Ultimate Fighter winner Diego Brandao made his post-show debut tonight when he took on wrestler Darren Elkins. The bout was closely contested throughout, as Brandao nearly finished the contest on several occasions, but Elkins was able to use his wrestling and ground and pound to control much of the fight.
The fight was scored unanimously by the judges, who awarded the decision to Elkins 29-28.
Here's what we learned from the bout.
What we'll remember about this fight:
Darren Elkins' ear at the end of the fight. Already possessing major cauliflower ear from his history of wrestling, Elkins left the cage with an upper ear that had swollen up to the size of tennis ball.
The other thing that stands out is Brandao's entry into guard. Late in the first round, Elkins laid on his back with Brandao hovering above him. Brandao exploded with a diving overhand right that would have knocked out most opponents. Brandao would repeat the incredible punch in the final 30 seconds of the fight.
What we learned about Diego Brandao:
That he can survive tough situations on the ground. Late in the second round, Elkins secured mount and threw some heavy ground and pound. Brandao was able to buck his opponent and improve position when it was absolutely vital.
His ability to stay patient in the third round was impressive, although he didn't fight with the desperation necessary to avoid a decision, he didn't panic either. Brandao was finally able to get to a dominant position and he nearly finished the fight in the final moments.
Brandao displayed good cardio, as he did not appear tired, even after long periods of heavy grappling.
What we learned about Darren Elkins:
That he can take a punch like a champ. Not only can he take a punch, he can take a flying knee, a back elbow and big kicks too. Some of the strikes that Elkins survived were incredible and his ability to absorb punishment is incredible.
We also learned that Elkins isn't the lay and pray star that he used to be. With little more than a minute left in the fight, he had top position and could have continued to throw punches to the body and head, and would have still won the decision. However, he wasn't content with that. Elkins attempted an arm-in guillotine choke that ultimately led to losing the position and nearly getting knocked out at the end.
Was it smart? Not at all. Did it change our perception of him? Absolutely.
What's next for Brandao:
Brandao was very competitive in this fight and won't suffer much from this setback. A battle with the loser of Ross Pearson vs Cub Swanson would present a challenge worthy of Brandao's abilities. Personally, I'd love to see him get a crack at Dustin Poirier.
What's next for Elkins:
Elkins showed a lot of heart and impressed in a big way. Now 3-0 in the featherweight division, it's time for a step up in competition. Dennis Siver would be interesting, as Siver presents a big threat on the feet and is hard to take down.