Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back on FOX Sports 1 less than 24 hours after the UFC 189 pay-per-view (PPV) event to bring you, the discriminate mixed martial arts (MMA) fan, the
exciting conclusion to The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 21.
Tonight's (Sun., July 12, 2015) live finale, which takes place inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, is headlined by welterweight slugger Jake Ellenberger, as he looks to get back into the 170-pound title hunt at the expense of 170-pound striker Stephen Thompson.
But before they can bang it out in the five-round main event, TUF 21 finalists Hayder Hassan and Kamaru Usman will settle their longstanding score from the combat sports reality show. "Hulk" represents American Top Team (ATT), while "The Nigerian Nightmare" is backed by the Blackzilians squad.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire TUF 21 Finale fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, and then the remaining under card balance on FOX Sports 1 at 7 p.m. ET, before the FOX Sports 1 main card start time at 9 p.m. ET.
There are worse ways to spend your Sunday night.
Outside of last year's TUF 20, which featured a championship contest in the live finale, top billing rarely goes to the remaining finalists. That explains why the Jake Ellenberger vs. Stephen Thompson welterweight bangfest was cobbled together for what little name value there is.
Honestly, I don't get this match up.
Ellenberger (30-9) hasn't been relevant in over two years and his only win across his last four contests was a submission over the rapidly deteriorating Josh Koscheck. Prior to that, he lost three straight and was finished twice, so what's he doing against a top prospect like Thompson (10-1)?
Maybe that's the point.
This could be a showcase fight for "Wonderboy," who won four in a row and is now 5-1 inside the Octagon with three violent finishes. His kickboxing background almost guarantees this will be a stand up fight, unless "The Juggernaut" gets lit up like a 170-pound Lite-Brite and falls back on his wrestling.
Or he could just fold up like a Peter Luger's dinner napkin.
Speaking of overrated meat, Hayder Hassan vs. Kamaru Usman will bring fans the ending they didn't know they were hoping for, after a ho-hum season of TUF 21. The gimmicky concept of ATT vs. Blackzilians sounded fun in the beginning, but a convoluted scoring system and randomly-generated match ups made it hard to commit.
Losing a fight did not earn an automatic elimination.
That said, the hard-hitting Hassan (6-1) is a surprising underdog for this welterweight contest. Usman (5-1) is a talented wrestler but not much else, and I'm not sure he's going to keep "Hulk" pinned to the floor for the duration of the fight. I also think the ATT product is mentally stronger than his opponent.
Like we saw all season long across three separate fights, Hassan is money when it comes to must-win situations.
The only other contestants to be represented tonight in "Sin City" come by way of the Michael Graves vs. Vicente Luque welterweight contest, an intriguing battle of styles. Graves (4-0) was upset in the opening episode, but redeemed himself later in the show.
It was just the opposite for Luque (7-4-1).
The Brazilian stunned Nate Coy to keep the Blackzilians winning about midway through the season, but dropped a razor-thin decision to the aforementioned Hassan in the final episode. His striking is crisp and clean and I expect him to put on a show against his ATT rival.
If not, we may need to rely on Jorge Masvidal vs. Cezar Ferreira for the main card fireworks.
That could be asking a bit much when you consider that Masvidal (28-9), for all his bravado, has been to the judges' scorecards in 13 out of his last 14 fights. Moving up to the welterweight division could help change that disturbing pattern.
At least we know "Gamebred" will come to fight.
Waiting for him will be Ferreira (8-4), who hasn't exactly been lighting the world on fire, either. The Brazilian jumped out to a 3-0 start in his UFC career, but is just 1-2 over his last three and got KTFO by CB Dollaway and Sam Alvey. "Mutante" is a well-rounded fighter, but his defense needs work.
Fortunately for him, Masvidal does not have one-punch knockout power.
That's the kind of thing that could come in handy for the Michelle Waterson vs. Angela Magana fight, because I don't see any other way "Your Majesty" comes out the victor. Not only has Magana (11-7) lost three straight fights, she looked dreadful during her stint on TUF 20.
Waterson (12-4) is younger, faster, and more skilled in all facets of the fight game.
"The Karate Hottie" was upset by the relatively-unknown Herica Tiburcio before jumping ship for UFC, but prior to that Invicta 10 loss, Waterson went on a six-fight tear, five of which ended violently for her opponents. I'm expecting more of the same in tonight's showdown.
Anything else would be uncivilized.
Kicking off the six-fight main card is Maximo Blanco vs. Mike De La Torre, a featherweight scrap getting little-to-no fanfare, partly because Blanco (11-6-1, 1 NC) was unable to replicate his success overseas, where he won six straight fights and tore through the Sengoku circuit.
Since then, "Maxi" is just 3-4 and hasn't finished a fight in five years.
De La Torre (13-4, 1 NC) also has some work to do if he plans on moving up the 145-pound ladder. After a rocky start in 2014, "El Cucuy" (yes, another one) was able to paste Tiago Trator back in February. Another finish like that and he'll be well on his way to the top 15.
TUF 21 Finale Quick Picks:
170 lbs.: Jake Ellenberger vs. Stephen Thompson -- Thompson via TKO
170 lbs.: Hayder Hassan vs. Kamaru Usman -- Hassan via TKO
170 lbs.: Michael Graves vs. Vicente Luque -- Luque via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Cezar Ferreira vs. Jorge Masvidal -- Ferreira via split decision
115 lbs.: Angela Magana vs. Michelle Waterson -- Waterson via TKO
145 lbs.: Maximo Blanco vs. Mike De La Torre -- De La Torre via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Russell Doane vs. Jerrod Sanders -- Doane via submission
125 lbs.: Willie Gates vs. Darrell Montague -- Gates via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Caio Magalhaes vs. Josh Samman -- Magalhaes via submission
185 lbs.: Dan Miller vs. Trevor Smith -- Smith via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: George Sullivan vs. Dominic Waters -- Waters via unanimous decision
That's all from me, now let's hear from you. Who ya' got?