UFC: Ultimate Fighter VIII Finale review
by Scott Newman(MMA)
Posted on August 14, 2009, 2:13 PM
UFC: The Ultimate Fighter VIII Finale
Las Vegas, Nevada
-As what you would call a hardcore fan of MMA, part of me is ashamed to admit that I loved the eighth season of TUF - Team Nogueira vs. Team Mir. Like the season that preceded it, TUF 8 saw 32 fighters – sixteen Light-Heavyweights and sixteen Lightweights – begin the series, with half of them being eliminated prior to entering the house. Now, it’s a known fact that I love random craziness (see Gamburyan, Manny) in the TUF house and you could tell right away that TUF 8 was going to be especially mental when one of the guys who was eliminated in the preliminary round compared himself in his pre-fight spiel to Hitler and Napoleon. Really. So where TUF 7 had been a season full of non-personalities outside of the self-deprecating Amir, the cocky CB, the drunkard JT Money and the moron Jeremy May, TUF 8 was totally different. This was another Season 5, a house full of lunatics, hot-heads, pranksters and all-round psychopaths.
How do you start talking about TUF 8 without mentioning Junie Browning? The ‘bad boy’ of the season, regardless of whether his act was purely for the cameras, provided the most wild moments, starting physical fights inside the house and somehow (unlike TUF 5’s Sims and Thomas) not being punished outwardly for it. His drunken antics in an early episode provided the first fireworks of the show and things got crazier from there. Guys drinking shots of piss? Check. A LW begging a LHW to knock him out and being obliged? Check. Man snapping over bits of his cereal being removed? Check. Although the puerile, somewhat ridiculous antics threatened to upstage the fights themselves, I thought the crop of fighters this time around were unusually strong – definitely the best since the fifth season in fact. And where the coaching dynamic between Rampage and Forrest had meant for well, nothing in particular, here Nogueira came off as such a humble, nice guy while Mir was the opposite – arrogant and big-headed – that you couldn’t help but look forward to their clash at UFC 92. For me at least, from the moment Junie bizarrely threatened to “bottle” members of the opposite team, TUF 8 became must-watch TV. And thus the finale was one of my most anticipated cards of the year.
See, on TUF 8 even guys who were eliminated in the quarter-finals had some memorable moments. Take these two for example – Polakowski, originally famed for his wild brawls with Olaf Alfonso in the old WEC, became recognizable on TUF for his penchant for randomly hugging his teammates, and later for snapping when the marshmallow pieces were removed from his Lucky Charms. In a season full of odd, funny moments, the one that made me laugh the most was Polakowski inexplicably “commissioning” Phillipe Nover to draw a cartoon reading ‘FIRE THE CANNONS!’. I mean seriously, what the HELL? Delgado unfortunately was remembered more for a sad incident that saw Frank Mir question his BJJ black belt – an incident which led to Junie Browning taunting him by throwing a ‘McDojo’ black belt at him and then spitting on it. It’s safe to say then that both of these men were firmly looking for some redemption.
Round One begins and Delgado works some front kicks to keep Polakowski at distance. Left hook by Delgado as Polakowski comes forward, and he pulls guard, but John’s having none of that and he stands quickly. Body kick lands for Roli. Delgado is actually using his reach nicely here. BIG FLYING KNEE drops Polakowski and he looks in trouble, and Delgado pounces and passes right into side mount. Polakowski works back to guard but again Delgado passes into side control. Couple of knees to the body land for Roli but little is happening to be fair. Polakowski rolls to escape, but gives his back in the process and Delgado locks up a body triangle. He works for the rear naked choke, chopping with some punches for good measure, but Polakowski defends and avoids it nicely. Eventually he gives it up and lands some punches before twisting for an armbar, but the cage gets in the way and Polakowski escapes to his feet to finish the round. Total domination for Delgado in that round.
Round Two and Polakowski presses with some punches, so Delgado pulls guard. John stands out of it and takes another flying knee, but with less impact than the last one. Delgado goes back to using the front kick to keep the distance, and then he pulls guard and attempts a leglock. Polakowski rolls out, and they come back to their feet before Roli looks for another takedown. He gets John down this time but gets caught in a guillotine, but he’s in half-guard and doesn’t look in trouble. Delgado works free and Polakowski tries to turn into him, but now Delgado locks up an arm-in guillotine and pulls guard, and after a moment Polakowski taps out.
