Nicco Montano claims UFC gold, Sean O' Malley shows durability in three rounds, and 'GM3' lands a vicious body kick finish to round out a stellar night of fights.
The TUF 26 Finale had its fair share of bumps and bruises going into the card. After Sijara Eubanks Jr. failed weight cut attempt left her hospitalized, Modafferi stepped in at the 11th hour to provide competition for the inaugural Flyweight Championship. There were several highlight moments on the way to the new champion being crowned last night. From calf slicers to armbars, here are the can’t miss moments of the TUF 26 Finale.
A champion is crowned
While many fight fans were left red-faced at the supposed quality of the fight. Nicco Montano has to be lauded for the grit and determination to finish out a five-round fight against a last-minute opponent. Roxanne Modafferi proved crafty, but Montano’s composure led to a rather straightforward win on the judges’ scorecards as Montano would win the inaugural flyweight belt.
Down the stretch, facing quality opposition like Valentina Shevchenko, Paige VanZant and Alexis Davis will be a real possibility for Montano. So the defensive frailties in her game will need to be enhanced to ensure these wins. Regardless, it was a stellar night for a new champion amongst the UFC title holders.
A calf slicer? Really?
It wasn’t an EBI invitational last night, but you wouldn’t know it by watching Brett Johns pull off the second calf slicer in UFC history over a veteran in Joe Soto. For ‘The Pikey’, it took all but 30 seconds to finish Joe Soto in emphatic fashion. A single leg attempt from Soto was quickly thwarted as Johns let him roll into position, and the finish was expertly timed as Soto walked into the trap Brett Johns set up for him.
Johns quickly pointed out in the post-fight interview with DC that his work with former EBI winners was the difference maker there, and the proof is in the finish as Brett Johns takes his undefeated streak to 15-0. Johns also made the call for a top 10 opponent citing that he feels ready for the challenge. After taking out a bantamweight veteran who was on a three-fight win streak, he might have just earned that fight.
Sean O’Malley shows his heart
We knew he had flair; we knew he had skill; we knew we had ‘it’. What O’Malley showed last night as a martial artist was much more than all those things combined. Terrion Ware was hell-bent on making O’Malley regret all the talk he was dishing out in interviews leading up to the fight. A first-round flurry from O’Malley gave him the edge but Ware let the experience show in round two as he gauged the range on O’Malley. ‘Sugar’ fought back from some tough adversity, for a second he might’ve looked overwhelmed by the forward pressure of Ware, but he turned it around convincingly enough in the third to ensure his first official victory under the UFC banner. Sean O’Malley will look to capitalize on this wayward performance with more concise finishing and superior conditioning down the stretch. A great showing of endurance, toughness, and skill for the 23-year-old spin wizard.
The Meerschaert test
Gerald ‘GM3’ Meerschaert looked in serious trouble last night in the opening round of his fight with Eric Spicely. His first two minutes on the feet looked great, but Spicely wasted no time in locking GM3 down with a bodylock for the rest of the round. Daniel Cormier alluded to that position ultimately working against him in the second round as he turned out to be spot on with that prediction. When the bell rang for the second round, Gerald Meerschaert was all business as he offered relentless pace and dug into those left body kicks with Luke Rockhold precision. His constant switching up of combinations led to some tough predicaments for Spicely. Ultimately, it was Meerschaert who would come out victorious with a Performance of the Night bonus to his name off the back of a wild body kick finish.