They're all season winners on The Ultimate Fighter. The first four are some of the biggest names to emerge from the 28 seasons of the reality TV show, with two of them being among the 11 TUF alums to go on to become UFC champions. The last two names on the list above added themselves to the annals of TUF season winners on Saturday night.
It was a journey from last place to first place for Battle. The 26-year-old from Charlotte, North Carolina, was the final pick among 185-pounders, and to get to the final he had to beat No. 1 pick Andre Petroski.
Battle also had to overcome a rough start on Saturday, as Urbina dropped him in the opening minute and swarmed in search of an early finish. But Battle persevered, and as the round went on, he gained momentum. When he took the fight to the canvas in Round 2, he quickly seized back control and locked in a rear-naked choke at 2:15.
Congratulations @BryanBattle10 👏 great fight boys, you'll be back Gil 🙏— Alex Volkanovski (@alexvolkanovski) August 29, 2021
Urbina, who is 25 and from the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, also had to overcome an obstacle to get to this fight. He was a replacement finalist, taking the spot of Tresean Gore, who defeated him in the semifinals but had to withdraw from the final because of injury. Enter Urbina, the third member of his family to compete on TUF, after his brothers Hector and Eli Urbina.
In the fight right before, Turcios won the bantamweight season by putting on a rugged, resilient performance against Brady Hiestand.
Turcios toughed it out through bad positions on the canvas and getting outstruck for much of the fight, but dropped Hiestand early in Round 3 and turned those five minutes into the deciding factor in him winning the bantamweight championship of The Ultimate Fighter.
Hiestand carried much of the fight, but no matter how much he controlled positioning on the canvas, Turcios always was on the offensive, even while on his back and in bad positions. He bloodied Hiestand's face and also landed several elbows to the side of the head while locked in clinches.
All three judges scored the bout 29-28, with two going for the 28-year-old from Houston. Turcios lost on Dana White's Contenders Series in 2017. Four years later he's a TUF champion.
Boys are workin...putting it all on the line!! #UFCVegas35— Alex Volkanovski (@alexvolkanovski) August 29, 2021
Hiestand fell just short, but he certainly has the pedigree of a TUF champ. He is 22, from Spokane, Washington, where he is teammates with Michael Chiesa and Julianna Pena, both of whom won a season of the reality TV show.
Men's featherweight: Giga Chikadze (14-2, 7-0 UFC) def. Edson Barboza (22-10, 16-10 UFC) by third-round TKO (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Georgian featherweight Giga Chikadze has declared himself the No. 1 striker in the UFC. The man might have a case.
Chikadze (14-2) improved his UFC record to 7-0 on Saturday, as he knocked out Edson Barboza with strikes at 1:44 of the third round. The featherweight contest headlined UFC Fight Night inside the Apex.
The finish came after Chikadze, who represents the country of Georgia, hurt Barboza with a step-in knee to the midsection. Barboza retreated from the shot, and Chikadze immediately pounced on the opportunity. He landed one right hand after another to Barboza's head. The Brazilian never fully recovered from that initial shot.
Welterweight: Daniel Rodriguez (16-2, 6-1 UFC) def. Kevin Lee (18-7, 11-7 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
The hype behind Rodriguez as a potential title contender will continue to build, following his three-round decision win over Lee.
Rodriguez, of Los Angeles, defeated Lee via unanimous decision in a fight he took on short notice. Rodriguez stepped in for Lee's original opponent Sean Brady, who was forced off the card due to injury. All three judges scored the welterweight bout in his favor, 29-28.
Lee, a former interim lightweight title challenger, imposed his will in the opening round as he took Rodriguez down, controlled him and scored points with elbows from the top. Rodriguez was ready for Lee's grappling in the second and third rounds, however, stuffing Lee's attempts and picking him apart on the feet.
The jab and inside leg kick were particularly effective for Rodriguez, and he threatened to finish Lee late in the second round. A stiff left hand put Lee on skates, and he only survived by shooting in for a takedown and hanging on until the end of the round. Rodriguez is now 6-1 in the UFC, with three finishes.
Drod got it— Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) August 29, 2021
Lee, 28, who came off a 17-month injury layoff has now lost four of five.
Middleweight: Andre Petroski (7-1, 1-0 UFC) def. Michael Gilmore (6-4, 0-1 UFC) by third-round TKO (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
There was no surprise that Petroski was fighting on this night. As the first middleweight pick by coach Brian Ortega for the current season of The Ultimate Fighter, the Philadelphia fighter looked like someone destined for the finals, which were to take place later on Saturday.