Really impressive showing for Delgado who looked oh, about a million times better here than he did in either of his TUF fights. Guess that black belt wasn’t McDojo in the end! Fun little fight for what it was.
Roop was probably the biggest non-entity on the show as I can’t remember him doing anything in particular. BJ Penn student Nelson on the other hand, despite being eliminated earlier than Roop, had been part of the drunken antics in the fourth episode and had attempted to goad Efrain Escudero into assaulting him in the house. That didn’t quite go Nelson’s way though as Dana White subsequently set up a fight between the two in the quarter-finals, and Efrain choked the Hawaiian out.
1st round begins and Roop comes out swinging a couple of wild combos, throwing out some crazy kicks. Nothing lands clean though until a knee to the body, but that allows Nelson to grab hold of him and take his back standing, getting one hook in. Shane drags him down but still only has one hook in, and George tries to block the second one. Second hook is in though and Roop is in trouble. Nelson looks to lock up the choke and lands some decent punches as annoyingly, you can hear Roop’s cornerman telling the ref to stand them up as Shane’s not doing anything. Well, he’s doing more than your guy, dude. Body triangle now for Nelson and he continues to land punches, but Roop does a good job of defending the choke. Roop manages to turn into Nelson and gets to guard, where he lands some elbows from the bottom, but Nelson keeps top position to end the round. Shane Nelson’s round for sure there.
Into the 2nd and Roop again comes out aggressively with the strikes, stuffing a takedown attempt. Roop gets a bit too aggressive though and Nelson gets a takedown to guard as he comes forward. Roop works a high guard as Nelson stands to attempt a pass, landing some punches before working into side control. Nice pass into full mount for Shane but Roop immediately scrambles to half-guard. Mount again for Nelson and he opens up with some good punches. Roop tries to use the Wagnney Fabiano trick of spidering his legs up the cage to escape, but Nelson keeps him mounted. Scramble allows Roop to his feet, but Nelson grabs a guillotine and pulls guard. It doesn’t look tight though and Roop chops away at the body before escaping. Knee to the body as Nelson stands, and Roop follows with a combo and then manages to block a takedown. They end up clinched and Roop drives him into the fence, landing with some foot stomps and a takedown to end the round. Round was closer but it still goes to Nelson on my scorecard.
Third and final round, and Roop comes out swinging, looking to push the pace, but Nelson shoots and as Roop sprawls the Hawaiian spins to take the back standing, getting one hook in. Roop manages to spin into the clinch and they exchange some punches inside with Roop getting the better of it. They separate and then go right back to the clinch, with Roop forcing Shane into the cage and using a bodylock to take him down. He ends up in half-guard before standing, and now Roop comes forward with another combo that looks to have Nelson a bit stunned. Nelson shoots, but ends up pulling guard when Roop stuffs it, and from there he looks to tie George up. Roop ends up bringing the fight back to the feet, where he almost lands with a high kick. Superman punch lands and they end up clinched against the fence, before Roop separates and lands a clipping head kick. Back to the clinch as Nelson looks to take him down, and sure enough he gets a double leg to guard. He drops for a leglock and looks to have a heel hook, but Roop manages to gut it out as the round ends.
I’ve got this 29-28 for Shane Nelson despite Roop’s late charge in the third. Judges have it 29-28 Nelson, 29-28 Roop, and 29-28 for Nelson, giving him the split decision. At least the right guy won then. Pretty decent fight actually if nothing special.
Kingsbury had actually lost his preliminary bout, but was reinstated when injury removed Karn Grigoryan from the competition. Former pro-wrestler Lawlor, meanwhile, had been knocked out by Ryan Bader in the quarters, but was more involved in the afore-mentioned puerile antics, being the one to piss in the fruit platter (and also chug shots of piss, a scene that was edited out by Spike TV) and also the man to knock out Lightweight David Kaplan upon Kaplan’s odd urgings. For reasons unexplained Lawlor’s grown a HUGE Evan Tanner-esque beard for this fight. Kyle looks to have a decent size advantage too as he’s a big, ripped 205lbs while Lawlor looks more like a blown-up MW.
