The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 16 was brought to a conclusion last night (Dec. 15, 2012) as welterweights Colton Smith and Mike Ricci duked it out in the co-main event of the TUF 16 Finale with a six figure contract on the line.
Many critics had called this past season "the worst ever" due to the poor performances during the show, the low level talent of the competitors and the worst ratings in Ultimate Fighter history.
On a night with incredible knockouts, submissions and overall splendid showings, the TUF finalists (who were the only two competitors from the show even featured on the Finale) of course had the biggest stinker on the fight card.
Ricci, a blown up lightweight, had no answer for Smith's wrestling and overall stifling ground control and Smith's gameplan was evident in the opening seconds when he recklessly dove for Ricci's legs off an opening kick. He overshot his target and was blasted with a few elbows from top position, but that would be the last of Ricci's offense for the next 14 minutes.
Time and time again, Smith would shoot in, press Ricci against the fence and either drag him or slam him to the canvas. The Tristar product had no answer for Smith's relentless pressure. Smith was able to advance position and take Ricci's back for a majority of the fight, but simply wasn't far enough in his development to finish the more technical fighter.
After nearly 14 minutes of control, occasional punches and dominant position, Ricci finally found an opening and attacked in the final minute of the fight, but he couldn't secure either of his attempted submissions and Smith persevered to be crowned the next "Ultimate Fighter."
For Mike Ricci, he simply could not shut down Smith's offensive grappling attack. He wanted to keep his distance and work his striking, but he was unable to utilize his reach or keep Smith from getting inside and dragging him to the canvas. Even though Ricci occasionally escaped the position to work his way back to his feet, he could never dislodge Smith's body locks and was often taken right back to the ground. It had to be incredibly disheartening for him, but wrestlers are some of the most common MMA fighters on the planet and if he can't deal with them at this level of the UFC, he's going to have major issues moving forward.
Ricci will likely drop down to lightweight for his next fight and if the UFC decides to keep him around, expect a fight against someone along the lines of Joe Proctor, John Cholish or perhaps Aussie TUF finalist Colin Fletcher in a "loser leaves down" match-up.
For Colton Smith, he did a very solid job of completely stifling Ricci's offense by never giving him a chance to breathe and quickly dumping him on the ground as quickly as he could. While it was extremely effective, his inability to work any significant offense of his own while having his opponent right where he wanted him was problematic. You should be finishing a fight if you have back control of a fighter for over seven minutes, hands down. This is a pay-per-view driven sport and people aren't going to pay to see the TUF 16 winner unless he starts taking guys out when he's got his opponent in his wheelhouse. That being said, it was Smith's seventh professional fight so let's not completely crucify the guy just yet and give him a bit of time to develop.
Next up for Smith should be someone equally at an early stage of their development like Lance Benoist, Sergio Moraes or perhaps Besam Yousef.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Did you care at all about this past season of TUF? Do you think either of these guys will make any sort of impact in the UFC?
For complete TUF 16 Finale results, including blow-by-blow, fight-by-fight coverage of the entire event as well as immediate post-fight reaction click here, here and here.