The Weekly Wrap: Dec. 13 – Dec. 19

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By Jack Encarnacao Dec 20, 2008
The Weekly Wrap walks readers through the last seven days in MMA, recapping and putting into context the week's top story, important news and notable quotes.

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A pair of All-American wrestlers from Arizona secured UFC contracts at “The Ultimate Fighter 8” Finale on Dec. 13, as lightweight Efrain Escudero and light heavyweight Ryan Bader were victorious at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. It was the first time since season three that the UFC crowned two TUF champions in one night.

Escudero -- who placed seventh in nationals last year at Pima Community College -- remained undefeated in MMA by hanging tough for three rounds against Phillipe Nover, the Filipino who’d garnered buzz after UFC President Dana White compared his career track to that of welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. Escudero neutralized the weapons Nover used to dominate his fights during the reality series, hitting big takedowns at will and constantly improving his position on the floor. Nover, who had tried out for several seasons of the show before sticking this year, worked an omaplata in the closing moments of the fight, but Escudero was able to defend.

Bader -- a two-time Div. I All-American at Arizona State University and the first pick of coach Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira during season eight -- used his hands to take the contract. He clipped elite jiu-jitsu player Vinicius Magalhaes with a right hook and finished him with hammer fists for a first-round technical knockout.

Escudero defeated Ido Pariente, Shane Nelson and Junie Allen Browning en route to the finals, while Bader defeated Kyle Kingsbury, Tom Lawlor and Eliot Marshall to get there. The two fighters were awarded “six-figure” UFC contracts, which traditionally have been deals that could, if the fighter wins most of his matches, total six figures by the end of their term.

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Escudero has his sights
set on Roger Huerta.
Escudero and Bader took home $16,000 for their victories on Dec. 13, the same amount as other TUF 8 cast members who won their fights that night. In fact, the alumnus who took home the most cash was firebrand Browning, who was awarded a $25,000 “Fight of the Night” bonus on top of his $16,000 purse after his televised win over David Kaplan; their match ended when Browning hooked a second-round armbar for the tapout. Nover and Magalhaes, meanwhile, pocketed $8,000 apiece.

Escudero and Bader will both enter particularly competitive weight classes and will likely be put to the test early in the UFC. Escudero said in an interview with Live Audio Wrestling that he would like to fight Roger Huerta. Browning, who fell to Escudero by choke in the show’s semi-finals, was already calling out Escudero in interviews after the finale.

The final two fights highlighted a card before a rather quiet crowd in Las Vegas, though the Spike TV telecast drew a 1.3 rating for an average of 1.9 million viewers. The event dominated the timeslot on cable among male viewers ages 18-34. The rating was slightly lower than the 1.43 and two million viewers who tuned in to the season seven finale in June; that featured Amir Sadollah defeating CB Dollaway in the middleweight final and a main event pitting the late Evan Tanner against Kendall Grove.

The Dec. 13 finale also featured a spirited clash between Anthony Johnson and Kevin Burns in a rematch of a July bout that ended after Burns repeatedly and accidentally poked Johnson in the eyes with open-handed jabs. Johnson kept a fast pace, pressuring Burns from the opening moments with strikes and takedowns before he knocked him out with a perfectly placed kick to the jaw in the third round. The finish earned Johnson not only retribution but also a $25,000 “Knockout of the Night” bonus on top of his $18,000 purse.

Despite missing weight by four pounds, middleweight Wilson Gouveia managed to look impressive in defeating Jason MacDonald via first-round TKO in a middleweight duel. Gouveia dropped MacDonald with a right-left-right combination and then hauled off with hammer fists and elbows until the referee intervened. MacDonald collected a 20 percent penalty on Gouveia’s purse as a result of the weight discrepancy. In addition to Browning -- who looked much sharper under the tutelage of Xtreme Couture’s Shawn Tompkins -- two other TUF 8 cast members had their wins on the night televised. Krzysztof Soszynski used a deep kimura to submit Shane Primm, and former Ring of Fire champion Marshall stopped Jules Bruchez with punches and a rear-naked choke.
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