First round begins and Lawlor immediately shoots and gets a single leg. Kingsbury works immediately to his feet though and avoids a guillotine. Another takedown puts Kyle on his back in half-guard though and it looks like Lawlor’s working for a D’Arce. Kingsbury manages to avoid and gets to full guard, where he works the rubber guard in. Lawlor keeps top position and slips out of the rubber guard, landing a couple of short elbows and hammer fists. Lawlor continues to work with conservative ground-and-pound, as Kingsbury looks to wall-walk to his feet using the cage. Good punches land for Lawlor in a little flurry. With 30 seconds to go Lawlor passes to side mount and grabs a guillotine as Kyle scrambles to his feet, but he can’t lock it in and ends up releasing, landing a knee before dropping for a double leg to end the round. 10-9 Lawlor.
Round Two and Kyle avoids an early takedown, and then sprawls to avoid another but this time Lawlor has a hold of his legs. He switches from an ankle pick to a single leg and gets the takedown, landing in Kyle’s guard. Kingsbury manages to scramble to his feet but Lawlor goes for a takedown again. Knee to the gut lands for Kyle to avoid it, but Lawlor comes back up and again looks to muscle him down. Kyle tries to sprawl out, but Lawlor manages to turn the corner and gets him to his back in guard again. Lawlor works into side mount and controls Kingsbury from there, but Kyle manages to turn into him and stands, landing a knee. Double leg from Lawlor puts him down again though and he lands with a solid elbow into Kyle’s half-guard. Kingsbury attempts to roll but Lawlor’s having none of that and he keeps top position in the half-guard. Round ends as Kingsbury regains full guard. 10-9 Lawlor again as Kingsbury can’t seem to stop the takedown.
Third and final round, and Kyle throws some punches before stuffing a takedown. Lawlor drives him into the fence and looks to complete the double leg, but this time Kingsbury does a good job of avoiding it. Lawlor hangs onto a single leg and as Kyle sprawls out, he turns the corner and gets him down. Kingsbury uses the fence to get back to his feet and Lawlor stays on him, desperately looking to get a double leg. Nice takedown from Lawlor brings him down, but only for a moment as Kyle explodes back up to his feet. Lawlor looks for the single again but Kyle continues to defend well. Tom is looking tired now as he continues to go for the takedown, but Kingsbury’s defence is much better in this round. Kyle lands some punches for good measure but Lawlor turns and manages to take the back standing. Kingsbury turns into him and Lawlor keeps going for the takedown, but he can’t get it and Kyle keeps sprawling out. Lawlor looks EXHAUSTED now. He keeps driving for the takedown though to his credit, and with seconds to go he finally gets the takedown to guard. Round ends with Lawlor in top position. 10-9 for Kingsbury but this has to be Lawlor’s decision.
Judges all score it 29-28 for Tom Lawlor. Lawlor basically just outwrestled the larger man here and although he didn’t do much damage, Kingsbury was unable to stop the takedown for the most part and in the end that was the difference. Bit of a dull fight overall.
Bruchez was perhaps the weakest member of the cast to make it into the house, and he was eliminated in a one-sided fight by Vinny Magalhaes in the quarter-finals. BJJ black belt Marshall, like Kyle Kingsbury, was actually eliminated in the preliminary round (via controversial decision though it must be said) and was reinstated when Antwain Britt pulled out via injury. Marshall had gone on to do pretty well, making the semi-finals before being eliminated by Ryan Bader. On paper this was a one-sided bout in favour of Marshall.
We get underway and Marshall hurts him with a flurry of punches right away. Bruchez manages to get to a clinch, but Marshall trips him down right into side mount. Elliot goes right for a kimura and uses it to step over into full mount, where Jules gives his back. Rear naked choke is locked in and Bruchez holds on for a moment before tapping out.
Total squash and quite rightfully so. Marshall just blew right through Bruchez and with the skills he possesses I think if he continues to train with top guys like Marquardt, Carwin and GSP he could make some noise at 205lbs in the future.
