Joanna Jedrzejczyk Remains Queen of Strawweights at ‘The Ultimate Fighter 23’ Finale

By Brian Knapp Jul 8, 2016

Not even Claudia Gadelha’s best effort was enough to dethrone Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

Jedrzejczyk retained the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s strawweight title with a unanimous decision over Gadelha in “The Ultimate Fighter 23” Finale main event on Friday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Scores were 48-46, 48-45 and 48-46, all for Jedrzejczyk (12-0, 6-0 UFC), who has emerged as one of the most dominant champions in the sport.

Gadelha (13-2, 2-2 UFC) was superb through two rounds. She sat down the Jedrzejczyk with a stinging jab early in round one, pursued a relentless clinch and executed multiple takedowns. However, all the heavy lifting came at a price. Fatigue became more and more of a factor as the fight progressed, making Gadelha a stationary target for an elite striker. Jedrzejczyk took advantage, as she put her full standup arsenal on display. Two-, three- and four-punch combinations flowed behind a consistent and damaging jab. Inside and outside leg kicks, standing elbows and occasional kicks upstairs were also on the menu. By the championship rounds, Gadelha had nothing left.

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Sanchez Exposes Inexperienced Rountree

In “The Ultimate Fighter 23” light heavyweight final, former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Andrew Sanchez cruised to a one-sided unanimous decision over previously undefeated Syndicate MMA prospect Khalil Rountree. All three judges sided with Sanchez (8-2, 1-0 UFC): 30-25, 30-25 and 30-26.

The 15-minute fight was not competitive. Sanchez struck for repeated takedowns, applied his ground-and-pound and established his superiority in top position. Rountree (4-1, 0-1 UFC) failed to stay on his feet for any extended period of time, as he was sucked into clinches and forced to defend one takedown after another. The 26-year-old did nothing notable from an offensive standpoint in the second and third rounds.

Suarez Choke Submits Cooper

In “The Ultimate Fighter 23” women’s strawweight final, Millennia MMA’s Tatiana Suarez submitted Invicta Fighting Championships and King of the Cage alum Amanda Bobby Cooper with a first-round brabo choke. Cooper (1-2, 0-1 UFC) conceded defeat 3:43 into round one.

It was far from smooth sailing for Suarez (4-0, 1-0 UFC), who had to extricate herself from a tight armbar attempt before getting down to business. Once clear of the threat, she executed a takedown, put her ground-and-pound in play and created the opening for the choke. Before Cooper knew what happened, Suarez snaked her arms in place and squeezed for the tapout.

Suarez, 25, has finished her last three opponents.

Brooks Triumphant in UFC Debut

Former Bellator MMA champion Will Brooks cleared his first hurdle in the UFC, earning a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter 9” winner Ross Pearson in a three-round lightweight attraction. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28 for Brooks (18-1, 1-0 UFC), who replaced the injured James Krause on short notice.

Brooks excelled in close quarters. The American Top Team standout battered Pearson with standing elbows and crushing knees to the body in the clinch, all while mixing in punching combinations, stepping knees to the body and occasional leg kicks at distance. Pearson (19-11, 11-8 UFC) did not go quietly. With Brooks showing signs of fatigue in the third round, the Alliance MMA representative wobbled the favorite with left hooks and had him covering up along the fence at one point, slashing away with punches to the head and body. Brooks interrupted his surge with a timely takedown, avoided any real danger and sent it to the judges.

The 29-year-old Brooks has won nine fights in a row.

Choi Delivers Another First-Round Knockout

Surging Korean prospect Doo Ho Choi passed his most significant test to date, as he wiped out Thiago Tavares with punches in the first round of their featherweight showcase. Choi (14-1, 3-0 UFC) closed the deal 2:42 into round one, recording his 12th straight win.

Tavares (20-7-1, 10-7-1 UFC) secured multiple takedowns but could not corral the Deep veteran on the canvas. Choi rose to his feet, flicked out a jab and split the Brazilian’s defenses with a crushing straight right. Tavares collapsed where he stood and ate another right hand that knocked him unconscious for a brief second and necessitated the stoppage.

Choi, 25, has dispatched his first three UFC opponents in a combined 4:33.

Unbeaten Silva Blows Away Holbrook

“The Ultimate Fighter Brazil” Season 4 graduate Joaquim Silva knocked out Andrew Holbrook with first-round punches in their featured lightweight clash. Holbrook (11-1, 1-1 UFC) succumbed to blows just 34 seconds into round one.

Silva (9-0, 2-0 UFC) caught a kick from the former Golden Gloves champion and dumped him to the mat. Holbrook tried to bounce back to his feet, but in his haste, he left himself exposed. Silva floored him with a clean right hook and pounced with a volley of violent hammerfists to the face until referee Dan Miragliotta had seen enough.

