Going into The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale fight card, there were some names that generated their share of hype. Much attention went into highlighting such up and comers as Bubba “The Menace” McDaniel and Uriah “Primetime” Hall, who were also preseason favors to win the competition. Then there were established figures in the sport, such as”The California Kid” Urijah Faber and Miesha “Cupcake” Tate, who was set to make her UFC debut. Even a dual interview between TUF 17 coaches and UFC 159 combatants Jon “Bones” Jones (UFC Light Heavyweight Champion) and Chael Sonnen served as bait to lure fight fans into watching this card.
In the midst of it all, two fighters, who garnered the least attention of this card’s fighters, created a buzz for themselves when it counted most. One is now the 17th Ultimate Fighter winner. The other is now the number one contender to Ronda Rousey’s Bantamweight title.
Here’s a look back at an awe-inspiring TUF 17 Finale card:
Bubba “The Menace” McDaniel def. Gilbert “Jamal” Smith via Submission (Triangle Choke, 2:48 of Round Three)
Smith was able to set up the power game early by applying pressure to McDaniel and forcing him to the mat with takedowns McDaniel was able to keep himself out of serious trouble with distance striking while on his feet. Even when the fight went to the ground McDaniel was able to counter out of harm’s way and work from the ground with strikes and submission attempts. The story would eventually change in the last round. What worked for Smith in the first two rounds, was to no avail in the final round. Smith was unable to secure any takedowns. Meanwhile, McDaniel was able to get Smith to the ground, get control of his back. Smith put up a valiant effort by countering out of back control, but he found himself trapped in a triangle choke, forcing him to succumb to McDaniel’s will.
Browne swung for the fences early with a wheel kick that found nothing but air. Gonzaga almost secured a single leg takedown, but Browne was able to scramble to the cage. Gonzaga continued his attempts at a single leg takedown, but here’s where relentlessness proved to be costly. Browne, while avoiding the takedowns, was able to unleash a hail storm of elbows upon Gonzaga’s ear. The repeated shots proved effective, rendering Gonzaga motionless.
“Alpha” Cat Zigano def. Miesha “Cupcake” Tate via Technical Knockout (Knees and Elbow,2:54 of Round Three)
Immediately, Tate displayed her wrestling prowess, opening the bout with a takedown. As the two scrambled, Zigano showed she knew how to work in adverse situations. Zigano countered with a standing guillotine choke, that Tate eventually escaped. From there, Tate would establish herself as the better boxer. She landed combinations that truly tested Zigano’s chin. Zigano, who also made her UFC debut, ate everything Tate had to offer. As the striking exchanges continued, Tate continued her striking exhibition. As the fight continued into the second round, Zigano found herself in troubling situations, on the receiving end of takedowns, submission attempts and mounted punches, but somehow, she was able to evade danger and continue fighting. The tide turned in Zigano’s favor in the most important round. After a few punches, Zigano was able to bait Tate into a takedown. Once ZIgano secured a mounted position Zigano took every opportunity Tate gave her, in the form of strikes. As Tate tried to scramble out, she found herself on the receiving end of more strikes. Tate eventually got out of ground positioning and returned to her feet. Immeduately, she was met with a flurry of knees. Zigano would do the unthinkable, ending Tate’s night with a right elbow that sent the former Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight champion crumbling to her knees. Hats off to these to on being only the second women’s fight in UFC history and earning “Fight of the Night” bonuses in the process.
Kelvin Gastelum def. Uriah “Primetime” Hall via Split Decision
With Gastelum taking immediate control of center octagon and pushing the pace and Hall being an excellent counter puncher, the chess match between these Ultimate Fighter finalists further extended intrigue. Although Hall is considered the better boxer of the two, it was Gastelum that got the hands going early. The shots that Gastelum landed forced Hall against the cage. Gastelum was a master at applying pressure and changing levels. Hall, closed out the opening round with a takedown of his own, followed by some strikes, but they weren’t enough to help him claim the round. The second round saw Hall go back to the accurate, precise striker that TUF followers have come to know. Gastelum was able to withstand the strikes to execute another takedown. Hall responded with strikes and a takedown of his own. After a brief scramble, Hall caught Gastelum with an Olympic wrestling-like belly to back suplex that wowed everyone in attendance and television viewers alike. The first 1:18 of the last round saw a reserved approach from both fighters as they sized one another up for the perfect opening. Gastelum was the first to seize such an opportunity with a belly to back suplex of his own. AS Gastelum tried to take Hall’s back, he was met with a single leg takedown that was proceeded with hammer fists. The two were able to stand and with 1:10 left in the final round, Gastelum took the fight back to the ground with a deep, double leg takedown. Although the fight concluded on the ground, the combatants went out in a blaze of glory, leavign it all on the mat with an exchange of strikes. After deliberation by the judges, it was Kevin Gastelum who would go on to shock the world as not only an underdog, but at the tender age of 21, he is the youngest winner in tournament history.
“The California Kid” Urijah Faber def. Scott “Young Guns” Jorgensen via Submission (Rear Naked Choke, 3:18 of Round Four)
Jorgensen initiated the first blow with a leg kick. This left an opening for Faber to catch him with a two-piece punch combo that left Jorgensen staggering to the cage. The two were in a clinch, however, Jorgensen was able to shift things a bit with a takedown. While pressed against the cage, Faber was able to land a takedown of his own. From there the two exchanges punches, but this time, Faber was able to get the upper hand with a takedown. Jorgensen saw a possibility to secure a Kimura submission, but it was to no avail. As the two returned to their feet, it was Jorgensen that was able to cement himself as the better striker in the opening round; closing it out with a flurry of punches. As the fight progressed, it became more of a stand-up battle than anything. The two had exchanged both regular boxing and clinching. Again, Jorgensen proved to be the better striker in the second and third rounds, but Faber wold close out the third round on a high note, with a double leg takedown. The fourth round maintained the tradition of the previous rounds until the 2:10 mark arrived. It was at this point that Faber executed another takedown. A brief scramble led to Faber taking control of Jorgensen’s back and with 1:42 left in the fourth round, Jorgensen was forced to tap.
With minimal expectations, both Gastelum and Zigano went on to make the greatest statements of this card, in this blogger’s eyes. If their performances are any sign of their UFC careers, their only limit is the sky. The are two careers that fight fans should pay close attention to for years to come. Two quiet storms have touched down in the UFC…prepare yourselves for the havoc they’ll bring. You’ve heard it here first!
By Antoine Hoffman