UFC: Ultimate Fighter IX Finale
by Scott Newman(MMA)
Posted on November 18, 2009, 6:30 AM
UFC: The Ultimate Fighter IX Finale
Las Vegas, Nevada
-After the Junie Browning-fuelled lunacy of TUF 8, Season 9, AKA Team United States vs. Team United Kingdom was always going to struggle in terms of bizarre, entertaining incidents occurring in the house, but I don’t think anyone could’ve imagined that, well, the season would be quite so dull. I don’t think it had anything to do with a lack of personality as such – I mean, we did see the likes of Dean Amasinger, Jeff Lawson and David Faulkner having a ton of fun, and in Jason Pierce, another classic TUF idiot was added to that long, shameful list, but I guess after TUF 8 the producers decided to concentrate more on the training side of things for this season, and it just didn’t live up to the insanity of the previous one. Throw in the fact that while the UK’s coach Michael Bisping turned into quite the antagonist, the USA coach Dan Henderson didn’t have nearly half the personality of his counterpart, and we got a bit of a damp squib.
So what about the fights and the fighters? Rumors were floating round the internet coming in that Zuffa and Spike had carefully selected the fighters, attempting to stack the deck in favour of Team UK in order to build more stars to sell the European UFC shows, and I guess the lack of that TUF staple – the token stand-out wrestler - on Team USA fuelled that rumor. But personally I wasn’t buying that – the show had a decent mix of known up-and-comers (Andre Winner, Nick Osipczak), journeymen (Damarques Johnson, Jason Dent, Santino Defranco, Mark Miller) and unknowns (Ross Pearson, Cameron Dollar) and was pretty much on par with TUF 6 and TUF 7 in terms of talent level. In the end, surprisingly, UFC only ended up keeping the finalists and the losing semi-finalists on, and so the Finale card was also filled with some really good matches within the regular UFC roster, making it a card worth watching.
Both members of Team USA, these two had been defeated in the semi-finals of the Lightweight tournament – Dent by Ross Pearson, Dollar by Andre Winner. On paper this was a tough fight to call as both men had shown some decent grappling skills and weren’t that great standing, but with Dent being a natural 145lbs and Dollar being the younger fighter, I was picking the ‘Money Man’ to take out his more experienced opponent.
We begin and they circle before Dollar lands a decent right hand over the top. Couple of leg kicks land for Dent but Dollar answers with a one-two combination. Nice right hand from Dollar too, his striking here looks much better than it did during the tapings. Nice leg kick from Dent but Dollar fires back with a flurry that ends with a nasty uppercut. Dent looks hurt and clinches, before pulling guard. Dent tries an elevator sweep, but they come back to their feet where he eats another one-two. Striking exchange continues and Dollar lands a straight right to the body. Leg kick from Dent but he takes another uppercut. Combo from Dent answers and he lands another leg kick. Pair of uppercuts to the body and a beautiful right hook from Dollar look to have Dent hurt, and he covers up along the fence as Cameron follows with a flurry, but Dent does a good job to survive. Combo from Dent but Dollar shoves him to the ground. Dent with a leg kick as soon as he gets up. Spinning back kick misses for Dent and he follows with a body shot. Dollar drops for a takedown, but leaves his head out and Dent catches him in an anaconda choke and drags him down, then rolls into it and tightens it for the tapout.
Fun, energetic opener. Dollar surprised me as he was doing really well in the striking department where I would’ve given Dent the advantage, but Dent is a cagey veteran and the moment Dollar left his neck out it was over. I don’t see Dent doing that well in the UFC as he really needs to be at 145lbs or perhaps even 135lbs, but I think Dollar has some potential as he’s only 22 and I’d like to see him return in the future, maybe after a run on the smaller circuit.
Team USA’s Lester had become perhaps the most popular of all the cast members thanks to his tremendous heart – he was eliminated by James Wilks in the quarter-finals, before being reinstated due to Jason Pierce dropping out, and actually managed to beat David Faulkner to earn a rematch with Wilks in the semis, where he was defeated again. Of course, he’s best remembered for the incident that saw Wilks dislodge about four of his teeth, ending up with them stuck in his mouthpiece. Londoner Osipczak meanwhile was my favourite cast member, mainly due to the fact that at 24 years old, his two jobs have been professional gambler and professional cage fighter! How cool is that, seriously? I also thought that in terms of skill levels, Osipczak was the stand-out Welterweight on the show (his cardio let him down in the semis) and he’d probably blow past Lester here.
