The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale is set to unfold tonight (Fri., July 8, 2016) live on FOX Sports 1 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
With MMA standouts like Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women's Strawweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk, top Strawweight contender Claudia Gadelha, former Bellator MMA Lightweight champion Will Brooks, English powerhouse Ross Pearson, Korean sensation Doo Ho Choi, and The Ultimate Fighter Season 23 finalists holding down the main card, TUF 23 Finale should deliver through and through.
But before the main card sets your television screen ablaze, the event's "Prelims" undercard will take place on Fight Pass starting at 7:00 p.m. ET and FOX Sports 1 starting at 8:00 p.m. ET.
Find out what happened right here as the preliminary recaps roll in live:
FOX Sports 1
Gray Maynard vs Fernando Bruno
UFC veteran Maynard (12-5-1) went to war with Bruno (15-4) to finish off the preliminary portion of TUF 23 Finale. Both fighters exploded out the gate and nearly finished one another as hot leather flied. Maynard's chin continued to hold up as the Brazilian launched heavy blows. Bruno even took down the accomplished wrestler to end the first round. Maynard continued to pressure Bruno throughout the second round with strong grappling and persisted to break the gunslinger down until the final bell rang. Exhaustion may have played a role, but Maynard broke down Bruno in his divisional debut and captured the unanimous decision win. The former Lightweight champion could hang around after all.
John Moraga vs Matheus Nicolau
Former UFC Flyweight title contender Moraga (16-5) tried to get back into the divisional win column tonight against promising 23-year-old prospect Nicolau (12-1-1), who was moving down from 135 pounds. After a fairly stagnant first two rounds that offered good counter combinations by Nicolau and overall Octagon control by Moraga, Nicolau secured a key takedown with under a minute left in the third to sort of seal the deal on the judges' scorecards. The Brazilian youngster won by split decision and handed Moraga his first two-fight losing streak of his career. Nicolau should be one to watch at 125 pounds, especially if he can get his hands on some smaller Flyweights.
Josh Stansbury vs Cory Hendricks
Former TUF 23 standouts Stansbury (8-2) and Hendricks (3-1) went to war Friday night in effort to impress in their Octagon debuts. Hendricks looked confident on the feet early on, offering body kicks from distance and solid range work. But the more powerful Stansbury threatened all the way through, slinging overhand rights and counter hooks to keep the undefeated Hendricks at bay and literally knock the snot out of his nose. After landing a timely takedown in Round 2, Stansbury began to pile on the offense from top position before the referee stood the two Light Heavyweights back up. It was much of the same over the final five minutes as "The Sandman" attacked on the ground, threatened with countless kimura attempts and wore Hendricks down. Stansbury would go on to win via majority decision and solidify himself as an up-and-coming talent at 205 pounds.
Cezar Ferreira vs Anthony Smith
Brazilian powerhouse Ferreira (10-5) attempted to win his second-straight UFC Middleweight fight when he took on MMA veteran Smith (25-12) earlier tonight. An extremely patient "Mutante" took his time on the feet, relied on his heavy top game and strong takedowns to control Smith for the majority of the fight. But it was "Lionheart" who landed more damage on the feet en route to staggering Ferreira towards the end of Round 2. Over the final five minutes, Ferreira continued to pressure Smith on the ground, with Smith offering scarce transitioning off his back.While "Mutante" wasn't overly impressive, he most certainly imposed his game plan to capture the unanimous decision win.
Jake Matthews vs Kevin Lee
In a battle of rising Lightweight prospects, the 21-year-old Matthews (10-2) was looking for his third-straight divisional win when he met Detroit's own Lee (13-2) inside of the Octagon. It didn't take long for Lee, 23, to impose his will, take "The Celtic Kid" down, punish him with some nasty ground-and-pound, and secure the first-round technical knockout. While Matthews wasn't noticeably hurt, he did very little to stop referee Jason Herzog from stepping in. The victory puts Lee on the fast track to fight a top 15 opponent his next time around.
Li Jingliang vs Anton Zafir
A couple of un-ranked Welterweights sparked the TUF 23 Finale card tonight as Jingliang (11-4) locked horns with Zafir (7-3), who was looking for his first Octagon victory. Unfortunately for "The Professor," Jingliang'a power was simply too much to handle. After getting dragged to the canvas twice by Zafir, "The Leech" secured his own takedown and then proceeded to land two devastating right hands to a downed Zafir, capturing the first-round knockout. Jingliang's recent move to the United States to train at Xtreme Couture certainly looks like it's paying off. This is arguably his biggest Octagon victory to date and one that will allow him to make a quick turnaround in 2016.
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