Ladies and gentlemen, we have our two Ultimate Fighter finalists: Uriah Hall vs. Kelvin Gastelum.
Both members of Team Darkside did Chael Sonnen proud in the semifinals, trouncing Dylan Andrews and Josh Samman to wrap up the finals and send Team Jones home, eight wins to six.
(Read the full episode play-by-play for all the details.)
Overall, Fox and FX really made a big difference this season.
But let's not give them all the credit, as the UFC found an exceptional level of talent to bring to the show, yielding several great fights with plenty of highlight-reel finishes to boot.
• Uriah Hall is a beast, and it's going to be a tall order for Gastelum to challenge him. Throughout Hall's entire fight with Andrews, the tournament favorite dished out punishing, painful-looking kicks to the body and head seemingly at will, bloodying up Andrews over two long rounds.
• In this case, it wasn't Hall's power that was scary, but the calm pace that he set as he slowly wore Andrews down. Hall gave up control of the Octagon, yet constantly set the tone with hard strikes, quick footwork and solid combinations, making it hard for Andrews to close the gap.
• Even when Andrews did get the takedown, Hall didn't freak out or lose his head, either. Instead, he showed surprising jiu-jitsu awareness by locking down Andrews in a kimura hold before using butterfly guard to beat up his opponent from the bottom. Trying to get powerful punches off from the bottom isn't easy, but it was enough to turn the tide. Again, scary.
• There's less to say about Gastelum vs. Samman, but it's fair to say that many of us have been sleeping on the younger fighter all season. But Kelvin's heavy hands can't be ignored. Unlike Jimmy Quinlan, Gastelum never let Samman regain control once the fight turned into a grappling match, which was the right attitude. He dodged submissions extremely well, and took Samman out via rear-naked choke when he saw a chance.
• It's worth saying again, but this has really been a fantastic season. Interestingly enough, it didn't have many of the usual TUF staples some of us have grown to hate—no huge beef between the coaches and only one house prank.
• That just goes to show that better production values and UFC-worthy talent can make a huge difference in the season, especially in the cage. Think about it—there really weren't that many decisions, with most of the matches ending in knockouts and submissions.
• In the end, we didn't learn anything new during The Ultimate Fighter 17 about Jon Jones. From the first episode to the last, the champion pretty much came off on camera the same way he does with the press and the public.
• What did prove to be surprising was Chael Sonnen. He largely bagged his professional wrestling persona and showed himself to be a capable, sensible, charming coach.
• It's good that all of the TUF 17 cast got another shot in the UFC, and if you watched UFC on Fuel 9, you already know know that Tor Troeng already manhandled Adam Cella. It's going to be extremely interesting to see whom everyone else faces in their debut with the promotion, especially the top eight of the season, like Luke Barnatt and Josh Samman.
• Luckily, we won't have to wait very long to see who's coaching the next season, since Miesha Tate and Cat Zigano are battling it out this weekend for a spot on The Ultimate Fighter 18 opposite of UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. For women's MMA fans, there's frankly no better time to be watching the sport.
• For the record, this author hopes that Miesha Tate wins. Rousey and her (other) arch-nemesis on the same show week after week is money.
• Another upside to the next season is also the fact that many of the women on TUF 18 will likely be known names, so the hardcore MMA fans out there will most likely recognize some of the fighters that picked out before the qualifying rounds in the season premiere. Plus, the co-ed nature of the show means it'll be drama-packed. That's a win for all sexes that will be watching the next season.