Recapping The Ultimate Fighter 28

The UFC is live Friday night looking to crown 2 new Ultimate Fighter winners along with two Top 5 Welterweights headlining the show. The first of two cards this weekend is the finale to the 28th season and the final season FS1. We will crown winners in the Heavyweight and Women’s Featherweight tournaments. The Heavyweight final features Team Gastelum’s Justin “The Grizzly Bear” Frazier (10-3) and Team Whittaker’s Juan Francisco “El Guapo” Espino Dieppa (9-1). The Women’s Featherweight final has two Team Gastelum Members as Pannie “Banzai” Kianzad (10-4) and Macy Chiasson (3-0) go at it. We closed the show with a matchup of Top tier Welterweights as former 155lbs Champion Rafael Dos Anjos (28-11 #3 Ranked Welterweight) takes on Season 21 alum Kamaru “Nigerian Nightmare” Usman (14-1 #5 Ranked Welterweight). The night started off very fast and we saw a ton of finishes. The main card saw the judges a little more often. Overall great night of fights from Las Vegas on a Friday. Let’s take a look at the night that was the Ultimate Fighter 28 Finale.

We kicked off the night on Fight pass as Raoni Barcelos (13-1) took on the debuting Chris “El Guapo” Gutierrez (12-3). We started with Gutierrez landing a few nice leg kicks. Barcelos kept moving and then went for a nice flurry. Barcelos was being the aggressor around the cage. Barcelos then got Gutierrez to his back on the mat. He was in and out on him trying to land on the mat. Barcelos eventually backed off and let Gutierrez get back to his feet. Gutierrez landed a hard leg kick and they danced around as the round came to an end. Barcelos came right out looking to land a right hand and just missed. Gutierrez forced Barcelos to block a heavy head kick. Barcelos came forward and latched on scoring a takedown. Barcelos was really trying to get the ground and pound going with elbows from the top. Barcelos was trying to pass to side control, but instead, Gutierrez scrambled and ended up getting his back taken. Barcelos was up against the fence and Gutierrez was able to escape but was still on his back on the ground. Barcelos was really pouring it on a bloodied Gutierrez with elbows from the top. Barcelos was opening him up and very quickly swooped behind Gutierrez and latched in a rear naked choke. Barcelos secured the tap very quickly and grabbed his second straight win in the UFC. Barcelos looked so dominant in the second half just unloading on the ground with his punches and elbows. He had been bloodied and it seemingly accelerated his game plan. He could be someone that has to be dealt with in the very near future by some ranked fighters.

Longtime UFC vet Tim “The Dirty Bird” Mans (28-10-1 1NC) returned to the cage to take on Ricky “The Sniper” Rainey (13-6). Means came right out with a straight left hand that snapped the head of Rainey back. Rainey, however, returned fire and landed back on Means. However, Means was coming forward immediately and took a finger poke to the eye that paused the action. Means restarted with a hard leg kick and then started charging Rainey. Means immediately went for a takedown and Rainey clearly held on to the fence but was pulled off by the ref. Means stayed on top of him. Rainey did get back to his feet, but Means brought him right back down. Means then just started unloading punches on Rainey. It was just a matter of time before the ref stepped in and Means was declared the winner. Time means got back to his brawling ways and took home a much-needed win. Means is a guy who has a load of experience and a ton of skill we will see him back in there soon for sure.

The final Fight Pass prelim featured Contender Series Alum Roosevelt “The Predator” Roberts (7-0) and Darrell “The Saint” Horcher (13-4). These guys came right out and immediately both guys traded heavy head kicks that were blocked. Roberts had to forcer Horcher to block another one. Roberts just continued to try and work body kicks and Horcher just missed with a big looping punch. Roberts kept trying to step in and land his right hand. Roberts closed the distance and tried to press him up against the cage. Horcher was able to reverse the position and was throwing some foot stomps against the cage. Roberts was able to push Horcher’s head back and grab a standing guillotine. Horcher did everything including jumping up onto the cage and trying to climb it, but it was too tight and the tap had to come. Roosevelt Roberts is a very intriguing prospect. With submission skills like this while standing the world is very much ahead of him in the UFC.

