Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Nicco Montano and TUF 26 Finale's other winning fighters?

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“The Ultimate Fighter 26” came to a conclusion on Friday with the crowning of a new UFC champion.

The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale took place at Park Theatre in Las Vegas, and it aired on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass. In the headliner, Nicco Montano (4-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) won the “TUF 26” tournament and the inaugural women’s flyweight crown with a unanimous-decision vivctory over veteran Roxanne Modafferi (21-14 MMA, 0-2 UFC).

While Montano’s win was the most significant on the card, other fighters, including Sean O’Malley (9-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), Lauren Murphy (10-3 MMA, 2-3 UFC), Gerald Meerschaert (27-9 MMA, 3-1 UFC) and Brett Johns (15-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC), also picked up victories. Meanwhile, DeAnna Bennett (8-3-1 MMA, 0-0-1 UFC) and Melinda Fabian (4-3-2 MMA, 0-0-1 UFC) fought to a majority draw.

After every event, fans wonder whom the winners will be matched up with next. And with another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale’s winning fighters.

* * * *

Brett Johns

Pedro Munhoz

Should fight: Pedro Munhoz
Why they should fight: It was clear after his first two UFC fights that Johns is a talent to watch in the bantamweight division. His 30-second submission victory over Joe Soto, however, legitimized the Welshman in a whole new light.

Johns quickly finished Soto with just the second calf-slicer submission in UFC history. It was a major statement against the former Bellator champ and UFC title challenger, and with 15 straight wins, Johns appears ready for the next level of competition at 135 pounds.

A showdown with Munhoz (15-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC), who’s also on the cusp of breaking through to the next level of the division thanks to a four-fight winning streak, could be just what the doctor ordered to give Johns his biggest test to date.

Gerald Meerschaert

Vitor Miranda

Should fight: Winner of Vitor Miranda vs. Julian Marquez at UFC on FOX 26
Why they should fight: Meerschaert delivered in the final fight of his UFC contract when he scored a thunderous body-kick knockout of Eric Spicely in their middleweight bout.

After fending off Spicely’s early submission attacks, Meerschaert found a home for his body kicks. He finally put his opponent down midway through the second round, and now Meerschaert enters free agency with three wins in four UFC fights, all of which came by stoppage.

Meerschaert excites every time he steps in the octagon, and that’s seemingly the type of talent the UFC would want to keep around. The promotion has let a variety of free agents walk over the past few years, though, so it’s no guarantee Meerschaert stays under the UFC banner for his next fight.

Assuming he does, there are some compelling bouts ahead at 185 pounds. The winner of the UFC on FOX 26 bout between Mirada (12-6 MMA, 3-3 UFC) and Marquez (6-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) would be suitable because, like Meerschaert, both men have a high finishing rate.

Lauren Murphy

Mara Romero Borella

Should fight: Mara Romero Borella
Why they should fight: It came by the skin of her teeth in the form of a split decision, but Murphy managed to get the job done in her official UFC flyweight debut against fellow ex-Invicta FC champ Barb Honchak.

After going 1-3 in her UFC bantamweight run, Murphy got the fresh start she was looking for after a frustrating “TUF 26” stint. She has championship aspirations, and though the bout could have easily gone the other way, Murphy beat a fighter who was once considered No. 1 in the weight class.

If Murphy wants the belt, though, she will need to produce more convincing victories going forward. Borella (12-4 MMA, 1-0 UFC) made a splash in her promotional debut at UFC 216 in October with a first-round submission of Kalinda Faria. Murphy could take that momentum away from her – or, oppositely, Borella could move to 2-0 in the UFC against another notable name.

Sean O’Malley

Patrick Williams

Should fight: Patrick Williams
Why they should fight: The first edition of “The Suga Show” in the UFC went off without any major hitches. O’Malley pushed his undefeated record to 9-0 with a unanimous-decision win over Terrion Ware in a fun bantamweight scrap.

O’Malley had high expectations entering the octagon after earning a UFC contract with a spectacular knockout at a Dana White’s Contender Series event. He didn’t produce the same type of finish against his most experienced foe to date in Williams, but he got a solid win that will only help the 23-year-old grow moving forward.

At such a young age and with tremendous potential, O’Malley should be getting a slow build from the UFC brass. Williams (8-5 MMA, 1-2 UFC) is certainly no pushover, but he’s been used in the past of gauge the ability of similar 135-pound prospects, including Tom Duquesnoy. He should be put in a similar spot for O’Malley.

Nicco Montano

Should fight: Valentina Shevchenko
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Montano should fight Shevchenko (14-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC) in her first title defense.

For complete coverage of The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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TUF 26 Finale post-event facts: A rare finish, a new striking record and armbars galore

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History was made at The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale on Friday when the organization officially crowned the inaugural champion of its newest weight class: the women’s flyweight division.

Unheralded Nicco Montano (4-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) completed her surprising run to the gold when she outpointed Roxanne Modafferi (21-14 MMA, 0-2 UFC) via unanimous decision in the event headliner, which took place at Park Theatre in Las Vegas and aired on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Montano’s “Fight of the Night” effort capped off an 11-fight card, which saw seven bouts end with a stoppage. For more of the numbers behind the first of two UFC cards from this past weekend, check below for 32 post-event facts to come out of The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale.

