The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 Finale (TUF9) was one of the best events the UFC has put on. Not only was it free (yay), the fights got better and better, from one fight to the next. Even Joe Rogan changed his mind about which fight was the Fight of the Night.
The first broadcast fight was between Nate Diaz and Joe Stevenson. You’ll recall that in his bout with Diego Sanchez, Stevenson kept the fight standing and lost. In this battle, he and Diaz spent a great deal of time on the ground, trading guillotine choke attempts. Stevenson had Diaz at the fence several times applying knees. To avoid knees to the head, Diaz put one knee on the ground, but Stevenson was in control each time.
The best segment of round one had Stevenson trapping both of Diaz’s arms, one with his legs and the other with his arm. Diaz was at the fence and rolled over, but his arms were still trapped, with Diaz on the bottom. Diaz managed to escape, but then got put in a very tight guillotine, which came close to ending the fight.
Round two was more of the same, guillotine attempt by Diaz, Stevenson in Diaz’s half guard, Diaz turtling and Stevenson’s applying knees. Stevenson controlled the round while standing and on the ground.
Round three had Stevenson attempting a single leg take down, but Diaz did an harai goshi, ending up in Stevenson’s half guard and then full guard at the fence. Diaz managed to pass the guard.
Stevenson then did his own take down and kneed Diaz’s side at the fence.
Standing again, Diaz tried a take down and many, wild strikes, but little was connecting.
Unanimous decision in Stevenson’s favour.
The Ultimate Fighter lightweights were up next – Ross Pearson versus Andre Winner. I must admit, I thought Pearson had a wider range of skillsets than Winner, and would completely dominate Winner, who is mostly a stand-up guy.
Almost the entire match was standing, with many clinches at the fence as the men worked for superior positions. (I heard no booing here and this fight was not much different from the UFC 99 fight between Spencer Fisher and Caol Uno in which the audience booed throughout as the fighters jockeyed for position.) They traded knees, used dirty boxing, with Pearson throwing huge overhand looping strikes and Winner a flurry of body strikes just before the end of round one.
Round two had Pearson kicking to the head and body, trying a take own, and connecting with knees, while Winner managed a strong uppercut and knees of his own. The round ended with Winner’s flurry of strikes again.
Round three had the men in the clinch for a good portion again, trading strikes and knees. Pearson’s uppercuts were effective as was his take down of Winner. Winner went down to one knee and up again. While in the clinch, Winner had some shoulder strikes and short jabs. Pearson had a straight jab which rocked Winner.
Unanimous decision in Pearson’s favour, but Winner was not easily dismissed.
Chris Lytle and Kevin Burns came up next. Lytle had fifty-seven professional matches coming in to this fight. Burns came in with ten. Lytle wanted to have fight of the night and knock out of the night, so we expected big things.
Lylte came out with huge punches, big looping strikes, and big kicks. Burns applied leg kicks, high kicks, body kicks, knees and strikes. He rocked Lytle with an uppercut, tried to deal with him on the floor, but Lytle came to. Burns followed up with many strikes and knees up to the buzzer.
Round two had Lytle rocking Burns with his overhand shots. Burns managed a take down, ending in half guard.
While standing Lytle kept striking Burns’s left side, doing combinations, one strike to the head, the other to the ribs. Burns backed up throughout most of the round, half turning his body as he went.
Round three began with a huge overhand right by Lytle which produced an enormous cut over Burns’ left eyebrow, with blood pouring down his face and chest immediately. That did not stop Burns, though, as he answered with a knee and body kick.
Lytle punched Burns’ left temple again, causing him to stumble. Burns tried head kicks and strikes, but he was exhausted.
Unanimous decision in Lytle’s favour.
The Ultimate Fighter welterweights Damarques Johnson and James Wilks fought next. Johnson mouthed off a great deal during season 9, opinionated, and expressing real hate toward Wilks. Johnson was also regarded as the U.S. team’s best chance.
What we saw from start to finish of this fight was complete domination by Wilks. He began with strong jabs and knees, such that Johnson was protecting himself at the fence, unable to reciprocate.
Wilks took Johnson down and while in Johnson’s guard, tried a heel hook. Johnson slipped out of it, but a few seconds later Wilks tried it again. Wilks then trapped one of Johnson’s legs and compressed it, while Johnson struck Wilks on the head many times as he tried to extricate from the leg compression.
While in Johnson’s guard, Wilks tried an oma plata, and as Johnson moved around, the arm got more and more trapped, such that people on our boat were groaning, imagining the worst.
Wilks grapevined Johnson and tried for the choke, but Johnson’s chin was down. For some seconds they fought this until Wilks trapped one of Johnson’s arms with his leg and tried for the choke again. Tapout at six seconds before the buzzer in round one. Technique of the Night.
Wilks’s battle with Johnson had the potential to be fight of the night until Diego Sanchez came out against Clay Guida. Both these fighters have at least two dozen professional fights. Sanchez is a BJJ black belt with one school and brown with his current school. Guida is a wrestler wth fantastic cardio, who came out singing and jumping.
The match went the full three rounds with both men succeeding in take downs and ground and pound. In round one, Sanchez connected with a head kick to Guida and Guida hit the dirt. We thought it was a knock out as his head bounced, but amazingly, Guida got up straight away.
Round two had Guida in Sanchez’s full guard and Sanchez elbowing the top of Guida’s head. Now Guida had blood from his nose and from the top of his head. Sanchez tried a Kimura, but Guida freed the arm and did some ground and pound. He then trapped Sanchez’s arm behind his back (we’d just mentioned it as a possibility).
Round three had Guida chasing Sanchez with strikes and combos. Sanchez really had slowed down by this point, even though he wasn’t the one bleeding profusely everywhere. Guida attempted a take down and Sanchez, an arm triangle, which Guida spun out of. While in Sanchez’s full guard again, Sanchez attempted the Kimura again. Blood was everywhere and Guida was slick, resulting in his avoiding all the arm bars.
Split decision in Sanchez’s favour. Fight of the Night. In the post-fight interview, Guida was still jumping around as he’d been before this brutal match. He’s amazing.
June 21,1 2009