Last night's Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale was a mixed bag. I wasn't generally impressed with the fight card overall, but the main event did help bring the card up to at least average levels. Let's put it this way - when the fight of the night is the only Facebook prelim bout, you know that the card didn't really deliver. Only half of the 10 fights went to decision, but one was over in 25 seconds after a disqualification and most of the decisions were somewhat lopsided. When you drag all that out over six hours or so, it's hard to stay interested. Anyway, let's get onto the winners and losers.
Nate Diaz - How much of a statement was that? Diaz hasn't stopped anyone with his hands in well over three years and he totally dominated Maynard on the feet. He landed a ton of hard shots and I was surprised Gray stayed on his feet the whole time. Regardless, Diaz proved that he's absolutely still a player at lightweight and he'll be putting on entertaining fights in the that division for a while longer. His post-fight speech was also pretty awesome.
Julianna Pena - She totally dominated Jessica Rakoczy and of all the women on tonight's show, she was the only one that looked like she could immediately be a tough out in the UFC women's division. Her outspoken nature will surely help her as well, and I'm actually interested in a TUF winner for once because she's going to be used a lot differently than all of the other recent winners.
Chris Holdsworth - He appears to be a decent prospect and he definitely has some finish. I'm not exactly holding my breath in regards to his future - TUF hasn't produced a top-flight fighter in a long time other than John Dodson - but he comes from a good camp and seems pretty well-rounded. Hopefully he can add something to the bantamweight division.
Ryan Benoit - He fought well but got submitted in the second round by Sampo. So why is he here? Because he got paid. His bout won fight of the night but because Sampo came in overweight, the UFC made the decision to award him both halves of the FOTN bonus. So a flyweight making his debut on Facebook just got a check for 100k and he didn't even win. I like that.
Yves Lavigne - While others may disagree, I thought his stoppage of the Maynard/Diaz fight was excellent. He let it go on for a while because Maynard just wouldn't go down, but he stepped in at the exact right time in my eyes. He didn't allow Maynard to take an obscene amount of damage (even though he got clubbed pretty good), but he didn't wait until Maynard went down either. Lavigne takes some heat like all referees do, but I believe that he did his job well last night.
Gray Maynard - That was a very, very bad loss for Maynard. He has now been knocked out three times in his last four fights and didn't really look anything like the guy that beat Diaz in 2010. And the last two KO's came at the hands of guys that aren't known for their crushing power. He's not going to be anywhere near the title hunt unless he can string three or four wins together, and he's already a guy that doesn't fight that often. I'm not sure what the future holds for Maynard, but it's going to be tough to rebound from that.
Maximo Blanco - Look, I understand that fighters make mistakes in the heat of battle and my guess is that he didn't actually mean to break the rules. But Akira Corassani's hand was clearly down and he has to be more aware of the rules. Blanco has a ton of talent but he's a total enigma in the cage. He might be better off fighting somewhere where the rule set is a bit different. ONE FC or something.
Josh Sampo - He won his fight and looked quite good doing it. But missing weight has consequences, and he's out 50k because of it. I feel like he'll be a contender in the flyweight division, but it's never a good look to not get to the contracted weight in your debut. Hopefully he shows up on weight next time. See Lineker, John.
The viewers - I've been told that they scheduled three hours for the five-card main event from the start. But I have no idea why. And I have no idea why this card started so late. The pacing of the show was downright horrible and combined with a lack of exciting fights, the event just seemed like it was going on forever. If it's something like the Fight for the Troops card where the video packages are important, I'm fine with that. But seeing the UFC 168 commercial 168 times wore me down. And I'm on the west coast - I can only imagine how fight fans on the east coast felt.