Photo of TUF 15 winner Michael Chiesa by Tracy Lee for Yahoo!Sports.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) closed the books on its most recent installment of the mixed martial arts (MMA) reality television series, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15, as The Ultimate Fighter Live Finale took place at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Fri., June 1, 2012.
The championship bout (which was technically the co-main event) saw Michael Chiesa finish his incredibly harrowing journey to the trophy and the six-figure contract, defeating Al Iaquinta with a first round rear-naked choke.
In the main event, Martin Kampmann was able to weather the early storm from Jake Ellenberger, and he came back to finish him in the second round with a big knee that sent "The Juggernaut" spiraling to the canvas. It was a big win for Kampmann, who showed that you just can't count him out until the fight is over.
There was a lot to talk about afterward, including some impressive knockouts and slick submissions, as well as some controversial mistakes by a couple of referees. What's new, right?
After the jump, we'll take an in-depth look at the list of big winners and lowly losers from The Ultimate Fighter Live Finale:
Michael Chiesa -- How can you not feel good for this guy after all he's been through? Several days into TUF 15, Chiesa gets the heartbreaking news that his dad had passed away as a result of Leukemia, which he'd been suffering with for a while leading up to Chiesa's departure. Most men would have broken. Most fighters would have gone home. Not Chiesa. He followed after his father's wishes. He pursued his dream He kept getting better every week, and it never showed more than in his championship win over Al Iaquinta. Well done, sir.
Martin Kampmann -- How tough is this dude? Seriously. After getting absolutely rocked by Ellenberger in the first round, Kampmann dusted off the cobwebs, regained his composure and went on to collect the win. You just can't count "The Hitman" out of any fight. His TUF 15 Finale win makes it three in a row. The momentum just keeps growing.
Charles Oliveira -- "Do Bronx" came to do work, and he did it well against a very game Jonathan Brookins. For a little over a round, it looked as though Brookins was getting the better of Oliveira in the stand up, by a hair. Oliveira hung in there, waited for an opening, capitalized on it and finished Brookins with a textbook guillotine choke. He's still got some holes in his stand up (as exposed by his fight versus Donald Cerrone), but his ground game is one of the best in the 145 pound division, where he is now 2-0.
Justin Lawrence -- The only person to beat Lawrence in his professional career is Michael Chiesa (and technically, that didn't count), which proved to be a lot more respectable after Chiesa took home the trophy and the six-figure contract. Lawrence is a kid you're going to hear a lot more out of before it's all said and done. He's very well rounded, very tough and a fight finisher. The future is bright for Justin Lawrence.
Max Holloway -- At 20 years of age, this kid is starting look like a veteran of the sport. After suffering an embarrassing first round loss to Dustin Poirier, Holloway came back to hand out a decent beating to Pat Schilling. Even though the fight did go all three rounds, it should be noted that Schilling made it difficult for Holloway by continual flopping to the mat in the second round, when he was getting the living crap punched out of his midsection. I know what you're gonna say. Holloway could have followed him to the ground and tried to finish him there. But Holloway knew he was overmatched there. Give him time. He's 20. He'll get there.
Kim Winslow -- I'm for equal opportunity. Really, I am. I don't care at all that Winslow is a female. If she can keep up and do as good a job as the men do, then bring it on. Here's the problem. The sign of a good referee is that you hardly notice them, if at all. They'e there if you need them and they keep things moving. But I notice her. I never stop noticing her. She is constantly overcompensating and overdoing, and last nights fight between John Albert and Erik Perez was a blaring example of that. Albeit, the armbar was deep. For all intents and purposes, Albert may have tapped a second or two later. But that's his right. He deserves to be the one to make that call. To further complicate things, Winslow claimed he verbally tapped. He didn't. Even Perez admitted afterwards that he "didn't hear anything." Really bad moment for Winslow and really for MMA officiating on the whole.
Steve Mazzagatti -- Full disclosure. I've never been a fan of Steve's. Now that we're past that, lets roll up the sleeves and get elbow deep. Mazzagatti has an attitude. He comes into every fight with this nasty smirk like he's trying out for the part of the villain in a film. He just comes off like a jerk. I could overlook that if it he did a good job, but he doesn't, He just appears to never have any idea what he's looking at. He calls for action when fighters (like Daron Cruickshank) are on top, raining down elbows and transitioning from one position to another. He warns fighters to "watch the back of the head," when they're clearly hitting the sides of the head. He tells guys to stop grabbing the fence when it just isn't happening. I just always feel like he's trying to grab air time. And don't get me started on the Ellenberger stoppage. A lot of people are going to argue that it was legit to step in when he did, but I just feel a fighter has the right to at least try and recover and maybe eat one or two shots to prove it's over. What if Kampmann hadn't been given the chance to recover after the left hook he was smacked with in the first round? I'm not a fan. Not even a little bit.
Jake Ellenberger -- I can't help but wonder what would have happened if he made Kampmann get back up after leveling him with that nasty left hook, instead of diving into his guard, allowing Kampmann to grab hold of his neck, keep him down and recover his wits. Maybe it's a different fight. Who knows? Either way, Ellenberger still has some rough edge polishing to do. He has the KO power to be a champion one day, but he's not quite there yet.
Jonathan Brookins -- Since winning the TUF 12 championship, Brookins is now 1-2. He's also fought some very tough competition during his stint in the Octagon, and that can't be overlooked. He's 26, so he still has time, but he really needs a win in his next outing. Maybe the desperation will be the motivation he needs. We'll see.
Jay Glazer -- Am I the only one who noticed that Glazer was wrapping up eating when the TUF 15 Finale Post-Fight show on FUEL TV kicked in? How do you get caught off guard like that? You're a professional broadcaster! Maybe I'm being overly harsh, but I just don't feel like Jay is getting it. He was a throw-in with the FOX deal, and I just don't feel like he's making the transition. He seems flustered often, uncomfortable with the conversation and a step behind, in general. I often have no idea what he just said. Speaking is not something he's particular good at, which sucks, because that's his job. I was skeptical when I first found out Glazer would be the host for FUEL TV's UFC media coverage, and he's done little to change my mind.
Chris Saunders, Jeremy Larsen, Cristiano Marcello -- I'm grouping these three guys together for a reason. All three of them looked mediocre at best during their time on the show. At the TUF 15 Finale, they really just solidified the fact that they're probably not up to snuff for UFC action. Marcello probably needs to hang 'em up. Saunders and Larsen could use some refining in a smaller promotion. Just my opinion.
*Note: No, I didn't forget about Al Iaquinta. I know he lost. I know he got finished. I just think time will show this to be not as bad a loss as it looked to be in the moment, when Chiesa goes on to be a very effective fighter in the UFC. I also think Iaquinta will do just fine for himself. So lay off. Or don't.*
So that's my list of the noteworthy winners and losers from The Ultimate Fighter 15 Finale. Who were your stand-outs?