses. Now he takes on Jeremy Stephens looking to make it three wins in a row and looking to show that he has what it takes to be a potential title fighter. Stephens was trying to do the same except he was doing so after losing to Cub Swanson. If he could win this fight the loss to Swanson would not seem so bad but a loss would make it two in a row and would push him further away from the title conversation after years of trying to get there. The fight did not look great for the hard-hitting Stephens from the start as he spent most of the first round locked in an armbar. Oliveira took the fight exactly where he wanted it and locked in a tight armbar submission but could not finish leaving Stephens to finish the round on the feet. The second round saw much of the same as Oliveira continued to take the fight to the ground and multiple times saw the fight almost finish. Locked in twice to very tight armbars, Stephens somehow found his way out and survived to fight another round. The third round was much more successful for Stephens but it was not enough as he spent the majority of the fight defending, albeit successfully. Oliveira got the win and showed his BJJ skills for another time. Although he couldn’t finish the fight that was more a compliment to Stephens than a knock on Oliveira. He remained in control for most of the fight and took the unanimous decision win to make it three in a row. He moves on to bigger and better things while Stephens drops his second in a row and loses any momentum he had in the division.

 

Fight Bonuses

Performance of the Night
In her first official UFC fight Carla Esparza got plenty of awards winning the Ultimate Fighter, a Harley Davidson, the strawweight belt, and even an extra bonus for her submission over Rose Namajunas in the third round

Performance of the Night
It was a night with a lot of submissions to choose from and with the new champion impressive enough to earn her bonus it was Yancy Medeiros taking the other one as his guillotine choke win earned him some extra pay on the night

Fight of the Night
It was an extremely close fight when Jessica Penne and Randa Markos faced off in the battle of the semi-finalists as Penne took the win via split decision but both fighters took home some extra pay for the Fight of the Night

 

Fight Results

Main Event:
Carla “The Cookie Monster” Esparza def. “Thug” Rose Namajunas
(Submission; Rear Naked Choke, Rd. 3)

Main Card:
Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira def. Jeremy “Lil’ Heathen” Stephens
(Unanimous Decision)

KJ Noons vs. “Detroit Superstar” Daron Cruickshank
(No Contest)

Yancy “The Kid” Medeiros def. Joe Proctor
(Submission; Guillotine Choke, Rd. 1)

Jessica Penne def. Randa “Quiet Storm” Markos
(Split Decision)

Undercard:
Felice “The Lil’ Bulldog” Herrig def. Lisa Ellis
(Submission; Armbar, Rd. 2)

Heather “Hurricane” Clark def. Bec “Rowdy” Rawlings
(Unanimous Decision)

Joanne “Jo Jo” Calderwood vs. Seo “Hamderlei Silva” Hee Ham
(Unanimous Decision)

Tecia “The Tiny Tornado” Torres def. Angela Magana
(Unanimous Decision)

Aisling “Ais the Bash” Daly def. Alex “Astro Girl” Chambers
(Submission; Armbar, Rd. 1)

Angela “Overkill” Hill def. Emily Kagan
(Unanimous Decision)

 

Upcoming Events

UFC on FOX 13: dos Santos vs. Miocic (Saturday December 13th; 8:00 pm ET)
Phoenix, Arizona (U.S. Airways Arena)
Main Event: Junior “Cigano” dos Santos vs. Stipe Miocic
Notable: Nate Diaz vs. Rafael dos Anjos
Notable: Alistair “The Reem” Overeem vs. Stefan “The Skyscraper” Struve

UFC Fight Night 58: Machida vs. Dollaway (Saturday December 20th; 10:00 pm ET)
Barueri, Sao Paulo, Brazil (Jose Correa Gymnasium)
Main Event: Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida vs. C.B. “The Doberman” Dollaway
Notable: Renan “The Baron” Barão vs. Mitch “The Machine” Gagnon
Notable: Patrick “Durkin” Cummins vs. Antônio Carlos “Cara de Sapato” Júnior

UFC 182: Jones vs. Cormier (Saturday January 3rd; 10:00 pm ET)
Las Vegas, Nevada (MGM Grand Garden Arena)
Main Event: Jon “Bones” Jones vs. Daniel “DC” Cormier [Light Heavyweight Title]
Notable: Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone vs. Myles “The Fury” Jury
Notable: “Lightning” Hector Lombard vs. Josh “The People’s Warrior” Burkman

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