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Maynard, Nicolau go distance for victories

Read on for TUF 23 Finale prelim results...
MAYNARD vs BRUNO



Former lightweight contender Gray Maynard began the newest chapter of his career in a positive fashion on Friday, winning a three-round unanimous decision over Fernando Bruno in his featherweight debut at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Scores were 30-27 across the board for Maynard, now 13-6-1 with 1 NC; Bruno falls to 16-4.

A slugfest broke out immediately, Bruno winging hooks with both hands as he tried to test Maynard’s chin at featherweight. Maynard weathered the first storm and started firing back until he scored a takedown. When the two rose, Bruno scored a flash knockdown and kept sending bombs in Maynard’s direction, landing flush but not moving the former Michigan State University wrestler. With under 90 seconds left, Maynard delivered a flash knockdown of his own, but it was Bruno who responded with a takedown in the closing minute, capping off a wild round.

In the second, the frantic pace slowed and it worked in Maynard’s favor, as the Las Vegan took Bruno to the mat and controlled the action there for most of the frame.

Maynard stuck to his ground plan in the third against the tiring Bruno, but the Brazilian was still dangerous, as he nearly secured a choke late in the frame. But it was Maynard still in control at the final horn.

More from The Ultimate Fighter 23 finale: Results | Jedrzejczyk retains title in five-round epic | Suarez, Sanchez newest Ultimate Fighters | Maynard, Nicolau go distance for victories | Li, Lee show off power at TUF 23 finals | Backstage interviews: Doo Ho Choi, Joaquim Silva | Octagon interviews: Tatiana Suarez. Kevin Lee

NICOLAU vs. MORAGA



It wasn’t the statement-making win Matheus Nicolau wanted to deliver, but he’ll take the victory, as he scored a three-round split decision over veteran flyweight contender John Moraga.

Scores were 29-28 twice and 28-29 for Rio de Janeiro’s Nicolau, now 12-2-1. Moraga falls to 16-5.

Neither Moraga or Nicolau took any chances in the first as they mainly circled each other and fired off the occasional strike. And though Moraga landed the harder blows, he tried to secure the round with a late takedown attempt that Nicolau was able to stuff.

Nicolau got more aggressive in the second, and while he wasn’t able to hurt Moraga, he was starting to get the attention of the No. 6-ranked flyweight from Arizona.

The tepid pace of the fight had the crowd booing in the final round, and it didn’t affect the game plan of either man, as they picked their shots sporadically and did more moving than punching and kicking. With a minute left, a Moraga takedown attempt was reversed by Nicolau, who took the top position and worked his ground game until the final horn.

STANSBURY vs. HENDRICKS



TUF 23 light heavyweights Josh Stansbury and Cory Hendricks delivered an entertaining three-rounder, with Team Joanna’s Stansbury taking a majority decision win over Team Claudia’s Hendricks.

Scores were 29-27 twice and 28-28 for Stansbury, now 8-3; Hendricks falls to 3-1.

The first round was entertaining from start to finish, as both fighters traded punches and kicks at a consistent clip for five minutes. With little to separate them, and each strike landed met with a rapid response, the judges had a difficult task.

After more of the same to begin round two, Stansbury changed the real estate of the bout with a takedown in the second minute. And while he tried to stay busy, Hendricks wouldn’t let him improve his position, prompting a restart from referee Dan Miragliotta. While standing, the two continued to battle evenly, setting up a pivotal third round.

Stansbury got the fight to the mat immediately in the third, moving quickly to side control as he looked to pull away on the scorecards. With two minutes left, the Ohio native nearly locked Hendricks in the crucifix position, and when he was unable to keep it, he kept the punches coming, securing the most decisive round of the fight for himself.

FERREIRA vs. SMITH



Former TUF Brazil winner Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira picked up his second consecutive win in middleweight action, taking a close, but unanimous, decision over Anthony Smith.

Scores were 29-28 across the board.

After some brief striking exchanges to start the fight, Ferreira took the fight to the mat, but some solid defense from Smith nullified the Brazilian’s attack and forced a restart from referee Chris Tognoni. Ferreira was undeterred, using his striking to set up another trip to the mat. But again, the lanky frame of Smith didn’t allow Ferreira to get anything of note done before the horn.

Ferreira continued to pile up points with takedowns and on the mat in round two, but Omaha’s Smith, who was very methodical in his standup attack, finally pushed it to another gear late in the frame, with a series of hard elbows putting Ferreira on the defensive.

Stealing Smith’s momentum from the previous round away with a takedown in the opening minute, Ferreira was once again winning the scoring battle with a disciplined game plan from the top position. But after a restart from Tognoni midway through the frame, a Ferreira takedown almost proved costly as Smith nearly sunk in a guillotine choke. Once out of the choke, Ferreira went to work on an arm triangle, and while he didn’t get it, he locked up the round and the fight.

With the win, Ferreira moves to 11-5; Smith falls to 25-12.


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