The Ultimate Fighter 27 Finale kicked off the UFC‘s International Fight Week with a solid night of fights. In the main event of the evening, we saw Hawaii‘s Brad Tavares take on the undefeated Israel Adesanya. Both men stepped into the octagon Friday night for their first UFC main event and did not disappoint. Adesanya showed just how talented and well rounded he really is against the UFC veteran.
We also saw the two winners of The Ultimate Fighter: Undefeated crowned the other night. In the first final, Brad Katona dominated Jay Cuccieniello en route to a unanimous decision victory. In the co-main event, we saw the second final between the two best lightweights from the show. Boston‘s Joe Giannetti took on New Jersey‘s Mike Trizano to determine who would be the next ultimate fighter.
There were many other notable names that competed on the card. Some of those names included TUF alums, Rachael Ostovich, Montana De La Rosa, Roxanne Modafferi, and Barb Honchak. Also on the card were fighters from this season of TUF, including Luis “Violent Bob Ross” Pena and a couple of his teammates, Tyler Diamond and Bryce Mitchell.
With the young talent and up and comers that were on this card, it’s time to look at the five fighters that made our list of Standout Performances. In order for a fighter to make this list, their performance must stand out among their peers. This could be quick finishes, flashy knockouts, great submissions, dismantling an opponent, or providing an all-around exciting fight. So, without further ado, let’s get to it.
TUF 27 Finale Standout Performances
#1: Israel Adesanya
Israel Adesanya def. Brad Tavares via Unanimous Decision (49-46, 50-45, 50-45)
At the beginning of his UFC career, Israel Adesanya had been hyped up to be the next best thing at middleweight. He quickly began to live up to the hype as he made quick work of Rob Wilkinson at UFC 221 in February. After his debut, he made a quick turn around and faced Marvin Vettori at UFC on Fox 29 in April. Vettori seemed to have given Adesanya a little more of a challenge as the fight went the distance. It was the first time Adesanya had gone the distance in his MMA career and he won by split decision.
Across the cage was his next opponent, UFC veteran Brad Tavares. Tavares had been apart of the UFC since 2010, going 12-4 during that span. He was coming off a four-fight win streak that included victories over Caio Magalhaes, Elias Theodorou, Thales Leites, and most recently, Krzysztof Jotko. He faced Jotko at UFC on Fox 29 and finished the fight in the third round by TKO. This was Tavares’ first KO/TKO victory since he knocked out Phil Baroni at UFC 125 in 2011.
Coming into this fight, Israel Adesanya was doubted big time. Nobody thought that he had the tools to go in there and defeat Tavares, the 8th ranked middleweight. His last fight against Marvin Vettori caused people to believe that anyone with a good enough ground game could easily dismantle Adesanya. Brad Tavares even claimed that Adesanya is a great kickboxer, but he’s not as good a fighter as himself.
Adesanya used all that doubt and turned it into motivation. He knew what he was capable of and went inside the octagon and showed that to the world. What stood out from his performance was that he was able to completely dismantle Tavares. Adesanya’s movement was just too quick for the Hawaiian as he could move in and out of the pocket and land quick shots. He was also very quick with his head movement as he got out of the way of many of Tavares’ strikes. He was slicing up Tavares with elbows, including a beautiful short elbow that opened up a nasty cut above Tavares’ right eye.
Adesanya found a lot of success with a little bit of everything. The previously mentioned elbows, knees, kicks, punches, basically utilizing every limb to dominate his opponent. There were a few times when the two were clinched or getting back to their feet, he’d always make sure to throw an elbow or a knee on the break.
Another thing that was very impressive was his ability to stop the takedowns of Brad Tavares. In his last fight against Vettori, he was taken down a couple times and controlled on the ground. As I said before, people believed he had no ground game and couldn’t defend the takedown. He proved everyone wrong as he defended a total of eleven takedowns.
When it was all said and done, Adesanya out landed Tavares by a total of 127 to 46. He completely dominated the 8th ranked middleweight in the world, making it clear to everyone that this kid is really talented. When the judge’s scorecards were announced, he was given two 50-45 cards and one 49-46. A performance like that is why he lands at number one on my standout performances.
#2: Luis Pena
Luis Pena def. Richie Smullen via Submission (Guillotine) at 3:32 of Round 1
Both these fighters were apart of Team Cormier on this season of the Ultimate Fighter, Unfortunately, both fighters also had their seasons cut short due to injuries, but got a chance to showcase their talent on the finale.