Team Quest’s Soszynski was most memorable for his long-winded series of pranks in the house, but he had been an early favourite to win the LHW tournament due to his experience (fights against the likes of Ben Rothwell, Mike Kyle, Dan Christison) before his elimination at the hands of Vinny Magalhaes. Primm was one of the lesser personalities in the house and had been taken out by Eliot Marshall.
We begin and Soszynski casually circles around before stunning Primm with a combo. Takedown to guard from Primm and Soszynski looks to tie him up from the bottom. Soszynski kicks him away but Primm gets back on him in a clinch. Krzysztof breaks off and manages to avoid a takedown, and this time Primm pulls guard. Slam from Soszynski inside the guard and then he stands back up. They go back into the clinch and Primm looks for the takedown again, but Soszynski lands some uppercuts that hurt him. Primm breaks with a knee and shoots for a single leg, but Soszynski stuffs it and spins to the back, taking top position in side mount. Soszynski stands out as Primm regains guard, and then he drops back into half-guard and looks for a kimura. He comes close, but ends up giving it up and standing out of the guard. Big punch drops into the guard and the round ends there.
Second round and Soszynski comes forward and lands some decent punches to begin with. Primm shoots on a single but Soszynski stuffs it and works back to his feet. They break and now Primm pushes forward swinging for the fences. Soszynski answers and comes back with punches of his own, before stuffing another takedown. Primm looks to pull guard, but Soszynski passes into half-guard before standing back up. Soszynski goes back down into half-guard and looks to pass, before he looks to lock up the kimura again. This time despite being in half-guard he manages to wrench it up and Primm quickly taps out, looking injured post-fight.
Not the most exciting fight and Primm was more game than I’d expected, but this was a solid win for Soszynski and he’s since gone on to a couple more wins. I’m not a big fan of his by any means but it’s nice in a way to see a veteran like him use TUF as a platform for success late in his career.
This was the first televised bout, a bit of a controversial decision given Browning’s in-house behaviour. Still, he’d been the most talked-about member of the cast despite not really showing all that much fighting talent, and so it made sense to showcase him. He’d been training with Xtreme Couture to prepare for this and was said to have cleaned up his act and “matured” ala Chris Leben. Kaplan meanwhile, despite being a solid wrestler with some decent skill, had been the fool of the house and was knocked out by LHW Tom Lawlor after begging the larger man to “DO IT!” His entrance here, although it’s cut on the DVD, was one of the highlights of the show, as he came out with large shades, his hair bleached blonde, dancing to General Public’s cheesy Tenderness.
Round One and Junie lands immediately with a kick to the groin. Ref calls time as it was clearly inadvertent and gives Kaplan time to recover. They restart and exchange some strikes, and Browning tags him with a couple of punches. Nice combinations from Junie as Kaplan lumbers forward. Big knee from Junie stuns Kaplan but Junie slips to the ground on a high kick and Kaplan goes for an ankle lock. Junie escapes and Kaplan is cut already. Beautiful jumping guard pass from Browning allows him to take Kaplan’s back, and he looks to lock in a rear naked choke. Good job by Kaplan though to escape to his feet in a clinch. They break off and Junie tags him again with a combo. Kaplan looks busted up now. Kaplan answers back with a one-two and forces Junie into the cage in a bodylock, looking to take him down, and he does so, standing over Junie in the guard. Leglock attempt from Kaplan goes awry and Junie ends up on top, slipping easily out of a guillotine. Junie lands with some elbows from half-guard and then takes the back again as Kaplan scrambles. It looks like Browning’s got the rear naked choke locked up, but Kaplan manages to fight it off. Kaplan works to turn into Junie and gets top position, and then they come back up into the clinch and exchange some punches and knees. Good elbow inside from Junie and the round ends there.
2nd round and Kaplan swings some punches before Browning shoots on a double leg and gets Kaplan on his back in guard. Into half-guard for Junie and he works to get his leg free. He manages to hop into side mount and from there he steps over for an armbar and extends it for the tapout.
