After the War: TUF 20 Finale & UFC on FOX 13 Review
History made! New champion crowned! The UFC’s title picture was reshuffled as Friday night’s The Ultimate Fighter: A Champion Will Be Crowned saw a new women’s champion emerge while UFC on FOX 13 the following Saturday night saw new title challengers explode in what was an event filled with “interesting” decisions.
Carla Esparza put a capper on the first-ever all-female TUF winning the inaugural Strawweight Championship. She wasn’t the only big winner of the weekend as several fighters broke ground… at the expense of others. Here’s the biggest winners and losers:
Esparza emphatically proved to everyone why her top seeding in the tournament was justified. The Team Oyama wrestler dismantled betting favourite Rose Namajunas by repeatedly taking her down and wearing her out en route to a rear-naked choke by the third. The “Cookie Monster” was steady and methodical in her fight, showing intense dedication and consistency, traits she displayed throughout TUF 20. She now begins her hard-earned title run.
Should Fight: Joana Jedrzeczyk: Fighting Jedrzeczyk could both be a breath of fresh air and dangerous test for Esparza as she tangles with a red-hot contender outside the TUF20 show.
JUNIOR DOS SANTOS
Defeated Stipe Miocic; won first fight since Heavyweight Championship fight in 2013
It was a long hard road back to winning for the former Heavyweight Champion. JDS hadn’t competed in a year following his brutal beatdown and injury. Though he appeared not as explosive as before, JDS outstruckMiocic 123-89 (according to Fightmetric) and won a contentious unanimous decision. Not the flashiest performance but a winning one for “Cigano”.
Should Fight:Alistair Overeem: A fight two years in the making; this may have lost a lot of its luster but both are still elite-level strikers and should deliver an entertaining war.
RAFAEL DOS ANJOS
Dominated Nate Diaz; declared #1 Contender for the UFC Lightweight Title
The lightweight division saw a new top contender rise as dos Anjos thoroughly destroyed the returning Nate Diaz. RDA whittled down the taller Diaz with vicious leg kicks, took him down, repeatedly passed his guard and bloodied him with brutal elbows.
With the lightweight title picture wide open, he asserted himself as the next challenger for the belt displaying an all-around game that only keeps improving. The Brazilian is on a mission and won’t be denied.
Should Fight:Anthony Pettis: No ifs and buts, RDA is the next title contender for Anthony Pettis’s championship belt; the only other fighter ahead, Khabib Nurmagomedov, is still sidelined with an injury and if Pettis is good to go, there is no sense postponing this fight.
Upset Claudia Gadelha; potential #1 Contender for the UFC Women’s Strawweight Title
The women’s strawweight division also gave rise to a new contender of its own. Joana Jedrejczyk is relatively still an unknown but a huge upset over the highly-touted Nova União product put her on the map definitively. Jedrejczyk survived seven takedowns and a submission attempt from Gadelha to force a controversial split decision win in a fight that also saw her drop the Brazilian with a stiff uppercut.
She would later get sucker punched by Gadelha at the end of the fight but followed it up with a classy post-fight speech praising her opponent. Bravo.
Should Fight: Carla Esparza: Beating Gadelha (albeit in controversial fashion) proved Jedrezjczyk is a top-five women’s strawweight and she’s the clear cut contender at this point.
Impressive Debut Win from Former Freestyle Wrestling Olympic Gold Medalist
The wrestling phenom finally made his UFC debut after his original bout for UFC 177 fizzled out when he failed to make the flyweight cut. Cejudo took it to the larger Dustin Kimura, showing big punching power and an aggressive muaythai attack. Despite his wrestling base, Cejudo showed promise as an all-around MMA fighter and will be a treat to watch regardless where competes in although a return to flyweight could be more ideal for his diminutive stature.
Should Fight: Ray Borg-Chris Kelades Winner: If Cejudo is given permission—and makes flyweight, the winner of this fight would prove a good matchup for the blue chip prospect. Borg and Kelades are upcoming talents in their own right as well.
Lost Inaugural Women’s Strawweight Title Fight to Carla Esparza by Submission
No fighter benefited most from TUF 20 than this rising starlet. Namajunas was seeded seventh but blazed through the competition earning three submission wins in impressive fashion leading to her being the betting favourite against the top-seed Carla Esparza. Namajunas put up a spirited effort landing a few good kicks at Esparza but was eventually taken down, grinded out and submitted. Namajunas lost her title shot but her huge potential could put her right back in.
Should Fight: SeoHee Ham: Namajunas put up a decent fight against Esparza but it was evident she had not fully developed her game; her stock hasn’t dropped at all and a “tune-up” fight or two should be next. SeoHee Ham provides a fitting stylistic matchup to showcase Rose.
Lost to Junior dos Santos
Riding a three-fight win streak, Miocic was on the verge of title contention until he ran into this fight. The wrestle-boxer took it to JDS and rocked the former champion multiple times and looked to be winning.But he was outstruck overall and lost a close albeit controversial decision. It’s back to the drawing board and hopefully a quick turnaround for the Croatian-American.
Should Fight: Antonio Silva: Whether Antonio Silva wins or loses against Frank Mir, he’ll be ranked close to Miocic and with most other heavyweights booked this could be the next fight.
Lost to Rafael dos Anjos in lopsided fashion
If Nate Diaz is passive-aggressively trying to get himself fired from the UFC, he put a little too much effort into it. Apart from missing weight by a whopping 4 lbs, Nate also walked out on an interview then laid a big fat egg against dos Anjos. Diaz landed only 13 significant strikes and was taken down and dominated on the ground for a lopsided decision loss. It’s unclear what the future holds for Diaz but he may just have fought his last contender’s fight.
Should Fight:Diego Sanchez: Diaz can lose all he wants, his name alone keeps him relevant in the UFC but his status as a contender is finished. “The Nightmare” is in the same boat and has the “Just Bleed” brawling style that would make a very entertaining and memorable scrap.
Upset by Joana Jedrzeczyk; caught in post-fight sucker punch controversy
Other than Miocic, Gadelha may have been the fighter to lose the most on the UFC on FOX 13 card. The Brazilian teammate to former Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao found herself on the wrong side of a split decision loss. Gadelha took Jedrzeczyk down repeatedly and locked on a submission attempt but being knocked down in the first ultimately cost her the fight. To make matters worse, she threw an intentional punch after the fight had ended not too unlike the Paul Daley incident several years back. Dana White recently clarified however Gadelha had apologized for her poor sportsmanship and should be on her way back to title contention.
Should Fight: Randa Markos: Gadelha is still a top-five strawweight but her stock took a hit after the loss and cheapshot; Markos is a scrappy up-and-comer who could be a good measuring stick to see just how good of a contender Gadelha really is.
Lost to UFC newcomer, Henry Cejudo; has now lost back-to-back fights
The Hawaiian kickboxer found himself playing the stepping stone role for the much-hyped prospect. Despite being the sizably bigger fighter, Kimura was outmatched against Cejudo getting outstruck and battered for the duration of the fight. Kimura now finds himself close to chopping block territory though should get a chance to redeem himself.
Should Fight: Yaotzin Meza: Losing to Cejudo hardly diminishes Kimura’s stock but he’s still lost his last two fights; Meza is in a similar spot and this fight should determine who avoids the shaft