Interesting note here – Kim Winslow is refereeing, becoming the first female referee in UFC history. We begin and Lester comes out aggressively, throwing some combinations as Osipczak stays on the outside. Kick from Lester but Nick catches it and drops him with a right, ending up on top in side mount. Lester scrambles into guard, doing a good job, and then he gets to his feet and takes a knee as Osipczak forces him into the cage. They exchange some short knees inside the clinch before the ref decides she’s seen enough and separates them. They exchange from distance before Nick rocks him with a head kick, causing Lester to try to clinch. He gets a rear waistlock and tries to drag Nick down, but the Londoner blocks and turns into him, delivering a hard knee to the body and a right hand. Lester looks in trouble now as Osipczak rocks him with a one-two and a kick. Lester drops for a takedown but Nick grabs a guillotine to block, then spins onto his back and locks up a rear naked choke without any hooks for the tapout.
Lester like on the tapings showed heart, but he was badly outclassed here from the off and Osipczak outstruck him badly and then tooled him on the ground, living up to his ‘Slick’ nickname. At just 24 I think Nick has a ton of potential and if he continues to improve I can definitely see him making some noise at 170lbs in the future. I’m definitely a fan.
Miletich product Ciesnolevicz had made a solid UFC debut in February at Heavyweight, tapping out Neil Grove with a heel hook, but here he moved to his more natural 205lbs to take on Polish striker Drwal, who had looked impressive himself in taking out Italian Ivan Serati earlier in the year. Unfortunately, despite 205lbs being his more natural weight, Ciesnolevicz actually missed weight and came in at 208lbs, losing some of his purse to Drwal before the fight even began.
First round begins and they circle with little activity in the first minute. Drwal gets a clinch and drags him down to the ground in half-guard, but Mike C holds his arms to keep him from posturing up. Right hand from Drwal and then he lets Ciesnolevicz up. Body kick lands for Mike but Drwal gets a clinch and drags him down again. Mike uses the cage to get up, but takes some punches in close and then Drwal gets a bodylock again. Takedown from Drwal to half-guard again and he lands a heavy right hand. Mike C struggles to his feet, but takes a combo and now he’s on the back foot retreating. Mike shoots, but Drwal stuffs it and gets on top again in half-guard, and from there he takes full mount. Mike C gives his back and manages to stand, but takes another combo before Drwal clinches. They break off and exchange some strikes, and then Drwal rocks him with a left jab and opens up with another combo that hurts the Miletich fighter. Mike looks wobbled and a big knee drops him, and Drwal follows in with more punches on the ground for the stoppage.
Drwal looked good here and he’s since dropped to 185lbs where I think he could be an even more dangerous fighter as he struggled with cardio sometimes at 205lbs. Really hard striker though and his ground game didn’t look too shabby in the parts we saw here, either. The loss coupled with the weight botch was enough to earn Ciesnolevicz his release from the UFC, sadly – I guess they really don’t like guys who miss weight like that.
This was Garcia’s UFC debut after a brief run in the WEC before they dissolved their WW class, and he was faced with IFL veteran Blackburn, who had managed to win two UFC fights on the bounce despite a bit of a weaker performance against Ryo Chonan at UFC 92.
We begin and Blackburn wobbles him with a jab right away. Good combination from Blackburn and he forces Garcia into the cage. Garcia looks for a single but Blackburn stuffs it and gets a guillotine, only for Garcia to lift him up and deliver a HUGE BODYSLAM! Blackburn doesn’t look hurt though and he pops right back up to his feet. Good combination from Blackburn and then he lands a nice straight right. They exchange some strikes with Blackburn landing a body kick. Nice one-two from Garcia. Another right hand lands over the top for Garcia as he seems to be settling into a rhythm now. Exchange continues and it looks to be to Garcia’s benefit as he’s outlanding Blackburn now. Nice body kick from the IFL veteran though. Great combo at the end of the round lands for Garcia, but he lands an inadvertent knee to the groin on the buzzer. Close round to score but I’d probably go 10-9 for Edgar Garcia as I think he landed the slightly better shots, and he had that bodyslam.
Second round gets a little delayed to allow Blackburn to recover from the groin strike. They restart and pick up where they left off in the first round, with Garcia looking to fire off combos while Blackburn tries to stay on the outside with kicks. Good combo from Garcia. Blackburn is looking to establish his jab here and he’s doing a good job of avoiding Garcia’s counters. Kick lands low and the ref calls time for a moment to let Garcia recover. Garcia throws a heavy combo, but Blackburn avoids the majority of it. Good jab from Blackburn. Couple of nice leg kicks land for him too. Good leg kick from Garcia but he eats a kick to the body from Blackburn. They continue to exchange until the round ends. Better round for Blackburn and I’ve got this even going into the third.
