‘The Ultimate Fighter 18’ Finale Prelims: Illegal Knee Disqualifies Maximo Blanco

By Brian Knapp Nov 30, 2013
A Maximo Blanco foul ended a fight prematurely for the third time in his career. | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Maximo Blanco’s aggressive nature did not work in his favor this time.

An illegal knee strike from Blanco resulted in his disqualification against Akira Corassani at UFC “The Ultimate Fighter 18” Finale on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Referee Mario Yamasaki called a halt to the featherweight match a mere 25 seconds after it began.

Blanco (9-5-1, 1-2 UFC) struck for a takedown inside the first 10 seconds. Corassani repositioned himself against the cage, with a knee and a hand on the mat, and was met with a brutal knee to the head from the Tokyo-based Venezuelan. Corassani (12-3, 3-0 UFC), who was visibly dazed and bleeding profusely from the nose, was unable to continue.

Niinimaki Downs Yahya, Wins 12th Straight

Finnish import Tom Niinimaki utilized takedowns, occasional ground-and-pound and superb defensive grappling in taking a split decision from 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist Rani Yahya in an undercard duel at 145 pounds.

Two of the three judges sided with Niinimaki (21-5-1, 1-0 UFC) by 29-28 and 30-27 counts; a third cast a dissenting 29-28 nod for Yahya (19-8, 4-2 UFC).

Niinimaki secured takedowns in all three rounds, unafraid of the decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt’s guard. Yahya, who spent too much time on the bottom, turned to attempted guillotine chokes in the second and third rounds. None were successful, and Niinimaki walked away from his promotional debut unscathed and victorious. The 31-year-old has won 12 consecutive fights.

Rosholt Outduels Fellow Newcomer Harris

Three-time NCAA All-American Jared Rosholt extended his winning streak to five fights with a unanimous decision over American Top Team’s Walter Harris in a preliminary heavyweight tilt. All three judges arrived at the same verdict: 29-28 for Rosholt (9-1, 1-0 UFC).

Harris (4-2, 0-1 UFC) made him earn it. The 30-year-old Alabaman had Rosholt on his heels in the first round, where he floored him with a clubbing left and followed it with a ringing right hook. Though badly hurt, Rosholt survived, extended the match and let his grit and conditioning do the rest. He did his best work in round three, as he struck for a takedown and assaulted Harris with ground-and-pound for the better part of four minutes.

Surging Spencer Outpoints Dober

A multi-pronged standup attack and airtight takedown defense carried Bellator MMA veteran Sean Spencer to a one-sided unanimous decision over Drew Dober in an undercard battle at 170 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 30-27 for Spencer (11-2, 2-1 UFC), who has recorded five wins in his past six appearances.

Unable to put the fight on the ground, Dober (13-5, 0-1 UFC) found himself at the mercy of a superior striker. Spencer drilled him repeatedly with right hands, bloodying his nose before they crossed into the second round. The 26-year-old Bluefield, Va., native had Dober reeling in round three, where he cracked him with a jumping knee to the face and staggered him with a left hook to the head.

Sampo Choke Submits Benoit

The world-ranked Josh Sampo made a strong opening statement inside the Octagon, as he submitted Ryan Benoit with a second-round rear-naked choke in a preliminary flyweight scrap. Benoit (7-3, 0-1 UFC), who had won five of his past six bouts, conceded defeat 4:31 into round two.

Sampo (11-2, 1-0 UFC) -- who missed weight for the match -- eluded serious danger in the second round, as he scrambled into top position and moved to full mount before catching the rear-naked choke on the transition. Benoit fought to free himself, but his fate had been sealed. A Championship Fighting Alliance titleholder, Sampo has rattled off five straight victories.


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