The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale: Grades for Every Main Card Fighter
The Ultimate Fighter 18 came to an end on Saturday night, as the UFC crowned two new champions in the men's and women's bantamweight divisions. It was a night that saw much excitement and a glimpse into the future.
When it was all said and done, Julianna Pena and Chris Holdsworth of Team Tate took home the season titles. In the main attraction, Nate Diaz took the rubber match over Gray Maynard in impressive fashion.
Here are the grades for each main card fighter.
Raquel Pennington vs. Roxanne Modafferi
Raquel Pennington came out on top in her bout against Roxanne Modafferi, but it was not her most impressive performance. Though she did land some solid shots, she did not dominate Modafferi like most thought she would.
It's hard to knock somebody for winning, so I won't. She did what she needed to do, which was outstrike the grappler.
Let's be honest here: Nobody expected much from Modafferi in this fight due to her lack of size and weak striking. However, she showed great improvement in her stand-up and gave Pennington a fight.
She took "Rocky" the distance and looked solid in the process. We will see if the UFC gives her another chance down the road.
Jessamyn Duke vs. Peggy Morgan
If one fighter really boosted her stock on Saturday night, it was Jessamyn Duke. The lanky striker outboxed and outgunned Peggy Morgan for the better of 15 minutes.
Duke doesn't have the scariest power in the world, but she consistently lands combos that accumulate damage. She is a definite prospect to keep your eyes on going forward, especially after beating a woman who is even taller than she is.
Things did not really go well for the 6'1" striker. "The Daywalker" blocked a bevy of punches with her face and was basically a punching bag for Duke.
Her size is always going to be an advantage, but after two lackluster showings against Duke and Sarah Moras (on the show), her future is in jeopardy with the company. Plus, her face is going to hurt on Sunday.
Chris Holdsworth vs. Davey Grant
Chris Holdsworth proved on the show that he was possibly the biggest threat to win the whole tournament. After his fight with Davey Grant, he solidified himself as the best male fighter from the show and possible title contender down the road.
His ground game is exceptional, and his striking isn't bad either. He used chokes to finish every single fighter he faced on the show.
Give Davey Grant some credit; he definitely brought the fight to Chris Holdsworth. He just couldn't get the win.
Grant showed to be competent in both the striking and grappling departments but just fell a little short to a better ground technician. He could be a solid mainstay with the company, assuming the UFC keeps him.
Julianna Pena vs. Jessica Rakoczy
I had my doubts about Julianna Pena. I felt like Dana White was far too complimentary of her and that she still needed to prove herself.
I will admit that I was wrong about her.
She came in this fight and executed a great game plan. She pressured Jessica Rakoczy, put her on her back and smashed her with strikes. Luckily, she finished her with one second left on the clock in Round 1.
It was impressive stuff from "The Venezuelan Vixen."
The world champion boxer did not get to box on Saturday night. Instead, she spent the better part of her five-minute performance on her back, receiving swarms of ground strikes.
Rakoczy is a smaller 135er who will struggle unless she tightens up her takedown defense. I thought she had that worked out due to her performances on the show, but she showed that she still has a ways to go.
Nate Diaz vs. Gray Maynard
Nate Diaz is back! By that, I of course mean two things: He is back in the win column, and he is back to being classic Diaz in his interesting post-fight interview.
He was accurate with his boxing, continually bashing Gray Maynard in the face. It led to a referee stoppage on Maynard, which saw the American wrestler out on his feet.
After two rough losses, Diaz is back in the win column. And boy, is he fired up.
What has happened to Gray Maynard? The man who looked almost unbeatable not long ago has now been knocked out three times in the last four fights.
He needs to get back to his wrestling ways. The Maynard who spends his time boxing in the Octagon now has not been getting the job done, and it showed again on Saturday.