The main card for The Ultimate Fighter 28 Finale in Las Vegas, Nevada is nearly complete, with only the main event to go. Women’s flyweight Antonina Shevchenko got things started with a dominant unanimous decision in her UFC debut, while middleweight prospect Edmen Shahbazyan fended off a late scare by Darren Stewart to win his UFC debut. Bantamweight contender Pedro Munhoz recorded a first-round TKO of Bryan Caraway, reminding everyone that he’s a dangerous out for anyone in the division. The two TUF finals saw Macy Chiasson tap out Pannie Kianzad in the women’s featherweight tournament, while Juan Espino dominated Justin Frazier for his own submission win and the TUF heavyweight tournament victory.
Here’s how the fights played out.
Juan Espino def. Justin Frazier by submission (straight armlock) at 3:36 of round 1 to win The Ultimate Fighter 28 heavyweight final
This fight was one-sided almost from the opening second. Espino’s wrestling was the story, as he slammed Frazier to the mat right away, and unleashed some ground-and-pound while controlling Frazier. He had back mount and went for a rear-naked choke, but failed to get the submission and lost the position. Espino would get another takedown, straight into side control, and a straight armlock led to the Spaniard forcing Frazier to submit. At 38 years old, Espino is the oldest TUF winner in the show’s history.
Macy Chiasson def. Pannie Kianzad by submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:11 of round 2 to win The Ultimate Fighter 28 women’s featherweight final
Chiasson had the majority of the offense in the first round, largely in the clinch, where her bigger frame and strength led to Kianzad getting outworked and outstruck, while Kianzad struggled to find her range at distance.
The fight took a dramatic turn in round 2, as Chiasson floored Kianzad with a right hand and followed her to the ground. Kianzad worked from a closed guard, attacked with an armbar and went belly down on it. This proved to be her undoing, as Chiasson stepped over and took her back, then turned the tables by securing a rear-naked choke to win the tournament final, remaining unbeaten in her young professional MMA career.
Pedro Munhoz def. Bryan Caraway by TKO (strikes) at 2:39 of round 1
For a very short fight, this one contained a lot of action. Munhoz and Caraway threw with bad intentions, and Caraway was bloodied almost instantly due to the Brazilian’s jabs, while he had trouble with the leg kicks of Munhoz. Caraway’s takedowns proved futile, his cardio appeared to be failing him quick, and Munhoz was able to gain some steam. A stuffed takedown led to a knee by Munhoz to Caraway’s dome, then a liver kick caused Caraway to turn away in pain for the TKO finish.
Edmen Shahbazyan def. Darren Stewart by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
The undefeated Shahbazyan had to survive a third-round onslaught from the Englishman to eke out a split decision. Shahbazyan usually relies on his striking, but in this matchup, he went all-out for takedowns and control, which defined most of the bout. Stewart gave Shahbazyan an early scare in round 1 by landing a couple of right hands towards the end of the frame, but Shahbazyan had already taken down Stewart and nullified his offense numerous times over.
Shahbazyan had entered this fight having never fought past round 1, and after winning round 2, he found himself in trouble in the final round. After Stewart sprung up from a takedown, Shahbazyan got whacked with a hard elbow that had him hurt. Shahbazyan spent most of the ensuing moments stalling and trying to recover. He appeared to be tiring, and Stewart had his opportunity off a trip to the mat to land some fight-ending ground-and-pound, but he didn’t get the finish, and Shahbazyan got a few more takedowns to get the W.
Antonina Shevchenko def. Ji Yeon Kim by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
We saw a little bit of everything in the opening round. Both women had their moments on the feet, but Shevchenko had the upper hand, the noticeable speed advantage, and was far more accurate. Outside of a right hand that briefly staggered Shevchenko or at least had her stumble without being hurt, Kim had very little success after the first couple of minutes.
Round two was a striking clinic as Shevchenko steadily picked apart Kim with an array of countershots, knees, kicks, and the clinches that were largely initiated by Kim led either to Shevchenko having more offensive success, or a total stalemate in which the referee had to intervene and break them up.
There was one moment of concern for Shevchenko in round 3, although it was due to a strike she threw. After taking Kim down off a caught kick, nothing much happened in guard, and Shevchenko stood up, kicked Kim’s legs a couple of times, and as Kim tried to get back to her feet, Shevchenko threw an illegal knee to the head while downed. Yves Lavigne chose not to deduct a point for this foul, and the rest of the fight was just more Shevchenko dominance. The older sister of women’s flyweight contender Valentina Shevchenko — who wouldn’t stop yelling “hey!” all fight long — gets a win in her UFC debut, having been signed off Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series.