We kicked off the televised prelims and two alums of the season of the show were next as Leah “Nidas” Letson (5-1) took on Julija Stoliarenko (4-3-2). These two came out very slow and plodding. Stoliarenko landed some nice right hands and just missed with a spinning back fist. Letson was coming back with kicks o the body. Letson was starting to really landed with her striking and connected with multiple hooks. Letson was pushing her back against the fence and controlling the fight. She was clearly controlling where the fight was going. We headed to round 2 and it was more of Letson moving forward with her striking. Letson was feinting and then moving into land. She was evading the return shots well. Stoliarenko shot in from very far out for a takedown, and it wasn’t close. Letson landed a left while eating a hard kick to the body. Stoliarenko just missed with a head kick. Stoliarenko again tried to go for a takedown and had a leg, but Letson stayed on her feet and forced her up. They got into the clinch late and Stoliarenko hit a hard elbow that backed Letson off prior to the bell. We headed to round 3 and it was back to kickboxing early and often. Stoliarenko was using her legs even more landing leg kicks. Letson was not throwing as much. They both traded big hooks at the same time. Letson then fired off a hard inside head kick. Stoliarenko was able to secure a trip. As Letson was trying to get back up Stoliarenko latched on to a guillotine. She had it in and was squeezing, but a calm Letson was able to finally get herself out and maintain top position. They finally got back to the feet and Letson threw a spinning round house kick that missed. They were going at it late in the fight and they ended with a clash of shins. The judges would finally get involved as they scored this one 2928, 28-29, and 29-28 for the split decision winner Leah Letson. Honestly surprising split decision, however, Letson was the winner for sure. She was able to control the striking and the ground game outside of the guillotine that she escaped. This is the beginning of a true Featherweight division to start grooming challengers for Cyborg.

We got two more fighters from this season as Team Gastelum’s Maurice “The Pirate” Greene (6-2) took on Team Whittaker’s Michel Batista (4-1 1NC). These guys were feeling each other out and Greene through a hard kick to the body. Greene then came hard at Batista and it led to an immediate takedown attempt from Batista. He really had to work for it, but finally completed the finish. Greene from the bottom threw up a triangle from the bottom. He worked quickly to lock it in and Batista tapped very quickly. This was a really good showing of his skills of his back for Maurice Greene. In a division that needs all the talent, it can get. Greene looked really good tonight and he will be interesting to watch going forward.

We dropped all the way down to Flyweight as Joseph Benavidez (26-5 #3 Ranked Flyweight) took on Alex Perez (21-5 #12 Ranked Flyweight). Perez led out with a kick to the body and Benavidez answered with a combination early. They immediately engaged again on the feet and Perez tried to grab for a standing arm triangle. Benavidez was able to avoid it and escape and they were back to trading in the center of the Octagon. Benavidez was working hooks to the body. Benavidez kept coming forward looking to land and hit a front kick to the body but ate a big left hand in return. Benavidez tried to push him back against the fence. They were back to circling in the cage and Benavidez rushed forward and scored a takedown and was unloading shots on Perez. The referee inexplicably stepped in like he was going to stop the fight and Benavidez stopped and for some reason backed off. Pérez was able to recover and go back to grappling as Benavidez was stunned. Benavidez was able to recover and get back in the same position and continue to absolutely unload on Perez and end the fight there. Joseph Benavidez was able to compose himself enough to keep it going and get right back to the same position and finish this matchup. Benavidez again proved that he is one of the best 125lb fighters in the world. Yves Lavigne needs to be removed from the card for the night after that huge gaffe.

