MMA Review: #648: UFC: Ultimate Fighter XXVII Finale

-Time to play catch-up again, fuckers. I can’t say I even watched one episode of TUF 27 AKA TUF: Undefeated, so I was hardly excited about this one going in – especially with a super weak card overall outside of a fun sounding main event between veteran Brad Tavares and hot prospect Israel Adesanya.

UFC: Ultimate Fighter XXVII Finale

Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Brendan Fitzgerald and Jimmy Smith.

Catchweight Fight: Alessio Di Chirico vs Julian Marquez

This was Di Chirico’s fifth UFC fight and to be honest I don’t think I’ve seen any of the previous four. He had beaten Oluwale Bamgbose via KO in his last outing though. Marquez meanwhile had come off Dana White’s Contender Series in 2017 and looked pretty good in his UFC debut over Darren Stewart, so I was picking him to win.

Round One begins and both men look pretty tentative before Di Chirico starts swinging some big shots and lands with a left hand. Big right hand lands for Marquez as he begins to push forward. Super low volume from both men thus far. Couple of body kicks land for Di Chirico. Big right hand follows. Marquez comes right back with some heavy leather of his own. Exchange continues and Di Chirico gets wobbled off a right hand and has to back out big time. Marquez can’t do much damage in the follow-up though and he takes another body kick from the Italian. Takedown follows for Di Chirico and he avoids a possible guillotine before Marquez reverses to his feet. Exchange continues to end the round. 10-9 Di Chirico I’d say.

Round Two and Marquez presses the action to begin and forces Di Chirico on the retreat. Big shots land for Marquez but the Italian manages to hang in there. Sharp uppercut lands for Marquez. He continues to stalk Di Chirico and land shots, but he misses a spinning backfist and Di Chirico takes the back standing. Guillotine attempt from Marquez follows as he turns around, but Di Chirico avoids and they end up clinched on the fence. Left hand breaks for Di Chirico. Couple of kicks connect for Marquez as he continues to push forward, but Di Chirico hits a relatively easy takedown to guard. Marquez looks to scramble to his feet, but the Italian keeps hold of him and then takes the back. Scramble from Marquez allows him to pop up though and they break and exchange pretty wildly. Single leg again puts Marquez on his back though and this time Di Chirico gets to side mount. Looks like Marquez might be reaching for a kimura, but he can’t get it and Di Chirico goes for an armbar, but somehow Marquez switches and changes that into an armbar of his own. Di Chirico avoids it though and he takes the back again and lands some punches. Round ends with Marquez getting to his feet. 10-9 Marquez, close round.

Round Three and Di Chirico opens with a couple of decent kicks. Marquez is the man pushing the action though and he continues to stalk forward. To be fair though it’s Di Chirico landing the better strikes thus far in this round. Weird step-in side elbow glances for the Italian. Nice body kick follows. Marquez needs to get some offense going ASAP to win this one. He does land a couple of heavy right hands but he’s still not outlanding Di Chirico. Spinning attempt again misses for Marquez. Big shot lands for Di Chirico but Marquez fires back with a body kick. Di Chirico responds with a takedown and manages to get his back again, but again Marquez works to his feet. Di Chirico stays on him and gets him down again, but this time Marquez rolls through with a kimura attempt to get to his feet. Couple of knees from Marquez but Di Chirico shoves him into the fence. Seconds to go now and Di Chirico gets another takedown, but Marquez pops up to land some more punches. Di Chirico has to backpedal now and both guys are swinging pretty wildly and landing some. Hard body kick from Di Chirico. Round ends with some final wild swings. 10-9 Di Chirico and 29-28 for the Italian overall for me.

Judges have it 30-27 Marquez, 29-28 Di Chirico and 29-28 for Alessio Di Chirico to take the split decision. Crowd boo it out of the building but what can you do, they were pro-Marquez from the beginning anyway and I’d say it was the right call. Fight was decent enough but also totally unmemorable in every possible way.

