The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) returned to FOX Sports 1 last night (Weds., July 4, 2018) for episode 12 of its first-ever “Undefeated” season. Coaching the cast of 16 mixed martial arts (MMA) hopefuls — split between the featherweight and lightweight divisions — are UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and UFC 205-pound kingpin Daniel Cormier.
“DC” is jumping up in weight to challenge Miocic at UFC 226 in July.
Tyler Diamond and Jay Cucciniello collide for the final spot in the featherweight finale, with the winner facing off against Brad Katona on the FOX Sports 1 main card on July 6. We kick things off inside the TUF gym where Cucciniello (Team Miocic) is hitting mitts and talking about facing Team Cormier’s No. 1 pick. The gameplan is to put Diamond on his back, the last place he wants to be, according to one of the assistant coaches.
For some reason we switch gears and go back to the TUF house where we start talking about fathers; whose dad is dead, whose isn’t, and whose is somewhere in the middle. As it turns out, Diamond had a great relationship with his late father, a role model, and gets weepy talking about him. The goal is to win TUF and live the life his father would have wanted to live. Now it’s Cucciniello’s turn to talk serious, and he hearkens back to his time as a soldier in Afghanistan where he was convinced he wasn’t going to make it back home alive.
Coach Cormier is watching tape with Diamond and they recognize Cucciniello is more dangerous now that he’s coming off a loss, but also agree that it’s their fight to lose. Diamond expects to take the center of the Octagon, throw a lot of volume, back him into the cage, and take Cucciniello down at the end of the round to secure the points. We get to the official weigh ins fairly early in the episode and as you might expect, both fighters make their mark without incident. The cameras poll the different squads and cases are made for a win for each combatant. Diamond says it’s “win or die.” Sounds a bit dramatic but hey, this is a reality show.
Chef Joe Zanelli is enlisted by Coach Cormier to come by the TUF house and make his team a huge farewell dinner. They all sit around the dining room table and “DC” gives a nice speech. Some twit is wearing a ski cap at the table because he wants to look cool on TV, but c’mon man, you’re indoors at the dinner table, give it a rest.
Time to fight!
145 lbs.: Jay Cucciniello (8-0) vs. Tyler Diamond (9-0)
Round 1: No touch of gloves and Diamond comes out firing. He rocks Cucciniello early, then puts him on his ass with a follow-up punch. He chases him to the ground to look for the submission but Cucciniello is able to shake off the cobwebs and recover before muscling his way back to his feet. Back to the striking and despite the early success for Diamond, he opts to shoot and take the fight to the floor. He gets it there but Cucciniello is able to pop back up. Now they battle for position against the fence. They separate and reset in the center of the cage. Diamond quickly shoots and gets the takedown but like before, is unable to keep the fight grounded. Cucciniello uses the cage to get to his feet and Diamond keeps the pressure on. They break free and go back to the striking. Cucciniello opens up and Diamond puts his head down and does a half-assed shot. That’s the bell. 10-9 Diamond.
Round 2: Diamond starts jabbing as he leaves his corner which looks ... kinda weird. Cucciniello walks forward and eats a stiff one. Now Cucciniello is landing some shots and Diamond is backing up. Some more sloppy punches from both sides and I’m sure a Diamond shot is incoming. Good left hand lands for Cucciniello but he continues to eat counterpunches because his striking defense is garbage. Diamond shoots and gets denied and is now forced to lay on Cucciniello against the fence. “DC” yells “Two minutes, let’s get this round!” before shouting wrestling instructions. Cucciniello pushes off and they go back to the punching. Cucciniello pressing forward but since he refuses to block punches he continues to get tagged. Diamond shoots and gets stuffed. Jab landing for Diamond. Another shot and once again Cucciniello is able to repel him. The round ends with Cucciniello wailing on him. Close round! 10-9 Diamond.
Round 3: No gloves will be touched. Diamond opens with a high kick and Cucciniello is doing that Anderson Silva lean-in-and-slowly-swing-the-arm-in-a-circle thing. Diamond goes for the takedown and gets denied and once again it’s time to jockey for position against the cage. Action slows to a crawl and the ref has to call for something more. Diamond abandons his position and they go back to the striking. Cucciniello having success and Diamond looks gassed. Body shots land for Cucciniello. Then a body kick. Diamond in big trouble now as he’s getting lit up by Cucciniello against the fence. He circles out and tries for the takedown and gets stuffed. The bout devolves into a sloppy bar fight as both fighters have emptied their tanks and can do nothing but punch each other in the face and try not to fall down. Diamond eats a huge body kick that wobbles him. In response, he pops off a lazy shot and just kind of flops to the ground, face first. As he gets back to his feet, Cucciniello crushes him with a vicious elbow and crumples him. One or two follow-up punches and it’s waved off.
Final result: Cucciniello def. Diamond by technical knockout
Here are the match ups for this Friday night’s TUF 27 live finale:
155 lbs.: Mike Trizano vs. Joe Giannetti (TUF 27 lightweight tournament final)
145 lbs.: Brad Katona vs. Jay Cucciniello (TUF 27 featherweight tournament final)
We get face offs from all four competitors, as well as Miocic and Cormier, to close out the show.