Fun fight actually and Junie showed he does have some talent, albeit nowhere near at the levels that he’d like to claim. Still, a massive improvement from his underwhelming performances on the show. Whether he’ll go anywhere with his new found infamy is still up in the air, though. Post-fight he pretty much admits a lot of his behaviour on the show was an act, but whether I believe him there I’m not sure at all.
One of two fights on the finale not involving TUF 8 cast members. Gouveia had dropped to 185lbs following his knockout at the hands of Goran Reljic and subsequently took out Ryan Jensen, while MacDonald was looking to build on the momentum of his win over Jason Lambert at UFC 88. In a bizarre circumstance, Gouveia actually came in at 189lbs, missing weight by four pounds, and so he was forced to forfeit 20% of his purse to MacDonald.
We begin and despite missing weight Gouveia actually looks like the smaller fighter to me. MacDonald looks like he wants to avoid the striking and he shoots on a single leg, with Gouveia grabbing a headlock to try to defend. MacDonald gets him down, but Gouveia kicks him away using a butterfly guard and winds up clinched. Gouveia breaks off and lands a heavy leg kick. Body kick from MacDonald to answer and then they exchange some wild punches, and Gouveia decks him with a big right-left combo! MacDonald is in trouble as Gouveia drops to pound him with some hammer fists, and then he opens up with some VICIOUS ELBOWS that split MacDonald’s head open and the Canadian taps out there.
Nice performance from Gouveia as he just caught MacDonald coming in wildly, dropped him and finished him in nasty fashion on the ground. Guess he was pissed about losing that 20% of his purse! Really brutal finish to a swift fight. Good win for Gouveia.
This was a rematch of their first fight at UFN 14, a fight that had ended on probably the most controversial note of the year, as Burns had accidentally poked Johnson in the eye, dropping him, and the referee had mistakenly called it as a TKO victory. The first fight had largely been controlled by Johnson, the bigger, more explosive fighter, and I figured he would take out Burns to avenge the ridiculous loss here.
1st round starts and they exchange some kicks early with Burns also landing a jab or two. Nice body kick into a left hand for Johnson. Takedown from Rumble follows and he lands in Burns’ guard. Burns tries to turn his hips for a submission, but Johnson stands and then drops a big shot down into side mount. Burns gets a triangle from an odd position on the bottom, with Johnson off to the side, but Rumble manages to slip free and winds up back in the guard. Johnson controls him from the guard without really doing much damage, and the referee ends up standing them. Good right hand from Burns, but Johnson catches a kick and puts Burns down with a right. Burns stays on his back in the crab position and Johnson kicks his legs, until the ref calls Burns up. They wildly exchange punches to end the round, with Johnson narrowly landing the better shots. Close first round actually. I’d lean to Johnson by a hair.
Into the 2nd and Burns pushes forward as Johnson throws out some kicks. Johnson shoots on a single leg but Burns defends it well, but only for a moment as Johnson turns the corner and gets him down. Kimura attempt from half-guard from Burns, but Johnson slips free as Burns looks to extend it and remains in top position. Good job from Burns of getting back to full guard. Nice elbow lands for Johnson from the top and Burns answers with some of his own from the bottom. Burns keeps throwing his legs up to attempt a submission but he can’t get anything locked up. Johnson works the body with some punches and catches him with some elbows to the head as well, but the action looks to have slowed down a bit again. Johnson avoids a triangle and lands a couple of punches, and then lands a hammer fist as Burns turns for an armbar. Round ends with Johnson on top in the guard. I’ve got this two rounds in the book for Johnson now but it’s pretty close.
Round Three begins and both men open with some strikes. Good jab by Johnson and then he avoids a flurry and KILLS BURNS DEAD WITH A SICKENING LEFT HIGH KICK!~!
Good lord. Absolutely vicious knockout and probably one of the best three of 2008 in fact. Puts Rory Markham’s head kick of Brodie Farber into the shade! Burns was OUT before he hit the mat. Fight wasn’t the most exciting (although it wasn’t bad) but man, what a crazy finish, and Johnson finally managed to get some redemption for the ridiculous result of their first fight. Johnson is an exciting guy to watch and his sheer explosiveness makes him a difficult match for most Welterweights, but being a young inexperienced guy hopefully UFC don’t throw him into the deep end too soon.