Pena came into the competition with a record of 2-0. His opening fight came against Team Miocic’s Jose Martinez Jr. He won that fight by a unanimous decision but got news afterward that he had a fractured foot. That injury would end his run on the show and the news absolutely destroyed him. Luckily, Dana White made it clear to him that Pena would still get his shot in the UFC and a few weeks later, this fight was announced.
Smullen trains in Ireland at the famous SBG gym, known for being the home of Conor McGregor. He came into the competition with a record of 3-0 and faced off against Allan Zuniga in the opening round. Just hours before the fight, Smullen began feeling painful cramps in his leg, forcing him to take a break from warm-ups. He tried to rest and walk it off but it was just too painful for him to even walk. Unfortunately, he was medically disqualified, awarding Zuniga the automatic win. He never got the opportunity to show what he could do, until he got the call to fight on the finale.
Luis Pena came into this fight with all the hype behind him. Many believe he could have won the show had he not been injured. The man has one of the greatest nicknames in MMA history with “The Violent Bob Ross”. He showed just how violent and good he can be.
One thing that impressed me was how comfortable he was off of his back. After being taken down at the beginning of the round, he was easily able to get back to his feet. Once standing again, Smullen dragged him to the ground again and was in side control. Pena quickly began to start looking for submissions, crazy submissions that is, showing just how comfortable he is off the back.
Also off of his back, he was able to move around underneath Smullen with ease. After throwing up that crazy submission attempt, he scoot his hips just a little bit and ended up in full guard. And from there, he was able to roll over and eventually land on top of Smullen.
Pena was also very comfortable on his feet as he is mainly a striker. He looked very impressive as he was able to piece together good combos that stunned Smullen. He started it off with a straight left that stunned him. Pena then followed that up with an uppercut and then dropped him with a right hand.
Once he knocked Smullen down, he jumped on him looking for ground and pound but immediately recognized that Smullen was attacking a leg. From there he looked to lock up the guillotine but didn’t have his hips in play. He continued fighting for it and eventually was able to get into top mount, where he finished the fight.
#3: Gerald Meerschaert
Gerald Meerschaert def. Oskar Piechota via Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 4:55 of Round 2
Coming into this fight, Gerald Meerschaert was coming off his first win since suffering a TKO loss at the hands of Thiago Santos. That win came at The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale in December against Eric Spicely. He won that fight in the second round by TKO due to a body kick. Before that loss to Santos, Meerschaert had won seven straight fights, both inside and outside of the UFC.
His opponent, Oskar Piechota, came into the UFC a winner of his last six straight. He made his debut in his hometown of Gdansk, Poland at UFC Fight Night 118 against Jonathan Wilson. He won that fight by unanimous decision, setting up his next fight against Tim Williams at UFC Fight Night 126 in February. Piechota finished that fight by knockout in the first round for his second straight UFC win and eighth straight overall.
Piechota came into the fight on a hot streak and started it off looking great. He was connecting with a lot of good shots and was able to take Meerscahert down fairly easy. While Meerschaert was on his back, he was able to move around well and defend all of Piechota’s submission attempts.
There were a lot of times when Piechota would begin to look for a d’arce choke, but Meerschaert was always able to get around it. Once they were stood up by the ref, Piechota continued to find success on the feet as he was piecing together nice combinations. He eventually put together a combination that dropped Meerschaert, but Meerschaert wouldn’t give up. He continued moving on the mat, getting out of the way of all the submission attempts. At one point, Piechota got Meerschaert’s back and locked in a pretty deep rear naked choke, but Meerschaert somehow got out of the body triangle and got his head out of the choke.
In the second round, Piechota seemed tired and that’s when Meerschaert really started to find success on the feet. He was backing Piechota up towards the cage and landing all sorts of combos. His clinch work was great as he would have him clinched along the cage and he would launch elbows and knees one after the other. He landed somewhere around six perfect elbows in a row at one point, but Piechota was still standing.
Eventually, Meerschaert realized he wasn’t gonna finish the fight on the feet, so he took Piechota down to the mat. Once on the ground, Meerschaert started landing good ground and pound but the fight still wasn’t going to be stopped. As he kept landing ground and pound, he found an opportunity to grab a hold of the neck and lock in a rear-naked choke. Just seconds later, Piechota was asleep and Meerschaert had won the fight.