Women’s Flyweight Fight: Roxanne Modafferi vs Barb Honchak

This one was originally set for the TUF Finale before this one – back in December – but when Sijara Eubanks ended up unable to fight for the inaugural title Modafferi stepped in and Honchak ended up facing Lauren Murphy instead. Given Honchak already had a win over Roxy back in 2011 I figured she’d find a way to win.

First round begins and Modafferi throws out some jabs that look pretty stiff and awkward. Honchak manages to land a quick combination on her but it looks like she’s finding it hard to work out Modafferi’s timing. About two minutes in and Honchak begins to open up a bit more with some more combos, but Roxy manages to secure a takedown midway through the round. She lands in half-guard and works to pass into side mount, but Honchak manages to lock down the leg. Action slows down as Modafferi works for position, but can’t pass the half-guard. Couple of elbows land for Roxy and the round ends as she moves into side mount to land some more. 10-9 Modafferi.

Second round and they trade punches to begin with Honchak landing the better shots early on. Takedown attempt from Honchak but it goes horribly wrong and Modafferi lands on top in mount, and from there she OPENS UP with some big elbows and punches. Action slows down slightly as Modafferi works to regain the mount as Honchak works back to half-guard. Roxy manages to work back to the mount and opens up with some more punches and elbows, and Honchak might be in trouble here. She can’t get out of the position and keeps on eating shots, and with the elbows beginning to thud Marc Goddard calls the fight off.

Massive win for Roxanne Modafferi – never expected her to win so violently in the UFC if I’m honest as I figured her best days were behind her. Speaking of which I think at 39 Honchak is probably done, and that’s unfortunate as it seems like she had her best days during her Invicta run and the UFC just introduced 125lbs a little too late for her. Fight was a ton of fun though.

Featherweight Fight: Alex Caceres vs Martin Bravo

TUF Latin America (remember that?) winner Bravo hadn’t been seen since his knockout loss to Humberto Bandenay last August, while Bruce Leroy had his back to the wall somewhat after losing in disappointing fashion to Wang Guan in November. I figured he’d win this one though as he was at least more proven than Bravo at the UFC level.

Round One begins and Bravo opens with a couple of low kicks and Caceres answers right back. Head kick from Caceres causes him to slip, and Bravo comes in and gets a clinch. They break quickly and continue to exchange, with Caceres landing flush with a hard one-two. Side kick is caught by Bravo but he eats some punches en route to securing a takedown to guard. Decent shots land for Bravo before Caceres scrambles to his feet. Bravo gets him down again but again Caceres scrambles up. They break off and Caceres nails Bravo with another heavy counter left. Kick is caught by Bravo again though and he gets Bruce Leroy down. Triangle attempt from Caceres is avoided and Bravo remains on top, but he’s struggling due to the length of Caceres. They get back to their feet and Caceres lands some really clean combinations, tagging Bravo again and again. Big head kick glances for Caceres and that’s the round. 10-9 Caceres.

Round Two and Bravo catches a kick again and looks to get Caceres down. Bruce Leroy avoids it and lands some more punches, and they’re trading pretty openly now. Big left from Caceres drops Bravo and he tries to pounce to take the back, but it all goes wrong and Bravo manages to dive for a takedown. Caceres gets him on his back instead, but man that was a missed opportunity. Caceres gets the back for a second only to be shaken off, and now they’re on their feet again. Bravo gets on the offensive now, walking Caceres down with punches, but Caceres keeps on clipping him with the left. Big left wobbles Bravo again and I’ve got no idea how he’s still in this fight, wow. He keeps on swinging, too. Exchange continues and Bravo gets tagged a few more times, but he comes back to keep forcing Caceres backwards. Dude is tough as hell. Seconds on the clock and he looks for a takedown and gets it, but Caceres pops back up. Round ends there. 10-9 Caceres for sure.

