The Real Winners and Losers from TUF 28 Finale and UFC Fight Night 142
Two consecutive weekends, two consecutive cards. MMA has taken a terrifying leap into the holiday shopping season. This is how people get arrested.
Last week’s action started in the middle of the night for American audiences, with UFC Fight Night 141 airing from Beijing. The evening did a nice job of spreading guilt and emptiness around when 43-year-old Tito Ortiz dropped 48-year-old Chuck Liddell like a bag of soil in the main event of an MMA card brought to you by Oscar de la Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions (You can see a full recap of those card results here).
This weekend‘s twofer went down Friday and Saturday with back-to-back UFC events. The first was the finale of the 28th season of The Ultimate Fighter, which took place in Las Vegas. First, yes, The Ultimate Fighter still exists, and second, the main event was definitely worth watching, with former champ Rafael dos Anjos welcoming frightening phenom Kamaru Usman to the upper level of the welterweight division.
On Saturday, UFC Fight Night 142 went down from Australia. Atop the card were former heavyweight champ Junior dos Santos and Sydney Tai Tuivasa, who is known as one of the UFC's most feared hitters and shoe-beer drinkers.
It was a lot of time. Did you stop short of making such a commitment? You aren't the first. Luckily, and for the second straight week, we have you covered on both cards. And as always, the final stat lines don't reveal all. These are the real winners and losers for the TUF 28 Final and UFC Fight Night 142.
We'll start with Saturday's Fight Night card, then look back at the key moments from the TUF finale. Full results for both cards appear at the end.
Winner: Junior dos Santos
Don't bury Junior dos Santos just yet.
The 34-year-old Brazilian messed around, flew across the world and knocked out Tai Tuivasa in the main event of UFC Fight Night 142.
It was a back-and-forth slugfest, with the hometown favorite landing some heavy shots. Tuivasa kept the pressure high and seemingly had no great regard for Junior's standup. His leg kicks appeared to do damage. As did some big hands at the end of the first.
It was more of the same in the second until a sudden Dos Santos counter right planted Tuivasa on the canvas. Junior pounced and quickly had mount, a position Tuivasa had apparently never experienced before. Dos Santos responded like the veteran he is, calmly punching Tuivasa into a paste until the ref stopped the action.
"This guy's tough," a happy and lovable-as-always Dos Santos told broadcaster Dan Hardy. "I knew he was tough. But not that tough. He kicked me very hard on the leg, and I am feeling it still now. ... My game plan is always my boxing thing, man. I have knockout power!"
Over the past five years, JDS has dealt with injuries, a PED suspension and inconsistency in the cage. All those wars seemed to take their toll on his body and skill set. That still may be the case, but he found rejuvenation in Australia, grabbing his second straight win. He also called for a rematch with Alistair Overeem. That would be watchable.
It's hard not to be happy for one of the sport's best guys. You know he would be happy for you.
Winner: Shogun Rua
Whatever rejuvenating elixir Dos Santos with sippin' on, he shared some with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua on the plane from Brazil to Adelaide.
Seriously, give it up for Shogun. The Brazilian Hall of Famer weathered a heavy early beating from Australian Tyson Pedro, appeared to cause a leg injury to Pedro and finished it with ground strikes early in the third.
It looked like a kick to the back of Pedro's knee caused an injury in the second. Not long after, the knee just buckled. That was something Shogun's chin refused to do when he ate big shots from Pedro in the opening minutes, including a massive uppercut that looked like a widowmaker.
It looked like Shogun was en route to his second ugly loss in a row. He wasn't. Don't look now, but Shogun Rua, at 37, is a winner four of his past five fights. Title shot? I say yes.
Eight Australian and New Zealand fighters were spread like Vegemite across the toast of UFC Fight Night 142.
Unfortunately, it was a bit of a mixed bag on the night, to put it politely.
Tuivasa, Pedro, Mark Hunt, Jake Matthews, Alex Gorgees and Suman Mokhtarian came up short. Only flyweight Kai Kara-France and light heavyweight Jimmy Crute went home with wins.
Hunt appeared to have one foot on the golf course with an entirely lackluster loss to Justin Willis. This was the 44-year-old Hunt's final fight in the UFC. He has said he has no plans to retire anytime soon and might compete elsewhere, but that performance suggested he's ready to pack it up for good.