* * * *

General

Brett Johns

The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale featured three armbar submission finishes, tied with UFC on FUEL TV 10 for the most on a UFC card in the modern era.

The UFC-Reebok Athlete Outfitting payout for the event totaled $112,500.

Debuting fighters went 6-4-2 at the event.

Montano, Modafferi, Gerald Meerschaert and Brett Johns earned $50,000 TUF 26 Finale fight-night bonuses.

Betting favorites went 7-3 on the card. One fight ended in a draw.

Total fight time for the 11-bout card was 1:42:31.

Main card

Nicco Montano

Montano became the inaugural UFC women’s flyweight champion.

Montano became UFC champion just 742 days after her professional debut.

Modafferi fell to 6-3 since her initial UFC release in November 2013.

Modafferi has suffered 10 of her 14 career losses by decision. That includes both of her UFC defeats.

Lauren Murphy (10-3 MMA, 2-3 UFC) was successful in her UFC flyweight debut.

Barb Honchak (10-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) had her nine-fight winning streak snapped for her first official defeat since September 2010.

Honchak has suffered all three of her career losses by decision.

Gerald Meerschaert

Meerschaert (27-9 MMA, 3-1 UFC) has earned 25 of his 27 carer victories by stoppage. That includes all three of his UFC wins.

Eric Spicely (10-3 MMA, 2-3 UFC) suffered the first knockout loss of his career.

DeAnna Bennett (8-3-1 MMA, 0-0-1 UFC) had her winless streak extended to four fights. She hasn’t earned a victory since September 2015.

Johns’ (15-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) 15-fight MMA winning streak is the second longest among active UFC bantamweight fighters behind Jimmie Rivera (20).

Johns earned just the second calf-slicer submission in UFC history. Charles Oliveira also accomplished the feat.

Johns’ 30-second submission victory was second fastest in UFC/WEC combined bantamweight history behind Patrick Williams’ 23-second finish at UFC 188.

Joe Soto (18-6 MMA, 3-4 UFC) suffered his fourth loss in his past six fights.

Soto suffered just the second submission loss of his career and his first since Aug. 5, 2011 – a span of 2,311 days (more than six years) and 14 fights.

Preliminary card

Montana De La Rose

Montana De La Rosa (8-4 MMA, 1-0 UFC) has earned all of her career stoppage victories by submission.

Christina Marks (8-9 MMA, 0-1 UFC) has suffered seven of her nine career losses by submission. All of her career stoppage losses are by submission.

Ryan Janes (10-3 MMA, 2-2 UFC) has earned eight of his 10 career victories by stoppage.

Janes earned the first knockout victory of his career.

Ryan Janes

Janes and Andrew Sanchez (9-4 MMA, 2-2 UFC) combined for 255 significant strikes landed, a new single-fight record for a UFC middleweight bout.

Karine Gevorgyan (3-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) has suffered all three of her career losses by stoppage.

Ariel Beck (4-5 MMA, 0-1 UFC) suffered her third consecutive loss to extend the longest skid of her career. She earned her first victory since March 2016.

Beck suffered the first knockout loss of her career.

Shana Dobson (3-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) earned the first knockout victory of her career.

Gillian Robertson (4-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) has earned all of her career stoppage victories by submission.

Emily Whitmire (2-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) has suffered both of her career losses by submission.

For complete coverage of The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

FightMetric research analyst and live statistics producer Michael Carroll contributed to this story. Follow him on Twitter @MJCflipdascript.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

TUF 26 Finale Athlete Outfitting pay: Montano, Modafferi get $30k each for title fight

LAS VEGAS – Fighters from Friday’s Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale event took home UFC Athlete Outfitting pay, a program that launched after the UFC’s deal with Reebok, totaling $112,500.

The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale took place at Park Theatre in Las Vegas. The card aired on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Leading the way were inaugural UFC women’s flyweight title participants Nicco Montano (4-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) and Roxanne Modafferi (21-14 MMA, 0-2 UFC), who each received $30,000 for going into a championship bout as a non-titleholder.

The full UFC Fight Night 122 UFC Athlete Outfitting payouts included:

Nicco Montano: $30,000
def. Roxanne Modafferi: $30,000

Sean O’Malley: $2,500
Terrion Ware: $2,500

Lauren Murphy: $2,500
def. Barb Honchak: $2,500

Gerald Meerschaert: $2,500
def. Eric Spicely: $2,500

DeAnna Bennett: $2,500
vs. Melinda Fabian: $2,500

Brett Johns: $2,500
def. Joe Soto: $5,000

Montana De La Rosa: $2,500
def. Christina Marks: $2,500

Ryan Janes: $2,500
def. Andrew Sanchez: $2,500

Rachael Ostovich: $2,500
def. Karine Gevorgyan: $2,500

Shana Dobson: $2,500
def. Ariel Beck: $2,500

Gillian Robertson: $2,500
def. Emily Whitmire: $2,500

Under the UFC Athlete Outfitting program’s payout tiers, which appropriate the money generated by Reebok’s multi-year sponsorship with the UFC, fighters are paid based on their total number of UFC bouts, as well as Zuffa-era WEC fights (January 2007 and later) and Zuffa-era Strikeforce bouts (April 2011 and later). Fighters with 1-5 bouts receive $2,500 per appearance; 6-10 bouts get $5,000; 11-15 bouts earn $10,000; 16-20 bouts pocket $15,000; and 21 bouts and more get $20,000. Additionally, champions earn $40,000 while title challengers get $30,000.