Round Three and Bravo is still swinging bombs. Spinning elbow glances for him and then he goes for the takedown and gets Caceres down for a second. Caceres ends up going to guard and taking some shots before scrambling back up. They separate and the left hand lands for Caceres again. Bravo is bloodied up bad. He does land with a strong combo though and now he’s got Caceres with his back to the fence. This is a hell of a brawl. Big one-two hurts Caceres and the ref has to step in to replace his mouthpiece. Takedown attempt from Caceres is blocked and Bravo controls him while bleeding all over his back. They get back up and continue to exchange with both men landing, but it’s Bravo that’s somehow pushing the action. Both guys look exhausted now and Caceres seems to have lost some of the pop in his punches. Big right hand lands for Bravo. He’s got Caceres hurt here. He can’t quite find the killer blow though and the exchange continues until the round ends. 10-9 Bravo, 29-28 Caceres overall.

Judges have it as a split decision, 29-28 Bravo, 29-28 Caceres, and 29-28 for Alex Caceres to secure the win. Well, not sure how you’d give Bravo two rounds there but it was certainly a gutsy showing from him and he might’ve won by PRIDE scoring for sure. Hell of a fight as Caceres seemed to be running away with it early on as he kept on tagging Bravo with the left hand, but he seemed to run out of steam while Bravo kept on pushing the pace and by the third round he was just hanging on. Fucking tremendous stuff to watch.

Ultimate Fighter XVII Featherweight Final: Brad Katona vs Jay Cucciniello

As I didn’t watch any of TUF I had no idea who either of these guys were and who to pick as a winner to be honest. Cucciniello had been eliminated in the tournament and had come back as an injury replacement though so I guess Katona – who trains with Conor McGregor’s crew but is actually Canadian – would’ve been the favourite.

Round One begins and they trade some feeler strikes with Katona working some decent leg kicks. Cucciniello keeps moving forward but he isn’t throwing much at all really. Weird moment as Herb Dean tries to call time for a low blow from Cucciniello but Katona totally no-sells it. Must have balls of steel! Takedown attempt is avoided by Cucciniello. Right hand connects for Katona. Not much happening here at all to be honest. Finally a big left from Katona drops Cuciniello for a split second but he pops right back up. Katona doesn’t even really swarm him or anything either. Flying kick attempt ends the round for Cuciniello. 10-9 Katona for the knockdown.

Round Two and they trade some more feeler strikes with Cucciniello avoiding a takedown pretty easily. Left hand again drops Cucciniello in a brief exchange but again he pops right back up. Dude evidently has a solid chin. He pushes forward right away too before Katona gets a takedown to guard. Action slows down as Katona passes into half-guard. Cucciniello gets back to full guard and again nothing happens basically, aside from Katona working into half-guard and Cucciniello looking to get full guard back. Round ends on the ground. 10-9 Katona for the knockdown again but this is a pretty bad fight.

Round Three and Cucciniello pushes forward, but can’t land the big shot and Katona manages to shoot and shove him into the fence. Cucciniello manages to stay standing this time, but he struggles to shake Katona off him and eventually Katona gets him down again, landing in half-guard. Action again slows down as Katona lands a bit of ground-and-pound but doesn’t do much damage. Scramble from Cucciniello allows Katona to take his back, and he flattens him out and really drops some good shots from there. Cucciniello might be in trouble in fact. More shots land for Katona and the ref could probably stop this, but he doesn’t and Cucciniello just about survives. Fight ends with Katona looking for a choke instead. 10-8 Katona, 30-26 overall.

Judges all have it 30-26 for Brad Katona. Hardly the best fight though as Katona basically did just enough – before the third round anyway – to beat Cucciniello who seemed overmatched even if you couldn’t fault his effort. The third round was a bit better but yeah, I’m hardly buzzing to see Katona again despite winning TUF.

Ultimate Fighter XVII Lightweight Final: Mike Trizano vs Joe Giannetti

Like with the previous fight I legitimately had no clue who was about to win this one, as this time both guys had won all of their fights on TUF too and had similar amounts of experience. Personally I wish they’d just do away with TUF altogether but that’s a tangent really.