3rd round and Blackburn again looks to use the jab. Good leg kick from Blackburn. Garcia comes back with a left hook. Another leg kick lands for Blackburn and it looks like he’s pulling away now as Garcia’s stuck winging hooks and largely missing. Good left hook to counter a body kick stumbles the IFL veteran though and he stalks forward and follows with another. Blackburn fires back with some kicks to try to keep the distance and it looks like he’s recovered. Short trade sees both men land but Blackburn keeps himself firmly on the outside. Garcia keeps pressing but he can’t land anything really significant, and with seconds remaining Blackburn gets a takedown. Garcia pops right back up though and cuts Blackburn with a right. Suddenly a BIG LEFT HOOK drops Blackburn hard, but the buzzer sounds as Blackburn gets up and Garcia doesn’t have time to capitalize.
Hard fight to score – without the knockdown it’s definitely Blackburn’s, but with it who knows? Garcia might’ve stolen the final round and the fight too. Judges have it 29-28 Garcia, 29-28 Blackburn, and 29-28 for Brad Blackburn to take the split decision. Eh, people said online that Garcia was robbed here, but I don’t see that – outside of the knockdown the third was Blackburn’s round and he probably did enough to steal the win. Not the best fight as it was just kickboxing for the most part but it wasn’t horrible or anything.
To me this was the most interesting fight on the non-televised portion, as both guys have shown a ton of skill in the past and probably have the ability to break into the top ten in the world, but always seem to lack a little something and fall at the final hurdle. Guillard was looking to follow up on his KO of Dennis Siver almost a year prior, while Tibau was looking for his third win in 2009. These guys are two of the biggest 155lbers you’ll ever see, too.
We begin and Melvin looks to bounce around on the outside, keeping his distance from the Brazilian. Good right hand to the top of the head from Guillard. Tibau shoots in on a double leg but Guillard does a great job of stuffing it and forces Tibau into the fence. Tibau reverses position and drops for a single leg, but again Melvin does a good job defending. Tibau manages to get him down though but Guillard manages to explode back up and separates. Tibau keeps pushing forward, but he takes a left to the body from Melvin. Both men wing punches that miss and then Guillard lands a big body kick. Tibau gets a takedown off it though and seats him against the cage. Melvin wall-walks up to his feet, but Tibau grabs him on the way up and gets a BIG SLAM to guard, walking across to deliver it in the center of the cage Hughes-style. Guillard kicks him off and scrambles to his feet though, showing great athleticism. One minute to go but little happens in the minute, with a clinch on the buzzer. Really hard round to score as Tibau secured some takedowns, but didn’t do anything with the positions he got and Melvin did land the nasty kick to the body. I’d probably go 10-9 for Guillard in fact.
Second round and they exchange briefly before Tibau shoots in for another takedown. Good work from Guillard to stuff the takedown and they end up clinched against the fence, before Tibau drops for another double leg. Guillard continues to defend the takedown, doing an excellent job, and suddenly he hits a BIG HIP THROW that drops Tibau on his head! Crowd begin to chant for Melvin as they pop back up to their feet. Tibau closes the distance again but he still can’t get Melvin off his feet. Guillard tries the hip throw again but botches it this time, ending up on the bottom, but right away he manages to explode to his feet. They exchange some jabs and then Melvin glances with a big right and then lands a body kick. Action slows down a little with Melvin throwing some strikes, but Tibau gets a takedown and manages to hold Melvin down in guard this time, keeping him down until the round ends. Round was very even but I think I’d go with Tibau for the aggression and the final takedown.
Third round and Guillard CRACKS him right away with a pair of right hands. Good left hook from Tibau and then he manages to get a takedown off a body kick attempt, landing in half-guard. Mount from Tibau and Melvin is in trouble. He manages to turn into half-guard, but it’s only for a moment as Tibau transitions back to the mount. Tibau lands with some short strikes and it looks like he’s waiting for Guillard to make a mistake, but Melvin does well to get back to half-guard. Short elbows land for Tibau as he works to pass the half-guard, and on a mount attempt Melvin explodes up! Now Guillard stuffs a takedown and surprisingly goes for one of his own, but Tibau avoids and forces Guillard into the cage again, looking for another takedown. He gets Melvin down again into half-guard and controls him from there, mounting again with seconds to go and raining down punches. Well, that’s got to be Tibau’s round so I’m giving him the fight 29-28.
Judges have it a split decision, no scores read, for Melvin Guillard. Huh. Colour me surprised. Having said that, it was a close fight and I guess you could score the second round for Melvin based on the hip throw and the better strikes, but I definitely would’ve given it to Tibau. Even fight but it was mostly dull if I’m honest as Tibau just went for takedowns and didn’t do much with them when he got them, while Melvin was stuck mainly on the defensive.
Ha, remember the times when a TUF winner vs. TUF winner fight would’ve been a huge deal? This one was Season 2’s winner against Season 5’s winner, and both men had their backs to the wall a little after coming off disappointing losses. Diaz had largely been stifled by Clay Guida at UFC 94, and although his showing there hadn’t been bad, questions did hang over his ability to handle a strong wrestler. Stevenson meanwhile had been on the wrong side of a beating at the hands of Kenny Florian, and had gone on to lose a lopsided decision to Diego Sanchez too, and so for him this was do or die – if he lost to Diaz he’d likely be relegated to the role of gatekeeper for the remainder of his UFC career. To try to change things up, Joe had moved training camps to Jackson’s Submission Fighting in Albuquerque, which is always a good move. Personally though I thought it was hugely close to call but slightly favoured Diaz.
We begin and Diaz refuses a touch of gloves. Diaz presses forward but Joe shoots on a single and gets him down. Diaz looks for a guillotine but he doesn’t really have control of Stevenson’s body and Joe pops free. High guard from Diaz as Stevenson postures up above him, and then he drops down into half-guard. Diaz squirms from the bottom but takes some right hands, and Joe ends up getting like a reverse Hughes crucifix to land some punches, avoiding the back of the head. Diaz rolls into a really weird position and gets his leg trapped in almost a cradle, taking some nasty punches, but Diaz works to turn into him and gets on top in guard. Stevenson goes for his trademark guillotine and it looks tight, and they end up rolling over with Diaz mounted, but he manages to slide his head free. Joe postures up to drop some punches and then avoids a triangle attempt, but Diaz stands and then they roll to the ground with Joe on top. Joe looks to pass, and then stands and grabs a front facelock as Nate comes up, and from there he delivers some nice knees. Diaz drops to a knee to avoid that attack and the round ends there. 10-9 Stevenson but a great round grappling-wise.
2nd round and Nate tries to taunt Joe into trading strikes. Stevenson gets a swift takedown though and Diaz again tries the guillotine, this time sweeping to mount with it locked in, and it looks like Joe could be in some trouble. Joe manages to turn and ends up on top again, but Nate keeps trying the guillotine before they scramble to their feet. Joe gets the headlock and lands some knees to the legs as Nate drops to a knee, then he forces Diaz to his feet and lands some knees to the head. Single leg from Joe puts Diaz on his back, and he avoids a kimura to work into side mount. Full mount from Joe, but Diaz gets a hip escape to half-guard. Diaz works back to butterfly guard, but he takes some punches as Joe postures up above him. Diaz tries a triangle but Stevenson stands out of it and then gets a front facelock as Diaz rolls. Knee to the body from Joe Daddy. This fight is really, REALLY good. Diaz gets back to his feet in a bodylock, and Joe lands some more knees to the thighs before looking for a single leg. Diaz tries to roll down into the guillotine again, but Joe winds up on top in half-guard and works to keep Diaz down as he squirms like crazy from the bottom. Nate goes for a triangle again but Joe works out of it and keeps hold of Diaz, working for another takedown to end the round. Another round in the books for Joe Stevenson, but this is one of the best grappling-based matches in a long time. Diaz needs a finish to win methinks.
Into the third round and Diaz comes out swinging, but Stevenson goes for a single leg and drives him into the fence. Diaz works to defend, but Joe tackles him down and Nate looks for a kimura. Diaz tries to get back to his feet, but Joe stays on him like glue and again gets a tackle to the ground. Nate works to his feet though and gives his back before landing a hip throw to put Joe in half-guard. Joe works to full guard and Diaz moves him towards the cage, before standing over him to land some punches. Joe turns and Diaz goes for an arm-in guillotine, but Stevenson scrambles free and now Diaz takes the back very high up and goes for a choke. Joe shakes him off though and goes for a single leg as they stand, managing to get Nate onto his back, seating him against the fence. Knees to the body from Joe as Nate works up to his knees, Diaz stands and takes a knee, and then Joe looks for the takedown again before breaking off. Diaz stalks forward and he goes for the judo trip again, but Joe pops up to his feet and shoots on a single leg. Diaz stuffs it and they exchange some punches before Diaz blocks another takedown on the buzzer.
