After I left the field of emergency medicine, I didn’t think blood splatter would continue to be a job hazard for me, but The Ultimate Fighter finale at The Pearl proved me wrong. Featuring some of the bloodiest fights I’ve seen live, the season nine finale included two fights that literally soaked the Octagon mat.
Submission of the night, and a hefty $25,000 bonus, went to the TUF matchup between Jason Dent and Cameron Dollar. After a tough start on the receiving end of Dollar’s vicious right hand, Dent came back to sink in an anaconda choke with just seconds left in the first round, forcing Dollar to tap.
TUF’s Team U.K. scored both finalist positions in the lightweight division with friends and training partners Ross Pearson and Andre Winner going toe to toe for the title. The more compact Pearson looked like an English bulldog as he did an excellent job holding the lankier Winner away from his body to avoid his blows while still being able to rain punches on his opponent.
Following the final round, Winner dropped to his knees and Pearson hopped on top of the Octagon fence, certain of his victory. The judges agreed, declaring a 29-28 unanimous decision.
“I think I’m still young and I have a lot of learning to do,” Pearson said following the fight. “I think I’ve got the potential to go a long way.”
The lone American finalist in the TUF contests was welterweight DaMarques Johnson who held his own against James Wilkes before succumbing to a choke and tapping with a mere six seconds left until the end of the first round. Despite the loss, Johnson showed his Gumby-like flexibility with escapes from a triangle choke, a heel lock, shoulder lock and an armbar attempt.
The night’s bloodiest battles didn’t involve Ultimate Fighter finalists but rather the more grizzled veterans. Chris “Lights Out” Lytle wasn’t able to knock out Kevin Burns as his nickname might imply, but the pair put on an impressive show. After trading hard blows and knees for the first two rounds, Lytle connected on a big punch to Burn’s temple that left a wound gushing all over his face.
“The person who yelled ‘boring!’ earlier needs to lose a limb,” commented TUF contestant Santino Defranco.
The fight was indeed one of the more exciting of the night, earning Fight of the Night honors along with two other fights including the main event between Clay Guida and Diego Sanchez and the matchup between Joe Stevenson and Nate Diaz.
The sellout crowd of 1,800 at The Pearl at the Palms featured main event contestant Clay Guida’s mother, sporting a hot pink top with silver lettering proudly declaring she was indeed “Guida’s Mom,” as well as a loyal group whose shirts spelled out the fighter’s last name.
Guida and Sanchez’s blood-soaked battle prompted a split decision for the first Ultimate Fighter winner, Sanchez. By the end of the third round, the fighters looked like a load of white laundry with a red sock thrown in as the blood spread over their bodies. Covered in it from head to toe, the pair embraced at the bout’s close, knowing they had given the fans what they’d come to see.