— UFC (@ufc) July 6, 2018
#4: Montana De La Rosa
Montana De La Rosa def. Rachael Ostovich via Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 4:21 of Round 3
Teammates on the Ultimate Fighter season 26, Montana De La Rosa and Rachael Ostovich, were both successful in their UFC debuts. That set up a fight between the two Team Gaethje fighters for the TUF 27 Finale.
De La Rosa came into the fight having won her most recent fight at the TUF 26 Finale. That fight came against Christina Marks, who was a member of Team Alvarez. She won the fight in the first round with a quick armbar for her second straight win.
Her opponent, and former teammate, Rachel Ostovich came into her debut with a record of 3-3. Her UFC debut came on the same night as De La Rosa’s, when she took on Karine Gevorgyan. She also won her fight that night by armbar quickly in the first round.
Once the round began, it was noticeable that De La Rosa was utilizing her reach advantage. In round one, she fought off of her jab mainly. She did a very good job at keeping distance as well. She knew that Ostovich posed as more of a threat at close range as she could initiate the clinch game. So De La Rosa would move in and land combos off of her jab, but then immediately shoot back out to the center to keep the distance.
But, in the second round, De La Rosa became a lot more hesitant with the jab as Ostovich started to land a lot more. Ostovich recognized the timing of De La Rosa’s jab which allowed her to start landing more punches. As a result of this, De La Rosa began to look for takedowns but couldn’t get Ostovich to the mat. She wouldn’t give up though as she continued to try and take her down throughout the round. As she couldn’t get her down, she had to go back to her striking game where she began to land a bit more confidently again.
— UFC (@ufc) July 7, 2018
Between rounds, De La Rosa’s corner told her to stop looking for takedowns and to outbox her instead. But De La Rose went into that round and began to look for more takedowns, but also participating in the striking game as well.
As the round went on, she looked for more takedowns and eventually Ostovich reversed her and had her back, where she began to look for an armbar. Ostovich came pretty close to finishing the submission, but De La Rosa was able to pull her arm free and end up on top. From there, she landed elbows and ground and pound before Ostovich gave up her back. De La Rosa continued to soften Ostovich up with punches and elbows looking to finish the fight.
— UFC (@ufc) July 7, 2018
Eventually, she found an opening and locked up a rear naked choke that would force Ostovich to tap. De La Rosa won her second straight fight in the UFC, both coming by submission.
She sinks it in and gets the tap!
— UFC (@ufc) July 7, 2018
#5: Roxanne Modafferi
Roxanne Modafferi def. Barb Honchak via TKO (Elbows) at 3:32 of Round 2
Roxanne Modafferi and Barb Honchak first met all the way back in 2011 at BEP 5 with Honchak winning the fight by submission in the third round. The two were scheduled to meet a second time at the TUF 26 Finale for the third-place fight. However, on the day of the weigh-ins, one of the finalists, Sijara Eubanks, failed to make weight, giving Modafferi the opportunity to step in on short notice.
Modafferi would go on to lose the fight by unanimous decision as Nicco Montano was crowned the inaugural women’s flyweight champion. As for Honchak, she ended up facing Lauren Murphy that night as her short notice opponent. She would go on to lose to Murphy by split decision. This would then allow the UFC to set up the fight that was supposed to happen that night for the TUF 27 Finale.
Modafferi’s stand up game was not the most impressive. She moves in a very odd way to try to make her opponent miss. But, within a minute, her nose was already bright red from Honchak’s punches. What did impress me about Modafferi was her clinch and ground game. She got a takedown about two minutes in and was able to lay on top of Honchak through the end of the round. She landed some good punches and short elbows on top before the end of the round.
In the second round, the two fighters clinched and Honchak attempted to take Modafferi down. Modafferi quickly reversed the takedown and got into top mount. For the next three minutes or so, Modafferi was on top and relentless with her elbows. She was landing short elbows one after the other as Honchak scrambled to get out from under her opponent. Honchak was able to escape Modafferi’s mount, but not for long. Eventually, Modafferi got back into top mount and continued raining down elbows. Eventually, it was too much for Marc Goddard and he was forced to stop the fight.
— UFC (@ufc) July 7, 2018
Next week, the UFC travels to Boise, Idaho for UFC Fight Night 133. In the main event, Junior Dos Santos returns from his suspension to face Blagoy Ivanov in a heavyweight clash. Plus, Sage Northcutt returns to the octagon as he takes on Zak Ottow. And, former featherweight title challenger, Chad Mendes returns from his suspension to take on Myles Jury. So join me next week as we look back on the UFC’s night in Boise to determine the five Standout Performances.