The TUF Finale inside Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas could double as a highlight reel for the promotion. A 21-year-old last pick shut down the TUF season favorite to win the title; a newcomer finished a former champ to earn a spot coaching TUF 18, a heavyweight earned a 71-second knockout using only his elbows -- and that was all before the main event.
Scott Jorgensen vs. Urijah Faber
Bantamweight contenders and former training partners Scott Jorgensen and former WEC champion Urijah Faber headlined in a fast-paced main event scheduled for five rounds, but it didn’t take 25 minutes. Faber used his speed, power and a range of attacks to bully Jorgensen until drawing the tap in the fourth.
Jorgensen got the first two takedowns, but it was Faber who did the most damage, following up a big knee with his own takedown. Faber pounced on Jorgensen’s back, getting the body-lock with two minutes to go. He shifted to hooks and landed a massive elbow, then the two rolled in a lightning-fast scramble that ended with Faber locking in a guillotine. Jorgensen rolled repeatedly to escape and made it to his knees before Faber again pulled him to the mat from his back.
Round two started with a big low blow from Jorgensen, and on the re-start it was Faber charging forward again with kicks and punches. Both men traded, but Faber’s strikes were diverse, as he made contact more often and mixed up leg punches, takedowns and knees. Jorgensen got a takedown and the two somersaulted back to starting position before Faber got his own.
Faber had found his range, and it was evident in round three, as Faber teed off with strikes that landed time and again on Jorgensen’s face, while Jorgensen struggled to connect. Jorgensen worked against the cage for a takedown, but had better luck when Faber threw himself off balance, pouncing on Faber’s back. But though he ate a clean shot on the exit, Faber was soon back on his feet hopping around the Octagon, darting in and out with punches before earning yet another big takedown to end the round.
Jorgensen began closing the distance in the fourth, but for every shot he landed, Faber popped off even more left hand, takedown attempt, fake or a knee from up close. Faber got another takedown and, after a fast scramble, landed again on Jorgensen’s back with his legs locked in a figure-four. This time his arm went securely under Jorgensen’s chin, drawing the tap at 3:16 of the round.
Already the top-ranked contender in the division outside of interim champion Renan Barao, “The California Kid” is now 28-6, with his only losses coming in title fights. The win is also his third in a row by submission. Jorgensen, who was ranked 7th, slips to 14-7.
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Uriah Hall
In a Team Sonnen showdown between flashy knockout artist Uriah Hall and gritty last-pick powerhouse Kelvin Gastelum, the 21-year-old Gastelum shut down the Hall hype train to become the youngest-ever Ultimate Fighter in a three-round nail-biter.
Gastelum was fearless in coming forward against Hall, stalking him around the cage and throwing kicks and punches. Backed against the cage, Hall stood with his hands down, then threw knees from the tie-up. Back in the center, Hall threw front kicks, but Gastelum answered them all with his own, connecting a couple of times with solid lefts. Gastelum scored a big takedown and did damage from top position; eventually Hall worked back to his feet and surprised everyone by diving for a double-leg of his own in the round’s final seconds.
Hall was confident to the point of cocky in the second, shuffle-stepping and keeping his hands down as Gastelum pressed forward. He pushed Gastelum back with a spinning back kick and followed with a body kick, but Gastelum again scored a big takedown and threw elbows from half-guard as the crowd in Nevada chanted “Kel-vin!” for the Arizona-via-California fighter. Hall reversed and kneed Gastelum’s body on the way up, then locked on a muay thai plum and launched more knees as Gastelum dove for a double-leg. Again, it was Hall who got the trip to the mat from a tie-up on the cage. Kevlin rolled out of danger and stood with Hall holding his back, only to be dramatically suplexed by Hall.
Gastelum came forward quickly in the third, but an accidental low blow from Hall broke the action. As Hall tossed out whipping kicks and wound up his fists, Gastelum ate a big left hand and rushed forward with another big takedown. Hall bounced up and got his own takedown, landing on top and throwing heavy leather from top position until Gastelum stood. Another big takedown landed Gastelum in Hall’s guard, and the two traded winging shots on the ground as the crowd screamed for the final 45 seconds.
Judges gave the fight to Gastelum (now 7-0) by split decision with scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 28-29. “Obviously I’m happy but I’m kind of hurting because it was a tough fight," said Gastelum. "He got a couple kicks in that did some damage, but I’ll heal up just fine. It’s a great feeling." Hall’s record slips to 8-3.
Cat Zingano vs. Miesha Tate
Zuffa newcomer Cat Zingano won the next shot at Ronda Rousey and a job coaching TUF 18 opposite the champ with a submission win over former Strikeforce champion Miesha Tate in the UFC’s second-ever women’s bout.