In addition to experience-based pay, UFC fighters will receive in perpetuity royalty payments amounting to 20-30 percent of any UFC merchandise sold that bears their likeness, according to officials.

Full 2017 UFC-Reebok sponsorship payouts:

Year-to-date total: $5,662,500
2016 total: $7,138,000
2015 total: $3,185,000
Program-to-date total: $15,985,000

For complete coverage of The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Fight Tracks: The walkout songs of the TUF 26 Finale with the Eminem Curse back again

While it take intense training, world-class skills and maybe even a bit of luck to register a UFC win, picking the right song to accompany you to the cage is a key talent, as well.

See what the fighters of Friday’s The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale event in Las Vegas, went with as their backing tracks.

* * * *

Nicco Montano def. Roxanne Modafferi via unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46, 49-46)

Nicco Montano: “NDN Kars” by Keith Secola

Roxanne Modafferi: “Dragula” by Rob Zombie

Sean O’Malley def. Terrion Ware via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Sean O’Malley: “Party and Bull(expletive) in the USA” by The Notorious B.I.G. and Miley Cyrus

Terrion Ware: “Amazing” by Kanye West feat. Young Jeezy

Lauren Murphy def. Barb Honchak via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

Lauren Murphy: “Memories” by David Guetta feat. Kid Cudi

Barb Honchak: “Good Girls” by Elle King

Gerald Meerschaert def. Eric Spicely via TKO (body kick) – Round 2, 2:18

Gerald Meerschaert: “Ante Up” by M.O.P.

Eric Spicely: “Cry, Cry, Cry” by Johnny Cash

DeAnna Bennett vs. Melinda Fabian ruled a majority draw (29-27, 28-28, 28-28)

DeAnna Bennett: “Relax” by Peaches

Melinda Fabian: “In the Air Tonight” by Nonpoint

Brett Johns def. Joe Soto via submission (calf slicer) – Round 1, 0:30

Brett Johns: “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” by Dropkick Murphys

Joe Soto: “We Right Here” by DMX

Montana De La Rosa def. Christina Marks via submission (armbar) – Round 1, 2:00

Montana De La Rosa: “My Time” by Fabolous

Christina Marks: “Till I Collapse” by Eminem

Ryan Janes def. Andrew Sanchez via TKO (punches) – Round 3, 0:58

Ryan Janes: “The Islander” by Navigators

Andrew Sanchez: “Big News I” by Clutch

Rachael Ostovich def. Karine Gevorgyan via submission (armbar) – Round 1, 1:40

Rachael Ostovich: “Girl On Fire” by Alicia Keys

Karine Gevorgyan: Unknown by Djivan Gasparyan

Shana Dobson def. Ariel Beck via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 2:53

Shana Dobson: “Walk” by Young M.A.

Ariel Beck: “Just a Girl” by No Doubt

Gillian Robertson def. Emily Whitmire via submission (armbar) – Round 1, 2:12

Gillian Robertson: “P.I.M.P.” by 50 Cent

Emily Whitmire: “This is Me” by Tech N9ne

For complete coverage of The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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TUF 26 Finale results: Melinda Fabian nearly KOs DeAnna Bennett, who grinds way to majority draw

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LAS VEGAS – Hungarian striker Melinda Fabian (4-3-2 MMA, 0-0-1 UFC) nearly scored a highlight-reel finish of veteran DeAnna Bennett (8-3-1 MMA, 0-0-1 UFC) but ultimately settled for a disappointing majority draw.

The women’s flyweight bout was part of the main card of today’s The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale event at Park Theater in Las Vegas. It aired on FS1 following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Fabian looked to strike from the start, landing a right hand and a high kick in an early exchange, and Bennett immediately looked to get the fight to the floor. Fabian defended well against the cage, eventually spinning to the outside and driving an elbow into her opponent’s face. Bennett was relentless with her grinding attack, but Fabian’s defense eventually earned her a restart from referee John McCarthy.

Fabian was confident and aggressive with her strikes on the reset, and Bennett again turned quickly to the wrestling but simply could not get the fight to the floor. Fabian finally pushed her away and landed a flush high kick at the bell that sent Bennett to the floor. Fabian briefly thought she had a walk-off finish, and the hesitation to jump on top allowed a wobbly Bennett to crawl to her feet and answer the bell for the second under the close watch of McCarthy.

Fabian went right back to the high kick to open the second, and Bennett answered by again looking to get the fight to the floor. Fabian eventually was forced to grab the fence to stay upright, and McCarthy immediately deducted what would prove a costly point on the egregious hold. He restarted the fight with Bennett in on the legs, but Fabian’s defense again proved capable. Fabian’s constant defense earned another restart, but Bennett didn’t allow her opponent a single strike before shooting inside again.

Sprawling against the cage, Fabian tried to punch in spots, but she was forced to focus on remaining on her feet. Another McCarthy restart saw Bennett shoot immediately, and the crowd showered the effort with boos. Fabian broke free at the very end, nearly landing another high kick and letting out a guttural yell as the bell ended her effort.