"See you somewehere else," he said to Hardy after the fight. OK.
Other notables among the defeats was Anthony Rocco Martin (i.e., the artist formerly known as Tony Martin) choking out Jake Matthews. This is Matthews' first loss in his past four contests, with all but one of them in Oceania. But have no fear. The apparent poster boy for MMA in that part of the world is still 14-4 at 24. Better days are likely ahead.
Perhaps the most interesting under-the-radar victory in this category was Kara-France winning his UFC debut in exciting fashion. The 25-year-old New Zealander trains with Israel Adesanya, Dan Hooker and others at City Kickboxing in Auckland. They might just have a little something going in that shop.
Winners: The Flyweights
On Friday and again on Saturday, fighters in the embattled men's flyweight division made a statement.
Competing in the TUF finale undercard, elder statesman Joseph Benavidez knocked out Alex Perez in the first round. The next night, newcomer Kai Kara-France lit up the crowd with an exciting, back-and-forth decision over Elias Garcia, with Wilson Reis getting a close nod over Ben Nguyen two fights later.
Maybe there was projection involved, but there seemed to be an extra sense of purpose. It makes sense given that their workplace may soon choose to stop giving them work.
White called the division's future "murky" on Saturday, a clear assertion that will surely tamp down speculation that the UFC is folding the 125-pound tent.
After Benavidez's win—which in itself was seriously wacky—the veteran ran headlong toward the elephant.
"I want to use this to address the 125-pound division," he told broadcaster Jimmy Smith after his win. "People are talking about getting rid of it, but it's more exciting than ever. I want to take this opportunity to call out the winner of that title shot."
Benavidez was referencing the upcoming fight between bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw and flyweight champ Henry Cejudo, who are rather head-scratchingly fighting for the flyweight belt despite all the uncertainty surrounding the division. Your guess is as good as mine. But until the cloud is lifted, it's casting a pall over this assemblage.
Winner: Kamaru Usman
50-43, 49-45, 48-47.
That is one of the wildest scorecards you will ever see. And if you ignore that bizarre 48-47, it speaks to the equally wild level of dominance Kamaru Usman displayed against Rafael dos Anjos in Friday's main event.
Usman used his wrestling and power to bully the former lightweight champion, who was outsized at 170 pounds.
This shows that if you're going to enact changes to stop dangerous weight-cutting practices, everyone probably has to do it at once. Or you could create new weight classes, like 165 pounds, to prevent these discrepancies from existing. OK, back to the program.
Usman isn't known for a high-octane style, and that didn't change here. The finish eluded him despite his search for it, but that has as much to do with RDA's toughness as anything else. Dos Anjos tried to mix it up with Usman early, but the younger, larger man was just too much.
Exciting or not, Usman is really, really good and is fairly charismatic away from the Octagon. UFC President Dana White said afterward that Usman could even steal Colby Covington's welterweight title shot. That may or may not happen, but either way, Usman is ensconced for the long haul in this division's topmost echelon.
Loser: The Ultimate Fighter
Hearty congratulations to Juan Espino and Macy Chiasson, who earned first- and second-round submission victories, respectively, to take home the heavyweight and women's featherweight contracts to close TUF 28.
But it sure feels like we're a long way from when TUF was appointment viewing, doesn't it? Stashing the finale shows on the Friday before a larger card—as they did for this one and the three before it—suggests a willful sort of diminishment.
It's like putting a hamburger next to a T-bone steak. Hamburgers are delicious, but you know what people are going to pick when given that choice. Few people—the masochistic gluttons—have the stomach for both. Is that the way you would go about selling a hamburger you were any kind of proud of?
According to industry estimates, the season's last episode drew a paltry 140,000 viewers. As the UFC's broadcast deal shifts to ESPN, TUF will no longer appear on FS1—but will continue at the Worldwide Leader. UFC honchos appear to be hoping that rebooting various aspects of the show will help. Dana White has indicated that the show still "does well." That depends on your definition of "well."
We'll see. But it's clear the franchise needs more than refelted pool tables and a fresh coat of paint. This legendary piece of MMA programming has never been less relevant.
Winner: Sister Acts
Observers circled Antonina Shevchenko's UFC debut on the calendar some time ago. She's the pro kickboxer and muay thai striker who ran up a 6-0 MMA record, culminating with a TKO on Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series.