But Petroski lost to Bryan Battle in the TUF semifinals, so he had to settle for this matchup with TUF alternate Gillmore. Petroski made the most of it, scoring a late TKO to extend his streak of getting finishes in all six of his career wins.
Petroski, 30, had takedowns in all three rounds and achieved dominant position each time. His final takedown was a big one, as he had had a tough second round and his corner told him it was 1-1 going into the third. Petroski went right out and got a takedown in the opening seconds of the third, and he remained on top delivering damage until he trapped one of Gillmore's arms, rendering his opponent defenseless. Petroski then dropped elbow after elbow until referee Jason Herzog jumped in at 3:12.
Not very often you see a gift wrap used so effectively in a UFC fight and to get the finish! #UFCVegas35— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) August 29, 2021
Gillmore, a 34-year-old from Lansing, Michigan, saw his three-fight winning streak come to an end. He had a strong second round, landing punches and fending off takedown attempts, but the early takedown in Round 3 sealed his fate.
Middleweight: Gerald Meerschaert (33-14, 8-6 UFC) def. Makhmud Muradov (25-7, 3-1 UFC) by second-round submission (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Abdul Razak Alhassan finishes fight early with incredible headkick
Abdul Razak Alhassan needs just one kick to finish off Alessio Di Chirico early.
Hurt and dropped twice in the first round, and outstruck for the entirety of those first five minutes, Meerschaert toughed it out and took the fight into his world -- down on the canvas -- and pulled off the upset. Early in the second round, Meerschaert choked out Muradov, who came in on a 14-fight winning streak and was the biggest betting favorite on the card (-575).
Meerschaert, a 33-year-old from Milwaukee, turned the tide in the final seconds of Round 1 when he got a takedown and seized dominant position. That seemed to embolden him and make Muradov cautious going into the second round. Meerschaert actually landed the better punches in the standup early on in the second, then trapped Muradov in a clinch and took him to the canvas. From there he quickly secured a rear-naked choke and elicited the tapout at 1:49.
Hell freaking yeah @The_Real_GM3 !!! That was awesome. 💥💥💥— Funky (@Benaskren) August 29, 2021
For Meerschaert, it was his second straight win after he had dropped five of seven. Muradov, who is 31 and from Uzbekistan, had not lost a fight since December 2016.
Middleweight: Abdul Razak Alhassan (11-4, 5-4 UFC) def. Alessio Di Chirico (13-6, 4-6 UFC) by first-round KO (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Razak Alhassan is back in the win column for the first time since September 2018 -- and boy is he back in a big way.
Alhassan, of Ghana, knocked out Di Chirico with a right head kick that will forever live on his personal highlight reel. The finish came just 17 seconds into the middleweight bout. Alhassan walked Di Chirico to the fence and dropped him with a walkoff knockout. Di Chirico actually lowered himself into the kick, as he moved to block low.
It was a much-needed finish for Alhassan, who had lost three in a row going in. One of those losses came in the form of a 30-second knockout loss to Khaos Williams.
Alhassan, who is from Texas but currently trains out of Denver, now has 11 first-round finishes in his career. He improves to 5-4 overall in the UFC. Di Chirico, of Italy, drops to 1-4 in his last five.
Middleweight: Wellington Turman (17-5, 2-3 UFC) def. Sam Alvey (33-16-1, 10-11-1 UFC) by split decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
"Smilin' Sam" had a whole different expression on his face when the verdict was announced.
After coming in winless in his last six bouts, Alvey clearly expected to have his hand raised this time after he landed more strikes and saw the referee deduct two points from his opponent. But no, Turman got the nod on two of the three 28-27 scorecards.
Turman, a 25-year-old from Brazil, broke out of a two-fight losing streak by remaining the aggressor in all three rounds. He opened a cut on Alvey's cheek with a spinning elbow, and had a couple of takedowns. But he didn't make it easy on himself down the stretch. With just under two minutes left, referee Chris Tognoni deducted a point from Turman twice within 20 seconds because of eye pokes.
Tognoni had warned the Brazilian earlier, and on a couple of occasions the ref even appeared to miss eye pokes. Alvey, who is 35 and from Temecula, California, has not won a fight since June 2018. It's appropriate he was competing on a card with two Ultimate Fighter finals, as Alvey competed on Season 16 of the reality show back in 2012.