Bennett elected to engage a bit on the feet to start the third, and Fabian looked to capitalize with long, straight punches. While she was clearly wary of a takedown, Fabian did eventually throw a kick that Bennett caught and used to push the action to the fence. Fabian sprawled against the cage, earning yet another break from McCarthy. The two did trade briefly, but Bennett went quickly back to the takedown, which yet again proved ineffective. A few Fabian knees pushed Bennett away with under a minute, and the Hungarian striker gave it her all to get a finish.

Fabian slipped on a kick in the final seconds, giving Bennett a chance to finally enjoy a brief dominant position, and the brief offense was apparently enough to sway two of three judges, who scored the fight a 28-28 draw. Bennett actually took one card, 29-27, but the result was ultimately a majority draw.

Up-to-the-minute TUF 26 Finale results include:

For complete coverage of The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

(MMAjunkie’s John Morgan and Ken Hathaway contributed to this report on site in Las Vegas.)

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Source: MMA Junkie

10 reasons to watch TUF 26 Finale, with a new headliner/title challenger (Updated)

(This story was originally published on 11/30/16.)

(UPDATED on 11/30/2017 at 4:30 p.m. ET to reflect the main-event change.)

The UFC crowns its first women’s flyweight champion tonight at The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale.

In a bit of a surprise, Nicco Montano faces former Invicta FC title challenger Roxanne Modafferi in the title bout. Montano, who was the No. 14 seed in the “TUF” tournament, was set to face No. 12 seed Sijara Eubanks, but Eubanks was hospitalized on weigh-in day and subsequently pulled from the card. With that, the No. 1 seed, Modafferi, whom Eubanks defeated in the semifinal round, moves in to the main event and gets a shot at UFC gold.

Montana punched her ticket to the title fight with upset wins over higher seeds in each round of the tournament, with her biggest win being her decision victory over former Invicta champion Barb Honchak in the semifinal round.

Honchak, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, now faces No. 3 seed Lauren Murphy, who weighed in as an alternate.

In the co-main event, Sean O’Malley meets Terrion Ware in a bantamweight bout.

The TUF 26 Finale takes place at Park Theatre in Las Vegas. The card airs on FS1 following one early prelim on UFC Fight Pass.

Here are 10 reasons to watch the event.

1. And new

Montano knew she was fighting for the inaugural UFC flyweight title at the TUF 26 Finale, but she didn’t know until weigh-ins that she was facing Modafferi.

Montano (3-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) took a tough path to the title fight. She opened the tournament with a decision win over Murphy before beating No. 6 seed Montana De La Rosa by decision. In her semifinal bout, Montano topped Honchak by decision. Modafferi (21-13 MMA, 0-0 UFC) earned her way to the semis with first-round TKO victories in her first two fights of the tourney. Eubanks upset her in the semis when she earned a unanimous decision win over the veteran fighter.

Modafferi, best known for her ground game, has made significant strides in her striking over the past few years. A pro since 2003, she has a major experience advantage in this matchup. She will also have a chip on her shoulder after missing out on a UFC deal following “TUF 18” and losing her shot at the Invicta FC flyweight title by split decision.

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Montano is a powerful fighter who showed a very well-rounded skill set. She’s proved extremely hard to take down and displayed excellent cardio. The 28-year old former King of the Cage flyweight champion also showed outstanding situational awareness for a fighter with only five pro bouts.

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2. Exciting, but some questions

O’Malley scored an impressive knockout win on a Dana White’s Contender Series card. The victory, the seventh stoppage of his eight-fight career, earned the 22-year-old a UFC contract. As impressive as the knockout was, O’Malley (8-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) displayed some traits that a more seasoned opponent might exploit. He gets that type of opponent in Ware (17-6 MMA, 0-1 UFC). The 31-year-old has nearly three times as many fights as O’Malley.

Ware lost his UFC debut to Cody Stamann by unanimous decision. During that fight, he showed good boxing skills that could give O’Malley trouble. The younger fighter was exciting to watch in his July bout, but he was reckless at times and showed little in the way of striking defense.

This bantamweight fight should play out on the feet, and it should give everyone a better idea as to where O’Malley stands early in his career.

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3. Coming up short

Tournament seeding is an inexact science, but when the UFC seeded Honchak (10-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) at No. 2 and Murphy (9-3 MMA, 1-3 UFC) at No. 3, it felt right. But upsets happen. Now the veteran combatants face off for pride, a spot in the flyweight rankings and a job in the UFC.

Honchak made it to the semis before she lost a decision to Montano. Murphy, who expected to face Honchak at some point in the “TUF” tournament, was bumped in the opening round by Montano.

Like the other fighters not competing for the title, these veterans have to be heartbroken over their missed opportunity. However, they need to move past that pain and strive to deliver their best so they can work toward the title shot that evaded them during the filming of “TUF.”

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4. Will the grapplers grapple?

Eric Spicely has lived and died by the choke as a UFC fighter. He has two first-round submission wins, one via rear-naked choke and another by triangle choke. Unfortunately, those victories are bookended by a guillotine loss to Sam Alvey and – in his most recent bout – a rear-naked choke submission defeat to Antonio Carlos Junior. Spicely, a BJJ black belt faces Gerald Meerschaert in a middleweight bout.

Like his opponent, Meerschaert knows something about submissions. Nineteen of his wins have come by tap-out, and he has been on the wrong end of submissions seven times in his career. His most recent fight, a July loss to Thiago Santos, was his first knockout defeat. Before the Santos bout, Meerschaert was riding a seven-fight winning streak.

