LAS VEGAS -- Frankie Edgar wanted to make a statement win on Friday night. He did just that. The former UFC lightweight champion knocked out Chad Mendes was a savage left hook just two minutes into the opening round of The Ultimate Fighter Finale 22's main event.
Edgar (19-4-1) was beating Mendes to the punch throughout the fight's initial exchanges, but the ending sequence was a thing of beauty. Edgar cracked Mendes with a right, then dropped him with a picture-perfect left that ignited the crowd inside The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan.
Edgar has now won five straight fights over the likes of Charles Oliveira, Urijah Faber, B.J. Penn, Cub Swanson, and Mendes (17-4), and last three of which he finished. And Edgar made a point to let the world know, calling out UFC President Dana White for a shot at the winner of tomorrow's UFC 194 main event between featherweight champion Jose Aldo and interim champion Conor McGregor.
"I don't know why Dana (White) isn't here. He left on the way out," Edgar said. "He knows he didn't want to disappoint me. Come on, you got to give it to me.
"Three finishes in my last five fights. If someone doesn't show up tomorrow, I'm ready."
They may not have been the co-main event, but Tony Ferguson (20-3) and Edson Barboza (16-4) put on a show for the Las Vegas crowd, trading heavy shots for eight minutes in ferocious ‘Fight of the Year' contender that saw Ferguson ultimately extend his win streak to seven straight.
Ferguson came out on fire early, catching Barboza off-guard with a furious and varied pressure attack. Ferguson got a point taken away by referee "Big" John McCarthy after nailing Barboza with an illegal upkick off a failed rolling kneebar attempt, but once the action resumed the two lightweight contenders went right to war, as Ferguson winged relentless heavy rights and lefts, and Barboza smashed hard strikes and spinning kicks into the American's midsection.
A wild exchange of elbows opened the second round and left both men drenched in their own blood, with Ferguson split open across his left cheek and a wide cut adorning Barboza's forehead. The end came soon after. In a wild sequence, Ferguson stuffed a takedown attempt then locked up a slick d'arce choke, which left Barboza little recourse but to tap.
"I said I was going to take apart this entire division and that's what I'm doing," Ferguson declared.
"I'm top five in the lightweight division, there's no doubt about that."
The finals of The Ultimate Fighter 22 were never in doubt, as surprise finalist Ryan Hall (5-1) dominated Conor McGregor's SBG Ireland teammate Artem Lobov (11-11-1, 1 NC) to win the season's title. Hall, a late replacement for Team McGregor's Saul Rogers, controlled the action from pillar to post, using his feared grappling and leg lock arsenal to nearly finish Lobov several times, including a nasty first-round rear-naked choke attempt.
Hall spent a majority of the bout either working from Lobov's back or fishing for submissions from bottom position. His positional dominance led to a staggering striking differential, as Hall landed over 100 more punches than Lobov and owned the scorecards to the tune of a 30-27, 30-26, and 30-26 unanimous decision.
"Artem is an incredibly tough opponent. I had a lot of challenges in this camp," Hall said. "Artem has incredible shots. It's an honor and I want to thank all of my coaches and the fighters from the house that took the time off to help me. Next, I want to rest and then I'll be ready for whatever comes my way."
Elsewhere on the card, Evan Dunham (17-6) routed Joe Lauzon (25-11) to pick up his third win of 2015. Lauzon could never going and Dunham took advantage, outstriking his foe by a wide margin and even earning a pair of 10-8 rounds en route to a decision victory. Dunham consistently found a home for his lead uppercut and battered Lauzon with swarming flurries, making a case for a top-15 opponent as he heads into the new year.
"My hands were working really well for me and I felt like there was a speed difference," Dunham said. "When I wanted to really go, I could easily get in and get out, so that was a big difference."
Japanese featherweight Tatsuya Kawajiri (35-8-2) won an uneventful but one-sided bout over UFC rookie Jason Knight (13-2), sweeping the judges scorecards to capture an easy unanimous decision. Kawajiri's wrestling proved to be too much for Knight, a late replacement for Mirsad Bektic, as he found himself trapped on his back for much of the contest and split open below his left eye by an early elbow. The win pushes the 37-year-old Kawajiri to 8-1 over his last nine fights.
"I wanted to win that fight in fantastic fashion so that I could fight the winner of tonight's main event between Frankie Edgar and Chad Mendes next," Kawajiri said. "But American fighters have a very high skill level, so I think I need more practice."
In early action, Team Faber's Julian Erosa (15-2) edged out Team McGregor's Marcin Wrzosek (10-3) in a battle of TUF 22 semifinalists. Erosa's activity and submission attempts ultimately sealed the deal for the 26-year-old, as he took two of the judges scorecards, 29-28, to capture a split decision win in his UFC debut.