Kamaru Usman entered “The Ultimate Fighter 28 Finale” main event on Friday in Las Vegas with one goal in mind: to secure a title shot at the Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight title. Now that the dust has settled, he appears to have done so. The Hard Knocks 365 product put himself in excellent position with a one-sided decision win over former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos.
Usman immediately looked to take the center of the Octagon and began applying pressure on his opponent, walking dos Anjos to the fence for an early takedown. It became a running theme of their fight. “The Nigerian Nightmare” handled his business across five rounds, as he succeeded at stifling dos Anjos at nearly every turn on his way to a blowout on the scorecards. UFC President Dana White indicated that the performance may have put Usman next in line for a crack at the welterweight belt currently in Tyron Woodley’s possession.
Afterward, Usman thanked dos Anjos for the opportunity and made it clear that he believes a title shot is on the horizon.
‘TUF’ Never Die
Juan Francisco Espino Dieppa at the age of 38 became the oldest winner in the history of “The Ultimate Fighter” and did so in overwhelming fashion, taking out fellow heavyweight finalist Justin Frazier in the first round with a stellar display of grappling and cage IQ. From the opening bell, Dieppa wasted no time making his game plan known, as he slammed Frazier to the canvas in the first 30 seconds of the fight. From there, it was all “El Guapo,” as he quickly took his opponent’s back and looked to flatten out Frazier. “The Grizzly Bear” briefly managed to escape, only to be grounded once more. From there, the fight was all but over, as Dieppa moved to side control and advanced to a crucifix position before securing a straight armlock for the submission win.
In the first-ever “Ultimate Fighter” women’s featherweight final, Macy Chiasson squared off with Pannie Kianzad. In the end, Chiasson’s combination of size, aggression and grappling prowess paved the way to a second-round submission for the New Orleans-born fighter. From the opening bell, Chiasson had her foot on the gas, driving Kianzad to the fence, where the majority of the first round played out. Chiasson utilized her size and strength advantage against her opponent, succeeding on a takedown and searching for a late rear-naked choke from back mount.
Round 2 was more of the same for Chiasson, who rocked Kianzad with a punch in the first 30 seconds and followed her to the ground in search of a finish. Kianzad’s lone moment in the fight came in the form of an attempted armbar once they spilled onto the mat, but it was to no avail. Before long, Chiasson found herself once again with back control, this time with ample time to finish the fight. She locked in the rear-naked choke and forced the tap 2:11 into the second round.
Friday Night Fire Fights
Pedro Munhoz took on Bryan Caraway in a bantamweight showcase. From the opening bell, Caraway came out aggressive and looked to pressure Munhoz with strikes in the pocket and a pair of takedown attempts. However, Munhoz was seemingly prepared for the onslaught, easily shrugging off both attempts. A minute into the opening round, Munhoz found his range and began to punish Caraway for his aggressiveness. The finishing sequence started with a pinpoint-accurate liver kick that put down Caraway and allowed Munhoz to rain punches for the stoppage. It was his second straight win at 135 pounds.
Meanwhile, Edmen Shahbazyan made a successful UFC debut following an impressive showing on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, as he eked out a split decision over Darren Stewart. This fight was not representative of the style Shahbazyan typically employs, as he opted for a grapple-heavy attack on the heavy-handed Stewart. Shahbazyan looked for the takedown relentlessly and over three rounds managed to stifle his opponent at most turns. Stewart’s window of opportunity came in Round 3, where he managed to visibly rock Shahbazyan. However, the Glendale Fighting Club-trained prospect composed himself before closing out the round with a win-sealing takedown.
Finally, Antonina Shevchenko followed in the footsteps of her younger sister and cruised to a convincing decision over Ji Yeon Kim. Shevchenko was in control for all three rounds and succeeded in keeping the fight on her terms. She stayed in striking range and beat Kim to the punch time and time again. She was awarded a unanimous verdict in her organizational debut and pushed her perfect record to 7-0.