The TUF 14 Finale
once again made use of the claustrophobically 'intimate' setting in the Pearl at the Palms on Saturday night. It's the kind of arena that lets you hear everything from the smack of the gloves to the belligerent shouts of individual audience members, which is both good and bad, sometimes all at once.
For me personally, one benefit of the limited space at cageside was that I ended up sitting directly behind the Octagon girls. What did I learn from the experience? Mainly that Chandella and Arianny have zero problem eating candy and junk food all night. Seriously, we're talking Skittles, Reese's peanut butter cups, even Oreos.
And honestly? I was impressed. A lot of people might assume that women who wear a bikini to work must be starving themselves, but they definitely aren't. Maybe it's not a dietary strategy that all of us could pursue and still look good on TV, but it's obviously working for them. Score one for Skittles.
On to Saturday night's biggest winners, losers, and everything in between... Biggest Winner: Diego Brandao
We could argue all day about whether a TUF title really means anything (though let's not do that; I have errands to run), but a great fight is a great fight no matter what's at stake. From his entrance music to his recklessly aggressive style, Brandao really is like a 145-pound Wanderlei Silva
, only without the weird post-facelift look. He and Bermudez combined for one of the best finale fights in recent memory, packing three rounds of action into just a little under one round of actual fighting. Brandao's style obviously opens him up to danger, as we saw, but it's also incredibly exciting to watch. That man gets in the cage with the goal of writing his name in blood -- yours or his, he doesn't seem to care. For fans who love to complain that the smaller fighters lack finishing power, he's the perfect addition to the UFC
roster. He's a brutal little wrecking ball who can end fights on his feet or on his back. Better yet, he will force even the most strategically-minded opponents into a car wreck inside the cage. The featherweight class could use that infusion of violence right now, and Brandao may be just the man to deliver it.Biggest Loser: Jason "Mayhem" Miller
As much as I love his antics inside the cage and out, that was bad. Not even just a little bad, either. It was very, very bad, and at the exact worst time for him, career-wise. Who knows why he gassed out quickly. Bisping would like to think it was his doing, but that sounds a little bit like when Chael Sonnen
tried to take credit for Paulo Filho's bizarre behavior in their WEC rematch. Whatever was wrong with "Mayhem" was most likely internal, not external. Maybe the pressure got to him more than he expected it to. Maybe it was all that time outside the cage. Maybe it was some combination. Regardless of the reason, by the second round he had nothing left to threaten Bisping with, and all he could do then was take his beating like a man. Which he did, by the way. He ran on fumes for as long as he could, and then he got out and pushed. The end result was a beating that stretched on like the excruciating last act of a Terrence Malick movie. Hopefully the UFC and the fans won't judge him too harshly on the basis of that one fight, since he can definitely do better. He just has to do it soon.Mr. Split Personality: Michael Bisping
Just when you think he's going full heel, he has a great performance and even acts like a gentleman afterward, shaking Miller's hand and bowing to the same fans he cursed a day before. Then you go back and watch the fight again and wonder, hey, didn't he just try to totally illegally headkick a downed "Mayhem" Miller? What's up with that? Then he blames a miscalculated weight cut for his weigh-in outburst (somewhat understandable), but also says it was kind of Joe Rogan's fault (not at all understandable). Bisping is a riddle wrapped up in an enigma and baked inside a Yorkshire pudding. What gets lost in all the public image concerns, however, is that he's obviously a hell of a fighter, whether his haters want to admit it or not. Even if you don't think much of his wins, look at his losses. A questionable decision against former light heavyweight champ Rashad Evans
, a knockout at the hands of Dan Henderson
(that one doesn't look so bad in light of recent events, does it?), and an at least arguable decision against Wanderlei Silva. You could say he lacks knockout power, and the Miller fight lends credence to that, but you can't say that he doesn't have skills.Most Fun Per Pound: John Dodson
This pint-sized warrior has an infectious enthusiasm for everything, plus he can obviously fight a little bit. The stoppage might have been a tad early, but the fact remains that Dodson is essentially a flyweight who just won the bantamweight TUF tournament, so give the man his respect. His post-fight floor/cage routine makes me wonder if he didn't miss his calling as a gymnast (or a ninja), but I'm excited to see how far he can go in the UFC. Once the organization finally gets the 125-pound division up and running, that is.Worst Judging That Probably Didn't Matter: Yves Edwards vs. Tony Ferguson
I scored it 29-28 for Edwards, but the third round was so close that I wouldn't even bother to argue if you told me you had it 29-28 for Ferguson. What I cannot accept, however, is a 30-27 score for Ferguson, which is how two of the three judges saw it. That's the sort of thing that should make every fighter scared of going to a decision -- even Ferguson. If the judges can look at a round that saw Ferguson get headkicked from one end of the cage to the other and score it in his favor, they simply can't be trusted. It didn't result in an outright robbery this time, but it's still a disturbing sign that MMA judging has serious problems that no one seems to be even trying to fix.Nasty As He Wanna Be: Marcus Brimage
After winning a clear-cut decision over Stephen Bass he took to the microphone and said he'd like to thank his sponsors, "when I get some." Then he did a post-fight sitdown with our own Ariel Helwani
that was hilariously inappropriate, necessitating the use of the old-timey test pattern to protect him from himself. Seriously, for those of you wondering what he said, don't. You're better off this way. If I could somehow un-know it, I would. Let's just say that the next time a fighter asks if he can "get graphic" in a conversation about his sexual preferences, Helwani will almost certainly tell him no. The mental images that Brimage painted are the kind that disturb the sleep. That said, he's just so damn likable. He's still a little raw in the cage, but he's got real potential. If he can sharpen his skills and get some experience (without getting himself banned from giving post-fight interviews) he could be a legitimate future prospect.Most in Need of a New Way to Spend His Saturday Nights: Steve Mazzagatti
I initially thought Dana White went a little too far in calling him the worst ref in the history of fighting (whoever was working those Christians vs. lions bouts in the Coliseum was pretty bad), but now I'm starting to come around to that assessment. It's not even the magnitude of the mistakes so much as the amazing consistency of them. He let the Johnny Bedford-Louis Gaudinot bout go on long after Gaudinot had quit fighting back, and he had absolutely nothing to say about the various illegal and/or attempted illegal blows in the Bisping-Miller fight. It's to the point now that, when he's announced as the ref for a given fight and the crowd boos, that's how you know you're dealing with an educated crowd. Mazzagatti needs to up his game or else find something else to do, because one of these days he's going to get somebody seriously hurt.Least Charitable Assessment of a Main Event: Dana White
Calling the Bisping-Miller fight "the most one-sided fight" he's seen in the UFC is just ridiculous. Even if White isn't much of a Miller fan (and he isn't), we've seen far less competitive matches over the years. Anderson Silva-Chris Leben comes to mind. Sean Gannon-Brandon Lee Hinkle is one the UFC might rather forget entirely, but it's up there as well. Hell, even the Bedford-Gaudinot fight earlier in the night was more lopsided, only in part because of the tremendous size difference. Yes, Miller got tired early and was never really in the fight after that, but we've seen way worse. Trying to bury a guy who could turn out to be a legitimate draw for your company is a move that I can't quite fathom. Lighten up, Dana. And give "Mayhem" a second chance.