Returning Maynard Upends Bruno

The decision to throw out his anchor in the featherweight division bore immediate fruit for Gray Maynard, as the three-time NCAA All-American wrestler claimed a unanimous decision over Nova Uniao’s Fernando Bruno in a preliminary matchup at 145 pounds. Maynard (12-5-1, 10-5-1 UFC) swept the scorecards with identical 30-27 marks, registering his first victory since June 2012.

Wild first-round punching flurries between the two featherweights gave way to the kind of fight in which Maynard thrives. The 36-year-old executed takedowns, stayed attached to Bruno (15-4, 0-2 UFC) and hammered away with punches whenever the opportunity arose. Exhaustion overtook the Brazilian in the third round, where Maynard steered clear of danger and continued with his commitment to grueling close-quarters exchanges.

The victory halted a four-fight losing streak for Maynard, who had not fought in 15 months.

Pereira Edges Tentative Moraga

Matheus Nicolau Pereira pushed his winning streak to five fights, as he eked out a split decision over former title contender John Moraga in a forgettable three-round undercard affair at 125 pounds. All three judges scored it 29-28: Lester Griffin and Chris Lee for Pereira, Jeff Mullen for Moraga.

Neither man did much to assert himself across a tepid 15 minutes. Moraga (16-5, 5-4 UFC) landed kicks to the Brazilian’s lower leg and pieced together a few punching combinations. Pereira (12-1-1, 2-0 UFC) countered effectively at times and capitalized on an ill-conceived takedown attempt from the MMA Lab rep in the third round. There, he took top position with less than a minute to go, applied some mild ground-and-pound and then dragged Moraga back to the mat after he briefly returned to his feet. Pereira was working his way toward the back when the final horn sounded.

Moraga, 32, has suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time in his career.

Stifling Stansbury Handles Hendricks

Former North American Allied Fight Series champion Josh Stansbury made a successful Octagon debut, as he captured a majority decision over Cory Hendricks in a preliminary light heavyweight pairing. Two of the three cageside judges -- Derek Cleary and Patricia Morse Jarman -- saw it 29-28 for Stansbury, while Dave Hagen rendered a puzzling 28-28 scorecard.

Hendricks (3-1, 0-1 UFC) connected with kicks to the body and legs, mixed in a stiff jab and opened a cut on his counterpart’s head during a closely contested first round. From there, Stansbury (8-2, 1-0 UFC) seized control of the match. The 31-year-old assumed top position on multiple occasions, stifled Hendricks from above and methodically chipped away at the Syndicate MMA upstart’s resolve. Round three was a complete blowout, as Stansbury grinded away with punches and elbows, briefly advanced to the topside crucifix and kept Hendricks bottled up on the canvas.

Ferreira Takedowns Short Circuit Smith

Well-timed takedowns, occasional ground-and-pound and a smothering top game carried “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil” winner Cezar Ferreira to a unanimous decision over former Victory Fighting Championship and Cage Fury Fighting Championships titleholder Anthony Smith in a three-round undercard battle at 185 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 29-28 for Ferreira (10-5, 6-3 UFC), a short-notice fill-in for the injured Scott Askham.

Ferreira completed all six of his takedown attempts and steered the fight in a direction of his choice. Smith (25-12, 1-2 UFC) briefly turned the tide in the second round, where he staggered the Brazilian with standing elbows and combination punching. However, the 27-year-old could not stay upright. Ferreira secured two takedowns in the third round, and Smith, content to wait for a referee restart that never came, made no attempt to return to his feet.

The defeat halted Smith’s run of eight consecutive victories.

Replacement Lee Overwhelms Matthews

Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts export Kevin Lee took care of Jake Matthews with first-round punches in a preliminary lightweight encounter. A replacement for the injured Steven Ray, Lee (13-2, 6-2 UFC) put the finishing touches on his sixth victory in seven outings 4:06 into round one.

Though he enjoyed some success on the feet, Matthews (10-2, 4-2 UFC) failed to maintain a safe distance from “The Motown Phenom.” Lee dragged the Australian prospect to the canvas, wheeled around to his back and set his hooks before flattening out the 21-year-old in a hapless belly-down position. The punches and hammerfists came next, unanswered blows to the side of the head forcing the stoppage.

The loss snapped a two-fight winning streak for Matthews.

Li Grounds, Victimizes Zafir

Xtreme Couture and China Top Team rep Jingliang Li knocked out Anton Zafir with first-round ground-and-pound in an undercard clash at 170 pounds. Li (11-4, 3-2 UFC) brought it to a close 2:46 into round one, recording his fifth win in seven appearances.

Zafir (7-3, 0-2 UFC) executed a pair of takedowns but failed to maintain a dominant position and paid a serious price. Li answered with a takedown of his own and settled in half guard before posturing up and firing away with heavy punches and elbows. Zafir went limp for a brief moment, prompting referee Chris Tognoni to act.
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