She moved to 7-0 Friday, when she repeatedly sniped down Ji Yeon Kim in Las Vegas. It wasn't always clean or pretty, but it was enough to elicit 30-27s across the board.
As you may know, Antonina is the older sister of Valentina Shevchenko, who fights Joanna Jedrzejczyk next week for the vacant women's flyweight title. Both sisters are good at fighting but are also dynamic out of the cage and comfortable in the spotlight.
Oh, and neither one is taking a sister-on-sister matchup all the way off the table. That could move some units if they feel up for it. Either way, good on the elder Shevchenko for lifting her end of the equation off the ground.
Loser: Referee Yves Lavigne
There seems to be a ref rant in here damn near every week. It's not to pick on them, but frankly, they're not giving commentators much of a choice.
This time, we're talking about Yves Lavigne, who has served as the third man in the cage for many a big-time contest. His gaffe Friday, which occurred while Benavidez was pounding on Perez, was pretty big time too, but maybe not in the same way.
We seemed poised for a ground-and-pound stoppage (and a violation for strikes to the back of the head, should a certain someone have cared to take a gander) when Lavigne stepped in and placed his hands on Benavidez and Perez. Benavidez stopped and stood up. A nice TKO win, right? Until Lavigne told them to keep going. Pardon? What else could that gesture have possibly meant? Some kind of break? Benavidez was wailing on him. So what, then? What? An explanation never came.
Perez capitalized on the mishap by regrouping and re-pressing the attack, but Benavidez went on to get the win a short while later—no thanks to Lavigne.
The broadcast team brought in Marc Ratner, the UFC's director of regulatory affairs, to make sense of what had happened.
"It looked like to me that [Lavigne] had stopped the fight," said Ratner. "He was indecisive there, and it really could have cost Joseph a fight. I was surprised."
Just get out of your own way, refs. Yes, it's a hard job. It's very hard. And you know what? It gets even harder when you insist on tying your shoelaces together and throwing banana peels everywhere before you go in there. Come on, guys. A lot is at stake here.
TUF 28 Finale and UFC Fight Night 142 Full Card Results
The Ultimate Fighter 28 Finale
Kamaru Usman def. Rafael dos Anjos by unanimous decision (50-43, 49-45, 48-47)
Juan Espino def. Justin Frazier by submission (armlock), 3:36, Rd. 1 (TUF 28 men's final)
Macy Chiasson def. Pannie Kianzad by submission (rear-naked choke), 2:11, Rd. 2 (TUF 28 women's final)
Pedro Munhoz def. Bryan Caraway by TKO, 2:39, Rd. 1
Edmen Shahbazyan def. Darren Stewart by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Antonina Shevchenko def. Ji Yeon Kim unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Kevin Aguilar def. Rick Glenn by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Joseph Benavidez def. Alex Perez by TKO, 4:19, Rd. 1
Maurice Greene def. Michel Batista by submission (triangle choke), 2:14, Rd. 1
Leah Letson def. Julija Stoliarenko by split decision
Roosevelt Roberts def. Darrell Horcher by submission (guillotine choke), 4:50, Rd. 1
Tim Means def. Ricky Rainey by TKO, 1:18, Rd. 1
Raoni Barcelos def. Chris Gutierrez by submission (rear-naked choke), 4:12, Rd. 2
UFC Fight Night 142
Junior dos Santos def. Tai Tuivasa by TKO, 2:30, Rd. 2
Shogun Rua def. Tyson Pedro by TKO, 0:43, Rd. 3
Justin Willis def. Mark Hunt by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Anthony Rocco Martin def. Jake Matthews by technical submission (anaconda choke), 1:19, Rd. 3
Sodiq Yusuff def. Suman Mokhtarian by TKO, 2:14, Rd. 1
Jim Crute def. Paul Crute by submission (kimura), 4:51, Rd. 3
Alexey Kunchenko def. Yushin Okami by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
Wilson Reis def. Ben Nguyen by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Keita Nakamura def. Salim Touahri by split decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)
Kai Kara-France def. Elias Garcia by unanimous decision (30-25, 30-25, 30-26)
Christos Giagos def. Mizuto Hirota by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 30-28)
Damir Ismagulov def. Alex Gorgees by unanimous decision (30-25, 30-26, 30-26)
Scott Harris covers MMA and other things for Bleacher Report.