Tate rushed forward, striking and backing up the smaller Zingano. After Tate scored a takedown, Zingano stood back up, got a standing guillotine, and arced backward. Tate escaped and earned a single-leg, landing again in a guillotine. From there, the ground experts scrambled, with both women reversing, though it was Tate who got more ground-and-pound in during her time on top. Back on the feet, Zingano connected with kicks and a left straight, inspiring another takedown from “Cupcake.” The round ended with Tate in top position, throwing elbows from half guard.
Zingano made distance with kicks in the second, but Tate again bulled her forward and landed in top position. Zingano gave up her back then rolled under as Tate ground-and-pounded, but Tate held tight on an armbar as Zingano left. Zingano rolled to the top, so Tate switched to a kneebar. Zingano waited her out, taunted her opponent and elbowed Tate in the legs. Eventually Zingano rolled out of danger into side control, where this time it was her throwing elbows from half-guard. Tate stood and got rocked by Zingano, who sprawled as Tate shot to end the round.
After making her point with more big kicks to start the third, Zingano fired back with an easy double-leg of her own, landing in guard and throwing elbows as Tate worked a butterfly guard. Zingano transitioned to north-south and yanked Tate away from the cage before settling into side control. Tate briefly stood, but a knee to the head sent her back to the mat for safety. She stood again, and this time it was several knees to the head that sent her to the mat, and this time she didn’t go of her own accord. Referee Kim Winslow waved it off and a new star was made in “Alpha” Cat Zingano.
"I was really surprised that I was actually competing in the Octagon, I was in a daze," said Zingano. "I just thought about my son and my mom and everything I’ve done to get here in my life, and it got me woken up. I wanted to finish this fight and I did." The TKO win came at 2:55 of the third, improving Zingano’s record to a
perfect 7-0 and setting up a title fight between undefeated fighters
later this year. The loss bumps Tate’s record to 13-4.
Watch Cat's post-fight interview
Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Travis Browne
Heavyweight Travis Browne quickly brought Gabriel Gonzaga’s three-fight win streak to an end with a 71-second hellbow knockout.
The 6’7” Browne opened with a flashy high kick, which soared well over Gonzaga’s head. Gonzaga rushed as Browne spun with the momentum, grabbing a leg and trying for the takedown. Browne sought refuge against the fence, sprawled as Gonzaga belabored the move. When Gonzaga pushed lower, Browne threw massive elbows at the head positioned near his hipbone; Gonzaga fell in a heavyweight-sized heap as Browne stepped away, content with the 1:11 knockout.
Browne’s record improves to 14-1-1, with his only loss coming to contender Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva last October, a fight in which he injured his hamstring throwing a kick. “We don’t get paid by the minute out there!” said Browne. “The goal was to get in and out so I can keep my face intact. I wanted to show that my left leg is one hundred percent so I made sure to throw it first.” Gonzaga falls to 14-7.
Watch Browne's post-fight interview
Gilbert Smith vs. Bubba McDaniel
Team Jones middleweights Gilbert Smith and wild card pick Bubba McDaniel duked it out in the opening fight of the main card on FX, with McDaniel submitting Smith in the third round.
Smith came out swinging, backing McDaniel up against the fence, but McDaniel barely blinked, reversing positions and throwing big fists that rocked Smith. Smith then caught a kick from McDaniel and tipped him backward, but McDaniel quickly swept on the ground then threw elbows and hammerfists from half-guard. In the scramble to stand, McDaniel again wound up in bottom position, where he worked for much of the round, backing himself across the Octagon against the fence. Smith briefly passed, but otherwise did little of offensive note. With his back against the cage, McDaniel nearly secured a guillotine, using it roll into top position and end the round throwing big knees and strikes from top position.
Rounds two and three started with McDaniel dazing Smith on the feet. Smith defended with takedowns, but on the ground it was -- except for one guillotine attempt by Smith -- McDaniel with ground-and-pound and dominant positions. Though the shorter, muscular Smith was able to use sheer strength to avoid some dangerous situations, the more technical and experienced McDaniel took Smith’s back, threatened him in crucifix and had a more active guard.
Mid-way through the third, Smith powered his way on top of McDaniel, but McDaniel quickly slipped his legs into triangle position. As Smith recoiled, McDaniel tightened the trap, pulling on one arm for the tap at 2:49 of the third.
“Gilbert asked for this fight against me because he felt we didn’t have the best relationship in the house and that really drove me to work hard in this camp,” said McDaniel. “He threw me off when he came out swinging. I give him all the credit for that because it definitely kept me on my toes. We thought his lack of cardio would be his biggest issue so we planned to take him into the deep waters but he didn’t drown like we expected.“ McDaniel, whose two losses on TUF 17 came to the two finalists, now sees his record rise to 21-6; Smith slips to 5-2.