Nate Diaz rebounded from two straight losses and made a huge statement in his defeat of Gray Maynard at The Ultimate Fighter 18 finale. Additionally, two new Ultimate Fighters were crowned at the TUF 18 Finale from the Mandalay Bay.
Diaz had struggled in his last two bouts losing to Benson Henderson by decision for the lightweight title and then suffering a TKO loss to Josh Thomson.
On Saturday night the Stockton, CA, native faced Maynard for the third time and struck him with shots up against the fence that obviously rocked him. He continued to pummel Maynard with shots that dazed him. Once the fight was called, Maynard collapsed to his knees. During the post-fight press conference Diaz admitted he was glad that the referee stoppage happened when it did.
For Diaz the win earned him Knockout of the Night and a much need victory. For Maynard, the loss was his third in his last four fights. “The Bully” has also been stopped with strikes in each of those losses.
“I could tell he was out but he wouldn’t drop,” Diaz said. “I gotta keep throwing to drop these fools. Maybe the ref should’ve stopped it earlier, I don’t know. I planned my victory speech for three months. I knew exactly what I was going to say. I think I got my crew some fights. These are my boys and are there for me always. We represented tonight.”
Following his win, Diaz brought his friend and training partner Gilbert Melendez into his post-fight interview and called out UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis and contender Josh Thomson. Diaz said in the post-fight press conference that he isn’t sure if he’ll stay at 155-pounds, that’s a decision he’ll have to make down the road.
The Ultimate Fighter season 18 finale saw two winners crowned. Julianna Pena became the first woman to ever be named an Ultimate Fighter when she derailed Jessica Rakoczy in the opening frame. Pena was able to secure two takedowns against the former boxing champion.
As soon as Pena secured her second takedown, she worked to posture up on Rakoczy. Once Pena began her ground and pound, delivering elbows and punches, Rakoczy couldn’t find a way to defend herself or improve her position and the fight was called at 4:59 in the opening round.
Chris Holdsworth was named the men’s bantamweight Ultimate Fighter when he notched his fifth professional win by way of submission when he got Davey Grant to tap out in the second round.
The Team Alpha Male up-and-comer was able to take Grant’s back and secure in the rear-naked choke. In fact, Holdsworth won every fight by way of submission on this season’s Ultimate Fighter. His effort also won him Submission of the Night.
Every woman on the 18th season of the Ultimate Fighter, with the exception of Shayna Baszler and Sarah Moras, had a fight on the card.
Raquel Pennington unleashed her heavy hands against Roxanne Modafferi to take home a unanimous decision over the seasoned MMA veteran. For Modafferi, the loss was her sixth straight. For “Rocky” the win snapped a two-fight losing skid.
Jessamyn Duke also showed that her training with Edmond Traverdyan helped her sharpen up her striking. She was able to push the pace and stay ahead of Peggy Morgan at every turn. Though she found herself in trouble at the end of round three after she went for a choke and gave up her back to Morgan, Duke managed to survive and saw the unanimous decision in her favor.
“I consider Peggy a great friend and think very highly of her,” said Duke. “Just because we get in there and inflict physical damage doesn’t mean we don’t respect each other and cant be friends outside the cage. Getting this fight is a huge weight off my shoulders, and I’m honored to fight in the UFC. I can finally share everything about this life changing experience of being on the Ultimate Fighter. I felt in control for most of the fight. When she got that choke, it never got under my chin fully so I wasn’t in trouble but I just made sure to protect myself.
Josh Sampo made his UFC debut and was able to finish Ryan Benoit in the second frame. For Sampo, it was a dream come true being that he was asked to take the fight on less than 2 weeks notice.
However, the flyweight missed making weight by a pound and a half and was fined 10% of his purse. In addition, he was not eligible for the Fight of the Night bonus which he earned. Therefore, Benoit won big and took home Sampo’s $50,000 as well. Still, “The Gremlin” notched his sixth pro win by way of submission.
“There are no excuses for me not making weight. I apologized to Ryan before hand. I can only chalk it up to getting the call 8 days prior to the fight and as a full time high school biology teacher and wrestling coach, I didn’t have the time I usually have to get in shape. I was fat & happy until I booked the fight. I usually train hard and run daily and making weight is no issue. I mean I’ve weighed in at 123lbs before so flyweight is my home and that’s where I’ll fight moving forward. I know I’m capable at this weight class.”
The UFC returns with their next fight card on Dec. 07 when UFC Fight Night takes place in Brisbane, Australia. Mark Hunt vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva is on tap as the main event.