As we know, when two grapplers meet, the fight tends to stay standing. Luckily, both of these men can strike, as well. Spicely (10-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC) has two knockout wins while Meerschaert (26-9 MMA, 2-1 UFC) has five KO victories.

5. Former title contender looks to get in the mix

Bennett was 4-0 when she joined Invicta FC in 2014. After four more wins, she found herself in a title fight against strawweight champion Livia Renata Souza. Souza ended Bennett’s unbeaten streak with a first-round TKO. Bennett’s losing skid continued with split-decision losses to Modafferi and Jodie Esquibel.

Bennett (8-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC), an upbeat personality with a decent ground game, lost to Eubanks via first-round TKO in the quarterfinals of the “TUF 26” tournament. Her opponent, Melinda Fabian (4-3-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC), who dealt with a leg injury during the show, was submitted by Rachael Ostovich-Berdon in the opening round.

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Fabian, one of the better strikers in the “TUF” house, has losses to UFC fighters Katlyn Chookagian and Lucie Pudilova on her record.

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Like several other “TUF” fights on this card, this one will likely come down to where the scrap takes place.

6. Extend the streak

Joe Soto was fighting for his life at UFC Fight Night 89. The California-born fighter was 0-3 in the UFC heading into his matchup against Chris Beal. Soto submitted Beal in the third round. He followed that victory with two more wins. His most recent outing was a decision victory over submission ace Rani Yahya.

Soto looks to make it four in a row when he meets Brett Johns, a bantamweight rankings honorable mention on the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings.

Johns, a former Titan FC and Cage Warriors champion, is unbeaten. The Welshman racked up 14 takedowns in his two UFC bouts. Johns (14-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) faces an opponent with solid takedown defense in Soto (18-5 MMA, 3-3 UFC), who has stopped 70 percent of his opponent’s takedown attempts.

7. Different strengths

De La Rosa entered “TUF 26” with a pro record of 7-4. Her most notable fights during that run were stoppage losses to Mackenzie Dern and Cynthia Calvillo. De La Rosa’s run in the “TUF” tourney came to an end with a bloody decision loss to eventual finalist Nicco Montano. A good wrestler with five submission victories, De La Rosa does her best work on the ground.

De La Rosa (7-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC) is matched up against Christina Marks. We didn’t get to see too much of Marks (8-8 MMA, 0-0 UFC) on the show since Emily Whitmire eliminated her via a quick submission. A pro since 2009, Marks is 8-8. Like De La Rosa, Marks’ biggest fights, against Alexis Dufresne and Sara McMann, ended in stoppage losses. A striker by trade, Marks’ weakest work comes on the ground.

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8. Keep an eye on the cardio

Andrew Sanchez looks like he has the tools to become a player in the middleweight division. The “TUF 23” champion has good takedowns, a heavy top game and a strong clinch game that he uses to take the fight to the mat. If there’s one knock against him, it’s his cardio.

Sanchez slowed in the third round of his most recent fight, and that might have been a contributing factor in his knockout loss to Anthony Smith. If Sanchez hasn’t shored up his cardio, he could find himself in trouble against Ryan Janes.

Janes (9-3 MMA, 1-2 UFC) doesn’t do any one thing particularly well, but he is aggressive and active on his feet. He also has a deep gas tank. If he can keep Sanchez (9-3 MMA, 2-1 UFC) at distance and avoid takedowns, Janes, who has lost his two most recent bouts, could give Sanchez trouble.

9. There’s no quitting in MMA

Whitmire injured her rib training for her first fight on “TUF.” Despite the injury, the 26-year-old was able to earn a quick submission win over Marks. Whitmire drew top-seeded Modafferi in her second bout. That fight ended with Whitmire on the wrong end of a first-round TKO stoppage. After the loss, she lamented that she gave up on herself, something she said she had done in the past.

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Whitmire (2-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) faces the more experienced, but younger Gillian Robertson in this contest. Robertson (3-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) dropped her opening round fight to Honchak via TKO, but unlike Whitmire, she hung tough even while Honchak laid into her with ground strikes.

Both of these women are better on the ground than on the feet, but the real key might be confidence. Knowing Whitmire has a history of breaking, don’t be surprised if Robertson pressures her opponent early in this contest.

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10. What about a challenger?

We know the UFC will crown the first women’s flyweight champion on this card. What we don’t know is if the UFC will name the first challenger for that title at this event. With the division slowly developing and a number of current UFC fighters mulling a move to 125 pounds, there is a possibility the new champion will find out who her first title defense will be against after she is awarded the belt.

For more on The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

10 reasons to watch TUF 26 Finale, where 2 underdogs emerged for a shot at gold

The UFC crowns its first women’s flyweight champion on Friday night at The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale.

If you guessed the two finalists would be No. 12 seed Sijara Eubanks and No. 14 seed Nicco Montano – and that they would get to the title fight by getting past the much more experienced, and much-higher seeded, Roxanne Modafferi and Barb Honchak – well, you’re very gifted in your fight picks.

Eubanks and Montano punched their tickets to the final the hard way, upsetting higher seeds in each round of the tournament. Eubanks toppled Modafferi in the semifinals. Montano got the best of Honchak in the semifinals, as well. Eubanks enters the title fight with a professional record of 2-2 while Montano is 3-2.

