The eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter didn’t disappoint, showcasing some highly talented new comers to the octagon.  Let’s run down the matches that made the broadcast in order of appearance.

Junie Browning vs. Dave Kaplan

The battle of the bleach-topped lightweights.  This one started off with a kick in the nuts by the nut, Junie – inadvertent however.  Junie, “The Lunatic” also dubbed the “bad boy” of season 8 has improved considerably in every facet, from skill level and conditioning to attitude and composure.  His cardio, which seemed to cause him problems on the show, was not an issue this evening.  On the feet, Junie threw punches and kicks in combinations while also showing good movement and footwork in his game – not pulling any stunts like standing with his hands down asking to be hit like we saw during the season.  He also looked much smarter on the ground, eventually finishing the fight with an arm bar in the second round.  All likely attributable to working with Shawn Tompkins since leaving the house in preparation for this fight, proving again that Tompkins is clearly one of the best in the game.  He certainly seems to have played a key role in reigning Junie in.

Let’s face it, Kaplan did not look great in this fight.  Throwing wild punches and remaining stationary in front of his opponent, he left himself open as a fairly easy target.  But all-in-all, this win was an impressive performance by Junie, who at one point on the show suggested he would never step in the ring again.  The fact that he came to his senses, at least on that matter, was clearly a good outcome for both him and the UFC. We shall see what the future holds for Junie.  If he can refrain from throwing glasses at people and keep himself out of jail, he could be on his way to continued success in the octagon.  Oh, and I’m sure everyone enjoyed the apologies at the end of the fight as much as I did.

Eliot Marshall vs. Jules Bruchez

Not much to say about this light-heavyweight matchup as it was over rather quickly.  Bruchez didn’t have much to offer on this night.  Eliot “The Fire” was on fire, landing solid strikes right from the bell and eventually sinking a rear naked choke to finish it off.  But Elliot, let’s add some spark to those post-fight interviews.

Jason MacDonald vs. Wilson Gouveia

Gouveia, not even close to making weight, came in at 189lbs for this 185lb cutoff middleweight bout.   Always game for a fight, the rugged Canadian, MacDonald agreed to go anyway and why not for 20% of his overweight opponent’s purse.  Unfortunately, MacDonald got caught by a good combo from Gouviea about two minutes in, dropping to the mat to take a number of hard elbows before tapping at 2:18 of the first round.

Kevin Burns – Anthony Johnson

This fight was a highly anticipated rematch between these two welterweights.  Remember the first one, which ended with a controversial decision as a nasty poke in the eye by burns was ruled as a TKO victory.  One of the worst endings to a UFC fight I have witnessed.  Johnson required surgery on the eye, but has since fully recovered.

Johnson, a knockout artist, finished this one in the usual fashion. Surprisingly, he chose to take the fight to the ground in both the first and second rounds, perhaps to avoid losing an eye to another pokety-poke, and staved off multiple submission attempts by Burns who is no slouch on the mat.  But early in the third, Johnson got his redemption with a huge head kick that put Burns out cold.  KO of the night for sure.

Vinicius Magalhaes vs. Ryan Bader – Light-heavyweight Final

This fight had all the makings to be a classic battle.  Vinicius, “Vinny”, bringing a ridiculously good jiu-jitsu and submission game, trained with Tompkins and Light-heavyweight champ, Forest Griffin to better his stand up, which looked highly suspect in the semi-final match against Krzysztof Soszynski.

Bader, with superior wrestling and ground and pound skills, brought a perfect 8-0 record into the match. He also has 120 collegiate victories to his credit.  That’s 14 more than Brock Lesnar.

As is often the case when two guys who are best known for their ground game face off, they chose to stay on the feet, each respecting the others abilities on the mat no doubt.  “Darth” Bader’s impressive power (or should I say force) was the difference early, as he scored a big KO in the first round to move his record to 9-0.  Don’t be surprised to see both of these fighters do damage in the 205lb division in the near future.

Phillipe Nover vs. Efrain Escudero – Lightweight Final

Nover, the heavy handed striker touted by some as “the next Anderson Silva” taking on the 11-0 wrestler, Efrain was, as expected, the battle of the evening – the only one lasting all three rounds and going to the score cards.

This was a good technical fight that was controlled almost throughout by Efrain.  He took Nover to the ground at will, landing bombs while standing over him on more than one occasion.  He even mixed in a few good slams in what was a fairly dominant performance.  Efrain’s superior wrestling and his intelligent and well executed game plan were the difference.  Nover came close to sinking a oma plata late in round three, but Efrain held his ground, slipped free and battled to the bell.  The result was a unanimous decision for Efrain, which, in addition to a UFC contract, earned him an over-the-shoulder spanking from his season 8 coach, Big Nog.  It is safe to say we can expect big things from this fighter in the talent rich, increasingly exciting lightweight division of the UFC based on his performance tonight.  While we should see Nover again soon, it is also safe to say that the label of the next Anderson Silva is a bit premature at this time.

Prelim Results

John Polakowski vs. Roli Delgado

Delgado uses his superior Jiu Jitsu and gets the submission win via Rear naked choke at 2:18 of round 2.

George Roop vs. Shane Nelson

Back and forth battle that was decided on the judges scorecards. Nelson via split decision, to the dismay of many in attendance.

Tom Lawlor vs. Kyle Kingsbury

The stronger wrestler from Florida Lawlor was relentless in his takedown attempts and it proved to be a successful recipe as he won 29-28 on all 3 judges scorecards

Shane Primm vs. Krzysztof Soszynski

Soszynski was too experience for the newcomer Primm and pulled off a second round kimura that the Gracie Tampa MMA product had to tap to.