Arizona State wrestling champion Bader was my ‘one to watch’ from the beginning on TUF 8, and Team Nogueira’s first pick made the finals with relative ease, submitting Kyle Kingsbury in the prelims before knocking out Tom Lawlor and decisioning Eliot Marshall. Some critics accused Bader of being a lay-n-pray artist after his win over Marshall, but really that was ridiculous as it was more Marshall’s excellent defensive game that prevented Bader from doing much damage. Here he was faced with an even more skilled BJJ artist in Magalhaes, who from what I know, is one of the most accomplished BJJ players in the world. Vinny had taken out Rashad Evans’ brother Lance in the prelims with leg kicks, then submitted Jules Bruchez and Krzysztof Soszynski to make the finals. This was a real styles clash on paper, but I was going with Bader to take the victory as despite his huge advantage on the ground, I didn’t see how Vinny could take such an accomplished wrestler down, and standing while both men aren’t the best kickboxers, Bader’s got brutally heavy hands.
Pre-fight introductions are hilarious as Bruce Buffer somehow screws up Vinny’s last name royally like he’s in Japan or something.
First round and Bader comes out with a leg kick early. Vinny answers with a body kick as both men seem content to strike. Another good leg kick lands from Bader as he presses the action. Good right from Bader and then he follows with a charging knee, before quickly backing out of a clinch. High kick attempt from Bader causes him to fall to the canvas, but he leaps up quickly and avoids the follow-up flurry from the Brazilian. Both men block high kicks and then Bader narrowly misses an overhand right. Bader continues to push forward and suddenly a HUGE OVERHAND RIGHT absolutely FOLDS Magalhaes up! Vinny tries to roll but Bader pounces on him with hammer fists and that’s all she wrote! Huge crowd pop for the finish too, evidently Bader is a popular guy.
Replay shows the punch didn’t really land cleanly, it was more the edge of Bader’s fist that connected with Vinny’s temple. Guy has some seriously heavy hands. Fight went exactly as I’d expected it to go, although I guess the Magalhaes fans would’ve been surprised at how it went down (somehow Bader came in as the underdog!). Not much of a fight but that was a brutal knockout and with his blend of wrestling and power I think Bader is perhaps the top prospect in the whole UFC right now. His current skillset means he’d probably be able to beat about 75% of the guys in the world already, but it has to be remembered that he’s only 25 and is still inexperienced, so UFC shouldn’t throw him in with anyone in the other 25% just yet. Still, Darth Bader has tremendous potential and I for one am firmly on his bandwagon.
After three one-sided beatings (over Joe Duarte, Dave Kaplan and George Roop) put him in the finals, the New York-based Filipino nurse Nover was hyped beyond belief by everyone, including Dana White, who pushed him as a possible new Anderson Silva or Georges St-Pierre. Nothing like pressure! Escudero meanwhile, a Mexican-American out of the Arizona Combat Sports team, had shown great skills of his own on the tapings, submitting all three of his opponents to make the finals with a wrestling-submission game reminiscent of early Diego Sanchez. Efrain had become even more popular with his fellow cast members as it was he who took out bad boy Junie Browning in the semis, finally shutting Browning’s mouth by tapping him with a D’Arce choke. Despite all the hype on Nover (and yeah, I was taking him to win too) this was a closer fight on paper than most anticipated, as Escudero’s wrestling and submission skill make him a tough fight for anyone.
Round One gets underway and Efrain blocks an early head kick. Big right hand almost lands for Nover to counter a low kick. Nover comes forward but Escudero gets a double leg to guard. Efrain moves him into the fence and then stands to avoid an armbar attempt, and as Phillipe leaps up to join him Escudero lands a big right hand! Nover drops for the takedown but gets caught in a headlock and Escudero spins over and takes the back, getting both hooks in, but Phillipe looks calm. Mount from Escudero and he lands a couple of punches, but Nover scrambles back to guard. Big punches land for Efrain but Phillipe kicks him away momentarily before he drops back into the guard. Triangle attempt from Nover now and then it looks like he’s transitioning for an armbar, but Efrain reverses to his feet and muscles out of a standing kimura attempt. Nover swings, but Escudero takes him down again into the guard. Phillipe goes for a submission though so Escudero stands out of the guard, only to take Nover down once more when Phillipe looks to follow up a clipping high kick. Big right hand from Efrain dropping into the half-guard and Nover takes some more shots as he tries to regain guard. Escudero stands over him now and Phillipe tries to land some upkicks before getting to his feet. Good pair of knees to the body from Nover into a clinch, and they exchange knees to end the round. Excellent opening round that has to go to Efrain.