Modafferi and Honchak, meanwhile, face off on the main card.

In the co-main event, Sean O’Malley meets Terrion Ware in a bantamweight bout.

The TUF 26 Finale takes place at Park Theatre in Las Vegas. The card airs on FS1 following one early prelim on UFC Fight Pass.

Here are 10 reasons to watch the event.

1. And new

In an unexpected development, Eubanks and Montano overcame heavy odds to earn a shot at UFC gold.

Eubanks (2-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC), the No. 12 seed on the show, made her way to the final with a submission win over No. 5 seed Maia Stevenson, a knockout of No. 4 seed DeAnna Bennett and a unanimous decision over No. 1 seed Modafferi. Montano (3-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC), the No. 14 seed, took a similar path. She earned a decision win over No. 3 Lauren Murphy before beating No. 6 Montana De La Rosa by decision. In her semifinal bout, Montano topped former Invicta champ Honchak by decision.

Eubanks is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who isn’t afraid to trade on the feet. The 32-year-old battled the scale throughout her stay in the “TUF” house, but that didn’t seem to affect her cardio in her only fight that went the distance.

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Montano is a powerful fighter who showed a very well-rounded skill set. She’s proved extremely hard to take down and displayed excellent cardio. The 28-year old former King of the Cage flyweight champion also showed outstanding situational awareness for a fighter with only five pro bouts.

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2. Exciting, but some questions

O’Malley scored an impressive knockout win on a Dana White’s Contender Series card. The victory, the seventh stoppage of his eight-fight career, earned the 22-year-old a UFC contract. As impressive as the knockout was, O’Malley (8-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) displayed some traits that a more seasoned opponent might exploit. He gets that type of opponent in Ware (17-6 MMA, 0-1 UFC). The 31-year-old has nearly three times as many fights as O’Malley.

Ware lost his UFC debut to Cody Stamann by unanimous decision. During that fight, he showed good boxing skills that could give O’Malley trouble. The younger fighter was exciting to watch in his July bout, but he was reckless at times and showed little in the way of striking defense.

This bantamweight fight should play out on the feet, and it should give everyone a better idea as to where O’Malley stands early in his career.

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3. Coming up short

Tournament seeding is an inexact science, but when UFC matchmakers seeded Modafferi (21-13 MMA, 0-0 UFC) No. 1 and Honchak (10-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) No. 2, it felt right. But upsets happen. Now the top two seeds face off for pride, a spot in the flyweight rankings and a job in the UFC.

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Like the other fighters not competing for the title, these veterans have to be heartbroken over their missed opportunity. However, they need to move past that pain and strive to deliver their best and secure a spot in the UFC so they can work toward the title shot that evaded them during the filming of “TUF.”

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4. Will the grapplers grapple?

Eric Spicely has lived and died by the choke as a UFC fighter. He has two first-round submission wins, one via rear-naked choke and another by triangle choke. Unfortunately, those victories are bookended by a guillotine loss to Sam Alvey and – in his most recent bout – a rear-naked choke submission defeat to Antonio Carlos Junior. Spicely, a BJJ black belt faces Gerald Meerschaert in a middleweight bout.

Like his opponent, Meerschaert knows something about submissions. Nineteen of his wins have come by tap-out, and he has been on the wrong end of submissions seven times in his career. His most recent fight, a July loss to Thiago Santos, was his first knockout defeat. Before the Santos bout, Meerschaert was riding a seven-fight winning streak.

As we know, when two grapplers meet, the fight tends to stay standing. Luckily, both of these men can strike, as well. Spicely (10-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC) has two knockout wins while Meerschaert (26-9 MMA, 2-1 UFC) has five KO victories.

5. Former title contender looks to get in the mix

Bennett was 4-0 when she joined Invicta FC in 2014. After four more wins, she found herself in a title fight against strawweight champion Livia Renata Souza. Souza ended Bennett’s unbeaten streak with a first-round TKO. Bennett’s losing skid continued with split-decision losses to Modafferi and Jodie Esquibel.

Bennett (8-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC), an upbeat personality with a decent ground game, lost to Eubanks via first-round TKO in the quarterfinals of the “TUF 26” tournament. Her opponent, Melinda Fabian (4-3-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC), who dealt with a leg injury during the show, was submitted by Rachael Ostovich-Berdon in the opening round.

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Fabian, one of the better strikers in the “TUF” house, has losses to UFC fighters Katlyn Chookagian and Lucie Pudilova on her record.

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Like several other “TUF” fights on this card, this one will likely come down to where the scrap takes place.

6. Extend the streak

Joe Soto was fighting for his life at UFC Fight Night 89. The California-born fighter was 0-3 in the UFC heading into his matchup against Chris Beal. Soto submitted Beal in the third round. He followed that victory with two more wins. His most recent outing was a decision victory over submission ace Rani Yahya.

Soto looks to make it four in a row when he meets Brett Johns, a bantamweight rankings honorable mention on the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings.

Johns, a former Titan FC and Cage Warriors champion, is unbeaten. The Welshman racked up 14 takedowns in his two UFC bouts. Johns (14-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) faces an opponent with solid takedown defense in Soto (18-5 MMA, 3-3 UFC), who has stopped 70 percent of his opponent’s takedown attempts.