Very close fight overall but I think it’s got to go to Stevenson. Indeed the judges all score it 29-28 for Joe Stevenson. Awesome grappling-based match – one of the best I can remember in the UFC in fact, as both men are really high-level in that area, but the difference was the wrestling and strength advantage that Stevenson had, as Diaz couldn’t really prevent the takedown and the majority of the time Joe was on top. Really impressive stuff from Joe Daddy and the move to Jackson’s camp seems to have revitalized his career. As for Diaz, he continues to look really good every time he fights, but I think he needs to hit the weights a bit and really work on his strength, otherwise he’s going to run into trouble as there’s tons of Guida and Stevenson clones floating around at 155lbs (Griffin, Edgar, Tibau, Sherk, etc) and he’ll always struggle against those types.
An all-UK final in the Lightweight tournament then, with Leicester’s Winner taking on Sunderland’s Pearson in what looked like a pretty even clash on paper. These two had even previously trained together. Both men had looked impressive during the tapings of the reality show, but for a pick I was taking Winner as I’d heard about him for a long time and his pre-UFC record was very slightly more impressive.
1st round and they circle with Pearson landing a quick combo. They exchange briefly and Pearson lands a couple of sharp counters, then lands with a leg kick. Winner gets a clinch and forces Ross into the cage, and they exchange some knees before Pearson reverses position and forces Dre into the cage. Winner switches that and goes for a takedown, but Pearson blocks and they remain clinched. Good knee to the body from Ross. They continue to muscle for position in the clinch and exchange knees, and Winner lands an elbow inside too. Pearson looks for the takedown but can’t get it, and Winner clocks him with a good elbow. Ross answers with a pair of solid knees to the body, and Winner then blocks a takedown and lands a knee to the groin. Ref steps in and calls time as Ross drops to his knees. They restart and both men land with good punches, nice combos before they go back to the clinch and exchange uppercuts. Pearson goes for a single leg but Winner blocks it, and they end up clinched along the fence again. Exchange in the clinch continues with both men landing knees and uppercuts, before Winner ends the round with a quick combo. Wow, that was an insanely close round. I’d actually go 10-10 as neither man seemed to have the advantage and they basically went shot-for-shot.
Into the 2nd and Pearson opens with a nice leg kick. Another one lands and he follows with a one-two that lands pretty cleanly. Good knee from Ross as Andre steps in, and they clinch up against the fence again. We’re back to exchanging knees inside the clinch now, and then Pearson really works for the takedown, but again Winner avoids it and does a tremendous job of shrugging it off, landing an uppercut for good measure. They exchange more strikes inside the clinch and Ross catches him with an uppercut, answered by an elbow from Winner. They finally break off and Ross lands with a knee and then a glancing high kick as Winner steps in. Good counter right hand lands for Pearson as Andre tries some ducking and diving, and Ross follows with a knee to the body and goes for the takedown again. Winner manages to defend it again and we’re back to the clinch. Nice elbow from Ross during the exchange along the fence, and Winner again ends with a short flurry. Another incredibly close round to call. This time I’d lean towards Ross Pearson as he seemed to land the better shots when they weren’t clinched, but really it could go either way.
Third and final round and they hug before it begins. They exchange some strikes to begin with neither really getting the advantage, and then Ross clinches and forces him into the cage. Winner switches position again and they exchange knees to the body and legs, with Ross also landing a pair of beautiful uppercuts. Knee and elbow break the clinch for Ross and then he lands a short left to the body. Brief trade sees both men land clean left hooks, and then they clinch and Winner looks for a single leg. Ross blocks it and we’re back in the clinch along the fence, which has been the story of the fight thus far. Nice body shot and uppercut from Ross and they break for a second before Winner forces him back into the cage. Nice leg kick from Ross as they break, but Winner counters with a right hand and gets the clinch again. Both men remain busy in the clinch and then Pearson works and gets a single leg, but Andre pops right back up and we’re back to neutral. Couple of good uppercuts land for Ross again but Winner answers right back. They break off and Ross lands with a nice lunging jab, and they exchange punches back into the clinch. Seconds remaining and Winner lands with a nice combo close in. Good knees from both men and then they trade punches inside the clinch before Ross finishes with an elbow and a knee. Looks like he hurt Winner on the buzzer there. Another unbelievably close round and overall I think it’s another 10-10. I have Ross Pearson taking this 30-29.
