Those who did stay awake long enough saw a dominant 5-round performance from one of the most talented rising stars in the UFC stable, as Adesanya delivered a thunderous beating to Brad Tavares. There were multiple junctures in the contest when it seemed the referee would be jumping in before long, but somehow Tavares managed to make the judges make what turned out to be a far easier decision than anyone expected it would be. Make no mistake, Adesanya was the biggest winner of the night.
Israel Adesanya: There were many comparisons to Anderson Silva being thrown around on Twitter. Normally I’d scoff at such a comparison, but Adesanya did things only the Spider has done. Many – myself included – were saying he was getting too much, too soon with Tavares. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Do not take your eyes him people. He’s the real deal.
Brad Katona: You have to have a certain mindset to appreciate the workmanlike performance put on by Katona. You don’t have to appreciate it to admit it was impressive. The Canadian dominated Jay Cucciniello from bell to bell to take home the TUF featherweight title. More importantly, he looks like a prospect worth keeping an eye on.
Alex Caceres and Martin Bravo: Fighters often say they are willing to die in the cage and these two fought like they meant it. Caceres found a home for his left hand time and again, but Bravo refused to go away. As Caceres slowed down after pushing a heavy pace, Bravo came close to putting him away multiple times, but couldn’t do it. Thus, they went to decision in a contest that could have gone either way. Caceres had his hand raised, but Bravo made a hell of a name for himself in the process.
Roxanne Modafferi: Admittedly, I don’t know what Super Saiyan is either – sorry, Dragonball Z was after my time – but Modafferi is proof of what hard work and passion can lead to. Not only is she 15 years into her career, she’s also one of the worst athletes in the UFC. And yet, she manages to get better with each showing. If you don’t love Roxy, you aren’t human.
Alessio Di Chirico: I know many aren’t going to be happy to see Di Chirico here, but I’m in the minority that believes he deserved that decision. Regardless of whether you believe he deserved the win or not – I personally have no problem if you believed Marquez won – Di Chirico performed better than anyone expected he would. The Italian might be worth keeping an eye on after all.
Montana de la Rosa: No, it wasn’t a flawless performance, but de la Rosa had a strong first round and put it together when it counted in the final frame. Good all-around performance for the 23-year old and a big win to help move her up the ladder.
Luis Pena: Pena is more than just an awesome nickname. Violent Bob Ross electrified just as much on the feet as he did on the ground, lighting up Richie Smullen before submitting the SBG product. Given injury was the only thing that prevented Pena from winning the TUF crown, he’s likely the name emerging from the house everyone will be looking out for.
Steven Peterson: Peterson only barely makes it into this category as Peterson took a hell of a beating in the second round, but he somehow found a way to remain conscious and turned the tide in the final round. Peterson isn’t anything special, but he’s amazingly durable and usually puts on a good show.
Gerald Meerschaert: The opening round was one-sided enough that it didn’t seem like Meerschaert had anything to offer Oskar Piechota. The second round was a completely different story as Meerschaert’s durability and resilience began to shine, ultimately finding the finish. Easily the best win of the longtime regional vet’s career.
ESPN: ESPN is a winner by default of Fox Sports providing unbearable production quality with terrible pacing. I’m not joking when I say Fox Sports is setting the bar so low for ESPN to improve upon things that they’ll be able to crawl over and fans will notice a big difference. It’s events like this that leave fans craving for the beginning of the UFC’s new television era.
Joe Giannetti: To be fair, Giannetti is a kid. He has some maturing to do and will probably emerge from this loss a better fighter. But he turned off a lot of people with his lackadaisical performance against Mike Trizano. He gave no indication he actually cared whether he won or lost, acting like he deserved the win regardless of what he did – or didn’t – do in the cage. Sorry Joe, but you ain’t too cool for school.
Jay Cucciniello: To be fair, nobody really thought the Brit was going to take the TUF title over Brad Katona. That doesn’t mean they weren’t hoping for a competitive contest at the very least. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but Cucciniello couldn’t provide it. His lack of upside indicates he may not get an extended look.
Barb Honchak: While Modafferi is one of the most savvy fighters on the planet, I expected a veteran like Honchak to look better than that. I don’t want to blame it on her long layoff as she put on a spirited contest with Lauren Murphy last winter, but Honchak had very little to offer here. Either Father Time has caught up to Honchak or Modafferi really is that good. For the sake of both, I hope it’s the latter.
Richie Smullen: The less said about his loss to Pena, the better. So….
John Gunther and Allen Zuniga: I like Gunther. He’s bit of a goofball. The problem is I don’t like watching his performances in the cage. All he does is push his opponent against the cage since his takedowns aren’t particularly effective. Even though everyone knows this, Zuniga couldn’t do anything to stop it. Gunther walked out with a win, but it’s a performance no one wants to remember.
Oskar Piechota: And to think things started out so well for the Polish prospect. Piechota looked like he was well on his way to making a name for himself as an up-and-comer in a division that has had a lot of talent age out of the top of the standings. Then Piechota hit a wall in the second and Meerschaert capitalized. It isn’t the end of the world for Piechota and most expected him to hit a wall at some point… just not this early.
Fox Sports: Do they realize their pacing is so abysmal that they’re making it impossible to pick up new fans? For hell’s sake, the main event began AFTER the damned event was scheduled to end. Only shit-eating wild men are willing to sit through the ridiculous volume of commercials they force viewers to endure… especially those on the east coast. I’m all for having plenty of time for a bathroom break… but only grandma would need to utilize the amount of bathroom breaks provided to us!
The TUF Franchise: Not all was bad for TUF as it was announced that Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum would be the next coaches, with hopes they can build up a title fight for the middleweights. However, they aren’t going to maintain interest if the tournament finals produce fights like they did here. Katona was impressive, but none of the other three finalists did anything to make fans feel like the tournament means… well, anything. I’m ready to let this franchise die and I know I’m not the only one.
Brad Tavares: It was hard not to put Tavares in the loser’s column after enduring such a beating, but one can’t help but admire the heart and toughness the Hawaiian displayed. Even crazier, despite the fight being very one-sided, Tavares didn’t perform poorly. He was simply outclassed by a better opponent who flashed signs of being a transcendent talent. In the process, Tavares earned mad respect from the MMA community. A man with that much respect can’t be a loser.
Mike Trizano: I don’t want to crap on his moment to much as he did win the lightweight TUF title, but that was an abysmal fight. Trizano didn’t impress anyone with his performance, but he won because he actually gave a damn. Not a great endorsement for the winner of a tournament people no longer give a damn about.
Julian Marquez: Does Marquez understand you don’t need to go for the kill with every punch or kick? Apparently not and fans love him for it. He came out on the losing end of a controversial decision which may have been enough to put him in the winner’s column… but he also missed weight BADLY. It looks like light heavyweight is in his near future….
Rachael Ostovich: There were times where it appeared Ostovich was taking a step backwards in her development, but she also had some moments where she looked awesome. Yes, the finish hurts. But Ostovich’s performance was spirited enough that she should be holding her ground.
Bryce Mitchell and Tyler Diamond: Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh on the prospects as they put on an entertaining scrap. But neither really distinguished themselves in the process and they badly needed to do that if they wanted to be seen as more than token TUF fighters on the roster. Pena was the ultimate example of what they needed to be done. Then again, their performance wasn’t as poor as Gunther’s….
Matt Bessette: Bessette has nothing to be ashamed of. He put on a spirited performance, only to come out on the wrong side of a decision that could have gone either way. Here’s hoping he gets one more opportunity to pick up a win within the confines of the Octagon.