The Ultimate Fighter 28 Finale preliminary card is in the books. It started out with three consecutive finishes on UFC Fight Pass, courtesy of Raoni Barcelos, Tim Means, and Roosevelt Roberts. On FS1, TUF 28’s Leah Letson won her UFC debut over fellow cast member Julija Stoliarenko, ditto for Maurice Greene against Michel Batista. Flyweight contender Joseph Benavidez needed two attempts to TKO Alex Perez, after Yves Lavigne screwed up the first TKO call. Lastly, Kevin Aguilar won a thrilling, grueling war over Rick Glenn in a Fight of the Night frontrunner.
Here’s how the fights played out.
Kevin Aguilar def. Rick Glenn by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
It was a good start for Glenn in the opening minute or so, throwing from range and using his height advantage, and even putting Aguilar off balance with a left hand. Aguilar, who took the bout on short notice, took control of the rest of the round, scoring with several uppercuts and excellent counter-punching, including a hard punch that had Glenn retreating and stunned. The former LFA champion also frequently ripped the body and when he went upstairs, Glenn’s right eye was busted up.
Round 2 was very entertaining, as Glenn tried closing the distance with elbows and knees in the clinch, and at range he sought kicks to the body. Meanwhile, Aguilar waited to counter Glenn with uppercuts and more combinations to the body. Aguilar landed more strikes than his opponent, but both men certainly connected with some heavy leather on each other. Blood and cuts were noticeable on the faces of both men.
If the fight was hanging in the balance in round 3, then Aguilar had the most decisive moment, flooring Glenn with a vicious right hand, knocking his mouth guard out. Aguilar was unable to finish the fight on the ground, but he did control him until the final minute of the round. Glenn nearly pulled off a dramatic comeback by rocking Aguilar with an elbow, as Kevin’s legs buckled and he shot for a takedown. It was Glenn who hit a trip in the final seconds but it was too late. A very entertaining fight and a great win for Aguilar.
Joseph Benavidez def. Alex Perez by TKO (strikes) at 4:19 of round 1
Coming off a loss at UFC 225, Benavidez looked much sharper and faster than he did against Sergio Pettis. Perez was hurt early by a short right hand, and was certainly getting outlanded by the two-time flyweight title challenger. A loss of balanced led to Perez being put on his back, then Benavidez maneuvered his way into a dominant position to unleash a series of punches to Perez’s head. Yves Lavigne moved in to stop the fight, put both hands on him, and... then he didn’t stop the fight. Benavidez was robbed of a finish, but then he took Perez down later in the round and got an actual TKO with essentially the same set of quick punches to the head. Several of them in that first sequence looked to have been to the back of the head, but there wasn’t any controversy in the second sequence, which Lavigne actually stopped. Just a total screw-up by Lavigne but it proved to not be costly for Joe B.
Maurice Greene def. Michel Batista by submission (triangle choke) at 2:14 of round 1
In this battle between TUF 28 competitors, Batista unsurprisingly went for the takedown and put Greene on his back. The former Olympic wrestler obviously didn’t expect Greene to throw up a triangle choke, which proved to be the Cuban’s downfall. Greene was able to get the submission victory, this third by triangle choke in his MMA career. So for someone known as a former kickboxer, he has a penchant for being a heavyweight who can get triangle chokes.
Leah Letson def. Julija Stoliarenko by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Round 1 was contested entirely on the feet, and Letson clearly landed the much cleaner strikes, particularly on the counter. Stoliarenko was smiling seemingly throughout the ground, and both women were marked up early. It was mostly more kickboxing in round 2, although Stoliarenko had a failed takedown and a failed guard pull. Letson continued to get the better of Stoliarenko standing, but wasn’t really able to hurt her. The end of the second saw Letson take a hard elbow that cut her up, while Stoliarenko was caught with a straight left hand.
In the final round, Stoliarenko pulled guard and dropped for a guillotine choke, which Letson patiently fought off and then gained top control after the unsuccessful submission attempt by the Lithuanian. Not much happened from there and the referee stood them up. They exchanged some heavy strikes before the horn sounded.
Roosevelt Roberts def. Darrell Horcher via submission (standing guillotine choke) at 4:50 of round 1
UFC newcomer Roosevelt Roberts had the advantage on the feet against lightweight veteran Darrell Horcher, but it was his submission game that proved to be the difference. Late in the opening round, the unbeaten Roberts locked in a standing guillotine choke that briefly had Horcher horizontal while in mid-air, and that stranglehold was too tight for Horcher to withstand. That was spectacular.
Tim Means def. Ricky Rainey by TKO (strikes) at 1:17 of round 1
This was not competitive in the slightest. Means took Rainey down (after an eyepoke and blatant fence grab), then took him down again, blasted him with ground-and-pound until the referee intervened. That’s one way to avoid the risk of a close fight going to the judges, such has been the case for Means in recent losses.
Raoni Barcelos def. Chris Gutierrez via submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:12 of round 2
After a slow-moving first-round with little action apart from a Barcelos takedown, Barcelos scored another takedown early in round 2, and fought threw a cut caused by a Gutierrez elbow to control and outwork his opponent. Towards the end of the round, after ground-and-pound by the Brazilian, Barcelos took Gutierrez’s back and sunk in the fight-ending rear-naked choke.