My review of The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale: Nelson vs. Mitrione, which was a good night of fights with a finale that fit the season.
Roy Nelson def. Matt Mitrione: Nelson still hits really hard. Mitrione was doing well with power kicks to the right arm of Nelson, but he got clipped with an uppercut and a left, then finished with punches on the ground. We know what Nelson brings to the table at this point and it’s good enough to beat a lot of guys at heavyweight, which says a lot about the heavyweight division. Nelson’s striking defense is still pretty bad, but he may take the best punch in all of MMA and, again, he hits really hard. He’s still right hand heavy, but he did throw some combos in this fight, so that’s a positive sign. Nelson is pretty much the gatekeeper of the division at this point, but at heavyweight, he has the shortest walk to the mansion. Mitrione is a great athlete, but he just started MMA too late and probably won’t reach his full potential. Again, it’s heavyweight, so guys are gonna win some and lose some, but no one is going to stand out.
Colton Smith def. Mike Ricci: I wouldn’t want to be Ricci after this fight and have to face Rory MacDonald at home. This was a dominant performance by Smith, who took down Ricci at will, got multiple dominant positions, and just completely worked Ricci on the ground. Ricci had a brief moment of success in the third round when he was able to win a scramble and get the back of Smith, but he failed on the armbar and ended up back in a bottom position. I don’t know how good Smith is or can become but he won this fight, so good for him. His striking wasn’t on display in this fight and I don’t remember it on the show, but he was some good wrestling, at least against average at best fighters. I wouldn’t bet on him amounting to much since TUF has become a joke and hasn’t produced top talent in forever (Nelson being an exception, but he was above average before TUF), but maybe he can win some fights, improve, and at least be relevant unlike the majority of TUF winners nowadays.
Mike Pyle def. James Head: Even though this bout was on the prelims, I previewed it and it aired on the main card, so I may as well review it. Pyle’s career resurgence continues. He ate a couple of good punches from Head, but landed a beautiful knee in the clinch that crumbled Head and then finished him off with some punches on the ground. It’s pretty amazing what Pyle has been able to do this late in his career. Not that he’s beating the best guys in the world, but he’s proving his worth to the company as a guy who can really test up and coming fighters. He’ll never contend for the belt, but he’s a dangerous match up in the division because he’s well-round, he can knock off young fighters, but he doesn’t have much of a name so veterans may want to stay clear of him. Head is still big at welterweight. So I guess he has that going for him despite this loss.
Pat Barry def. Shane del Rosario: THE FUTURE STAR IS BACK! We all know that Barry is very good on the feet. He’s very fluid on the feet and he throws everything with bad intentions. His ground game is still pretty bad, but his submission defense looks to be improving a bit. Rosario had him in the “Cro Cop choke” and he was able to escape, so at least he’s learned how to defend against a rear naked choke when the opponent has no hooks in. Obviously Barry is going to get schooled by anyone with good wrestling and jiu-jitsu, but if he can keep things on the feet, he’s always one strike away. I had high hopes for Rosario in Strikeforce but this was a tough loss for him. Barry was a favorable match up and he couldn’t put him away in the first on the ground and got caught badly in the second. It’s the heavyweight division, which means guys win some and lose some every fight and no one really stands out so it’s possible that Rosario can bounce back, but this performance did him no favors.
Dustin Poirier def. Jonathan Brookins: Brookins started off strong, catching Poirier early, but then he turned back into his usual self, got hit way too much, and it eventually led to the end. Poirier staggered Brookins with a combo after losing a lot of early exchanges and when Brookins went for the takedown, Poirier stuffed it and locked on a d’arce choke for the victory. Poirier is very legit at 145. He’s still young and now he’s training with ATT. I know he just lost to Chan Sung Jung, but it’s not like 145 is that deep with talent and if Poirier can string together a couple of wins then he can definitely be fighting for the title in a year or so. His striking defense still needs some work, but he takes a good punch, gives a good punch, and has some underrated grappling skills. Brookins is who he is. He’s young as well, but there just hasn’t been any improvement in his striking since, well, forever. He’s a tough guy who can grind out and beat a lot of mediocre guys, but his defense of “leave my chin up in the air and my hands down” isn’t going to cut it. In fairness to him, UFC has done him no favors with how they’ve paired him up and he should’ve been brought along more slowly, but now it’s pretty much too little too late for him.