7. Different strengths

De La Rosa entered “TUF 26” with a pro record of 7-4. Her most notable fights during that run were stoppage losses to Mackenzie Dern and Cynthia Calvillo. De La Rosa’s run in the “TUF” tourney came to an end with a bloody decision loss to eventual finalist Nicco Montano. A good wrestler with five submission victories, De La Rosa does her best work on the ground.

De La Rosa (7-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC) is matched up against Christina Marks. We didn’t get to see too much of Marks (8-8 MMA, 0-0 UFC) on the show since Emily Whitmire eliminated her via a quick submission. A pro since 2009, Marks is 8-8. Like De La Rosa, Marks’ biggest fights, against Alexis Dufresne and Sara McMann, ended in stoppage losses. A striker by trade, Marks’ weakest work comes on the ground.

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8. Keep an eye on the cardio

Andrew Sanchez looks like he has the tools to become a player in the middleweight division. The “TUF 23” champion has good takedowns, a heavy top game and a strong clinch game that he uses to take the fight to the mat. If there’s one knock against him, it’s his cardio.

Sanchez slowed in the third round of his most recent fight, and that might have been a contributing factor in his knockout loss to Anthony Smith. If Sanchez hasn’t shored up his cardio, he could find himself in trouble against Ryan Janes.

Janes (9-3 MMA, 1-2 UFC) doesn’t do any one thing particularly well, but he is aggressive and active on his feet. He also has a deep gas tank. If he can keep Sanchez (9-3 MMA, 2-1 UFC) at distance and avoid takedowns, Janes, who has lost his two most recent bouts, could give Sanchez trouble.

9. There’s no quitting in MMA

Whitmire injured her rib training for her first fight on “TUF.” Despite the injury, the 26-year-old was able to earn a quick submission win over Marks. Whitmire drew top-seeded Modafferi in her second bout. That fight ended with Whitmire on the wrong end of a first-round TKO stoppage. After the loss, she lamented that she gave up on herself, something she said she had done in the past.

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Whitmire (2-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) faces the more experienced, but younger Gillian Robertson in this contest. Robertson (3-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) dropped her opening round fight to Honchak via TKO, but unlike Whitmire, she hung tough even while Honchak laid into her with ground strikes.

Both of these women are better on the ground than on the feet, but the real key might be confidence. Knowing Whitmire has a history of breaking, don’t be surprised if Robertson pressures her opponent early in this contest.

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10. What about a challenger?

We know the UFC will crown the first women’s flyweight champion on this card. What we don’t know is if the UFC will name the first challenger for that title at this event. With the division slowly developing and a number of current UFC fighters mulling a move to 125 pounds, there is a possibility the new champion will find out who her first title defense will be against after she is awarded the belt.

For more on The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

TUF 26 Finale pre-event facts: Inaugural title fight comes with dubious footnote

The UFC will crown its 12th divisional champion Friday when the first UFC women’s flyweight titleholder is determined at The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale at Park Theatre in Las Vegas.

The UFC first announced the 125-pound weight class in May. Since then, 16 fighters have battled on “TUF 26” for the chance to compete for the inaugural championship.

That 16-woman field eventually narrowed to two as low-seeded Sijara Eubanks (2-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) and Nicco Montano (3-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) advanced through the tournament for the chance to compete for gold.

Check below for 20 pre-fight facts about the TUF 26 Finale, which airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

* * * *

Main event

Sijara Eubanks

Eubanks’ four pro fights are the second least for a participant in a UFC women’s title fight behind Rose Namajunas (three at TUF 20 Finale).

Eubanks has alternated wins and losses over her four-fight career.

Eubanks and Montano have suffered all four of their combined career losses by decision.

Eubanks vs. Montano is the first title fight in UFC history in which both participants are coming off losses in professional competition.

Montano competes for a UFC title just 742 days after her professional debut.

Remaining card

Roxanne Modafferi

Roxanne Modafferi (21-13 MMA, 0-1 UFC) returns to UFC competition for the first time since November 2013.

Modafferi is 6-2 since her initial UFC release.

Modafferi has earned 13 of her 21 career victories by decision.

Barb Honchak (10-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC), 38, is the oldest of the 22 fighters scheduled to compete at the event.

Honchak enters the event on a nine-fight winning streak. She hasn’t suffered an official defeat since September 2010.

Eric Spicely (10-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC) has earned both of his UFC victories by first-round submission in a total fight time of five minutes and 12 seconds.

Gerald Meerschaert

Gerald Meerschaert (26-8 MMA, 2-1 UFC) has earned 24 of his 26 carer victories by stoppage.

Meerschaert has earned both of his UFC victories by first-round submission.

Meerschaert is one of 10 fighters in UFC history to earn a submission victory by anaconda choke. He accomplished the feat at UFC Fight Night 102.

DeAnna Bennett (8-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) enters the event on a two-fight skid. She hasn’t earned an official victory since September 2015.

Joe Soto’s (18-5 MMA, 3-3 UFC) three-fight UFC winning streak in bantamweight competition is tied for the third longest active streak in the division behind Jimmie Rivera (five) and Pedro Munhoz (four).

Soto is one of five fighters in UFC history to challenge for a title in his promotional debut. Gilbert Melendez, Liz Carmouche, Frank Trigg and Hayoto Sakurai are the others.

