Trilogies are a rare thing to see in the realm of mixed martial arts.
While the “immediate rematch” has become a common sight on the current landscape of the sport, the all-important “rubber match” only occurs on a limited basis. Yet, a third fight between two fighters is typically forged when both competitors have split the two previous meetings, and a final bout is scheduled to determine which fighter will take the series.
Frankie Edgar had defeated BJ Penn both times they squared off—definitively so in their second meeting—and that is why a third fight between the two men seemed so odd. Nevertheless, despite being down two fights to nil to the Toms River, New Jersey, native, the MMA legend specifically asked the UFC for one more crack at The Answer.
The New Jersey native accepted the bout, and the course was set for one final collision at The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale in Las Vegas.
Whereas their initial two meetings took place in the 155-pound weight class, their third fight was slated for the lighter waters of the featherweight division. While Edgar already had two showings at 145 pounds under his belt, their Sunday night tilt would be the former two-divisional champion’s debut, and there were a ton of questions hovering overhead.
Would the mythical “motivated” Hawaiian show up to spark a new chapter in his career? Or would the third scrap with Edgar be The Prodigy’s curtain call?
Regardless of the uncertainty surrounding Penn’s future, the series between the two legendary lightweights was going to come to a conclusion at the Mandalay Bay. When the cage door closed, and it was all said and done, Edgar would take the clean sweep.
The former 155-pound titleholder turned featherweight contender was simply too fast for the aging veteran as he battered Penn with ground-and-pound until referee Herb Dean stepped in to stop the fight midway through the third round. It was a virtuoso performance for Edgar and a telling sign that the end is near for the proud Hawaiian.
Let’s take a look at the good, bad and strange from The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale.
It has been a few years since Edgar held championship gold in the UFC, but The Answer is still running strong in his quest for another title opportunity. On Sunday night in Las Vegas, the Toms River native took another strong step up the featherweight ladder as he battered former two-divisional champion Penn in their trilogy bout in the main event at the TUF 19 Finale.
Edgar’s speed made the difference in their first two meetings, and that trend continued in their third bout as well. The Mark Henry-trained fighter was simply too quick for Penn to catch up with on the feet and too tenacious for the Hawaiian to handle when the action hit the canvas. Their meeting on Sunday night was the most lopsided of the series, with Edgar finishing Penn in the third frame.
While a victory over Penn won’t catapult him to the top of the ladder in the 145-pound fold, it will definitely keep his ascension up the ranks cooking. Edgar’s win over Penn marks his second victory in the featherweight division and makes him successful in two of his last three outings.
Winning the six-figure contract and a place on the UFC roster is serious business, and Eddie Gordon went after that prize with everything he had to offer. The Serra-Longo-trained fighter put a swarm of nastiness on fellow finalist Dhiego Lima to earn the first-round TKO victory and become the Season 19 middleweight winner of The Ultimate Fighter.
While Lima’s striking was supposed to be a formidable challenge, Gordon “trucked” right on through and put a drubbing on the Atlanta resident. It was an impressive showing for Gordon, as he earned one of the best finishes on the card.
That said, there were a few questionable shots that landed clean on the back of Lima’s head that referee Yves Lavigne took zero issue with. Gordon’s performance was undoubtedly solid, but those shots did some serious damage.
It will be interesting to see how the New York-based fighter will fair in the increasingly competitive 185-pound fold, but he’ll certainly roll in with solid momentum.
On the other half of The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale docket, Corey Anderson put an onslaught on Matt Van Buren to pick up the light heavyweight tournament crown. The Rockford, Illinois, native jumped on his fellow finalist from the opening bell and unleashed a flurry of shots as he battered Van Buren up against the cage. Once Beastin’ 25/8 (painful) landed the first clean shot that turned Van Buren’s legs to rubber, he put the pedal to the proverbial medal and finished the bout with force.
It was a strong showing for Anderson, who will now enter the light heavyweight mix, which is one of the most competitive divisions under the promotional banner.
***The heavyweight division may just have a new profile on the rise with Derrick Lewis. The Black Beast looked solid in his debut against Jack May back in April as he scored a first-round knockout at UFC on Fox 11, and he kept that momentum rolling when he gave Guto Inocente the same treatment at The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale.
The two fighters went back and forth during the opening minutes, but after Lewis put Inocente on his back, it was the beginning of the end. The Houston representative unleashed four brutal shots to the Blackzilian and left Inocente snoozing on the canvas. Lewis has now won five straight outings, with two of them coming under the UFC banner.
***The upper tier of the flyweight division has been historically thin since its inception in 2012. Outside of a handful of proven talents who have established themselves as perennial contenders, no other fighters have broken through the barrier between the elite and also-rans. On Sunday night, Roufusport fighter Dustin Ortiz took a big step into the next tier of the 125-pound fold when he defeated Justin Scoggins via split decision. In the process of handing Tank the first loss of his professional career, the 25-year-old picked up his sixth win in his last seven showings.
