Former Ultimate Fighter winner Kamaru Usman took advantage of The Ultimate Fighter finale once again as he claimed a unanimous-decision win over Rafael dos Anjos in the main event of the Heavy Hitters card from Las Vegas.
Usman controlled the bout early on, taking the middle of the cage and mixing up his striking and takedown attempts with backing up RDA. Eventually Usman landed a takedown and kept his opponent down long enough to score with some ground-and-pound to take the opening round.
Round 2 was copy-and-paste for Usman. He continued to push the pace and pressure dos Anjos with his impressive wrestling game. However, the Brazilian pushed back to make his own mark on the round.
RDA latched onto a kimura attempt that ultimately didn't work but forced Usman to defend it for an extended time. Dos Anjos ended with a flurry to potentially steal the round from the Nigerian.
Usman went right back to work, smothering dos Anjos in the clinch and on the ground to once again seize control of the fight. He continued to look for ways to end the fight, but the former champion proved to be difficult to put away.
By the fifth round, the Brazilian's toughness was about the only thing making the fight interesting. Usman's dominance was established, and RDA went for some Hail Mary solutions before getting the fight to the hands of the judges to end the night.
The victory was Usman's eighth in a row since winning The Ultimate Fighter 21 in 2015. After dominating a former champion like dos Anjos, Usman is becoming more and more difficult to ignore as a title challenger in the welterweight division.
The welterweight clash capped a night in which two fighters were crowned the winners of the 28th season of The Ultimate Fighter along with another batch of Dana White's Contender Series prospects making their debuts.
Here's a look at the complete rundown of the results and a closer look at all of the main card action.
- Kamaru Usman def. Rafael dos Anjos via unanimous decision (50-43, 49-45, 48-47)
- Juan Espino def. Justin Frazier via submission (armlock) (R1, 3:36)
- Macy Chiasson def. Pannie Kianzad via sub (RNC) (R2, 2:11)
- Pedro Munhoz def. Bryan Caraway via first-round TKO (2:39)
- Edmen Shahbazyan def. Darren Stewart via split decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
- Antonina Shevchenko def. Ji Yeon Kim via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
- Kevin Aguilar def. Rick Glenn via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
- Joseph Benavidez def. Alex Perez via first-round TKO (4:19)
- Maurice Greene def. Michel Batista via sub (triangle choke) (R1, 2:14)
- Leah Letson def. Julija Stoliarenko via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Roosevelt Roberts def. Darrell Horcher via sub (guillotine) (R1, 4:50)
- Tim Means def. Ricky Rainey via first-round TKO (1:18)
- Raoni Barcelos def. Chris Gutierrez via sub (RNC) (2nd, 4:12)
Juan Espino vs. Justin Frazier
Juan Espino wasted little time earning the title of Ultimate Fighter in the co-main event of the evening, submitting Justin Frazier in the first round.
The Spaniard made a habit of dominating with his grappling in the house, and it should come as no surprise that he wanted to finish the fight with a submission. He's picked up six of his nine career wins via tap, and Frazier is just the latest victim to lose to Espino on the mat.
With the future of The Ultimate Fighter show in question, Espino could be the last person to win the title. Either way, he's made history as the oldest fighter to win:
While 38 is a bit old to be making a UFC debut, heavyweight is the one division in which a fighter like Espino could do some damage. Submission specialists like Fabricio Werdum and Frank Mir have made an impact. He'll look to follow in their footsteps as he takes advantage of his new title.
Macy Chiasson vs. Pannie Kianzad
Macy Chiasson was the first fighter to be crowned the Ultimate Fighter on the card. The 27-year-old secured her title with a second-round submission victory over fellow Team Gastelum fighter Pannie Kianzad.
Chiasson's physicality was a key factor. The 5'11" featherweight bullied Kianzad around the cage and established herself as the better fighter for the majority of the fight. Kianzad was unable to get in range and Chiasson dominated the grappling for the most part.
However, Kianzad had a moment of brilliance that looked like it could turn the fight.
The Iranian caught her opponent in a strong armbar attempt, but Chiasson was able to will herself out of the hold. From there, Chiasson went on to lock in the rear-naked choke that would guarantee her a lucrative UFC contract and her name in history as one of the fighters to win the long-running Ultimate Fighter contest.
As Damon Martin noted, it's good for the organization that Chiasson won the title because the organization is in dire need of women bantamweights to make things interesting.
Pedro Munhoz vs. Bryan Caraway
Bryan Caraway has exactly one career knockout to his name. It was 11 years ago, yet he felt like his best strategy against Pedro Munhoz was to look for one early.
Unsurprisingly, it didn't go well.
Caraway came out guns blazing against his fellow submission artist, but Munhoz was there to fire back every time with blows of his own in a fast and furious fight.
Ultimately, a kick to the body turned out to be the difference, as he sent Caraway to the ground in the fetal position and drew the finish soon thereafter.
It's Munhoz's second win a row. He has only lost one fight in the last three years, dropping a split decision to John Dodson. Getting a win in dominant fashion here should boost his stock and lead to a much bigger fight next time out.
Darren Stewart vs. Edmen Shahbazyan
Edmen Shahbazyan came into his UFC debut with some similarities to his manager, Ronda Rousey. Outside of the UFC, he is 7-0 with seven first-round finishes.
In his debut, he proved he could win a fight in three rounds as well.
Shahbazyan threw a changeup at Stewart in the early going. Instead of looking for the knockout with his striking, Shahbazyan employed a grappling-heavy approach that suffocated his opponent and gave him a head start on the scorecards.
Just when it looked like Shahbazyan was going to cruise to an easy decision, Stewart rallied in the third round. The 27-year-old came close to finishing the fight after rocking an exhausted Shahbazyan, but the prospect showed heart and survived the round.
It wasn't the prettiest performance in the world, but Shahbazyan is only 21. A win over a fighter of Stewart's caliber at this point in his career shows serious potential.
Ji Yeon Kim vs. Antonina Shevchenko
Great Muay Thai skills run in the Shevchenko family, and Antonina Shevchenko proved it in her UFC debut against Ji Yeon Kim. The older sister of UFC title challenger Valentina Shevchenko, Antonina utilized her striking to build a sizable lead on the scorecards through three rounds.
Ji Yeon Kim came into the bout 2-1 in the UFC, but simply didn't have the skills to keep up with Shevchenko's striking. Her boxing was offset by her opponent's body kicks and ability to control the distance.
What makes the win even more impressive for the 34-year-old is that Kim missed weight by more than five pounds at Thursday's weigh-in.
With Shevchenko's background on Dana White's Contender Series and familial connections, she's a promising fighter to keep an eye on in the women's flyweight division.