We’re going to the judges and they all score the fight the same, 29-28 for Ross ‘The Real Deal’ Pearson, making him the Season 9 Ultimate Fighter! Post-fight Ross sinks to his knees and he looks pretty emotional in winning. Rightfully so too as he’s never going to have to lay bricks for a living again now. Really like this guy’s attitude. Upon a first watch I thought this fight stunk, but on a rewatch it was actually really interesting as they went blow-for-blow throughout, and it was ridiculously close – literally coming down to like three or four punches. One of the most active clinch wars I can recall, too. At the time I didn’t really see Ross making much noise at 155lbs, but recent events would seem to be proving me wrong and I couldn’t be happier with that!
Burns was last seen being killed dead by Anthony Johnson’s high kick at the TUF 8 Finale, but his two fights with ‘Rumble’ had been pretty exciting and so I guess Joe Silva figured it’d be a good idea to put him against a fellow exciting banger in Chris Lytle. Either that or Silva was making a cheap joke – Lytle is a part-time firefighter and Burns’ nickname is ‘The Fire’.
First round begins and they circle to begin, with Lytle looking to swing some pretty heavy punches and Burns firing right back. Good leg kick from Burns. Lytle steps in and really wings some punches at Burns, but they don’t land cleanly. Right hand from Lytle and he gets Burns down for a second but lets him right back up. Counter right hand from Burns backs Lytle up though. Lytle continues to wade in with haymakers, but Burns hasn’t caught one clean yet. Couple of good kicks land for Burns. These guys are really swinging and it’s only a matter of time before one lands I think. Burns lands a kick to the groin though, and the ref calls time. Lytle takes some time to recover and they restart, and Burns catches him stepping in with a right hook. Good body kick from Lytle. Lytle steps in again but this time he gets dropped by a right hand, and Burns follows up and looks to finish! Lytle’s chin is strong though and he grabs a single leg to recover, forcing Burns into the cage. Burns blocks and they wind up in the clinch, before Burns breaks off and lands a BIG FLURRY that has Lytle hurt and on the retreat as the round ends! Burns looked much improved standing in that round. 10-9 for Kevin Burns.
Into the 2nd and Lytle ROCKS Burns with a pair of big right hands early on! Burns looks wobbled and Lytle comes in swinging, but Burns recovers and now he fires right back! This is becoming a shootout. Both men continue to trade and Lytle’s working hooks to the body now. Nice takedown from Burns and he lands in half-guard and slips his head free of a guillotine. Lytle quickly reverses to his feet though and wings another shot to the body and one to the head that gets Burns on the retreat. Burns has a strong chin too though as he’s recovering mad quickly. Lytle continues to swing for the fences, hitting Burns with some heavy leather, but Burns is doing a good job of hanging in there. Another kick lands low though and the ref calls time again. They restart and Lytle lands with another overhand right. Body kick from Lytle lands nicely too. Burns is still firing back, but he’s beginning to look tired. Lytle continues to wing shots at him and he’s landing with more frequency now too. A third shot lands low for Burns (what is it with this dude and unintentional fouls?!) and the ref calls time again. This time Herb Dean warns him that he’ll take a point next time, and they restart and exchange more strikes to close the round. Clearly Chris Lytle’s round so it’s even going into the third, but I think the advantage lies with Lytle at this stage.
Round Three and Lytle catches a low kick and NAILS Burns with a right hand. Burns is badly cut now and he has blood pouring from his left eye down his chest. Good body kick from Burns though. Burns tries to keep his distance, but an overhand right lands for Lytle and opens the cut even further. Good body punch from Burns but he misses a superman punch. Burns continues to swing but he’s being outlanded now as Lytle clocks him with another right. Good right to the body from Lytle. Big right hand puts Burns on jelly legs, but somehow ‘The Fire’ recovers quickly and swings right back. Lytle’s just wading in swinging for the fences though and somehow these punches are catching Burns over and over. Burns looks pretty exhausted now too. Big left hook lands for Lytle but Burns eats it right up. BIG FLURRY from Lytle wobbles Burns again and I’m not sure how he’s still standing at this point. Burns is gassed as hell but he’s still in this fight somehow. Seconds to go and it’s more of the same, and this is quite clearly Lytle’s fight. Incredible brawl.
