Joanna Jędrzejczyk dispatched bitter rival Claudia Gadelha over the course of five hard-fought rounds to keep her Strawweight title rain intact in Las Vegas.
After clearly losing the first two rounds after strong wrestling by the title challenger, the Pole equipped her esteemed striking skills to light up Gadelha, scoring a unanimous decision victory at The Ultimate Fighter finale.
The event also featured a successful debut for Will Brooks, along with broadening horizons for Joaquim Silva and Doo Ho Choi who secured first-round finishes.
|Image: Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC|
In the second of the two Fight Pass prelim bouts, Kevin Lee scored a major stoppage victory over Jake Matthews in the first round. Matthews, who was fighting outside of his native shores for the first time, was taken down early on and unable to weather the storm created by "The Motown Phenom". On the initial try, Lee attempted to take his back midway through the frame, but would have more success later on, planting in the hooks then pounding him prompting the referee to stop the action.
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The standard of action did begin to deteriorate, although Light Heavyweight debutants Cory Hendricks and Joshua Stansbury would put up a good effort. Fresh from the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter, it was the more experienced Stansbury who took away the unbeaten record of his opponent, controlling it on the ground after manipulating the range fighting tactics, en route to a majority decision victory.
Fans at the MGM were certainly displeased when John Moraga and Matheus Nicolau cautiously approached their Flyweight fight. When they did try to land flush, there were a lot of missed shots, but Nicolau appeared to do enough on each round to win the fight, although the sounding of the final buzzer was met with relief from the spectators.
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Joaquim Silva was certainly in a rush to begin the main card, as he dispatched Andrew Holbrook with a first-round knockout. Catching his opponent's kick, he took him down, before landing a right as he got back up to his feet and adding some swift follow-up strikes to keep his undefeated record, and tarnish his opponent's.
Then, "The Korean Superboy" truly lived up to his name as he continued his spectacular UFC run with a ruthless knockout of Thiago Tavares. After persevering through some early takedown attempts by his opponent, Ho Choi backed him up against the cage, where he threw a jab followed by a straight right hand, sending him crumbling to the canvas and adding further damage to secure the win.
Another first round stoppage for The Korean Superboy! https://t.co/KC8rJ07410 #TUFFinale https://t.co/hGfUYNKB79— TheSportMatrix (@TheSportMatrix) July 9, 2016
Will Brooks was triumphant in his UFC debut as the former Bellator champion finally set foot into the Octagon, although was presented with a stern test in England's Ross Pearson. Brooks relied on his striking to get ahead, before landing flush takedowns over the two rounds. Pearson came out more aggressive in the final round but it wasn't enough.
Two Ultimate Fighters were crowned on the night to conclude the 23rd season, with Tatiana Suarez and Andrew Sanchez securing the contracts in very contrasting fights. Suarez won the women's strawweight tournament with a first-round submission win while Andrew Sanchez struggled to inspire as he outwrestled Khalil Rountree.
With the rest of the festivities out of the way, just one matter was left to be settled. The bitter rivalry between Strawweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk and Claudia Gadelha was put to bed over the course of five hard-fought rounds. The Pole was outwrestled in the first two rounds, but came back to put on a striking clinic in Las Vegas.
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Knowing the stakes at hand, Jędrzejczyk came out much more aggressively in the second, but would soon be punished for it as she left herself open to more takedowns and clinches. With the help of some piercing elbows, the champion did get back to her feet, but soon received an elbow for herself when she crashed down near the fence, as Gadelha went two rounds up.
But all that wrestling would prove physically taxing for the challenger, who began to slow down while Jędrzejczyk began to relish the occasion, applying great footwork to circle around the flat-footed opponent, peppering some shots after surviving takedowns. Gadelha's grappling though did remain a factor, making it a close round as Joanna finished out with hard elbows.
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With one round remaining, it appeared all square at 2 rounds apiece, but Jędrzejczyk would run away with it, with similar striking and nullifying the takedown attempts. The pace was stepped up as the seconds ticked down to the final bell, and when it did, the champion ran off in celebration - justified, as the judges scored a unanimous decision victory in her favour.
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As it happened