Into the 2nd and Nover comes out swinging wildly, but gets caught by another takedown and ends up on his back in half-guard. Into side mount for Escudero and he looks for north/south, but Phillipe spins and so Efrain stands over him again. Couple of upkicks to the legs land for Nover but Efrain lands some kicks to the legs of his own. Nover gets to his feet, but Efrain looks for another takedown and gets a single leg. Nover pops up instantly into the clinch, and they muscle for position and exchange some knees, before Phillipe breaks with a right hand. Good low kick from Efrain. Nover rushes forward with punches but again Efrain ducks under and goes for the takedown. Nover blocks it this time but Efrain goes for a single leg again, and despite Phillipe grabbing a guillotine Escudero gets him down into half-guard. Nover releases the hold and tries to use the fence to manoeuvre out, but Escudero controls him and lands some knees to the body. Nover manages to get back to full guard, and with seconds remaining he rolls for a leglock. Escudero pulls out but stumbles, and Phillipe leaps up and NAILS HIM with a running kick to the body! Escudero takes it and catches him and delivers a BIG SLAM to end the round! Whoa, awesome ending there. 10-9 for Escudero again though and Phillipe needs to finish him to win.
Into the third round and they exchange strikes early and Efrain gets clipped, but he manages to duck under and get Phillipe down again. Nover scrambles to guard so Escudero stands up over him again, and Nover pops up to his feet. Nover pushes forward and lands with a couple of jabs, then lands a big knee, but Efrain gets hold of him and takes him down again. This time he’s in half-guard and Nover looks to roll for a kimura, but Escudero manages to slip his arm free. Full guard now for Phillipe and he gets the rubber guard and lands some nice elbows to Efrain’s head. Nover lands with some more elbows to the shoulder area and it looks like Phillipe is going for an oma plata. Escudero defends by hooking the right leg to prevent the hold being finished, but eventually Nover manages to lock it up and uses it as a sweep to put Escudero on his back. Efrain kicks up from his back but Nover drops some punches over the top, avoiding an armbar and ending the fight in side mount! Great fight.
Judges all score it 29-28 for Efrain Escudero, making the Mexican-American the Ultimate Fighter. Well, Phillipe came in as the favourite, but despite his brutal power standing and his submission skill on the ground, the missing piece to the puzzle for him was wrestling, and Escudero was able to use his superlative skills in that area to control where the fight went and never let Phillipe get comfortable, even in the last round really despite the close submission attempt. Efrain looked excellent here and as I mentioned earlier, to me his game reminds me of early Diego Sanchez, and it remains to be seen whether he can develop into a fighter as skilled overall as Diego. He’s another great prospect discovered by TUF though, as is Nover really, and I can see big things for both men in the future.
-And we roll the highlight reel, complete with a shot of Kaplan’s entrance!
I might be the only hardcore fan to have done so, but I loved the series of TUF 8 and I loved the Finale just as much in the end. Out of the ten fights, we didn’t get one bad one outside of the somewhat slow Lawlor-Kingsbury, and while nothing stood out as a classic like on some of the older TUF Finales, Escudero-Nover is still the best final match since Herman-Grove on Season 3. Throw in some fun fights like Browning-Kaplan and Delgado-Polakowski, as well as a trio of brutal finishes in Johnson-Burns, Gouveia-MacDonald and Bader-Magalhaes, and you’ve got a card worth watching for sure. So forget what the haters say. I’m giving two thumbs up to TUF 8 and to the Finale as well. High recommendation for the whole season.
Best Fight: Escudero-Nover
Worst Fight: Lawlor-Kingsbury
Overall Rating: ****
UFC: 94-101, Fight Nights 17-18.
King of the Cage: Various shows