Light heavyweight: Dustin Jacoby (16-5-1, 3-2-1- UFC) def. Darren Stewart (12-8 2 NC, 5-8 2 NC UFC) by first-round TKO (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Jacoby, of Colorado, overwhelmed Stewart with strikes on the feet en route to a TKO win at 3:04 of the opening round.
Stewart, who fights out of London, did all he could to survive Jacoby's onslaught of punches, but eventually succumbed. Jacoby walked him down rather effortlessly and unloaded power shots along the fence. In a last-minute Hail Mary attempt, Stewart fired back with a handful of haymakers, but Jacoby saw them coming and continued to land shots until the 205-pound fight was over.
For Jacoby, it is his 10th career win by knockout. He improves to 3-0-1 in the UFC. The former professional kickboxer said he would like to fight again this year, and is eyeing a move into the top 15 of the division.
It's a tough result for Stewart, who is now winless in his last three appearances and 5-8 in the UFC overall.
Jacoby wore Stewart's head out with those punches at the end #UFCVegas35— Terrance McKinney (@twrecks155) August 29, 2021
Women's flyweight: JJ Aldrich (10-4, 6-3 UFC) def. Vanessa Demopoulos (6-4, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Aldrich scored a takedown less than a minute into the fight, and from top position she connected with several punches and elbows, a few of them landing hard. Demopoulos couldn't get out from underneath, but then Aldrich just let her opponent up, and it quickly became obvious why.
As an emboldened Demopoulos came forward with a flurry of punches after standing up, she was met by a straight left hand from Aldrich. And that set a tone for the rest of the fight. Aldrich walked down her opponent with poise and accuracy, peppering Demopoulos with her right jab and straight left hand again and again.
There were times when Demopoulos looked ripe for a finish, but she toughed it out for three rounds, trying to produce offense but mostly being rebuffed. Aldrich, who is 28 and from Aurora, Colorado, settled for three 30-27 scorecards in her favor, giving her a second straight win.
Demopoulos, a 32-year-old from Phoenix, was making her UFC debut. She has lost three of her last four.
Men's featherweight: Pat Sabatini (15-3, 2-0 UFC) def. Jamall Emmers(18-6, 1-2 UFC) by submission (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Sabatini, of Pennsylvania, picked up a nifty comeback victory as he submitted Emmers with a heel hook 1:53 of the first round.
Emmers, who fights out of Redlands, California, drew first blood when he appeared to hurt Sabatini in an early exchange and immediately jumped on his back. Sabatini remained composed, however, and eventually escaped the position and attacked Emmers' left leg. Rather than try to spin out and reset on the feet, Emmers looked for his own leg submission on Sabatini.
It proved to be a costly decision, as he tapped to the heel hook moments later, but only after apparently suffering an injury to his knee.
He most definitely should have abandoned the toe hold and cleared his knee instead. Hate to see guys get hurt 🥺 #UFCVegas35— Tatiana Suarez (@tatianaufc) August 28, 2021
Sabatini moves to 2-0 in the UFC, while Emmers, who was favored going into the bout, falls to 1-2.
Men's bantamweight: Mana Martinez (9-2, 1-0 UFC) def. Guido Cannetti (8-7, 2-5 UFC) by split decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Meerschaert uses rear-naked choke to submit Muradov in Round 2
Gerald Meerschaert uses his grappling skills to submit Makhmud Muradov via rear-naked choke in Round 2.
Martinez, of Houston, collected his first win in the UFC, and immediately dedicated it to his late coach, Saul Soliz.
Martinez defeated Cannetti via split decision, following three back-and-forth bantamweight rounds. The victory came just 11 days after Soliz passed away at the age of 55, due to complications caused by Covid-19. Martinez, who was actually supposed to fight two weeks ago but was instead postponed, elected to carry on with his UFC debut despite the emotional circumstances surrounding him.
Immediately after the bout, Martinez broke down into tears. It was a hard fought win, as Martinez absorbed a lot of damage to his legs early on, thanks to a steady diet of Cannetti leg kicks.
Great fight fellas! My legs hurt from all those kicks landing! #UFCVegas35— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) August 28, 2021
Martinez turned the tide in the second and third rounds, however. He had success walking Cannetti backwards, and opened up with hard combinations and body work along the fence. He surprised Cannetti with a late takedown attempt in the final minute of the bout which likely secured him the third round.
Cannetti, of Buenos Aires, has lost this last three appearances.