***Adriano Martins returned to his winning ways on Sunday night as he melted Juan Manuel Puig with a vicious right hand in the first round of their bout on the preliminary portion of the card. The bout was a back-and-forth affair until the Mexico City native landed a crushing shot below Martins' belt, dropping the Brazilian to the canvas. Once Martins was able to recover, he came storming back with fire and scored the knockout shot shortly after. With the victory, the 32-year-old has now found success in seven of his last eight showings.
***Mixed martial arts is a multifaceted sport, but the art of jiu-jitsu is still very much alive. On Sunday night, Leandro Issa showed UFC fans what a slick ground game looks like as he worked a crafty submission game against Jumabieke Tuerxun on the preliminary portion of the card. Issa originally grabbed onto a straight armbar before transitioning to his side and forcing the tap with pressure to the elbow joint. It was a savvy move from a proven grappling ace and one of the best finishes on the fight card.
***It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but Patrick Walsh earned the biggest win of his career over Daniel Spohn on Sunday night. Despite being a solid underdog in the bout, Walsh took the fight right to his TUF housemate and earned a unanimous-decision victory in the process. While he ate a few big shots on the feet, Walsh’s wrestling skills made the difference as he was able to take the Ohio native down at will and earn crucial points.
***While the road to his official UFC debut took a few twists and turns, Robert Drysdale finally made his first appearance inside the Octagon at the TUF 19 Finale. The grappling ace locked up with Keith Berish to kick off the action at the Mandalay Bay and wasted no time in putting his jiu-jitsu to work inside the cage, scoring a quick first-round submission via rear-naked choke. The victory marked a successful inaugural showing for Drysdale and will further serve to bolster the buzz surrounding the Las Vegas representative.
It wasn’t the way he wanted to end his career, but Penn’s storied run in the UFC came to a close on Sunday night. The MMA legend came out on the business end of a lopsided beating at the hands of his longtime rival Edgar in their trilogy bout at TUF 19 Finale.
While the former lightweight champion was making his debut in the featherweight fold and certainly looked to be in the best shape of his life, that appearance didn’t translate into his performance against Edgar. The Toms River native was too fast for the 35-year-old Hilo representative, as Edgar had his way with Penn at every turn.
Midway through the third round, Edgar busted Penn open with a flurry of elbows on the ground, and referee Herb Dean stepped in to wave off the fight shortly after. In the aftermath of the loss, the reality that Penn no longer resembled the hard-charging warrior he once was set in full force.
That said, Penn was certainly aware that was the case and announced his official retirement from MMA in his post-fight interview with Jon Anik. And that is definitely the right call to make.
While The Prodigy was once regarded as the greatest lightweight fighter on the planet, he hasn’t been to the win column since November 2010. In the three-and-a-half years that have passed since he drubbed Matt Hughes, he’s gone 0-3 (one no-contest) over his last five fight. While he is a surefire bid to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, Penn’s time inside the Octagon has come to a close.
There are very few great nicknames in MMA, but there are certainly a bevy of bad ones. That said, Anderson has officially claimed the worst moniker of all time with his “Beastin’ 25/8” tag. There have been some gloriously awful nicknames to come down the pipe in the face-punching biz, but the TUF finalist’s pseudonym is just painful. Painful, I tell you!
On the other hand, he put a salting on Van Buren, so it’s possible the nickname will stick around for a bit. Moving on to more badness...
While the action between Sarah Moras and Alexis Dufresne was solid throughout the 15-minute affair, the end result was laughable. And the reason for it being so was not so much based around the unanimous decision going the wrong way (which it did) but more along the lines of the reaction on the face of Moras when she was handed the decision.
She knew the victory belonged to Dufresne, and her face upon hearing the announcement told the entire story.
It is a rare thing not to have a list of curious happenings to roll off for the readers of this column, and for the most part, the fights at The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale were fairly tame. That said, there was definitely a strange vibe in the air, but it was on the outside of the Octagon.
I’ve covered the sport for several years now and been on media row for a plethora of live events. With that in mind, there is always a unique vibe that comes along with fight night, and UFC 175 on Saturday night had it. Yet, heading back to the Mandalay Bay on Sunday afternoon, that vibe that typically accompanies covering an event was absent.
When I checked into the media room with the rest of my colleagues, it had the feeling of a group of factory workers checking back in after a 12-hour shift the day before. The lineup on the card may have been different—and the catered spread in the media room a different menu—but the grind was going to be the same. And it was.
While I understand why the UFC would try to maximize on the “International Fight Week” experience, two cards on the same weekend was a ragged run. Granted, there were certainly some exciting fights to be had on both nights, but the wear and tear on the scribes involved was apparent.
That said, the fighters on the card at TUF 19 Finale were not wasting time handling their business, as seven of the 11 bouts ended by way of finish.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand, unless noted otherwise.