The final UFC show of November is finished, as The Ultimate Fighter 28 Finale was capped off by Kamaru Usman putting a whooping on Rafael dos Anjos. After a reasonably competitive first two rounds, RDA’s noted problems against aggressive pressure wrestlers were on full display. Usman’s wrestling, grappling, ground-and-pound, and steadily improved striking all piled up against dos Anjos, leading to complete domination for the final three rounds. Chris Lee’s 48-47 scorecard is not an accurate representation of what Usman did down the stretch, as he busted RDA’s face up both on the feet and on the ground.
It may not have been thrill-a-minute stuff that gets you out of your seat, but it’s damn effective. Usman keeps getting better, and he’s has seldom been in real trouble throughout his 9-0 run in the UFC. He has to be either the next title contender or one fight away at the very worst. Dana White seems to be high on seeing Usman against Tyron Woodley, even over Colby Covington.
More thoughts ahead:
- Juan Espino used his wrestling and grappling to just bulldoze Justin Frazier on his way to a straight armlock finish in the opening round to become the TUF 28 heavyweight champion. He’s the oldest TUF winner in history at 38 years of age, something that could only ever happen at heavyweight.
- Macy Chiasson won The Ultimate Fighter 28 women’s featherweight final with a knockdown, armbar survival, then slick rear-naked choke of Pannie Kianzad in round two. Chiasson then consoled a distraught Kianzad in an emotional moment. Macy remains unbeaten in her career, and I suppose if the UFC is keeping women’s 145 around — Chiasson absolutely shouldn’t cut down to 135 — then by default she’s close to a title shot.
- Pedro Munhoz stopped Bryan Caraway with a liver kick after a furious pace for what amounted to a 2:39 bantamweight scrap. Caraway is really difficult to finish, so Munhoz did something spectacular in there, and the tide was turning in his favor at the time of the stoppage anyway, as Bryan set a ridiculous tempo he had no hope of matching. I’ll always tune in for a Munhoz fight, as he’s all action, all the time, and only the elite have been able to beat him.
- Edmond Tarverdyan-trained Edmen Shahbazyan hung on for dear life to beat Darren Stewart, who made one hell of an effort to rally in the final round after largely being controlled and outwrestled. Shahbazyan may deny ever being hurt, but he was rocked by an elbow, and he survived. He’s still unbeaten, and this was his first time outside of round 1 for the young prospect.
- Antonina Shevchenko recorded a shutout decision win over Ji Yeon Kim, easily outstriking, outmuscling, and outworking the South Korean from virtually start to finish. Valentina was there to cheer and coach her sister, all while annoying everyone by yelling “hey!” at anything Antonina did. She’s obviously got her flyweight title fight vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk next week, so it’s a big few days for the Shevchenko sisters.
- Damn! Kevin Aguilar and Rick Glenn went to war in there, as the former LFA champion won on short notice by unanimous decision. They threw and landed with bad intentions, but Aguilar clearly had more success and hurt Glenn in the opening round, dropped him in the final round, but Glenn is a damn zombie. Glenn even rocked Aguilar in the closing seconds of round 3, it just wasn’t enough for him to get the miracle comeback. Aguilar was very entertaining in LFA, and that’s carried over to the UFC with a win against a battle-tested veteran.
- Yves Lavigne’s screw-up meant that Joseph Benavidez had to TKO Alex Perez twice. The first one featured several back of the head shots, but I heard no warning, so Lavigne straight-up backed out of stopping the bout even after putting his hands on Joseph. On the second ground-and-pound sequence, Lavigne properly stopped it, so it didn’t cost Benavidez in the end. Terrible gaffe by Lavigne, but take nothing away from Joe B, who looked much better in this outing than he did against Sergio Pettis, and he used his mic time to make his case for a title shot and to not have the flyweight division fold.
- Your eyes didn’t deceive you, there was a heavyweight fight that ended in a triangle choke win (and it didn’t involve Stefan Struve). Maurice Greene tapped out fellow TUF 28 competitor and former Olympic wrestler Michel Batista just two minutes into the fight, having been taken down on the first attempt. Greene is a former Glory kickboxer, but in MMA, that’s his third win by triangle choke, so future opponents better watch out!
- FS1’s broadcast started with Leah Letson getting the better of Julija Stoliarenko in the striking department, and winning a split decision. Not exactly entertaining or high-level MMA but a debut win for Letson nevertheless.
- On the Fight Pass prelims, Roosevelt Roberts’ UFC debut was sensational, as he got a standing guillotine choke vs. Darrell Horcher. That choke was to tight that Horcher was briefly horizontal in mid-air… that was amazing. Meanwhile, Tim Means molly-whopped Ricky Rainey in less than 80 seconds, thwarting Rainey’s attempt to commit as many fouls as possible in an MMA fight, and Raoni Barcelos improved to 2-0 in the UFC with a second-round rear-naked choke of Chris Gutierrez.