From the get-go, expectations have been high for the 14th season of The Ultimate Fighter.
The announcement that bantamweights and featherweights would be given the chance to compete on the show for the first time led fans to expect that a higher caliber of fighter would be competing for six-figure UFC contracts this season. The fighters who came to Las Vegas at the start of the season certainly fit the bill. Add in two outsized personalities in Michael Bisping and Jason "Mayhem" Miller as the coaches, and the bar was set high in the antics department as well. And, when a full season of fights, pranks and trash talk had produced four outstanding finalists, Saturday's live season finale was expected to be an outstanding night of fights, and it certainly delivered.
We present "Three TUF Thoughts" on the season finale of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Bisping vs. Team Miller.
#1: Diego Brandao's mother is getting a new house.
Until Saturday night, most fans had never seen Diego Brandao truly challenged, as he took less than six minutes total to dispatch Jesse Newell, Steven Siler and Bryan Caraway. Dennis Bermudez, on the other hand, was able to test the Greg Jackson disciple on a completely different level. His chin held up against Brandao's powerful strikes, and Bermudez's resiliency and talent forced Brandao to bust out his jiu-jitsu skills.
All of that served to make Brandao's eventual victory – on a textbook armbar in the waning seconds of the first round – the greatest win of his life.
Most TUF winners can point to that big win at the Pearl at the Palms as the best of their lives to that point, but Brandao's victory stands out even by those lofty standards. In addition to his six-figure UFC contract, Brandao also received $40,000 for the Submission of the Night and another $40,000 for being part of the Fight of the Night. That will go a long way toward his stated goal of buying his mother a new house in Brazil and getting his brother away from the gang and drug culture that nearly ended his own MMA career before it began.
It should be mentioned, of course, that Brandao was hardly the only man who banked some serious cash on Saturday night. Fellow TUF winner and Jackson's MMA teammate John Dodson pocketed a $40,000 bonus for Knockout of the Night in his win over T.J. Dillashaw, plus another 25 large awarded by you the fans for the Knockout of the Season against Johnny Bedford. Bermudez pocketed $25K for the Submission of the Season against Akira Corassani, and shared in the Fight of the Night cash with Diego. However, for a guy like Brandao, who has come from such humble beginnings and can use the prize money to make such a huge difference for those closest to him, success on this level deserves to be recognized and celebrated.
#2: It's time to respect Michael Bisping.
Michael Bisping has been one of the easiest fighters to boo in the UFC for much of his career. He makes no secret of his high opinion of himself, and based on a fight record that's short on wins against top-level opposition, fans have found room to disagree. His public persona has also rubbed both fans and opponents the wrong way, perhaps no more so than when he cursed out fans at the weigh-in for his fight with Jason "Mayhem" Miller.
A day later, Bisping did more to improve his image in one night than in his entire UFC career to date.
There was his win over Miller, a third-round TKO victory. Say what you will about Mayhem not looking his best in the bout, but the only fighter you can beat is the one who shows up in the Octagon on fight night. The record will show from here on out that Jason "Mayhem" Miller suffered a TKO at the hands of Michael Bisping. That undoubtedly bolsters the Count's credentials in a way that wins over Jorge Rivera and Dan Miller couldn't.
From there, Bisping shook Mayhem's hand like a gentleman, paid his respects to the crowd, and referenced his working-class background and three young children. Maybe it came of as a deliberate attempt to change fans' opinions, and maybe it didn't, but Bisping did get his share of cheers from the crowd, which doesn't often happen on this side of the Atlantic. Stay tuned, because it's going to be interesting to see what happens with Michael Bisping from here on out.
#3: You're Never Too Old To Fear "The Boogeyman"
By most accounts, the 13th season of The Ultimate Fighter really didn't do much for the show's legacy. Two alumni from that season have already been cut from the UFC, one fighter went home early because he couldn't handle the pressure, and let's face it, Brock Lesnar and Junior dos Santos were too nice to each other. But season winner Tony Ferguson is proving to be one of the most promising prospects turned out by the show in recent years."El Cucuy" – that's Spanish for "The Boogeyman" – improved to 3-0 in the UFC and 13-2 overall with his unanimous decision win over one of the sport's most experienced veterans, Yves Edwards. Ferguson wasn't able to knock Edwards out, but that's a feat that only four of the "Thug-jitsu" master's 60 opponents have been able to accomplish. As it was, Ferguson had Edwards in trouble on several occasions, and certainly earned his victory. It's a long road to the top in the UFC's lightweight division, but every time out, Tony Ferguson is showing that he's built to travel that road.
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