The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale was pegged to be a weak show due to the lack of names and relevant fighters beyond the main event, along with the fact that TUF 19 was universally derided as being one of the worst seasons in the show's history. As it turned out, the two TUF finals ended really quickly and expedited the start of Edgar vs. Penn 3. After a rather drab preliminary card, the main card delivered good action all around right up until the almost melancholic one-sided main event that was Frankie Edgar retiring B.J. Penn.
As noted yesterday, Patrick Wyman is away for a couple of weeks, so Winners and Losers is all mine for the next couple of events. So let's dive right into the real winners and losers from Sunday night:
--Frankie Edgar. I don't even want to approach it from the "he finished B.J. Penn with consummate ease" angle. He won like he was supposed to, took practically no damage, and can move on from this fight and go back to fighting actual contenders at featherweight. He's quite clearly still one of the best fighters in the world, and he had a great performance even ignoring the competition he had in front of him. Edgar is a winner both in the sense that he beat Penn and the fact that this chapter can finally be closed and we can start scanning the cream of the crop at 145 lbs to see who he fights next.
-- Corey Anderson and Eddie Gordon. First off, "Beastin' 25/8" remains the single worst nickname in the history of nicknames. Anyway, both guys are still quite raw, unpolished, and in need of plenty of work over the course of several years if they are to become anything above "typical mid-level TUF winner". Anderson also isn't going to advance very far in his career for as long as he's in a no-name camp like Kennel Fight Club, which looks a hell of a lot like an abandoned mechanics shop. For such a heavily criticized season filled with decisions, getting two knockouts in just a shade over a minute in each fight probably threw everyone for a loop.
--Derrick Lewis. Before I give him praise for the win, I have to point out that he quite clearly landed a punch flush on Guto Inocente's face well after Herb Dean stopped the fight and had his hands on him. That's not something that should slide. *Ahem*, now getting to the good stuff. He has crazy knockout power, almost like he's an American Soa Palelei. I don't really expect him to be contending for titles or anything like that, but he's worth watching for as long as he can hang/dominate the lower to middle ranks of the heavyweight division.
--Dustin Ortiz. The man is a split decision machine. That was his 3rd straight split decision and he's won 2 of them. Ortiz is clearly a tough out for most of the division and I think his callout of Chris Cariaso is perfectly reasonable matchmaking (if Cariaso wasn't fighting Kyoji Horiguchi already). Ortiz does a great job of "grinding" wins but not in the same sense as what gets Jon Fitch the booing treatment.
--Leandro Issa. I was anything but impressed with Issa after the first two round against Jumabieke Tuerxun. He kept his head straight up in the air when he threw punches and nearly paid the price for it early. By the end of round 2 he had a point deducted for a fence grab so blatant that even Mario Yamasaki was left no choice but to immediately dock a point. He needed a dramatic finish and he got the miracle finish with the last minute armbar. That's something you have to respect and admire, because far too often you see fighters who should be in desperation mode look anything but in a race against the clock to get the stoppage. It certainly saved Issa's job for the time being.
--Adriano Martins. How do you punish someone for hitting you in the balls (more on that later)? You knock your opponent out cold. Martins has done well to win 2 of his 3 UFC fights, including a submission win over Daron Cruickshank, and hopefully for him he won't be given another top 10 opponent like he was when Donald Cerrone nearly tore his head off.
--B.J. Penn. There's no way around it. He was 100% right in his self-assessment that he never should've returned to fighting, because he took an absolute whipping for the 3rd fight running. As much as the fans and media members wanted to see one last vintage Penn performance, we didn't even get a semblance of it. He looked every bit the part of a broken down 35-year-old who, 13 years into his career and without a win in 4 years, tried to make a last-ditch effort to see how much he has left in the tank. It came up empty. Penn never really let his hands go when he was in his awkward, statue-esque upright position, his once ungodly takedown defense disappeared, and his face was an ugly, bloody mess by the end of it. This was just the sad but ultimately unsurprising confirmation that he is no longer "The Prodigy" who took the UFC by storm in the early 2000s, or the dominant lightweight champion who made his opponents look like rank amateurs. Very rarely do the legends of combat sports exit on good terms, and Penn is just the latest example. I wish Penn all the best in retirement, which is 100% permanent this time.
--Matt Van Buren and Dhiego Lima. Van Buren proclaimed of Anderson, "all he can do is wrestle". Oops. Meanwhile, Lima got steamrolled, absorbed multiple strikes to the back of the head, and was knocked out for the first time in his career. It's very rare to see TUF finalists get blitzed within 2 minutes, but you saw it happen twice tonight.
--Guto Inocente. That's a rude awakening for a UFC debut coming off a 2+ year layoff. It's too quick to write him off just because of that, but that was just about the worst possible result he could've had in a battle of heavyweight prospects.
-- Jesse Ronson and Daniel Spohn. Those are likely the two men who will get cut after their defeats, especially Spohn, whose fight with Patrick Walsh was just dreadful and Dana White is already not keen on the TUF 19 cast. Tough luck for Ronson, who is 0-3 in the UFC and each one was a split decision. Tonight's was at the expense of Kevin Lee, who gets his first career win inside the Octagon.
-- Testicle kicking, fence grabbing, and other illegal things. My goodness. The number of nutshots, fence grabs, and back of the head shots was off the charts tonight. I already touched upon Derrick Lewis' rather poor decision to punch Inocente after Herb Dean clearly stopped the fight. Dhiego Lima should be furious that Yves Lavigne didn't bat an eye at the multiple illegal strikes that Eddie Gordon threw in the flurry that led to the TKO, although I'm not sure an appeal would be winnable at this point.
--No shame in Justin Scoggins losing to Dustin Ortiz, and you could argue he actually did win the fight. The 22-year-old has a bright future in the sport and between him and Ray Borg, this upcoming generation of super young and ultra talented flyweights bodes extremely well for the future of the weight class.
--Jumabieke Tuerxun should probably be in the "Losers" section after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, but he benefits from the fact that the UFC is aggressively targeting Asia for their international expansion, so he might be kept solely because of that. Otherwise he'd be dropped.
--Jose Manuel Puig will be concussed many more times with his version of defense. The testicle-destroying kick merely delayed his inevitable KO loss. He looked totally out of his depth, admittedly against a good opponent. Maybe he'll be around for the UFC Mexico show.
I'll be back next time for W&L of UFC Fight Night: Cerrone vs. Miller, which is a mere 9 days from today.