Judges score it 29-28, 29-28 and 29-28 for Chris Lytle. Man did Burns earn my respect there though as he showed some tremendous heart to hang in there with Lytle despite being exhausted by the end and badly hurt on numerous occasions. Most fighters wouldn’t have lasted the distance under the same circumstances. For Lytle this was business as usual as he swung for the fences for three rounds, and this time it paid off. Not the most technical of fights but in terms of a gutter-war it was pretty insane.
Team USA’s journeyman Johnson, despite a middling record, was always one of the favourites to make the finals simply due to his experience, as he’d had almost twenty professional fights compared to say, Nick Osipczak with three and Dean Amasinger with four. His opponent Wilks had been the surprise of the show to me, as while he was born in Leicester, he’d been living in the US for the best part of a decade and had trained for most of his career with the legendary Erik Paulson. I wasn’t sure about a pick as going in it looked like an even fight, but I was certainly pulling for Wilks as Johnson’s personality had annoyed me on the reality show.
We’re underway and Johnson comes out swinging, but a one-two from Wilks stuns him and James lands a follow-up too. Johnson clinches and Wilks forces him into the cage, landing some good knees. They break quickly and exchange punches, and Wilks looks like the far crisper striker, landing another good combo. Good knees from the clinch for Wilks and Johnson tries to fire back, but he’s getting eaten up standing. Takedown to guard from Wilks and he stands over him and lands some punches as Johnson kicks up at him. Wilks drops for a heel hook but Johnson manages to roll his way out, and works into top position, landing some elbows. Wilks rolls for the heel hook again, and uses it to take Johnson’s back, but Johnson rolls and ends up in a calf slicer! Johnson manages to free himself though, landing some hammer fists, and he finishes on top in guard. Crowd are wildly chanting “USA!” . Wilks gets a triangle from the bottom though and it looks tight, but Johnson pops free and winds up in an oma plata! Johnson sits up and Wilks takes the opportunity to take the back as Johnson stands, and he trips Damarques down and gets one hook in. Wilks lands some punches and then gets the other hook in, and he quickly works to lock in a rear naked choke and forces Johnson to tap out.
Well, Johnson was game but he was badly, badly outclassed there as Wilks took him apart standing and then pretty much tooled him on the ground with rapid-fire submissions. Didn’t expect that to be so quick and easy for Wilks, but perhaps I underestimated him. So it’s a clean sweep for Team UK! Gotta love that. Pretty exciting little fight but it was more in the mould of Sanchez-Florian, Bisping-Haynes and Bader-Magalhaes than like Griffin-Bonnar or Herman-Grove.
Man, talk about a huge main event. Sanchez had dropped to 155lbs and beaten Joe Stevenson in February and was then greeted with another massive challenge in the form of Guida, who was on a three-fight winning streak including taking the scalps of two of Diego’s fellow TUF winners in Mac Danzig and Nate Diaz. While Guida is a tough fight for anyone purely due to his cardio and workrate, I thought Diego would just be too much for him, and would look to make a statement by finishing Guida and positioning himself firmly in the role of the top contender for the Lightweight Title.
Entrances here, as you might imagine, are AWESOME, with Guida leaping around like an ADHD kid and burning more energy in his walkout alone than some fighters do in a full fifteen minutes, while Diego again comes out chanting YES!~! and even starts trash-talking Guida from the aisleway! Staredown is just as great. Diego is THE MAN, Guida is pretty awesome himself and this fight is going to rule.
And we’re underway and Diego comes out like a HOUSE ON FIRE AND OPENS UP WITH COMBOS!~! Holy God. Guida tries to fire right back but he’s getting DESTROYED by Diego who just NAILS HIM with huge uppercuts and knees! Guida is in big trouble, bloodied up already and Sanchez is RELENTLESS. Guida’s mouthpiece is gone but he’s still swinging right back even if he’s hurt. Diego gets a bit reckless though and Guida manages to tackle him to the ground in full guard. Diego ties him up from his back and works a high guard, as Guida tries to break free to land some elbows and hammer fists. Diego finally manages to kick Guida off and get back up, and he breaks free with a right hand. Ref calls a break to give Guida his mouthpiece back and they quickly restart, and they circle before DIEGO KILLS HIM DEAD WITH A LEFT HIGH KICK!~! Guida looks gone, but somehow he manages to stay in the fight, dragging himself to his feet and driving Diego into the fence. Sanchez breaks off though and lands a flying knee and another combo! HUGE uppercuts land for Diego and he’s just dismantling Guida standing. Guida somehow survives this onslaught and clinches, going for a takedown, but Diego avoids and continues to work him over from close range now. Takedown from Diego now into side mount, but Guida scrambles back to half-guard. Guida’s face is a mess. Elbow from Diego and then Guida escapes to his feet and swings as the buzzer sounds. Unbelievable opening round but Guida did well just to survive. 10-8 for Sanchez on sheer damage alone.
