Nicco Montano became the first women's flyweight champion in UFC history Friday night when she defeated Roxanne Modafferi via unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46, 49-46) in The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale main event at Park Theater in Las Vegas.
Montano (4-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) walked away with the inaugural flyweight belt after Modafferi (21-14 MMA, 0-2 UFC) was called upon at the last minute to replace Sijara Eubanks—who was forced out of the main event when she was hospitalized while cutting weight.
And that was just the start of the drama.
Following four rounds that could adequately be described as slugfests, Modafferi nearly secured a victory via submission late in the fifth round when she briefly locked up Montano with an armbar that appeared good enough to pull off a stunner, as UFC documented on Twitter:
MMA Fighting noted that Montano's escape allowed her to cap off an impressive run of victories:
Elsewhere, Bleacher Report's Jonathan Snowden explained Modafferi has nothing to be ashamed about:
Here's a look at the rest of the evening's results, followed by a breakdown of the other five fights that were featured on the main card.
- Nicco Montano def. Roxanne Modafferi via unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46, 49-46)
- Sean O'Malley def. Terrion Ware via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Lauren Murphy def. Barb Honchak via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Gerald Meerschaert def. Eric Spicely via TKO (R2, 2:18)
- DeAnna Bennett vs. Melinda Fabian ruled majority draw (29-27 Bennett, 28-28, 28-28)
- Brett Johns def. Joe Soto via submission (Calf Slicer) (R1, 0:30)
- Montana De La Rosa def. Christina Marks via submission (Armbar) (R1, 2:00)
- Ryan Janes def. Andrew Sanchez via TKO (R3, 0:58)
- Rachael Ostovich-Berdon def. Karine Gevorgyan via submission (Armbar) (R1, 1:40)
- Shan Dobson def. Ariel Beck via TKO (R2, 2:53)
- Gillian Robertson def. Emily Whitmire via submission (Armbar) (R1, 2:12)
Sean O'Malley vs. Terrion Ware
"Sugar" Sean O'Malley is officially on the bantamweight radar thanks to a unanimous decision win over Terrion Ware in his UFC debut.
O'Malley, who's now 9-0 in MMA fights, looked crisp and light on his feet in Round 1 as he bombarded Ware with flurries of spinning leg kicks and quick jabs.
And while he struggled quite a bit with cardio and appeared winded throughout the second round, O'Malley rebounded in the final frame and put together some big combinations to snare the win, as UFC showed on Twitter:
With moves like those, it's no surprise the MMA Lab trainee impressed observers far and wide:
If that performance was any indication, O'Malley should have quite a bit of staying power as his legend starts to grow within the promotion.
Barb Honchak vs. Lauren Murphy
Barb Honchak and Lauren Murphy put on a grappling clinic in the third round as they went the distance, but it was Murphy who gutted out a split-decision victory to get back in the win column.
The win was particularly impressive considering Murphy survived a slew of submission attempts from Honchak with time winding down, as Bloody Elbow observed:
Murphy's win, which was easily the biggest of her career to date, came after she was added to the TUF 26 card late following Roxanne Modafferi's promotion to the main event.
Understandably, Murphy was ecstatic in the Octagon after the result was unveiled.
"I needed this win so bad and Barb is so, so, so tough," she said, according to MMA Fighting.
Eric Spicely vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Gerald Meerschaert improved to 3-1 in UFC events, and he made an eye-opening statement in the middleweight division when he vanquished Eric Spicely with a body kick of epic proportions:
Now that's a nice way to rebound from a second-round TKO at the hands of Thiago Santos.
Spicely, who was also looking for redemption after Antonio Carlos Jr. defeated him via submission at UFC 212, has now dropped two straight and is 2-3 overall in UFC fights dating back to July 2016.
DeAnna Bennett vs. Melinda Fabian
In a change of pace following a quick undercard, Deanna Bennett and Melinda Fabian went the distance in a slow yet competitive tilt that was ultimately ruled a majority draw.
The stalemate, which was a slog for stretches, was highlighted by a Fabian head kick that knocked Bennett down just before the bell sounded to end Round 1, via the UFC on Twitter:
And while Fabian appeared destined for a rousing win at that point, she had a point deducted in the second round that proved costly, according to UFC.com's Damon Martin:
But considering both Fabian and Bennett were coming off losses, they'll live with a draw as they set their sights on bigger and better things in 2018.
Joe Soto vs. Brett Johns
Bantamweight Brett Johns made a statement Friday night in the main card's first bout when he improved to 15-0 in expedient fashion with a defeat over American Joe Soto.
Fox Sports UFC relayed footage of Johns ending Soto's night with a vicious calf slicer:
According to MMA Fighting's Alexander K. Lee, it was the second victory via calf slicer in UFC history. The first came in 2012 when Charles Oliveira took down Eric Wisely.
While the 25-year-old Johns continued to improve his standing in the bantamweight division, Soto suffered his first loss since UFC 195 in January 2016 when he fell to Michinori Tanaka via split decision.