Brett Johns

Brett Johns’ (14-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) 14-fight MMA winning streak is the second longest among active UFC bantamweight fighters behind Rivera (20).

Johns’ 11 takedowns landed against Kwan Ho Kwak at UFC Fight Night 99 are the single-fight record for a UFC/WEC bantamweight bout.

Gillian Robertson (3-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC), 22, is the youngest of the 22 fighters scheduled to compete at the event.

For more on The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

FightMetric research analyst and live statistics producer Michael Carroll contributed to this story. Follow him on Twitter @MJCflipdascript.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

MMAjunkie reader predictions: Make your picks for TUF 26 Finale in Las Vegas

We want your predictions for Friday’s TUF 26 Finale event in Las Vegas.

Our staff picks feature includes the consensus picks from MMAjunkie readers. Simply cast your vote for each bout below, and we’ll use the official tallies that are registered by today at 10 a.m. ET (7 a.m. PT).

Those MMAjunkie MMA reader consensus picks will be part of the TUF 26 Finale staff picks we release today ahead of the event. The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale takes place Friday at Park Theater in Las Vegas. It airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

* * * *

Sijara Eubanks vs. Nicco Montano

Records: Sijara Eubanks (2-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. Nicco Montano (3-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC)
Past five: Eubanks 2-2, Montano 3-2
Division: Women’s flyweight
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 11/30/17): N/A

Take Our Poll
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Sean O’Malley vs. Terrion Ware

Records: Sean O’Malley (8-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. Terrion Ware (17-6 MMA, 0-1 UFC)
Past five: O’Malley 5-0, Ware 4-1
Division:
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 11/30/17): O’Malley -260, Ware +200

Take Our Poll
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Barb Honchak vs. Roxanne Modafferi

Records: Barb Honchak (10-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. Roxanne Modafferi (21-13 MMA, 0-1 UFC)
Past five: Honchak 5-0, Modafferi 4-1
Division: Women’s flyweight
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 11/30/17): N/A

Take Our Poll
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Gerald Meerschaert vs. Eric Spicely

Records: Gerald Meerschaert (26-9 MMA, 2-1 UFC) vs. Eric Spicely (10-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC)
Past five: Meerschaert 4-1, Spielly 3-2
Division: Middleweight
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 11/30/17): Meerschaert -185, Spicely +150

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DeAnna Bennett vs. Melinda Fabian

Records: DeAnna Bennett (8-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. Melinda Fabian (4-3-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC)
Past five: Bennett 2-3, Fabian 3-2
Division:
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 11/30/17): N/A

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Brett Johns vs. Joe Soto

Records: Brett Johns (14-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) vs. Joe Soto (18-5 MMA, 3-3 UFC)
Past five: Johns 5-0, Soto 3-2
Division:
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 11/30/17): Johns -190, Soto +155

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For more on The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Tournament final/inaugural title fight set as part of Friday's official TUF 26 Finale lineup

The 16-fighter tournament has been whittled down to two, and now the matchup to crown the inaugural UFC women’s flyweight champion at Friday’s The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale is set.

Sijara Eubanks(2-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) will face Nicco Montano (3-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) in the UFC’s first 125-pound female title fight, which headlines the FS1-televised fight card from Park Theatre in Las Vegas. Early prelims stream on UFC Fight Pass.

Eubanks and Montano came into “TUF 26” tournament as unheralded names with the No. 12 and No. 14 seeds, respectively. Once in the house, though, they proved to be much better than that.

Eubanks began her run with a submission victory over No. 5 seed Maia Stevenson. In the quarterfinals, she scored the most violent stoppage of the season with a head-kick knockout of No. 4 DeAnna Bennett. After consecutive stoppages, Eubanks went the distance in the semifinals, upsetting No. 1 Roxanne Modafferi by unanimous decision to punch her title to the title.

On the other side of the bracket, Montano made herself known immediately with a decision win over UFC veteran and No. 3 Lauren Murphy. She followed that up with a bloody victory over No. 6 Montana De La Rosa in the quarterfinals. Montano completely her run of upsets in the semifinals, defeating No. 2 Barb Honchak by unanimous decision.

Several other members of the “TUF 26” cast will fight at Friday’s event, including a main-card bout of semifinalists Modafferi (21-13 MMA, 0-1 UFC) vs. Honchak (10-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC), as well as Bennett (8-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. Melinda Fabian (4-3-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC).

Set for the televised preliminary portion of The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale is De La Rosa (7-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. Christina Marks (8-8 MMA, 0-0 UFC), Karine Gevorgyan (3-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. Rachael Ostovich (3-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC), and Ariel Beck (4-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. Shana Dobson (2-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC).

Opening the event on UFC Fight Pass, Gillian Robertson (3-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) meets Emily Whitmire (2-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC).

The complete TUF 26 Finale lineup includes:

MAIN CARD (FS1, 10 p.m. ET)

PRELIMINARY CARD (FS1, 8 p.m. ET)

  • Montana De La Rosa vs. Christina Marks
  • Ryan Janes vs. Andrew Sanchez
  • Karine Gevorgyan vs. Rachael Ostovich
  • Ariel Beck vs. Shana Dobson

PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 7:30 p.m. ET)

  • Gillian Robertson vs. Emily Whitmire

For more on The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie