While The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale lacked the starpower of its weekend competitor UFC 218, it certainly delivered action-wise. In the main event, Nicco Montano edged Roxanne Modafferi across five rounds and escaped a last second armbar to take the inaugural women's flyweight belt. Some will dismiss her as a placeholder until one of the beasts from 115 or 135 arrive to take the title off her, but they'll never take away her place in history as the first 125 pound champ.
Who knows? Montano may continue to surprise us as she did throughout the TUF 26 tournament. And despite the spectacular crash and burn Sijara "Sarj" Eubanks went through that led to her being replaced last second by Roxy, she's got a bright future in the UFC as well - maybe at 135, though? Maybe there should be a rule that if your organs shut down you're automatically forced up a weight class.
The UFC has been pretty ruthless in the past regarding who makes the cut into the promotion following TUF finales, but with this season build around launching the division, a few fighters that lost will undoubtedly make it onto the roster. I'm still pretty sure that Barb Honchack won her fight, and of course how could you cut Roxanne Modafferi after she stepped up to fight an extra two rounds on a day's notice?
Roxanne Modafferi may have come up short in her quest for the UFC title, but she put on a gutsy performance and almost stole the fight with that armbar in the final minute. After a disheartening showing on The Ultimate Fighter 18 that failed to earn her a UFC contract, she could have retired from the sport. Instead she uprooted her life from Japan to Las Vegas and doubled down on her fighting career.
The difference between 2013 Roxy and 2017 Roxy can largely be attributed to Syndicate MMA coach John Wood, who took her under his wing and taught her how to get the most out of her Jardine-style unorthodox striking. We doubt this is her final form, either. She went 6-2 in between her UFC runs. She TKO'd her two opponents in the TUF 26 tournament before getting out-muscled by "Sarj" Eubanks in the semi-finals. She's only getting better, and I can't wait to see more of her in the new women's flyweight division.
Sean "Show Pony" O'Malley
Following his win over Terrion Ware, Michael Bisping dismissed Sean O'Malley as a 'show pony,' which is Brit-speak for someone that's all style and no substance. O'Malley certainly has style -- he throws spinning s**t with wild abandon and can land a mean question mark kick out of nowhere. He also had enough substance to dig deep and keep going after his cardio clearly started to fail him halfway through the second round.
For a fighter that's just been plucked from the minors via Dana White's Tuesday Night Contenders Series, he's a pretty exciting prospect. The UFC clearly sees this and gave him the co-main spot on the card to showcase his abilities, a move that paid off. While I have no doubt a Russian wrestler may end up suplexing him into oblivion down the line, you'd have to be a pretty grouchy bastard not to get excited about seeing O'Malley fight again ... which explains Bisping's opinion on the subject.
How About A Comeback Of The Night Award?
While we don't disagree with Gerald Meerschaert getting the KO of the Night bonus (hey, that's what it is even if they don't call it that any more), it still sucks that Ryan Janes doesn't get any recognition for his come from behind win over Andrew Sanchez. This was Sanchez wrecking Janes in the first round:
And here's Janes returning the favor in the third:
Ryan Janes, the biggest underdog on the card gets the huge comeback win over Andrew Sanchez! https://t.co/bahcmqyqGD— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) December 2, 2017
We've heard that locker room bonuses left the UFC along with the Fertittas, which is a shame because this is exactly the kind of blood and guts turnaround Lorenzo would have opened his checkbook for.
No One Expects The Calf Slicer
It took bantamweight champ TJ Dillashaw four and a half rounds to put away the tough as nails Joe Soto, which makes it all the more impressive that Welsh fighter Brett Johns tapped him in 30 seconds ... with a calf slicer no less! Soto didn't even seem to realize what was happening until it was too late, partially because Johns grabbed the sub during a fall, and partially because who the hell goes for a calf slicer?
The move has only been successfully pulled off once before in the UFC (by Charles Oliveira back in 2012). It just goes to show you that sometimes it's the unconventional submission attempts an opponent isn't expecting that can end up paying off.