This card delivered in full with two barn burners, a great finish, and two more very competitive fights. Clay Guida and Diego Sanchez stole the show while the Brits cleaned house to claim both prizes on this season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Unfortunately, four out of the five main card fights went to decision so no preliminary bouts were shown.
Jason Dent v. Cameron Dollar: I predicted that it would end by submission in the first round and that's exactly what happened. Dent comes away with a victory by anaconda choke. Dent may wind up being the biggest sleeper from this season, just like Ben Saunders was from season six.
Nick Osipczak v. Frank Lester: No suprises here as Nick wins by rear naked choke in the first round. I gave Frank a little more credit for the toughness that he displayed during the show but I definitely got the pick right. Nick will challenge Dent for biggest sleeper from this season and could wind up having a better career than the lightweight winner.
Mike Ciesnolevicz v. Tomasz Drwal: Mike came in three pounds over the 205 pound limit, so this battle was contested at a catch weight. Drwal finished the fight by TKO in the first round.
Brad Blackburn v. Edgar Garcia: Blackburn pulls out the split decision victory here. I definitely didn't give Garcia enough credit for how tough he is. However, I will note that during the broadcast Joe Rogan pointed out that the decisions on the under card were iffy at best. So with this being a split decision I'll take the credit for getting the pick right but I'll take it with a grain of salt.
Melvin Guillard v. Gleison Tibau: Another split decision gave the fight to Guillard. Again I didn't give the competition enough credit for his toughness as Tibau lasts the whole fight. I got the pick right but again I'll take it with a grain of salt apparently due to iffy judging.
Joe Stevenson v. Nate Diaz: What a difference a camp can make. I was unaware of the fact that Stevenson had gone to train with the famed Greg Jackson camp. He looked like a completely different fighter than in his last two fights.
Stevenson was not predictable, he was prepared, he looked improved, and he had a rock solid gameplan. Stevenson said it best when he remarked about having Jackson in his corner, "it's like having Chuck Norris in your corner, it's almost unfair."
Stevenson came in and just took it to Diaz. He played it safe and kept the pressure on Diaz while making sure the fight took place on the mat. He didn't give Diaz any distance on the feet with the exception of the last minute of the fight when he already had the fight won.
On the ground he did the same thing making sure that he always stayed close to Diaz and trying to stay aggressive. He did a great job of posturing out of any of Diaz's submission attempts and almost finished a guillotine of his own. Neither man was in a whole lot of trouble in this fight but it was obvious who was in control the entire time.
Diaz looked totally overwhelmed in this fight and must work on his wrestling in order to avoid another loss like in his last two fights. This was a great comeback win for Stevenson who looks like he can still be relevant in the lightweight division now that he's moved camps. Diaz needs a win badly in his next fight to remain in the UFC.
I got the prediction right but didn't pick the right fighter. Stevenson took the unanimous decision victory.
Andre Winner v. Ross Pearson: This was a very competitive fight. Both guys traded shots on the feet though Winner obviously had the better technical striking. However, Pearson definitely landed the more damaging shots. I was a little surprised though that Pearson wasn't as good with the takedowns.
This was still a very competitive fight from start to finish but it went nothing like I thought it would. Pearson picks up the unanimous decision victory picking up the first win for the Brits along with the six figure UFC contract. I got the pick right but not the prediction.
I think there's a very good chance Dent and Osipczak could wind up being better than Pearson. He just doesn't impress me. And even though I know there's no chance of this happening, I would love to see Pearson fight Dent next.
Chris Lytle v. Kevin Burns: This would have been fight of the night on any other card. These guys, who are both accomplished grapplers, went toe to toe for three rounds. They battled like warriors.
Both guys came out swinging and Burns caught Lytle with a good uppercut in the first round that had him rocked. Lytle hung in there and was able to recover between rounds. In the second round Lytle bounced back and was pounding away at the body of Burns which was visibly wearing him down.
In the third Lytle poured it on and bloodied up Burns pretty good. It was a great war but one that Lytle definitely deserved to win as he got the unanimous decision victory.
Damarques Johnson v. James Wilks: What an impressive display by Wilks. I thought this would be a close fight and boy was I wrong. Wilks came out and just battered Johnson on the feet.
Wilks eventually got the fight to the ground, secured Johnson's back and finished the fight with a rear naked choke right at the end of the first round. This was a very disappointing showing for Johnson who was supposedly the best the Americans had to offer this season.
Wilks picks up a well deserved win and six figure UFC contract. This win made it a sweep for the Brits on this season of TUF which is very disappointing for me. Hopefully if the UFC decides to do another country v. country season the U.S. team will have a better showing.
Diego Sanchez v. Clay Guida: In an opening stanza reminiscent of Don Frye v. Yoshihiro Takayama these two opened up on each other like wild wolverines in heat. Sanchez had Guida up against the proverbial ropes but Guida battled back to get back in the fight.
Sanchez went on to land a brutal head kick that would've finished 99% of the fighters in the UFC, but not Guida. He got right back up and kept plugging. The first round was so one sided one judge gave Sanchez a 10-8 round which is almost unheard of in mixed martial arts.
The second round was definitely Guida's as he took Sanchez down right away and kept the pressure on with some solid ground pound though nothing hurt Sanchez. Sanchez landed some good elbows that bloodied up Guida but didn't seem to phase him.
The third round belonged to Sanchez. He scored some points on the feet and then slipped up going for a submission and wound up on his back. However, he totally neutralized Guida's ground and pound with another submission attempt to lock up the round.
Sanchez pulls away with a split decision victory and a fight of the night award.
It was a great fight and there's nothing for Guida to be ashamed of. He'll be right back in the mix at 155 in no time.
This is a huge victory for Diego Sanchez. I think he is one win away from a title shot. I'd like to see him face a top level guy like Gray Maynard or Frankie Edgar for a shot at the winner of Penn v. Florian.