Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) dimmed the lights on yet another entertaining event last night (June 1, 2012) with The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15 Finale, which took place at The Pearl at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In the main event of the evening, Jake Ellenberger was out to prove that he -- not Johny Hendricks -- was the rightful top title contender in the crowded 170-pound division. Unfortunately for the "Juggernaut," his opponent Martin Kampmann didn't get the memo.
What he did get was yet another early beating -- Ellenberger drilled "The Hitman" and sent him south with a quickness, forcing him to scurry for limbs, necks and just about anything to protect him and keep him in the fight. Despite his best effort, Ellenberger couldn't close the deal as Kampmann eventually slowed down his furious assault and even threatened with a guillotine choke.
One would imagine that Kampmann would learn from his mistake and be more cautious about mixing it up with the devastating puncher; however, round two erupted into a slugfest early, with Ellenberger opening up a big cut on the Dane's schnoz.
Bloody, but certainly not beaten, Kampmann continued to move forward. His resilience soon paid off when he connected with a short right hook to the temple of Ellenberger that had him doing the tipsy two-step. Kampmann carefully closed the distance and tied up Ellenberger in a Muay Thai clinch. Three knees later and the comeback kid scored a technical knockout finish, which is one way to ensure not getting screwed by the judges.
Some fight fans might scream early stoppage, but Ellenberger appeared to be in serious trouble. Then again, the same could be said for Kampmann, who can never be counted out.
Regardless, bring on "Bigg Rigg" and keep this division trucking.
Michael Chiesa was a major focus during the "Live" TUF season due in large part to what happened outside the cage rather than inside it. Just days into production, Chiesa's father died from cancer, but rather than give up on his mixed martial arts (MMA) dream, he opted to remain in the 16-man tournament instead of returning home and mourning the loss with his family.
All things considered, that turned out to be a pretty smart decision.
Chiesa collided with Al Iaquinta in the TUF 15 Finale championship bout, a hard-hitting, durable fighter who trains under Brazilian jiu-jitsu blackbelt and former UFC Welterweight champion, Matt Serra. Iaquinta appeared to be the complete package, even racking up $50,000 in bonus awards from his performances during the show.
Sometimes, however, it's the intangibles that carry men to victory.
Perhaps the loss of Chiesa's father propelled him to accomplish an extraordinary feat, advancing to the finals and then tying up Iaquinta, securing his back during a tricky takedown and then choking him unconscious midway through the opening frame. It certainly made for the storybook ending that the promotion and producers were clearly after.
Either way, Chiesa now has the unenviable task of living up to the expectations of being a TUF winner, which seems to be a formidable task these days.
Just ask Jonathan Brookins.
Charles Oliveira, widely regarded as the brightest 155-pound prospect not too long ago, shed 10 pounds after enduring a slump that included two losses and a "no contest," hoping the change of scenery would get him back on his dominant track.
So far so good.
"Do Bronx" submitted Brookins, TUF 12 winner, in the second round, which shouldn't come as too much of a shock because he's a very high-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu blackbelt. However, what was surprising was his striking success prior to the finish -- he got the better of the exchanges with the Diaz Brothers-trained scrapper.
Oliveira certainly doesn't look like he packs one-punch knockout power, and at times he looked super stiff, but there was definitely visible upright improvement. And if he can keep getting better, he'll be one very scary -- and well-rounded -- division contender.
Brookins didn't lay an utter egg. He had a few bright spots, including a crisp hook that made Oliveira's nose run red. He just didn't stand a chance the minute this fight hit the ground. Oliveira didn't mess around, latching onto Brookins' throat and forcing him to tap moments later.
With the submission, Oliveira's fourth in four Octagon victories, he inches one step closer to a potential top spot atop the title contender queue. With most of the major players having previous commitments, he may be a win or two away from a truly meaningful match.
That's good news for him and bad news for his upcoming opponents.
Body blow, body blow, body blow!
Max Holloway put on his best "Punch Out" imitation against Pat Schilling in a Featherweight fight between two relative newcomers to the promotion both looking for their first "big league" wins. "Blessed" ripped the rib cage of "Thrilling" with blistering bombs and then tagged him upstairs when tried to protect his midsection.
It seemed as if as the second round was winding down, Schilling had nothing left. Holloway was just too fast and too powerful, landing punishing laser-guided combinations that had Schilling literally laying on the mat looking for a reprieve. He got one, momentarily, when round two concluded, but Holloway picked up right where he left off in the third and final frame.
In fact, Holloway poured it on even thicker in the waning moments of the fight, connecting with more shots that busted open Schilling's nose and he even attempted an Anthony Pettis-inspired cage kick that didn't quite live up to the original. Either way, Holloway put on a dominant performance to earn a clear-cut unanimous decision, while Schilling get's credit for having "heart."
That's got to count for something I suppose.
The first two rounds seemed to be a typical TUF fight, with both fighters not exactly lighting the Octagon on fire with their abilities and prowess. Nonetheless, it was still a very competitive scrap. Lawrence, a kickboxer by trade, leveraged his advantage in the stand up department to keep the wrestling-minded Cofer at bay for the better part of 10 minutes.
It was pretty clear that whoever could steal the third and final round would most likely earn his first UFC victory. Then just like that, Lawrence snapped a high kick to a retreating Cofer that shut him down immediately, ensuring that a judges decision would not be needed.
The second foot met face, Cofer was out, collapsing to the canvas in an unconscious heap of flesh. It was a sensational finish. Lawrence notched a very impressive win in his debut, while Cofer "got caught" because he made a rookie mistake, fighting a stand up fight against a much better striker.
At least now he'll hopefully remember to always keep those hands up!
That's enough from us. Now it's your turn to discuss TUF 15 Finale: "Ellenberger vs. Kampmann" in the comments section below.
Where does the Lawrence knockout rank on the list of head kick knockouts? Is Holloway a 145-pound pretender or a contender? Is Oliveira championship caliber? Can Chiesa make any headway in such a stacked division? Is Kampmann ever involved in a boring fight? Perhaps more important, how much longer can he keep it up?
Let's hear it, Maniacs.
Be sure to also check out our complete TUF 15 Finale blow-by-blow coverage of the entire "Ellenberger vs. Kampmann" event, including the Facebook/FX "Prelims" fights, right here.