Round Two and Diego looks for the head kick again but misses this time. How Guida is still in this I don’t know. Diego continues to look for combos, but Guida shoots and gets a nice takedown. Diego looks to scramble free but Guida gets into his guard and from there he tries to open up with punches as Diego works elbows from his back, landing to the top of the head. Diego looks to roll for a kimura, but he can’t lock it up and Guida escapes with a flurry. Diego does well to tie Guida up from the guard and now the crowd are chanting for Guida. Hammer fists to the body from Guida, but Diego really opens up with the elbows from the bottom, landing some brutal shots to the head that have Guida covering up! Diego is covered in blood now, but it looks like its Guida’s head that’s bleeding, probably from the elbows. This is an unbelievable exchange from the guard. Guida is bleeding all over the place now as the round ends. Now, I’m sure some would argue that Guida takes the round for being on top, but really Diego did just as much damage with the elbows underneath, so I’m going 10-10.
We’re into the third round and naturally both men still look fresh. These guys have sick conditioning. They circle to begin and Diego lands a combo, but Guida fires back and lands a right. Slip from Diego and Guida comes forward, but Diego avoids a clinch. Head kick narrowly misses for Diego. Guida is chasing forward now but his striking is largely ineffective. Big uppercut from Diego hurts him and Sanchez stuffs a takedown too. Both men land some nice right hands and then Diego clocks him with a one-two as Guida tries to swing back. Guida shoots in but Diego changes levels and switches to the back! Guida turns into him though but he gets caught in an arm triangle from the guard, and it looks tight for a moment but he loses it and Guida ends up on top in the guard. Diego goes for the kimura again and there’s blood pouring down his back from Guida’s head and face. Guida works to block the kimura, but he’s doing very little from the top position at the same time and then Diego turns for an armbar. Guida breaks free and flurries from the top, and that’s the fight.
I’ve got this 30-27 for Diego Sanchez I think, giving him a 10 in each round, with Guida taking an 8, a 10, and a 9. Judges have it a split decision, Guida 29-28, Sanchez 29-27, and Sanchez 29-28 giving Diego the victory. Don’t see how you can score that fight for Guida but man was it awesome. Post-fight Diego asks the crowd if they’re entertained, to which Rogan says if you’re not entertained by that then you’re dead. Amen Joe! Diego then puts over Guida’s chin, calling him a machine, but says he never got discouraged by Guida’s toughness. And then Guida says you can’t hurt him, and he puts Sanchez over as a stud. Incredibly the guy is STILL leaping up and down. I’m in awe.
What can you say about that one? Neither man seems capable of a boring fight and so the odds of this being great were always high, but this actually went over and above my expectations as it was pure action from start to finish. I never thought I’d see someone take Guida apart like that but Diego absolutely destroyed him in the first round, and Clay is just insanely tough to hang in there after a beating like that, even coming close to taking the fight to a draw. In the end though Diego was just a little too active for Clay – even doing more damage from his back – and his stand-up looked so much improved that it’s not even funny. I am salivating over Diego-BJ Penn. SALIVATING. Total Fight of the Year Candidate here.
-Highlight reel ends our night.
As a standalone show, the TUF IX Finale is pretty awesome. I mean not only is Sanchez-Guida a top-line Fight of the Year Contender, but Stevenson-Diaz is one of the best grappling-based fights in recent memory and Burns-Lytle was a hell of a brawl too. That’s three great fights and while the TUF Finals weren’t the greatest matches, they’re not bad by any means, and throw in exciting prelim fights like Osipczak-Lester and Dent-Dollar and you’ve got a very strong show overall. As far as TUF IX itself, Team United States vs. Team United Kingdom isn’t the best season they’ve ever done, but there are some good fights on there and if you’re a big fan of TUF then it’s well worth a look overall. If you’ve become bored or jaded with TUF as a concept though, this season isn’t the one to change your opinion. So overall it’s a big thumbs up for the finale show, and a thumbs in the middle for the season itself.
Best Fight: Sanchez-Guida
Worst Fight: Guillard-Tibau
Overall Rating: ****1/2
UFC: 100-105, Fight Night 19
Affliction: Banned and Day Of Reckoning
Strike Force: Diaz vs. Shamrock, Shields vs. Lawler, Carano vs. Cyborg and Fedor vs. Rogers
King of the Cage: Various shows