Rony Mariano is Brazil's first-ever "Ultimate Fighter."
The featherweight won the divisional final of the Brazilian edition of TUF, held on the main card of UFC 147, defeating Godofredo Pepey by unanimous decision. He took two of the three rounds, earning identical 29-28 scores from all three judges.
Compared to some of the fireworks the night had seen by then, the fight was relatively lackluster, with Pepey trying hard to bring the fight to the ground, resorting to pulling guard on several occasions. It didn't matter, as he could do little from the bottom position.
It was an emotional journey for Mariano, who goes by "Jason." He walked into the cage with tears in his eyes, and left it the same way after being overcome by everything he'd experienced leading up to his big night.
"It's a great honor for me," he said through an interpreter. "I've been hungry sometimes. I've been without a home, but you can always dream. Just go out and make it happen."
The first round was closely contested with Pepey choosing to pull guard twice, leaving him in a position where he ate some punches while hunting a submission, but he never came close despite working hard for a kimura midway through. Mariano had the two best moments of the round with a flying knee that connected and a big slam takedown.
Pepey pulled guard again in the second, but it was a decision that backfired as he couldn't find anything from the bottom while Mariano connected with punches and elbows. Mariano eventually let him up and landed the round's most significant strikes.
Mariano had few problems in the third, ensuring the win.
He's now 11-3 overall, and for his efforts, wins a UFC contract.