First round begins and the crowd are way into Trizano for some reason. Giannetti comes out with some kicks early on and he looks almost like a wannabe Diaz brother with his stance and lanky frame. Takedown from Giannetti and he puts Trizano down and then takes his back as they stand. Trizano tries to shake him off but can’t really manage it and Giannetti manages to slap one hook in. He manages to drag Trizano down onto his knees for a second but Trizano pops back up. Finally Giannetti trips him down and goes for a heel hook, but he can’t get it and Trizano winds up on top. Giannetti keeps going for it and then decides to forget the heel hook and goes for a D’Arce instead, but he can’t get that and so Trizano looks for a heel hook. Giannetti defends that and ends up in the guard on top. Solid ground-and-pound ends the round for Giannetti, but he almost gets caught in a triangle on the buzzer. 10-9 Giannetti.

Second round and they trade kicks early on with Trizano clearly landing the better ones. Really good low kicks from him. Takedown attempt from Giannetti is blocked by Trizano who muscles him to the ground with a front headlock instead. Giannetti gets half-guard and somehow the crowd are still into this despite not a lot happening at all. Side mount now for Trizano. Giannetti avoids a keylock and looks to scramble and ends up going for an inverted triangle and a toehold at the same time (!) but Trizano avoids it and drops some hammer fists from the top. He then switches to elbowing the right leg, while still doing enough to avoid the leglock. Crowd start to boo the inactivity with about 40 seconds to go, as they exchange hammer fist to the legs. Crowd are fucking FURIOUS with this now. Round ends there. 10-9 Trizano.

Third round and Trizano opens with a blatant low blow and ref Marc Goddard has to call time. They restart and exchange some more kicks with Trizano landing the better ones. Very little urgency from either guy here which is a bit disappointing. More low kicks continue to do damage for Trizano as Giannetti isn’t doing a lot in return really. More of the same follows and neither man is close to really getting a finish or anything. Seconds to go and they keep on trading kicks with Trizano the aggressor. Round ends there. 10-9 Trizano and 29-28 Trizano overall I’d call it.

Judges have it 29-28 Trizano, 29-28 Giannetti, and 29-28 Trizano for a split decision win for him. Dull fight overall, the grappling portions were fine but neither man showed a ton of urgency in the striking really. I guess the second round was the one the judges were split on as Giannetti clearly took the 1st and Trizano the 3rd, but it wasn’t great anyway so who cares? Probably the least inspiring pair of TUF finals in the history of the series.

Middleweight Fight: Israel Adesanya vs Brad Tavares

This one sounded like a hell of a fight as Adesanya had come into the UFC with a ton of hype although he’d stuttered in his previous fight against Marvin Vettori, while Tavares was on a 4-fight winning streak with some solid names (Elias Theodorou, Thales Leites) in there and he’d only lost once since the start of 2015. Despite all the hype on Adesanya I thought this was a step too far, too quickly for him and thought Tavares would ground him to win.

Fight begins and Adesanya lands a low kick as Tavares presses forward. Decent pair of right hands from Tavares allow him to get to a clinch, but Adesanya breaks off, taking a right hand in the process. Big shots miss for the Hawaiian as it looks like Adesanya’s trying to work out his timing. Nice leg kick from Adesanya and he just about slips a couple of punches from Tavares. Pair of nasty low kicks land for Adesanya. His slipping of punches is great although he takes a couple from the Hawaiian from close range. Single leg attempt is shrugged off by Adesanya. He continues to fire kicks and slip punches, but Tavares sneaks through with a right hand again. This is a tricky round to score to be fair. Rolling leglock attempt from Adesanya with seconds to go (!) but Tavares dodges it and drops some punches before they pop up to end the round. Super-close one but I’d say Tavares just about edged it.

Into the 2nd and Adesanya slips a couple of punches nicely and lands a sharp low kick. Step-in knee connects well for the Stylebender but he misses a spin kick. Beautiful left hand into a high kick from Adesanya. He’s starting to fight like a cobra now, striking in and then quickly getting out. Tavares manages to clinch him to slow him down, but Adesanya quickly breaks. Tavares continues to swing, but he’s only catching Adesanya right at the end of his punches and he’s not doing a lot of damage. Cleaner shots begin to get through for Adesanya now. Herb Dean suddenly calls time to warn Adesanya for reaching with an open hand, and then they restart. Fair point from Herb. Big body kick hurts Tavares off the restart and he goes down with a delayed reaction. Adesanya doesn’t manage to follow it up, but he’s clearly in control. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Adesanya for sure.