We closed out the Prelims as Rick “The Gladiator” Glenn (21-6-1) welcomed Kevin “Angel of Death” Aguilar (16-1) to the UFC. Glenn came in and started working the legs with kicks. Glenn was continuing to use his kicks. Aguilar returned hard with a kick to the body. Glenn was trying to be the aggressor. Glenn came in and dropped to a knee landing a hook. Aguilar came back with a giant right hand that stunned Glenn and backed him off. Aguilar did not take advantage of Glenn being rocked and missed with a big uppercut. Glenn went back to the body kicks and appeared to be fully healed. Glenn came forward had a head kick blocked and clinched. Aguilar quickly spun off the cage and connected with a combination as they separated. Glenn tried to clinch late again and they traded with Aguilar ending the round with a hard combination. These guys started round 2 and they were going very methodically. Glenn would land and Aguilar would return fire. Aguilar was finding a home more and more for his right hand. He was working the body very hard as well. Aguilar hit an uppercut again on a coming forward Glenn. Aguilar was looking much sharper and another big left hand followed by a body kick from Aguilar followed. Glenn came forward and tried to press Aguilar up against the fence landing a few elbows. Glenn rushed forward again landing some shots in close, but a big right hook seemed to slow him down from Aguilar. As the round was winding down these two guys were just letting it fly with Glenn landing elbows and Aguilar hitting him back with punches. We started round three and Aguilar led off with a body kick. Glenn tried to come forward and Aguilar pushed him back. Glenn tried a head kick and instead ate a right hand. Aguilar continued to work kicks to the body. Glenn was landing left hands and then Aguilar would return with his left. Aguilar hit a hard right hand and Glenn’s leg went out completely. Aguilar was on top trying to get the finish just opening up opportunities. Glenn was somehow staying in the fight and avoiding heavy damage on the ground. Glenn tried to get out of it, but was so exhausted that Aguilar was able to transition over him and stay on top. The referee forced a stand-up and Glenn actually stung Aguilar against the fence with a hard elbow. They then clinched and Aguilar went for a takedown. Instead, it was Glenn who tried to trip and throw Aguilar. They scrambled and time ran out. We headed to the judges and they scored it 30-27 across the board for Kevin Aguilar. The fight was closer than the scorecards potentially said but Glenn and Aguilar put on a show. Aguilar was up to the challenge and just stood up to Glenn who tried to back him down early. Aguilar is going to be super fun to watch going forward.

The main card started with Ji Yeon “Firefist” Kim (8-2-2 #11 Ranked Women’s Flyweight) took on the debuting Antonina “La Pantera” Shevchenko (7-0). Shevchenko was slowly looking for openings. She was able to look to close the distance and unleash her in close striking. Kim tried to return fire and ate a combination. Kim connected with a nice right hand, as was now the one moving forward. Shevchenko ducked a right hand and grabbed for the clinch against the fence. Kim, however, was able to reverse the position and was now looking to hold Shevchenko there. Shevchenko was able to score a throw and ended the round on top. We headed to round 2 and Shevchenko ripped a hard right hand over the top. They immediately got into the clinch against the fence and Kim was holding her there. Shevchenko eventually reversed the position, and the referee stepped in and separated them. Kim tried to come forward and they were all avoided. Shevchenko then landed a series of right hands that all connected. They again ended up clinched against the fence. When they got back to the center of the cage Shevchenko landed a nice straight right hand. She followed that up with a spinning elbow. Kim kept trying to come forward and would be met with a counter shot from Shevchenko. Kim again came in late in the round and ate a combination. She tried to clinch and Shevchenko reversed it and held her against the fence as the round ended. They were in the center of the cage and Kim threw a kick that was caught and Shevchenko scored a takedown. Shevchenko easily controlled the fight on the ground, but did not do a ton of damage. Then when Kim started to scramble Shevchenko hit at least one illegal knee to Kim’s chin. They immediately went into the clinch and it was Shevchenko holding her up against the fence. Shevchenko continued to grab for the clinch when Kim got close and kept working her Muay Thai knees. Shevchenko just kept controlling the action and landing knees in the clinch as the round and fight came to an end. The judges decided this one and scored it 30-27 across the board for Antonina Shevchenko. This was a relatively routine win for Shevchenko. She got to display her striking and get used to the Octagon. The question becomes whom does she get next at 125lbs.

Another debut from the Contender series was next as Edmen “The Golden Boy” Shahbazyan (8-0) took on Darren “The Dentist” Stewart (9-4 1NC).  Stewart led right out with a low kick. Shahbazyan immediately returned with a combination and then scored a takedown. Stewart battled back to his feet very quickly, however, Shahbazyan was still draped all over him. Shahbazyan landed a hard knee and cut Stewart. Stewart was basically just wearing Shahbazyan on his back. Shahbazyan kept landing knees in that position and then fully went for the takedown and got Stewart to the floor. On the separation, Shahbazyan threw a head kick that snuck in but did not land flush. They were in the center of the cage and Stewart missed with a wild right hook. Shahbazyan immediately grabbed on and pressed him back against the fence. Stewart broke away and landed a hard elbow. Stewart was really finding a home for his right hand and had Shahbazyan on the ropes. Shahbazyan was able to shoot and score a late takedown to allow himself to recover from the big power from Stewart. We headed to round 2 they came out in round 2 and Shahbazyan was landing on the outside. Shahbazyan went for a takedown and Stewart did a good job staying on his feet briefly. Shahbazyan finished the takedown and was looking to take Stewart’s back. Shahbazyan allowed Stewart back up and they were clinched up against the fence. Stewart was attempting to reverse the position, but Shahbazyan stayed on top of him and it moved to the ground. Shahbazyan was in a body triangle and Stewart had him as a backpack. Shahbazyan jumped off but stayed attached to Stewart against the fence. That is where the round came to a close. We headed to round 3 and Stewart was trying to be the aggressor. Shahbazyan threw a high kick that was blocked. Shahbazyan went for the takedown and landed it. Stewart did not last log on the ground however and got back to his feet. Stewart was throwing big shots including elbows that appeared to wobble Shahbazyan. After a few seconds, Shahbazyan was able to grab for the clinch and ended up against the fence. Shahbazyan scored a takedown, but again Stewart to back up to his feet relatively easy. The ref separated Shahbazyan and Stewart was starting to land big shots. Shahbazyan was drained. Stewart kept working hard to try and get a finish. Instead, it was Shahbazyan grabbed a hold and held on to Stewart on the mat. Shahbazyan could not hold him down, but stayed attached to Stewart and finally got one last takedown. We headed to the judges and they scored it 29-28, 28-29, and 29-28 for the split decision winner Edmen Shahbazyan. This was not the thrilling striking performance from Shahbazyan, but instead, a 3 round decision win. His grappling looked solid, but the cardio needs some work.

Two Top 15 Bantamweights squared off next as Pedro “The Young Punisher” Munhoz (17-3 1NC #9 Ranked Bantamweight) took on Brian “Kid Lightning” Caraway (21-10 #14 Ranked Bantamweight). Caraway came out swinging and Munhoz chopped a big leg kick that landed. Caraway jumped in with a nice jab that connected. Munhoz kept trying to land those leg kicks. Caraway avoided it and immediately latched on to Munhoz and pressed him against the fence. Munhoz got off the fence and landed a hard left hand. Munhoz kept working the low calf kick. Caraway was really eating left hands in the exchanged. A hard right hand on a diving in for a takedown Caraway landed from Munhoz. Munhoz continued to land hard hooks on Caraway. A front kick from Munhoz connected. They were in an exchange and a body shot from Munhoz landed crumpling Caraway and immediately followed up with right hands and the ref stepped in and stopped it. Caraway protested, but the fight was over. Pedro Munhoz gets a big win and will be looking another ranked opponent next.

The Women’s Featherweight final was next as two Team Gastelum members Pannie “Banzai” Kianzad (10-4) and Macy Chiasson (3-0) went at it. Chiasson came out quickly looking to get close and to get her strikes going. Chiasson threw a kick up the middle and tried to clinch. Kianzad tried for a takedown and it was stuffed and they ended up clinched against the fence. They stayed pressed up against the cage in the clinch for a long time. Chiasson landed a hard left hand and Kianzad tried to escape, but they ended up on the other side of the cage. They separated and Chiasson landed a hard knee to the body. Kianzad went for a takedown it was stuffed and Chiasson took her back and locked in a body triangle. Chiasson tried hard to get a rear naked choke, but Kianzad stayed in it until the bell. We head to round 2 and Chiasson immediately went for the clinch against the cage. Kianzad was able to revers the position and landed a jumping knee in the clinch. Chiasson reversed and pushed off and landed three big shots that sent Kianzad to the mat. Chiasson dove right down with her and Kianzad locked in an arm bard. Chiasson was able to escape however and immediately took her back. She quickly locked in a rear naked choked and the tap came. Macy Chiasson had won the Women’s Featherweight tournament of Season 28 of The Ultimate Fighter. This was very impressive, and with more experience, we could see a real talent at 145lbs.

The Heavyweight finals was next as Team Gastelum’s Justin “The Grizzly Bear” Frazier (10-3) and Team Whittaker’s Juan Francisco “El Guapo” Espino Dieppa (9-1) go at it decided the winner of the Heavyweight Tournament. Frazier came sprinting right in and Espino was able to evade and immediately score a takedown. Espino was trying to pour it on. He was able to transition and take his back partially up against the fence. Espino was really putting the pressure on Frazier and keeping him on the mat. Espino was all over the back of Frazier and starting to land punches. Espino tried to grab a rear naked choke, but Frazier was able to stay in it. Espino slid and Frazier snuck out from in between his legs. Espino rushed right back on hi and Frazier landed a nice knee but ended up against the fence. Frazier circled out, but Espino scored a takedown following him around the cage. Espino grabbed on for a keylock and secured the tap to win the Heavyweight edition of the Season 28 Tournament, with takedown and grappling skills like that Juan Francisco Espino Dieppa could make a real difference at Heavyweight.

We closed the show with the Top 5 Welterweights as former Lightweight Champion Rafael Dos Anjos (28-11 #3 Ranked Welterweight) took on Season 21 alum Kamaru “Nigerian Nightmare” Usman (12-1 #5 Ranked Welterweight). Usman took the center of the cage and landed a nice jab. Usman then grabbed on to him and had him pressed up against the fence. RDA was able to free himself, and they were back to the center of the Octagon. Usman rushed forward RDA evaded, but Usman got a hold of a leg. Usman used the leg to slam RDA to the mat and he was on top. RDA was able to get back to his feet with out any issues. Usman, however, was back on top of him pressing him against the fence. RDA again, however, was able to get free. He threw a low calf kick that connected.  Usman went right back to looking for the takedown. RDA tried to grab for guillotine but was able to let it go while he kept defending the takedown. Usman finally finished the takedown and was starting to land some right hands on the mat. Usman postured up and tried to keep raining down punches, but instead ate a hard-up kick. . RDA was able to neutralize the offense and we hit the end of the round. We went to round 2 and Usman was coming right at RDA He made him block a head kick and we were right back into the clinch. Usman was keeping him there and working for a takedown. Usman finally finished the single leg takedown and he was on top again. RDA was working well of his back returning punches. RDA grabbed for a kimura, but the position in the Octagon allowed Usman to use it to roll out and get back to the feet. Usman was back on the feet and throwing big shots at RDA. RDA pressed him off the cage and threw head kick and then a jumping knee. They were really trading as the round came to an end. We headed to round 3 and they both traded left hands. Usman pressed him against the fence and ripped multiple body shots. Usman scored a takedown and had RDA pressed against the fence. RDA managed to get back to his feet but had to eat several knees n the way up. RDA was being backed up again and was again taken down by Usman. RDA again was searching for a kimura, but Usman was doing a good job defending and using the fence. RDA got back to his feet and had Usman up against the fence. RDA tried to get a takedown, but Usman was able to reverse it and hold RDA on the ground. RDA got to his feet, but he was being pressed up in the clinch against the fence. RDA separated and went back to thrown head kicks with under 30 seconds left. RDA started throwing leg kicks as Usman was walking him down. They traded shots as the round ended. We headed to round 4 and it was Usman moving forward again. RDA, however, came back with some jabs that were connecting. Usman landed a nice uppercut followed by a few straight lefts. Usman was backing RDA up and connecting against the fence on RDA. Usman immediately went and scored yet another takedown. Usman was keeping him on the ground and sneaking shots in as he could. Usman was hitting RDA with some big elbows and just really controlling where the fight was going. Usman kept the fight right there as the round ended. We headed to the 5th and RDA threw a punch to the body and ate a big combination. Usman kept coming forward and the combinations were coming from Usman. Usman latched on and was working for another takedown. RDA got back to his feet, but in the clinch, there were uppercuts flying from Usman. The fight went back to the mat and RDA had a hold of Usman’s head, but he easily got away from it. Usman postured up and was throwing big hammer fists. RDA was able to grab on to his arms and we were stuck on the mat. The judges scored this one 50-43, 49-45, and 48-47 all for Kamaru Usman. This was a dominant performance over a former titleholder for Kamaru Usman. He has to be next in line for a shot at the title at 170lbs.

This was a solid night of fights highlighted by the Usman domination. We crowned 2 new Ultimate Fighters and saw a ton of great finishes. The Rick Glenn Kevin Aguilar fight was a classic war. Hopefully, tomorrow nights card from Adelaide can keep it rolling and give us even more highlights from this UFC action-packed weekend.

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