Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada last night (Fri., July 8, 2016) for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 23 Finale, featuring the UFC Women's Strawweight Championship pitting Joanna Jedrzejczyk against Claudia Gadelha.
The event started off slow, but ended with a bang as Jedrzejczyk defended her title against Gadelha in an absolutely sensational main event (check out the highlights here). The victory was Jedrzejczyk's sixth in her Octagon career, and third straight title defense.
Prior to the title fight, Tatiana Suarez and Andrew Sanchez were crowned the new The Ultimate Fighter Season 23 tournament victors, with Suarez choking out Amanda Cooper and Sanchez dominating Khalil Rountree.
With that quick overview of the night's marquee bouts, here are your biggest winners, as well as the runners-up from "Sin City."
Biggest Winner: Joanna Jedrzejczyk
The UFC Strawweight Champion overcame adversity early in her title fight rematch against Claudia Gadelha, suffering a knockdown in the first 10 seconds of the bout, and dropping the first two rounds on the judges' scorecards.
Gadelha was employing a grappling heavy gameplan from the start, trying with all her might to take down the champ at any and all costs. When the challenger got the fight to the mat, she was able to put Jedrzejczyk in compromising positions.
The champion showed her resolve though, storming back in the pivotal third round to change the tide of the thrilling battle.
Showcasing her championship level cardio, Jedrzejczyk finally stuffed Gadelha's takedown attempts, and began to get loose on her feet, unleashing the beautifully technical combinations that earned her the belt in the first place.
From then on, it was all Jedrzejczyk.
The champ earned at least one 10-8 scorecard from each of the judges in the latter three rounds, as she brutalized Gadelha on the feet with brilliant speed and patented Joanna violence.
Jedrzejczyk wants to fight at in New York at Madison Square Garden next, and I'd expect UFC brass to give the Strawweight champ what she wants.
Runners-up: Doo Ho Choi
That boy Choi has hands!
Excuse me, Superboy.
Doo Ho Choi made a major statement inside the Octagon in Las Vegas last night, knocking out Thiago Tavares with a pinpoint 1-2 combination followed by a beautiful right hand on the mat to close the show.
The finish was "The Korean Superboy's" 10th in his young MMA career.
With three straight knockouts since joining UFC's roster, Choi has earned the right to fight a ranked Featherweight contender next.
And he wasn't going to wait for UFC brass to make the decision.
In the post fight interview, Choi called for the winner of the upcoming Cub Swanson vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri fight at UFC Fight Night 92.
Sounds good to me.
The New Ultimate Fighters
Tatiana Suarez and Andrew Sanchez are The Ultimate Fighter Season 23 victors.
Suarez won the Women's Strawweight tournament in impressive fashion, earning two submissions inside the house before latching on to a tournament winning d'arce choke early in the first round against Amanda Cooper in the final.
Heading into the TUF Finale, there was likely a large percentage of the audience who had never heard of Suarez, but following her impressive finish in Vegas, she undoubtedly earned plenty of new fans.
As for Sanchez, the newly minted TUF winner got the job done with a workmanlike performance over the outmatched Khalil Rountree in the Light Heavyweight tournament final.
Sanchez was able to manhandle Rountree on the mat, neutralizing his opponent's devastating knockout power en route to a decision victory.
Even though Sanchez's victory was far from aesthetically pleasing, he got the job done, and earned his UFC roster spot.
Add Will Brooks to the list of contenders in the stacked UFC Lightweight division.
The former Bellator Champion earned his coveted first UFC victory at the TUF 23 Finale, defeating longtime veteran and gatekeeper Ross Pearson via decision in a fun fight.
"Ill" Will hardly showed Octagon jitters early on, and maintained an impressive pace considering he took the fight on short notice.
Hopefully UFC matchmakers give Brooks a similar path to the title as newly minted champ Eddie Alvarez, and that means a ranked contender for "Ill" Will's next appearance.
Biggest Loser: Claudia Gadelha
After decisively winning the first two rounds of her title fight against Joanna Jedrzejczyk -- including a knockdown in the first 10 seconds of the fight -- Claudia Gadelha stumbled in the latter three rounds to suffer yet another decision defeat to "Joanna Champion."
The Brazilian proved she is unquestionably the second best Strawweight in the world, but her cardio failed her in the final 15 minutes of the battle.
Gadelha was pushing a very fast pace in the first two rounds, suffocating Jedrzejczyk with unrelenting pressure. From a viewer's point of view, it seemed the challenger was relying on explosiveness rather than technique to get the champ to the mat, thus expelling her gas tank quicker than expected.
In the end, Gadelha put up another great fight against Jedrzejczyk, but she still was unable to earn the victory.
Back to the drawing board for the No. 1 contender.
Runners-up: The FOX Sports 1 Undercard
After a thrilling night of fights at UFC Fight Night 90 on Thursday evening, the TUF 23 finale seemed destined to continue the momentum, especially with two finishes to kick off the night on UFC Fight Pass.
Then came the FOX Sports 1 "Prelims," and everything fell apart.
After four straight decisions in incredibly boring and tedious fights, it wouldn't come as a surprise if casual fight fans opted to change the channel before the main card started.
In the "Prelims" main event, Gray Maynard finally got back in the win column, defeating Fernando Bruno via decision in a truly terrible fight.
"The Bully" was content to just outwrestle a completely exhausted Bruno in a sloppy and ugly fight that seemed to drag out forever.
The previous three fights were no better, with former UFC Flyweight title challenger John Moraga's pathetic performance against Matheus Nicolau sticking out like a sore thumb.
If you DVR'd the undercard, do yourself a favor and don't bother watching it.
For complete results from TUF 23 Finale: "Jedrzejczyk vs Gadelha 2," including post-fight recaps and analysis, click here.