Third round and it’s pretty clear now that Adesanya’s control of range is brilliant. Tavares just can’t seem to catch him cleanly. He’s constantly switching stances to throw Tavares off too. Couple of jabs do get through for the Hawaiian though. Beautifully timed knee snaps Tavares’s head back from close range. He pops Tavares with a couple more shots before they clinch, and this time Adesanya trips him down and then lets him up. Big knee lands again for Adesanya and he hurts Tavares with a kick to the body again. Two minutes to go and Tavares fails on a takedown attempt. All he’s doing now is landing the odd jab while taking shots from Adesanya. He manages to get the clinch, but he’s struggling in there too now and Adesanya muscles him off. One minute to go and Adesanya catches a kick and glances on a spinning elbow. Brutal one-two hurts Tavares and a knee follows up. Tavares has a great chin. More big shots land for Adesanya as he dodges Tavares’s punches, and then he nails him with a head kick. Round ends just after. 10-9 Adesanya and that was a hell of a round for him.

4th round and they exchange punches early on with both landing, but Adesanya quickly slides out of range. Clinch from Tavares follows and he drops for the takedown, and this time he manages to put Adesanya down into guard. Great job from the Hawaiian. Adesanya quickly works to kick him away though and almost gets a triangle choke, but Tavares shrugs it off and takes the back in the scramble. Adesanya avoids the hooks going in though and gets to his feet. Kimura attempt from Adesanya allows him to reverse and get on top, and he lands some good shots from there before breaking off. Elbow lands for Adesanya from the clinch and Tavares is busted up. SICK step-in elbow lands for Adesanya. Herb Dean calls time to get Tavares checked over for something, looks like a bad cut over the right eye. He’s good to go though and they restart. Counter knee lands for Adesanya and he follows with some more snapping punches. Big takedown attempt from Tavares is avoided. Nasty combo stuns the Hawaiian. One minute to go and Adesanya continues to pick at him from the outside, and the round ends shortly after. 10-9 Adesanya.

Final round now and Tavares clearly needs a finish to win. His face is a MESS. He tries to clinch to begin, but Adesanya shrugs him off right away. Tavares tries to get him down again but Adesanya reverses and gets on top this time, taking the back even. He’s surprisingly skilled. Punches land from behind for Adesanya as Tavares looks to roll for a possible kneebar. They come back to their feet and Tavares gets wobbled by a low kick, but he keeps on pushing forward. Jab and a low kick from Adesanya and he easily avoids a takedown and forces Tavares onto his back. Vicious knee lands for him as Tavares stands, and he continues to pick the Hawaiian off and avoid the takedown. Fight ends with more of the same as Adesanya continues to pick Tavares apart pretty easily really and then goes for a guillotine at the end. Got to be 49-46 for Adesanya or even 50-45.

Official scores are 49-46, 50-45 and 50-45 all for Israel Adesanya. No surprise there as he did a masterful job here, demonstrating some phenomenal control of range on the feet as he never really let Tavares hit him cleanly and was easily able to catch the Hawaiian with big strikes of his own. He probably would’ve finished less tough fighters actually. The performance reminded me a lot of Anderson Silva as it goes, but like Anderson pre-Cage Rage where he wasn’t quite in God Mode as he was during most of his UFC run. Definitely bodes well for Adesanya but I’m not sure how he’d match with top Middleweights like Yoel Romero or Robert Whittaker just yet. I look forward to seeing him try, though! Fight was massively entertaining.

-Show ends shortly after Adesanya’s post-fight interview.

Final Thoughts….

Bad show overall really; Caceres/Bravo was fantastic and the main event was entertaining, but outside of that everything was basically forgettable even if it didn’t outright stink. The UFC really just needs to put TUF to bed now as DWCS is so far superior that it’s not even close. Thumbs down for this one for sure.

Best Fight: Caceres vs. Bravo
Worst Fight: Katona vs. Cucciniello

Overall Rating: *3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: