Before the main card action began to declare a men's and women's The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 Bantamweight tournament winner, and to see who gets the bragging rights between Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate before their title fight at UFC 168 in late December, the "Prelims" provided mixed martial arts (MMA) fans with another edition of entertaining free fights on FOX Sports 1 and Facebook, respectively, from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Both fighters looked light on their feet, with Blanco coming forward and taking down Corassani in the opening seconds. However, in the madness Blanco landed an illegal knee as Corassani had one knee on the mat. Referee Mario Yamasaki halted the action, and asked Corassani if he was all right, but the fighter could not see out of his eye and did not look okay whatsoever, asking Yamasaki what had happened.
It was later ruled a "Disqualification," an unfortunate ending to what was supposed to be a great fight. Indeed, Yamasaki ruled it as an intentional foul, sparking another debate about this controversial rule.
Rani Yahya told the media before this fight that Tom Niinimaki was good, however he was not spectacular. To the surprise of many, Niinimaki was able to get his twelfth straight victory over the Brazilian, beating him at his bread and butter.
Niinimaki did not look to have Octagon jitters, but he did start off slow. Yahya was able to take him down and fought off a guillotine attempt. Niinimaki was able to reverse him, however he had to be wary of leg locks from the Brazilian. Yahya has able to take the back of "Stoneface," but Niinimaki was able to break free and took down his opponent right to the canvas.
Yahya continued to win the grappling war at the beginning of the second round, and almost caught his counterpart in a nasty guillotine. Niinimaki was able to break free, and wound up on top of the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace. "Stoneface" went for a takedown after they were stood up by referee Kim Winslow and fought off a guillotine attempt.
In the third round, Niinimaki landed another takedown on Yahya and worked from top position until both featherweights were stood back up. Instead of striking, Niinimaki continued to go for the takedown, but he was caught in a guillotine attempt for a while.
Yahya continued to have a solid round, but it was too little, too late.
The lone Heavyweight fight on the fight card featured two promotional newcomers, showcasing Oklahoma wrestling standout Jared Rosholt who tasted victory inside the Octagon for the first time against Walter Harris.
The two Heavyweights took some time to establish their striking plans, with Harris showcasing his speed in the exchanges. Harris caught Rosholt and dropped him twice, but "Big Show" seemed to eat the punches and got right back up. Rosholt was unable to find the range to take down his foe.
Rosholt came out in the second and was more active with kicks, looking comfortable on the feet, but "The Big Ticket" stayed on his feet, eager to continue the striking war. Harris did show some signs of fatigue, yet was unable to be taken down. A wild exchange at the end of the second saw bright spots for both.
The crowd grew restless in the third round, after both heavyweights took some time to work. Rosholt mercilessly tried to land a takedown, and after struggling he was able to topple Harris, working from half guard. After securing the takedown, Rosholt disabled Harris from getting back on his feet.
The night's first bout on the FOX Sports 1 "Prelims" featured Sean Spencer earning his second UFC victory, with a unanimous decision win over the tough Drew Dober, who showed us how good his chin was.
Dober and Spencer immediately started to test each other's chins from the get-go, with Dober looking to bring the fight to the mat on several occasions. Spencer fought them off, and was the more comfortable and accurate striker -- bloodying Dober's nose in the process. Spencer ended the first round with a huge right hand.
In the second round, Dober continued to attempt taking down Spencer although it was not working. Spencer started to mix up his striking in the second round, coming in from different angles and using leg kicks as well as body shots to wear down his opponent.
Dober worked out of a southpaw stance and started to find his rhythm. "Black Magic" caught him with a devastating knee that rocked him back a few feet, though Dober stayed in there despite not being ahead on the scorecards. Spencer's right hand kept on landing over and over again, and that was the story in this Welterweight fight as Dober kept bleeding.
Ryan Benoit and Josh Sampo fought in a catchweight bout to commence the evening's action on Facebook, and it was Sampo who was able to get his first Octagon victory by second-round submission after a series of reversals and grappling exchanges.
Sampo and Benoit rushed in right off the bat and started to exchange blows, with Sampo stunning Benoit with a hard right hand. Sampo was dominating Benoit on the ground after taking him down, but Benoit scored a slick reversal before they were both stood up by the referee for inactivity.
In the second round, Sampo was quick to take Benoit down again and caught him in an armbar, yet Benoit was able to reverse him again and obtained full back control from Sampo. Benoit could not capitalize though and Sampo worked hard to gain dominant positioning, catching Benoit in a rear-naked choke and earned the submission win.
Here are the full TUF 18 Finale "Prelims" results:
145 lbs.: Maximo Blanco vs. Akira Corassani -- Corassani wins by disqualification (intentional foul) at :25 of round one.
145 lbs.: Tom Niinimaki vs. Rani Yahya -- Niinimaki wins by split decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)
265 lbs.: Walter Harris vs. Jared Rosholt -- Rosholt wins by unanimous decision (29-28x3)
170 lbs.: Drew Dober vs. Sean Spencer -- Spencer wins by unanimous decision (30-27x3)
125 lbs.: Ryan Benoit vs. Joshua Sampo -- Sampo wins by submission (rear naked choke), at 4:31 of round two.
That's it for the "Prelims" portion of UFC's TUF 18 Finale: "Maynard vs. Diaz 3."
But, the action is just getting started!
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of TUF 18 Finale main card action this evening (Sat., Nov. 30, 2013), which is slated to begin promptly at 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1. The latest fight-by-fight updates of all the live action will begin to flow around 7:30 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bout on Facebook.