Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to the hurt business for a special Friday affair, as The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 28 Finale goes down later tonight (Nov. 30, 2018) live from inside Pearl Theater at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. Headlining the event will be a pivotal Welterweight showdown between Rafael dos Anjos and Kamaru Usman, while a new Heavyweight and women’s Featherweight TUF champion will be crowned in main card action.
Rafael dos Anjos was tearing it up in the Welterweight division since making the jump up from Lightweight in 2017, winning three straight against the likes of Tarec Saffiedine, Neil Magny and Robbie Lawler. His streak came to an end when he lost a unanimous decision to Colby Covington at UFC 225 in a interim title fight. Now, the Brazilian bomber will look to make another run at the strap by attempting to take out of one the best fighters in the division in Kamaru Usman.
Indeed, “The Nigerian Nightmare” has long proclaimed to be the most-avoided fighter in the weight class, proving his dominance by winning eight straight fights inside the Octagon, 12 in a row if you go back to his regional days. Feeling he’s long overdue for a shot at the title, Usman can punch his ticket to the big dance if he can take out the former 155-pound champion in impressive fashion. With division king Tyron Woodley primed to defend his title against Covington in early 2019, now is the time for Usman to put on an impressive outing because the 170-pound division just got a bit more crowded with the addition of Ben Askren.
What in the world is Joseph Benavidez doing on the undercard? To add yet another insult to insult, he’s not even headlining it.
I get it, Dana, the fans never cared about the Flyweight division, but Joseph is a talented fighter with a fairly decent name, having won six in a row prior to his loss to Sergio Pettis. And he’s fighting another talented fighter in Alex Perez, winner of eight straight. If you ask me, that fight deserves a spot on the main card, as opposed to Darren Stewart vs. Edmen Shahbazyan.
Original card vs. Actual Card:
Gilbert Melendez was set to make his long-awaited return at this event against Arnold Allen, but was forced out of the fight with an injury and replaced by Rick Glenn. Also, Ji Yeon Kim stepped up on short notice to replace Ashlee-Evans Smith against Octagon newcomer, Antonina Shevchenko. In addition, a fight between Boston Salmon and Khalid Taha was scratched from the event, though no official reason as to why was ever given.
Gilbert Melendez and Ashlee-Evans Smith were not the only two fighters who were struck down by the injury bug. After Rick Glenn stepped in to face Arnold Allen for an injured Gilbert Melendez, Allen hismelf withdrew with an injury and replaced by Kevin Aguilar.
Antonina Shevchenko -- sister of No. 1 Flyweight contender Valentina Shevchenko — will make her long-awaited debut when she faces off against Ji Yeon Kim. Undefeated thus far in her UFC career, Shevchenko earned her spot on the roster after an impressive outing on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series and winning all six of her pro MMA fights so far. Trying to fight out of the shadow of a successful sibling can sometimes be tough, but Antonina is looking to make her own mark inside the Octagon. An impressive outing against Ji will get her on her way. Edmen Shahbazyan is another undefeated (7-0) prospect who came up by way of Dana White’s series. He will look to keep it going agaisnt Darren Stewart.
Maurice Green, Michel Batista, Leah Letson, and Julija Stoliarenko will all get a chance to prove themselves after competing on TUF 28. Also, undefeated prospect (6-0) Roosevelt Roberts will look to add to his mint mark when he makes his debut against Darrel Horcher. Chris Gutierrez will bring his talents over from LFA to face off Raoni Barcelos.
How The Prelims Look:
They’re pretty much filler fights and nothing to get overly-excited about. But it is a chance for several newcomers to make an impression. The headlining bout will see Rick Glenn face off against Kevin Aguilar, which is a bit confusing since you have former title challenger Joseph Benavidez taking Alex Perez prior to this bout. Nothing personal against Glenn or Aguilar, but you’d think Benavidez, a longtime veteran and one of the faces of the 125-pound weight class, would get higher billing on the event.
To get a more detailed breakdown of all the undercard action click here.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Focusing on wins and losses, Tim Means needs a win if he wants to keep any hopes of holding his spot on the roster after dropping his previous two fights. While a third straight loss won’t guarantee he’ll get a pink slip, a win against Rick Rainey assures he’ll remain with the promotion. Hell, even a great outing coupled with a loss is sometimes good enough to stay put.
Interest Level: 4/10
Aside from the headlining bout, there really isn’t much that gets my blood pumping for this event. TUF isn’t what it once was and fans aren’t tuning in enough to care about the contestants.
But, we will have new players added to the 265-pound division, as Juan Francisco Dieppa will face Justin Frazier in the co-main event for the fight to be called TUF champion. Macy Chiasson and Pannie Kianzad, meanwhile, will tango for the right to be the women’s TUF Featherweight queen.
Can Kamaru Usman keep it going and finally punch his championship ticket? Or will the longtime veteran Rafael dos Anjos send “The Nigerian Nightmare” packing to the back of the line with an upset victory? Tune in tonight to find out!
Full Fight Card:
TUF 28 Finale Main Event:
170 lbs.: Rafael dos Anjos vs. Kamaru Usman
TUF 28 Finale Main Card On FOX Sports 1 (10 p.m. ET):
265 lbs.: Juan Espino vs. Justin Frazier – TUF 28 heavyweight tournament final
145 lbs.: Pannie Kianzad vs. Macy Chiasson – TUF 28 featherweight tournament final
135 lbs.: Bryan Caraway vs. Pedro Munhoz
185 lbs.: Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Darren Stewart
125 lbs.: Ji Yeon Kim vs. Antonina Shevchenko
TUF 28 Finale Prelims On FOX Sports 1 (8 p.m. ET):
145 lbs.: Rick Glenn vs. Kevin Aguilar
125 lbs.: Joseph Benavidez vs. Alex Perez
265 lbs.: Maurice Greene vs. Michel Batista
145 lbs.: Leah Letson vs. Julija Stoliarenko
TUF 28 Finale Prelims On Fight Pass (6:30 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Darrell Horcher vs. Roosevelt Roberts
170 lbs.: Tim Means vs. Ricky Rainey
145 lbs.: Raoni Barcelos vs. Chris Gutierrez
To see the entire UFC schedule for the remainder of 2018 click here.