The sixteenth season of 'The Ultimate Fighter' has it's winner: Team Roy Nelson's Colton Smith, who used dominant wrestling and top positional control to take a unanimous decision win over Team Carwin's Mike Ricci. Smith defeated Ricci by judges scores of 30-27, 30-27, 30-26 at The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale in Las Vegas, Nev.
From the first bell to the last, this was Smith's bout. With the exception of one flurry at the end of round three, he was never in jeopardy and never in danger.
The pattern was basically the same. Smith would circle and exchange just a few strikes with Ricci on the outside. From there he'd level change, run Ricci into the fence and work from there as Ricci tried to either stand or avoid submission attempts. When Ricci tried to stand, Smith would get his hooks in and snatch him off of his base. And when he was able to take his back, Smith worked relentlessly for the rear naked choke. While Smith never really came close to submitting Ricci, he constantly had Ricci in defensive maneuvers just to stay alive.
The only strange note came in the second round. Smith threw an inadvertent groin kick in plain sight of referee Steve Mazzagatti, yet the referee didn't intervene or warn Smith whatsoever. Smith even looked to the referee prior to following up on an obviously hurt Ricci.
With less than a minute in the fight during the third round, Ricci was able to briefly take Smith's back and even threaten with an armbar, but the Army Ranger in Smith was able to avoid it to take the unaninous decision victory.
Ricci fought this bout at welterweight, but plans to compete at 155 in his next UFC bout.
MMA Fighting's Dave Doyle saw the final round as follows:
Round 3: Another high give to start round three. We're right back where we started as Smith scores an immediate takedown. Some booing in the crowd. Ricci has no answer for Smith's game plan. Smith again has his back and again applies a choke. Smith briefly mounts Ricci, but Ricci switches back to a sitting position. Midway through. Crowd booing, but both guys are working. Read the first two rounds and you've more or less got the gist of round three, as Smith works for the choke but can't finish him. One minute left. Ricci switches position with about 45 seconds left and gets Smith's back. Ricci gets it right back, though, and goes for one more choke in the final seconds. MMAFighting scores the round for Colton Smith, 10-9 (30-27 overall).