Tony Ferguson (top, file photo) took care of business at the "TUF 13" Finale. | Photo: Sherdog.com
With a big left hand that settled the affair, Tony Ferguson was crowned as the next “Ultimate Fighter,” dispatching Ramsey Nijem 3:54 into the first Saturday night in Las Vegas.
While Ferguson’s win was concise and quick, co-main event headliner Clay Guida had a much tougher route, decisioning former WEC champ Anthony Pettis in an intense bout ultimately defined by Guida’s takedowns. Here’s a closer look at who’s up, who’s down, and who’s getting a “hold” now that the results are in: “The Ultimate Fighter 13” Finale finale Stock Report is here.
Tony Ferguson: Coming into his bout with Nijem, Ferguson was ultra-confident, and his performance showed that belief in his skills. Using the effective bob-and-fire style that wore down Chuck O\'Neil in their semifinal bout, Ferguson overcame a couple of Nijem’s berserker-style flurries to dial in and drop the hammer, via a nice left that flattened Nijem for the eventual finish.
Compared to previous TUF winners, Ferguson’s standup -- at this point in his career -- is exceptionally polished. He is comfortable in the pocket and fights like a guy with a striking background, but the reality is he’s an exceptional athlete with solid wrestling credentials. It’s pretty impressive to win big when you aren’t even using your core skill set.
It’ll be interesting to see how the UFC moves Ferguson, as the welterweight division has tough tests aplenty. He’s already an advanced product, and he sent a message tonight.
Clay Guida: In a tough back-and-forth scrap, Guida showed his trademark resilience and bottomless gas tank, decisioning Pettis in an exciting fight. Just when Guida seemed to be trending ahead, Pettis would throw up a dizzying flurry of submission setups, with the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts product narrowly escaping them. It was like watching a man dodge a hail of arrows.
Down the stretch, after hitting a key takedown in the final minute of the third, Guida found himself reversed with Pettis riding his back; a dangerous predicament indeed. But “The Carpenter” worked his way out and took the decision.
It wasn’t necessarily a dominating performance from a physical perspective; Guida wasn’t able to land many shots despite spending much of the fight with Pettis on his back. But Guida was able to defuse an exceptionally dangerous striker and submission artist in Pettis.
With four wins in a row, Guida’s making a strong case for himself as the next to get a title shot, outside fellow contenders Jim Miller and Benson Henderson, who will collide Aug. 14 at UFC Live 5.
Once Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard III is settled, Guida or the winner of Miller-Henderson could get next.
One point to make: Guida’s built for five-round fights. He may not be an elite wrestler on the level of Edgar or Maynard, but nobody is going to beat him on stamina and pace. That’s what he needed to do tonight in taking on a very talented fighter in Pettis, and he did it.
Kyle Kingsbury: Kingsbury started strong, seemed to fade somewhat, than sucked it up for a gusty decision win over Fabio Maldonado. Forever billed as an “athletic” type with potential, Kingsbury seems to be translating that into his game nicely. Another bright spot was confidence in his ground game. He didn’t shy away from grappling with the dangerous Maldonado, and was calm and collected during guillotine attempts.
With four wins in a row since losing to Tom Lawlor at the “TUF 8” finale in Dec. 2008, a relatively raw product like Kingsbury will benefit greatly from a tough fight like tonight. He’ll only get better as future tests present themselves, knowing what his body can do and where he can be effective.
Chris Cope: Cope’s standup was much improved tonight in taking on fellow “TUF 13” semifinal loser O’Neil, as he simply was too accurate to be denied. Cope’s takedown defense was an obvious strong point, but his ability to land effectively tonight was much improved.
Ramsey Nijem: Nijem showed some good aggression and wrestling tonight in losing to Ferguson, but simply got nailed by a better striker. Ramsey’s got some good skills on the mat, but will need to sharpen up his striking somewhat. Merely bursting at opponents with a flurry of punches at this level won’t be enough. However, the guess here is that Ferguson’s future performances are equally impressive, and Nijem by no means embarrassed himself tonight. He can compete with guys at the lower level of the UFC’s welterweight division, and will have time to work on his skills.
Anthony Pettis: Pettis’ defensive guard and submission setups are top notch, and the fact that Guida was able to stymie them says a lot about “The Carpenter.” Pettis also showed flashes of his dynamic self on the feet, unleashing some inventive kicks. In a tense battle of takedown vs. takedown defense, “Showtime” was game throughout and simply ran out of time, with Guida grinding out a decision win of 30-27 on all three cards.
Pettis, just 24, is a gifted fighter with a huge upside. His striking is as technical and creative as anyone’s in the division; he just needs more time to continue to develop it. When he does, he’ll be at the top level of the division. And as I’ve always said, guys like he and Guida should be in five-round fights where their full game can really play out.
Fabio Maldonado: Game and ever-pressing, Maldonado was rough and tough against Kingsbury, absorbing some big knees in the clinch only to keep battling, nailing Kyle with some painful body shots. While the middleweight lost the decision, he fought well and definitely showed he’s got some game. However, he does seem a tad undersized for the 205-pound division -- perhaps a drop to middleweight is in the cards.
Tim Credeur: A tough loss for Credeur tonight, in a surprising fashion. Gifted with a savvy ground game and a penchant for exciting fights, Credeur’s quick defeat following a long layoff is a definite setback.
Chuck O'Neil: Pegged a pick-em going into his match with Cope, O’Neil fought tentatively tonight, unable or unwilling to engage enough to build a case for winning a single round (he was whitewashed on the scorecards, 30-27). It was understandable for O’Neil to perform this way in his semifinal stoppage loss to the gifted Ferguson; tonight was a chance to show more for O’Neil, and he simply couldn’t do it.
Jason Probst can be reached at Jason@jasonprobst.com or www.twitter.com/jasonprobst.