Mike Pyle destroyed James Head to headline the prelims. | Jim Kemper/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Former World Extreme Cagefighting welterweight champion Mike Pyle channeled his inner Anderson Silva, as he sank James Head with a beautiful second-round knee from the Thai plum and follow-up punches at “The Ultimate Fighter 16” Finale on Saturday at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Pyle (24-8-1, 7-3 UFC) finished it 1:55 into round two.
Head (9-3, 2-2 UFC) had his chance. He blitzed “Quicksand” with a straight left hand, a few knees and some standing elbows early in the fight. Pyle kept his cool against the cage, trapped Head in the clinch, softened him with a knee to the body and then fired the knee that essentially finished it. The 37-year-old Dresden, Tenn., native has stopped his last three opponents inside one round.
“I’m so stoked right now,” Pyle said. “I know it’s not showing on my face, but I’m overwhelmed with emotions.”
‘Brutal’ Bedford Dispatches Vinicius
Bellator Fighting Championships veteran Johnny Bedford put away Marcos Vinicius Borges Pancini with second-round punches in an undercard matchup at 135 pounds. Bedford (19-9-1, 2-0 UFC) dropped the hammer 60 seconds into round two, as he won for the eighth time in nine fights.
“We knew he had a right hand, but that was about it,” Bedford said. “I circled away from it and walked him to the right. Every time he quarter-turned, I dropped the straight right hand on him, and it worked.”
Vinicius (20-4-1, 1-1 UFC) failed to cope with his foe’s length and reach. Bedford scored with a takedown in the first round, avoided a guillotine choke and later wobbled the Brazilian with a stiff right hand. It was a harbinger for what was to come. In the second round, a right cross from Bedford dropped Vinicius to a squatting position against the cage. He followed with a kick to the body and finished it with a volley of right hands on the ground.
“I kept working my right and put him against the fence,” Bedford said. “I dropped that straight right hand and finished him. This is just the beginning.”
Khabilov Suplexes, Punches Finish Pichel
Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts representative Rustam Khabilov dazzled in his promotional debut, as he knocked out the previously unbeaten Vinc Pichel with a belly-to-back suplex and follow-up punches 2:15 into their lightweight encounter. Khabilov (15-1, 1-0 UFC) has won four fights in a row.
Pichel (7-1, 0-1 UFC) offered virtually no offense. His Russian counterpart closed the distance inside the first minute and delivered three belly-to-back suplexes, the last of which left a prone Pichel dazed and exposed on the mat. Khabilov then unleashed a series of left hands for the finish.
“Before I came here, my friend was asking me to throw a suplex, so I was preparing for that,” he said through an interpreter. “It’s elementary wrestling and sambo stuff. I just blocked his hand and threw on the suplex.”
Waldburger Triangle Submits Catone
T.J. Waldburger posted his seventh victory in nine appearances, as he rendered Nick Catone unconscious with a second-round triangle choke in their undercard tilt at 170 pounds. A Texas-based Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, Waldburger (16-7, 4-2 UFC) sealed the deal 64 seconds into round two.
“I’m ecstatic, he said. “This is a great early Christmas present. I love finishing the fight, especially with a submission.”
In his first outing as a welterweight, Catone (9-4, 3-4 UFC) dictated much of the action in the first round. He struck for a takedown, dodged an attempted kimura and cracked Waldburger with a stinging standing-to-ground right hand. In round two, the Texan answered. Waldburger dropped the former Ring of Combat champion with a short right hand, threatened him with an arm-in guillotine and then transitioned to the triangle choke. Soon after, Catone was out and Waldburger’s arm was raised.
“I tried to pull a guillotine, but his arm was inside and it just didn’t feel right, so I changed it to a triangle and tried to loosen him up with some elbows,” Waldburger said. “Once I got that arm across his throat, it put the pressure on him just right, and he was done.”
Viana Overhand Right KOs Duran
“The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” Season 1 alum Hugo Viana knocked out Alliance MMA’s Reuben Duran with a thudding overhand right 4:05 into the first round of their bantamweight clash. Viana (7-0, 2-0 UFC) had won each of his previous six fights by decision.
Duran (8-4-1, 1-2 UFC) never looked comfortable. Viana floored him twice before the knockout, first with a crisp left hook and again with an overhand right. With Duran still visibly dazed, Viana connected on the jaw and put the San Diego-based bantamweight down for good. Duran had never before been knocked out.
Rio Armbar Submits Cofer
Mike Rio submitted fellow “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15 alum John Cofer with a third-round armbar in a preliminary lightweight duel. Cofer (7-3, 0-2) conceded defeated 4:11 into round three.
Takedowns and a heavy top game were Rio’s weapons of choice. He grounded Cofer in all three rounds, grinding him out with short elbows and punches. Rio (9-1, 1-0 UFC) struck for a takedown inside the first minute of round three, passed to side control and threatened with an armbar. Cofer defended well, assumed top position and went to work with his hands. However, Rio snatched another armbar, this time from the bottom and, after a brief struggle, forced the tapout.
Elliott Bloodies, Outpoints Papazian
Takedowns, superb positional grappling and damaging ground-and-pound carried Tim Elliott to a unanimous verdict over former King of the Cage champion Jared Papazian in an undercard battle at 125 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it for Elliott (9-3-1, 1-1 UFC) by 30-20, 30-25 and 30-26 marks. He has won nine of his last 10 bouts.
Elliott survived an illegal knee from his opponent in the first round, and imposed his will throughout their 15-minute encounter. The 25-year-old Kansas native did his best work in round three, where he struck for multiple takedowns, floored Papazian (14-9, 0-3 UFC) with a body kick, threatened with chokes and left him battered and bloodied with punches and elbows from the top.