TUF Finale delivers in spades
Mike Ricci made it clear he didn’t enjoy his time filming “The Ultimate Fighter.”
The 26-year-old Canadian’s disappointment continued in the TUF finale, as he was upset by Army Ranger Colton Smith via a unanimous decision at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
“He came in the house and whooped the crap out of everybody,” Smith said. “He’s a very dangerous opponent. I had to be careful with him. I couldn’t find the finish.”
Smith earned a six-figure UFC contract and a Harley-Davidson with his victory in the Season 16 finale, which was scored 30-27, 30-27, 30-26 by the three judges.
Ricci vs. Smith didn’t lack drama -- some of which Ricci carried into the Octagon with him.
Ricci said on a conference call before the fight that he wouldn’t view TUF favorably even if he won Saturday. Ricci added he “didn’t enjoy it one bit.”
Still, he entered as the favorite, both for his longer resume and the fact he trains at the one the world’s top MMA gyms, Tristar Gym in Montreal, alongside Georges St-Pierre and Rory MacDonald.
But Smith stuck to what he knows best during the entire bout: wrestling. The former Army wrestler was on Ricci’s back for nearly the entire three-round bout, almost securing a choke hold that would have ended it on a couple occasions.
Ricci rallied with 45 second left in the third, getting atop Smith and then nearly applying an armbar. Smith, however, escaped and remained out of trouble as the clock ticked down.
In the other co-main event, Smith’s coach, Roy Nelson, earned a TKO victory over Matt Mitrione with two minutes left in the first round of the heavyweight bout. Nelson staggered Mitrione -- who had lost his mouthpiece earlier -- with a right uppercut, and a few haymakers later, the fight was called.
“It's the first time I actually threw combos,” Nelson said. “That’s why I can’t wait to fight JDS (Junior dos Santos) or Cain (Velasquez). I learned this combo thing now.”
Mitrione stepped in for Shane Carwin, the coach who opposed Nelson in TUF 16. Carwin suffered a serious knee injury last month, another setback for the injury-prone veteran.
This bout also marked the end for what had been a turbulent tenure for Nelson in TUF, as he was criticized for being one of the worst mentors in TUF history.
Ultimate Fighter aside, the entire FX card delivered. Nine of the 11 bouts on the card ended with stoppages.
On the main card, Shane Del Rosario controlled much of the first round in his bout against Pat Barry. Del Rosario nearly applied what would have been a fight-ending choke, but Barry made it out of the round and then quickly became the aggressor moments into the second round with an overhand left to Del Rosario’s face.
The blow staggered Del Rosario, and Barry knocked him out a couple blows later with a brutal right hand.
“I said since Day 1, I’m throwing heat or I’m throwing nothing,” Barry said after the fight as he fought back tears. “I’m either going to win all the way or lose all the way. There is no in between.”
And in the first contest on the main card, Dustin Poirier and Jonathan Brookins went all out for four minutes. Brookins had the edge early in the first round as he caught Poirier with a couple solid strikes.
“He hurt me early on against the fence, and I just started throwing wild,” Poirier said in the post-fight interview. “Luckily, I clipped his chin and made him back up a little bit.”
Clipped his chin he did. Poirier backed Brookins against the fence into a vulnerable spot. Brookins, in desperation, shot for the leg and Poirier applied a D'arce choke. Poirier tapped out seconds later.
The only blemish on this event was the postponement of the fight between Jamie Varner and Melvin Guillard. Varner fell violently ill and a doctor from the Nevada State Athletic Commission ruled that the bout could not be held.
Guillard wasn’t buying it. He said Varner’s people accused him of “greasing” before the fight was called off.
“I get out of my suit and start warming up and not even 20 minutes later they come in and say, ‘Hey, they are going to scratch your fight. Varner is throwing up,’” Guillard said. “I thought it was a joke.”
FUEL TV’s Ariel Helwani reported that the bout will be moved to the UFC 155 undercard on Dec. 29.
“I’m upset,” Guillard said. “I cut 30 pounds to make weight. I did my camp right. I was in great shape, and I was ready to fight. What he’s done tonight is very cowardly. I saw the look in his eyes at the weigh-in. I could tell he didn’t want to fight me.”