Roxanne Modafferi took on Nicco Montano last night (Fri., Dec. 1, 2017) at the TUF 26 finale, live on FOX Sports 1, from inside Monte Carlo’s Park Theater in Las Vegas, Nevada. At stake? The newly minted UFC women’s flyweight belt. Roxanne Modafferi wasn’t supposed to be here, but an unfortunate miss in weight by Sijara Eubanks means that one of the most beloved, uniquely nerdy female fighters ever had a chance to step up and fight for UFC gold. Nicco Montano was Roxanne’s bunkmate on The Ultimate Fighter, so there was a lot of shared respect going into the bout.
The fight opened fast, with Modafferi pressing forward. Roxanne landed her right hand. Montano tried to timea head kick. Montano clinched and Modafferi went for an inside trip, didn’t get it. Montano threw a high kick. She caught one of Roxanne’s kicks and took her down, establishing herself on top in Modafferi’s guard. Modaferri tried to pivot her hips, looking for an armbar. Montano stacked her weight on Roxannes hips to shut it down. She landed some light ground strikes, but eventually stood up after another armbar attempt. Roxanne clinched with a bodylock and landed a slick outside trip, landing in side control. She kept it tight, keeping Montano down even after Montano got to all fours and tried to stand.
Montano ate a right hand that wobbled her to start round two , and Modafferi poured on the offense, her onslaught ending in the clinch where Montano recovered. She eventually backed Modafferi out of the clinch with a stiff right hand of her own. Montano stepped foward into a low kick. Modafferi’s awkward stance shifting into punches was working for her. Montano was looking for the Muay Thai plum when they clinched. Modafferi backed Montano up with a right hand. Montano worked her jab and came forward, landing a right hand but eating one in return. Modafferi spun awkwardly into a kick. Montano was attempting to time an overhand counter right hand. She stepped forward into a nice body kick. Montano changed levels but Modafferi hip tossed her and got on top. Montano locked up a tight triangle attempt and elbowed a trapped Roxanne with thirty seconds left to go in the round.
Roxanne continued to pressure to open the third round, each fighter landing in exchanges. Roxanne threw a high kick off Montano’s arms. She timed a left hook counter. They clinched, and Montano ducked for a takedown against the cage. She couldn’t make it work, and they returned to the center of the Octagon. Modafferi pressed forward, landing a hook. Montano landed a right hand hand, then backed Modafferi off with a pair of left hooks. Roxanne landed a body kick that followed a right hand counter. Her right straight was her best weapon. Montano, from southpaw, was landing her own punches, but both fighters were running into each other’s punches. Roxanne was moving laterally more now, with Montano starting to push forward. The switch in tactics was working a little better for Modafferi until the end of the round, when she backed Roxanne to the cage and unloaded four or five punches that visibly moved Roxanne’s head back.
Montano landed an outside low kick, then went high. Both fighters were still landing with regularity. Roxanne landed a superman punch, then ate a combination that pushed her back to the cage. Montano clinched her against the fence with an underhook, sending her tumbling end over end onto her back with a sweep. Modafferi scrambled out of a D’Arce attempt and got back to her feet. She leveled heavy right hands at Montano’s head, then pressed into the Thai clinch. Montano snapped her down all the way to the mat but Roxanne held onto the clinch doggedly, pushing back up and holding Montano on the cage. She ate an outside knee to the head and the clinch broke. Modafferi landed a couple big right hands. She smelled an advantage and pushed forward, but when she threw a kick Montano caught it, took her down and advanced to half guard, landing elbows to Roxanne’s ribs. Modafferi was allowed up as the round ended but only managed to land one right hand before the buzzer sounded.
The fifth round started hot, with each fighter throwing their hardest hooks at the cranium of the other, landing as often as they missed. Montano timed a very nice knee tap and got Modafferi down in half guard. She advanced nearly to mount but couldn’t quite get it. When Roxy tried to sweep her, she backed away. Roxanne tried for a takedown next but got instantly reversed. Montano smothered her for thirty seconds and Modafferi got back up. She got back into the clinch and pressed the fight standing, landing a nice right and and body kick. She pushed into the clinch again. Roxanne looked for a submission, dragging Montano down, but ended up on her back. Modafferi was on her back with Montano in her guard with one minute to go. She looked for an arm, and locked up the armbar attempt. Would she get a last-minute tap? It wasn’t to happen, as Montano slipped out. Montano backed up to her feet, and Roxanne stepped forward and exchanged with her until the fight ended.
Nicco Montano was overjoyed to hear the judges decision. Her mother and grandmother interrupted the interviewing Daniel Cormier to hug her on national TV, a funny and touching moment. Indeed, she credited her matriarchal family and society for the strength to succeed; she also credited her TUF bunkmate Roxanne Modafferi for her heart and stepping up on one day’s notice. Roxanne said that Nicco is awesome, and she will go back to the gym and improve.
Official result: Nicco Montano def. Roxanne Modafferi via unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46, 49-46)
For complete TUF 26 Finale results, including play-by-play, click here