Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) tied a ribbon around its latest season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 late last night (Sat., April 13, 2013) from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In the main event of the evening, Urijah Faber and Scott Jorgensen -- former training partners -- went after it for real with top 135-pound contender status at stake. "California Kid" was actually the man responsible for luring Jorgensen, an accomplished amateur wrestler, into mixed martial arts (MMA) and now wanted to establish that he had the ability to take him out, too.
Faber dominated the first round, which included a solid guillotine choke choke attempt, and continued to roll in the second before Jorgensen began to hit his shots and settle in. "Young Guns" continued to battle into the third, getting Faber's back and threatening before the former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) champion was able to flip the script in the latter part of the round.
Jorgensen's luck ran out as the pair came out for the "championship rounds" as Faber secured an early takedown, jumped behind him in a flash and threw in the body lock. It was only a matter of time before Faber was able to slide his biceps across Jorgensen's windpipe and squeeze, forcing a reluctant tap from a game, but overmatched, opponent.
On the opposite side of the shocking spectrum, Kelvin Gastelum was tired of all the Uriah Hall hype, which reached a ridiculous crescendo when TUF 17 coach Chael Sonnen suggested that his star pupil currently had the skills to defeat UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva.
Outrageous claims notwithstanding, Hall is a very talented fighter who assembled the greatest collection of highlight-reel knockout victories TUF "reality" franchise has ever seen. Unfortunately, the Tiger Muay Thai-trained fighter was unable to close the loop, dropping a decision to consummate castmate underdog, Gastelum, after three very close rounds of action.
While Hall looked cocky and unimpressed, particularly in the first round, Gastelum was going to work, securing takedowns and flinging wild heavy shots. It's not a stretch to suggest that Halls Silva-like impersonations -- not super-human fighting ability -- were the difference in that opening round.
One that would cost him dearly in the end.
Hall would eventually ditch the act and land some nice shots, as well as a great backward suplex toss in round two. He'd begin to find his groove, and with the scorecards seemingly evened out heading into the decisive third and final frame, both men would turn in spirited efforts to close out their Middleweight bout.
In fact, Hall appeared to be close to a finish with a ground-and-pound assault, but Gastelum was able to literally escape and run away, returning a short time after to score another takedown, which was a common theme throughout the bout and undoubtedly his key to upset victory.
Hall and Gastelum would fight until the final bell, but in the case of Hall -- who dropped a split decision -- it was too little, too late and too cocky.
Lesson, hopefully, learned.
Miesha Tate and Cat Zingano hooked 'em up in a 135-pound women's bout that would determine the next female Bantamweight contender, as well as earn the winner a coaching slot opposite division champion Ronda Rousey on the first-ever coed season of TUF.
Indeed, there was a lot on the line and both ferocious females competed accordingly.
Tate came out on fire, charging Zingano out of the gate like a raging cow and getting an early takedown. Zingano weathered storm, and after several nice scrambles and reversals, Zingano cinched in a what appeared to be a tight standing guillotine choke. Tate tripped her way out and blasted "Alpha" with a combination along the cage on the break, appearing to daze Zingano briefly.
The non-stop action would continue deep into the second stanza, with Tate -- the agressor -- seemingly ahead on the judges scorecards in a very close fight. However, the tide turned as Zingano appeared to use a Tate kneebar attempt to catch her breath and conserve energy for the third and final frame.
Did she ever.
Tate was visibly exhausted, which Zingano capitalized on immediately. "Alpha" scored a takedown and began to deliver a healthy dose of ground-and-pound. Tate was unable to escape and when she tried, Zingano blasted her with a knee to the face. "Cupcake" would try again later in the round and it would ultimately be her undoing.
Zingano landed a flying knee along the cage that buckled Tate and then followed it up with a brutal barrage of strikes that compelled referee Kim Winslow to intervene. And it was a good stoppage -- Tate was a bloody mess who could no longer defend herself intelligently against the bigger, stronger and more fit Zingano.
In the end, it was an exciting back-and-forth match that kept the positive momentum rolling for women's competition inside the Octagon. The promotion has hit it out of the park twice now and will look to score another when Rousey and Zingano collide later this year after TUF 18 wraps.
I can't wait.
Since returning from self-imposed mixed martial arts (MMA) retirement in Oct. 2011, former No. 1 Heavyweight title challenger, Gabriel Gonzaga, has been on a three-fight submission tear, tapping Parker Porter, Ednaldo Oliveira and Ben Rothwell in succession to emerge once again as a dangerous divisional player.
That streak and status, however, came to a thudding halt this evening thanks to several murderous Travis Browne elbows.
"Hapa" was looking to erase the memory of his huge loss to Antonio Silva in Oct. 2012, which snapped his professional unbeaten streak and put "Bigfoot" on the championship path. He opened the bout with a wild with high kick, which "Napao" ducked under and scored a quick ankle-pick takedown. Browne, however, quickly got to his feet and continued to thwart the relentless takedown attack of the Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist alongside the cage.
And that's where the brutality started ... and stopped.
While Gonzaga -- who clearly wanted no part of Browne's striking -- worked for a single-leg takedown, Browne began to drop short, savage elbows into his left ear. Gonzaga refused to cover up or switch his position, and by the third thundering ear plug, his body went limp.
Browne landed what looked like an illegal shot to the back of the head, but at that point, Gonzaga was already done. He ate one final coup de grace on the side of his right face as his lifeless body twisted toward the mat, while Browne once again re-established himself as a very menacing and formidable top-ranked contender.
Last, and certainly least, "Bubba" Robert McDaniel and Gilbert Smith kicked off the televised FX action, with the latter out to silence the former for his douche-baggery on TUF 17 and because he was perceived as Team Jon Jones teacher's pet. Gilbert wasted little time, securing a tight triangle choke that appeared to have McDaniel in all sorts of trouble, adding in an armbar just for good measure.
McDaniel, in perhaps his last stand, picked up Gilbert and dropped him straight on his head, which freed the hold and allowed him to continue. And continue he did, taking the wind out of Gilbert sails with gut-busting Muay Thai and working him over on the ground.
The constant assault eventually took its toll Gilbert, who was spent by round three and -- despite his edge in Brazilian jiu-jitsu -- could not escape McDaniels' triangle-armbar submission combination. Gilbert was forced to tap and, in the process, McDaniel will live to see another day inside the Octagon.
That's enough from us. Now it's your turn to discuss TUF 17 Finale: "Faber vs. Jorgensen" in the comments section below.
Does Faber deserve the next title shot ... again? Is Gastelum really better than Hall? What are Zingano's chances against Rousey? Is Browne championship challenger caliber? Has "Bubba" earned your respect?
Let's hear it, Maniacs.
Be sure to also check out our complete TUF 17 Finale blow-by-blow coverage of the entire "Faber vs. Jorgensen" event right here. And for a detailed recap of the TUF 17 Finale "Prelims" bouts on Facebook click here.