Posted 12/03/2013 by Mike Fagan in Untethered MMA

The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale Review

Four Miller Lites, a bowl of herbal remedy, and a delightful Google Hangout simulcast couldn’t save the Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale from ending up as the worst UFC event I’ve ever watched live. But we knew that going in. Four of the main card’s ten fighters still don’t have Wikipedia pages. The opening bout of the main card featured a fighter coming in on a five-fight losing streak against another with a 3-3 career record. Two fighters followed with a combined five pro fights. One half of the women’s finale had a 1-3 record with a second win overturned due to a positive drug test. This was crap on paper. This was crap on TV. And this will be crap on the Internet.

-Whither Gray Maynard? Once a punch away from winning the lightweight title, Maynard now finds himself out of the top ten (Nope! The UFC’s official rankings list Maynard at eight. That’s our UFC rankings!) and with a lot of questions about his fighting future. Maynard isn’t old-old. He’s only 34, and 16 pro fights is on the low end of the fight odometer. But he’s been knocked out in three of his last four fights, and everyone who watched his win over Clay Guida is trying to neuralyze it from their memory banks. He’s slow, he plods, and now it looks like he doesn’t have the athleticism to shoot on guys at his weight.

He’s in a weird spot if he continues fighting. He made $45,000 in base pay to fight Diaz. That’s a lot of money. Sort of. I mean, that’s a paltry sum once you take out taxes, payment to your camp, and the health costs your accumulating. But this is the UFC and this is the UFC’s lightweight division, so Gray Maynard is pretty much the 1%. Anyway. That’s a good chunk of change. Is the UFC willing to feed a 34-year-old on the downside of his career a free win? Probably not. If they keep him (and that’s a big if, say Jon Fitch and Yushin Okami with a sigh), the lowest the UFC will probably go on the totem pole is a guy like Ross Pearson. And Ross Pearson is a liability to current-day Maynard’s chin.

-Diaz takes Maynard’s old spot at five in the latest rankings thanks to the weird logic of combat sport rankings. Maynard’s previous ranking didn’t “feel” right. On merit, he probably still deserved the five spot even with the 1-2-1 record in his last four heading into Saturday. That Maynard wasn’t the same guy unbeaten in 11 pro fights heading into a title fight against Frankie Edgar. He’s certainly not the same guy after Diaz smacked him around. Yet, Diaz jumps above Rafael dos Anjos (currently on a five-fight winning streak over Cerrone, Dunham, Bocek, Njokuani, Shalorus) and Khabib Nurmagomedov (unbeaten in 21 pro fights, 5-0 in the UFC). So, I can’t exactly fault the rankers here, though I’d implore them to use some critical thinking (for once in their miserable lives?). Diaz moves up a spot behind RFA and Nurma, and Maynard drops way down. Problem solved.

-Now, maybe it was the booze or the stuff I inhaled or “Holy shit, this main event might end after midnight. What the fuck? Also, to clarify for when I quote myself later, I’m in the central time zone, so it ended well after midnight on the east coast,” but Yves Lavigne stepped in very late. I specifically remember a left hand from Diaz that caught Maynard flush on the jaw, causing the former to start to turn his back. The only thing preventing him from doing so was the lunging right that followed.

These sorts of standing finishes where the attacking fighter is able to cumulate so much damage scare me the most. One need only watch the end of Emile Griffith and Benny Paret’s fight in 1962 for a healthy reminder of that. MMA, given the shape of the cage and the grappling, typically avoids situations in which one fighter can unload on a defenseless, standing opponent, but it’s not impossible. If we ever see a death inside the Octagon, expect it to look somewhat similar to Griffith and Paret.

-The UFC has never paced free TV shows terribly well – and I imagine their broadcast partners play a big part in that – but oh my goodness are the TUF Finales the worst. I kept a running tally on Twitter:

  • 9:19 p.m. – First fight starts…19 minutes past the hour.
  • 9:44 p.m. – 45 minutes into the show. 1 fight.
  • 10:14 p.m. – If this was a properly paced card we’d be at midway through the third fight.
  • 10:28 p.m. – Ninety minutes in. Two fights complete. Fabulous.
  • 10:57 p.m. – Two hours. Three fights.
  • 10:58 p.m. – (Retweeting @TP_Grant) 6 hours, 10 fights
  • 11:44 p.m. – Lavigne was way late. (Note: This was the end of the show, obviously.)

-Raquel Pennington vs. Roxanne Modafferi and Jessamyn Duke vs. Peggy Morgan may have been the worst two fights I’ve ever watched back to back. They were proably the two worst UFC fights I’ve ever watched back to back. And they’re almost certainly the two worst fights I’ve watched back-to-back to open a UFC main card.

-Speaking of Roxy, she’s butthurt about fan reaction to her fight. From her post to the Underground:

But then I read the Underground Forums, fans negative opinions, and now I’m depressed. : { Even my UG brothers who usually support me don’t think I belong. They say that my stand up was the worst they’ve ever seen in the UFC. Oh, man. :{

Am I a super-awesome striker? No, definitely not. But when I was in there, I could feel my technique coming together. I could see and feel her reactions and movement like never before. I actually think I did worse when I went for the take-downs. I should have done a few things differently.

It bothers me a lot when websites are like, “This is Roxanne’s sixth loss in a row!!” IT’S NOT, man, because I won my fight to get into the house. It doesn’t go on paper, since it’s TUF. But my mind is not on a 6 fight losing streak. This was my 28th fight. I’m on a two-fight losing streak, damnit! There’s a difference!

Modafferi beat Valerie Letourneau to get into the house. Letourneau is 4-3 in MMA with wins over names like Kate Roy, Julie Malenfant, and Tannaya Hantelman (twice!). She hasn’t fought an officially recognized bout since April 2012. So yeah, I mean, I guess you can celebrate your 1-6 record when that win comes against such starch competition.




Mike Fagan