Photo via UFC.com
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 12 Finale did more than just crown Jonathan Brookins as that season's champion. And it did more than host the first ever featherweight bout in the company's history. It also holds the distinction of being the first time a 135-pounder stepped inside the Octagon.
Either with this fight or in bantamweight's official Octagon debut a month later which "Yum Yum" also took part in, Will Campuzano will go down in the history books as the man who welcomed his division into the UFC. Nick Pace will go down in history as the man who choked him out.
Pace came in two pounds over the allowed weight when he stepped onto the scale the afternoon before the TUF 12 Finale so his fight with Campuzano was reworked into a catchweight bout. After two forgettable rounds, the Mexican-born fighter lit his opponent up in the stand-up late in the fight but Pace managed to sink in a never before seen choke -- at least not in mixed martial arts (MMA) -- to walk away with the victory.
In nine days, the 135-pound division truly becomes a part of the UFC when the T.J. Dillashaw takes on either Johnny Bedford or John Dodson to determine the the first ever bantamweight TUF champion. It's been quite a year for the division led by Dominick Cruz and we'll take a look back at it as well as the bout between Campuzano and Pace as we gear up for The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale.
Are you ready?
In the year since Campuzano and Pace stepped inside the Octagon opposite each other, the bantamweight division has reached heights once thought impossible. Cruz defended his title against Urijah Faber in the main event of UFC 132, winning the Fight of the Night bonus after the dust settled. The division would add a similar notch to its belt six events later when Brad Pickett and Renan Barão took Birmingham, England by storm.
A sense of satisfaction comes from those accomplishments after the weight division and its roster of talented fighters weren't afforded the same exposure their UFC counterparts were given. In the four years Zuffa owned World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC), the 135 and 145-pounders were stuck on the Versus channel and saw pay-per-view (PPV) only once. That all changed when the two companies merged and Pace and Campuzano were there to kick off the festivities.
Let's a closer look, shall we?
Pace stands and exchanges with his opponent for only half a minute before dropping the Texas-based fighter to the mat. Pressing Campuzano up against the cage, Pace stifled any and all attempts his opponent makes to stand back up. The Mexican is able to get vertical momentarily but is just as quickly dropped back down.
The New York City-based fighter's grappling is simply too much for Campuzano in the first two rounds. With legs like vices and a grip that would crush a coconut, Pace grinds into his opponent for nearly 10 minutes straight. Some might decry it as lay and pray but Pace works constantly, even advancing into mount a couple of times.
By the time the third round begins, Campuzano is swinging for the fences. He knows he's down on the scorecards and needs something dramatic to pull out the win. After sweeping Pace following a takedown, he seemed well on his way to perhaps pulling off the minor miracle needed.
Some devastating ground and pound from Campuzano puts the end of the fight in question but when the Mexican fighter takes a quick breather, with seemingly no submission threat in sight, Pace begins to work. Holding his opponent in rubber guard, Pace slips his arm underneath Campuzano's chin, using his forearm to apply press against the windpipe. He uses that same arm -- along with his other hand -- to keep his leg in place and the air begins to seep out of Campuzano's throat.
Take a look for yourself (via IronForgesIron):
After the fight, the winner dubbed the submission the "Pace," although it had already existed in Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) as a pillory choke. You can also look at it as a modified armless triangle but even if Pace didn't invent the move, he still managed to pull it off -- for the first time ever in an MMA fight -- in flawless fashion.
Campuzano dropped his next bout and was cut from the UFC. He was set to drop down to flyweight -- 125 pounds -- and challenge Ian McCall on next month's Tachi Palace Fights 11 card but bowed out due to injury. Pace would also end up losing his next couple of bouts, most recently at UFC 139 where he once again came in overweight. It wouldn't be a surprise to see a pink slip in his immediate future.
Will next week's TUF winner find more longterm success inside the Octagon?
Who do you Maniacs like in the bantamweight bracket?