TUF 31 Episode 12 takeaways: Cody Gibson wins; TUF finale will be an all-veteran affair

Cody Gibson beat Rico DiSciullo to earn a spot in the TUF Season 31 bantamweight finale. UFC

Cody Gibson picked up another first-round finish to secure the last spot in "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 31 finale. Gibson, coached by Michael Chandler, capitalized on a mistake by Rico DiSciullo, coached by Conor McGregor, and got the submission win to earn the right to face former Team Chandler fighter Brad Katona.

Saturday night, Gibson will fight Katona in the bantamweight finale during the prelims at UFC 292 in Boston. Austin Hubbard and Kurt Holobaugh will square off in the lightweight finale. Both winners will earn UFC contracts.

Let's look at the biggest moments from Episode 12.

Bantamweight: Cody Gibson, Team Chandler vs. Rico DiSciullo, Team McGregor

Gibson beats DiSciullo by first-round submission

After suffering a knee injury during his last fight against Mando Gutierrez, Gibson got an unfavorable matchup against the striker DiSciullo. Luckily for Gibson, none of that mattered.

DiSciullo slipped early in the first round while throwing a punch, giving Gibson the opening he needed. Gibson pounced on his opponent as soon as DiSciullo hit the mat, then controlled him there. While on the mat, Gibson constantly landed ground and pound and threatened DiSciullo with submissions until he ultimately secured an arm-triangle choke to end the fight.

Before competing in TUF Season 31, Gibson fought on Khabib Nurmagomedov's Eagle FC in 2022. He was on the UFC roster from 2014 to 2015. During his run with the promotion, Gibson suffered losses against Douglas Silva de Andrade and reigning UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling.

Gibson will face Katona, a fellow UFC veteran, in the TUF finale. During the episode, Gibson and Katona exchanged words, and it was clear the two fighters were not fans of one another. That should make for an interesting matchup Saturday night.

Storylines to watch

A priceless opportunity

Sometimes, it pays off to be last. Sticking with the theme of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities from McGregor, after getting to drive McGregor's Lamborghini after his quarterfinals win over Hunter Azure, DiSciullo was blessed with another rare opportunity with his coach.

As one of only two remaining members of Team McGregor in the semifinals and having his fight booked as the last one of the season, DiSciullo got one-on-one training with the former two-division UFC champ. For the only fighter in the semifinals without any UFC experience, that's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

DiSciullo got a chance to show McGregor his skills during training and even pick up some new ones. He earned high praise from his coach.

"Rico is phenomenal, [he] is brilliant," McGregor said. "I was actually very surprised [by] his experience, his calmness ... some amazing traits for a young fighter."

Unfortunately for DiSciullo, he came up short against Gibson, but that doesn't change how valuable this whole experience was for DiSciullo, who is still looking to crack the UFC roster at some point.

One last hurrah

While many fans of the show have made it clear that they were not impressed with McGregor's coaching this season, McGregor's dinner with the team -- and more specifically, the toast he and the coaches received from Carlos Vera -- was a reminder that there's a lot that happens on this show that fans aren't privy to.

During the toast, Vera spoke of how each of the fighters greatly appreciated McGregor and his staff. Vera also spoke about how McGregor's journey in the UFC -- even outside of coaching this season of TUF -- has inspired everyone on the team.

"You've shown us perseverance. You've shown us an iron will. And you've shown us a little bit of 'f--- you' that everyone needs to hear, because we're fighters," Vera said during his toast to McGregor.

Then, to end the dinner, McGregor gave each of his fighters one last gift: $1,000 of chips to a local Las Vegas casino.

Not a bad way to end the season.

Best MMA fighter tweets from Episode 12

Was it destiny?

Clearly Gibson wasn't fond of Katona. Was their fight destined to happen in the finale?

Coach would know

Chandler coached both fighters for their quarterfinals matchups. He would know how the two men felt about each other.

Coaches faceoff

Is there a chance we could still see this fight before the end of the year?

Saturday's finale

Lightweight: Austin Hubbard, Team Chandler vs. Kurt Holobaugh, Team Chandler

Here's everything we know about these two fighters:

Austin Hubbard
Record: 15-6
UFC record: 3-4
Age: 31
Fighting out of: Denver, Colorado
Last TUF fight: Hubbard def. Roosevelt Roberts by split decision

Kurt Holobaugh
Record: 19-7
UFC record: 0-4
Age: 36
Fighting out of: Denham Springs, Louisiana
Last TUF fight: Holobaugh def. Jason Knight by second-round KO

Bantamweight: Brad Katona, Team McGregor vs. Cody Gibson, Team Chandler

Here's everything we know about these two fighters:

Brad Katona
Record: 13-2
UFC record: 2-2
Age: 31
Fighting out of: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Last TUF fight: Katona def. Timur Valiev by split decision

Cody Gibson
Record: 19-8
UFC record: 1-3
Age: 35
Fighting out of: Visalia, California