After a full season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and several extra months to prepare for their featherweight finale, both Diego Brandao and Dennis Bermudez came out swinging fearlessly last night (December 3, 2011) on The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale from the Pearl at the Palms in Las Vegas.
Brandao had built a reputation on the show as a complete monster, laying waste to everyone in his path, but Bermudez was not intimidated with him for a second, willing to stand toe-to-toe with him and trade big strikes.
One of the best fights of 2011, and certainly one of the best rounds you'll ever see.
Despite being known for his tremendous knockout power, it was Brandao's Brazilian jiu-jitsu that saved the day, and boy was it dramatic.
So how did he pull it off to become the next "Ultimate Fighter?" And where do both talented 24 year olds go from here?
Bermudez showed no fear whatsoever early on, getting in Brandao's face with punches and kicks, even throwing a flying knee for good measure and that was just in the first 30 seconds.
When Brandao attempted to respond, Bermudez caught his kick, took him down briefly and dropped some big punches before attempting a guillotine as the Brazilian tried to get to his feet.
Just when it appeared that "The Menace" had gained full control of the first round, Brandao showed exactly how dangerous he truly was.
Watch how quickly he was able to close the distance on Bermudez, launching forward with a perfectly thrown overhand right.
Bermudez also made a big mistake in backing up straight instead of using angles to avoid the blow. It completely caught him off guard. Fortunately for him, he has an incredible ability to recover and he popped to his feet almost immediately.
With the momentum now on his side, Brandao took the initiative, landing big leg kicks, powerful counters and even slamming the Long Island MMA fighter to the canvas with a big takedown, but he couldn't keep the wrestler down for long.
In typical Brandao fashion, he charged in recklessly looking for the knockout with a minute left in the round but this time Bermudez was ready for him.
He backed up just enough to avoid the lead left hook and countered perfectly with a short straight right of his own which, while it didn't have his full body behind it, still landed right on the button.
Bermudez also did a great job of planting on his back foot to put a little extra "oomph" into the blow and Brandao went down hard. His follow-up short left hook could have put a hurting on Brandao as well.
From here on out, it was a race to the finish as Bermudez looked to finish Brandao with ground and pound while the Brazilian tried to remain calm on his back and throw up submissions. A heel hook attempt was quickly shrugged off and "The Menace" was smelling blood.
While Bermudez was looking for the finish, he got a little careless, leaving his left hand ripe for the picking while dropping big right bombs on the ground.
Watch how quickly the Brazilian latched onto his left arm, put his right leg up over Bermudez's face and then rolled him over into one of the slickest armbars you'll ever see.
It's even difficult to keep up with in slow motion and Bermudez is instantly forced to tap out, although his arm may have been broken regardless. This was picture perfect technique by Brandao.
Despite the fight lasting just 4:51, both young men were awarded the $40,000 "Fight of the Night" bonus with Brandao also taking home "Submission of the Night." It looks like he'll have no problem buying a new home for his mom back in Brazil now.
For Dennis Bermudez, he shouldn't be disappointed with his performance one bit. He avoided getting off to a slow start and really took the fight to Brandao unlike anyone had done on the show. By forcing the Brazilian to move backwards, he gained an early upper hand and he even nearly finished Brandao after landing that beautiful straight right counter. Hopefully his arm isn't too severely damaged and we get to see him in the Octagon soon. This kid has some serious talent.
When he's feeling better, I'd love to see him against someone like Jason Young, Eddie Yagin or if they feel he's up for the challenge, perhaps someone along the lines of Tyson Griffin. He's definitely got potential.
For Diego Brandao, that was a tremendous showcase of his ability to perform under the most intense pressure he's ever been under. Despite nearly being finished, he was looking to end the fight from bottom and he pulled off one of the most dramatic armbars in UFC history. Training out of Greg Jackson's camp in Albuquerque, I have a feeling that this kid is going to be a force in the division for a long time, as long as he can keep that reckless attacking style slightly in check.
Potential opponents for Brandao could be someone along the lines of Darren Elkins, Ricardo Lamas or potentially Javier Vazquez if he's ready for a major step up in competition. Either way, Brandao should be a welcome addition to the UFC featherweight division.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Was this one of the most exciting back-and-forth battles of 2011? What did you think of Brandao's miracle armbar thrown up from the brink of defeat?
For complete Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale results, including blow-by-blow, fight-by-fight coverage of the entire pay-per-view (PPV) event as well as immediate post-fight reaction click here, here and here.
All gifs by Zombie Prophet via IronForgesIron.com.