It was the night of the underdog at The Ultimate Fighter season eight finale fight at the Pearl at the Palms on Saturday night.
Both Ryan Bader and Efrain Escudero won unexpected victories against formidable opponents from the Ultimate Fighter house to take the titles of The Ultimate Fighter in their respective weight classes.
Lightweight Efrain “Hecho en Mexico” Escudero was the first Mexican-born fighter to enter the UFC. During the post-fight press conference, Escudero dedicated his victory (in Spanish) to, “my father and the people of Mexico.” His father passed away soon before Escudero began filming for the reality show.
While Escudero’s opponent, Phillipe Nover, had been called “The next Anderson Silva” by UFC president, Dana White, last night his skills proved no match for Escudero’s wrestling and takedowns.
The other main event fight was between four-time jiu-jitsu world champion Vinny Magalhaes and All-American wrestler Ryan “Darth” Bader.
Bader entered appropriately to a rocking version of the Star Wars theme. Known for his heavy hands and perfect 8-0 record, Bader sought to keep the fight standing to avoid Magalhaes’ jiu-jitsu and submission skills on the mat. After dodging a few first round kicks from Magalhaes while the pair exchanged blows on their feet, Bader connected with a strong right hand to the temple to win the knockout victory and The Ultimate Fighter light heavyweight title.
Before The Ultimate Fighter titles were doled out, exciting undercard fights took place, mostly between other fighters from the reality show. The submission of the night went to Krzysztof Soszynski, whose body slams were reminiscent of a pro wrestlers’. Octagonside, I could hear every thud as he slammed Shane Primm to the mat several times before forcing him to tap during a vicious kimura submission hold in the second round.
In another undercard match Junie Browning attempted to clear his name by proving his skills in the octagon as he defeated David Kaplan. Browning became known more for his alcohol abuse and threats to quit on the reality show than for his actual fighting. Despite boos from the crowd, Browning managed to put on a good fight demonstrating much improvement.
Of course, UFC big names weren’t only in the ring. MMA devotee Kevin James was in attendance at the Pearl sitting near Coach Antonio “Minotauro” Noguiera. George Maloof stopped by, as well.
Though The Ultimate Fighter season may officially be over, the UFC action continues on December 27 when the coaches from this season of TUF, Antonio Nogueira and Frank Mir, square off at the MGM Grand Garden Arena at UFC 92 along with much anticipated match-ups between Rashad Evans and Forrest Griffin and Rampage Jackson and Wanderlei Silva.