The clock hasn’t turned midnight on Cinderella just yet.
Nicco Montano, seeded No. 14 among 16 cast members, defeated No. 2 Barb Honchak by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) in the semifinals of The Ultimate Fighter 26 women’s flyweight title tournament in an episode that aired Wednesday night.
Montano, a longshot and veritable unknown at the beginning of the competition, will now compete in the first-ever UFC women’s flyweight title bout at the TUF 26 Finale on Dec. 1 in Las Vegas. Her opponent will be the winner of a bout on next week’s episode between No. 2 Roxanne Modafferi and No. 12 Sijara Eubanks.
Honchak (10-3), the former Invicta flyweight champion and the best 125-pound women’s fighter in the world for years, was a solid favorite coming into TUF 26.
The semifinal bout was back and forth and a war of attrition — far closer than the scores would have indicated. Montano sealed the first round by taking Honchak down in the latter half and landing hard ground-and-pound, particularity elbows. Honchak seemed to take the second with hard right hands throughout and a late slam.
But Montano (4-2) took it back in the third. After a mostly even round, Montano took Honchak down in the final 10 or so seconds, landed hard elbows, and then, as Honchak got back to her feet, landed two solid knees.
For Montano, 28, it was by far the biggest win of her carer. Honchak, 38, meanwhile, had not lost since 2010. The semifinal bouts this season won’t be exhibitions like most on TUF. This one was scored for all three rounds and will go on the official records of the two fighters.
Here are the semifinal matchups and results:
No. 14 Nicco Montano def. No. 2 Barb Honchak via unanimous decision
Here are the second-round results:
No. 1 Roxanne Modafferi def. No. 8 Emily Whitmire via TKO (ground-and-pound) in Round 1
No. 12 Sijara Eubanks def. No. 4 DeAnna Bennett via KO (head kick) in Round 1
No. 2 Barb Honchak def. No. 10 Rachael Ostovich via unanimous decision
No. 14 Nicco Montano def. No. 6 Montana Stewart via unanimous decision
Here are the complete first-round results:
No. 1 Roxanne Modafferi def. No. 16 Shana Dobson via TKO (ground-and-pound) in Round 1
No. 4 DeAnna Bennett def. No. 13 Karine Gevorgyan via TKO (ground-and-pound) in Round 1
No. 6 Montana Stewart def. No. 11 Ariel Beck via submission (D’arce choke) in Round 1
No. 14 Nicco Montano def. No. 3 Lauren Murphy via unanimous decision
No. 12 Sijara Eubanks def. No. 5 Maia Stevenson via submission (kimura) in Round 2
No. 2 Barb Honchak def. No. 15 Gillian Robertson via TKO (ground and pound) in Round 2
No. 10 Rachael Ostovich def. No. 7 Melinda Fabian via submission (rear-naked choke) in Round 1
No. 8 Emily Whitmire def. No. 9 Christina Marks via submission (armbar) in Round 1
The season is being coached by former UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez and former WSOF lightweight champion Justin Gaethje. The winner of the TUF 26 tournament will be awarded the inaugural UFC women’s flyweight title.
Alvarez and Gaethje will fight at UFC 218 on Dec. 2 at the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
Here is the TUF 26 roster divided by team:
Team Alvarez: Dobson, Marks, Eubanks, Bennett, Honchak, Fabian, Beck
Team Gaethje: Modafferi, Whitmire, Stevenson, Gevorgyan, Robertson, Ostovich, Stewart, Montano, Murphy (formerly of Team Alvarez)
Advanced to the finals: Montano
Advanced to the semifinals: Modafferi, Eubanks, Honchak, Montano
Eliminated in semifinals: Honchak
Eliminated in Round 2: Whitmire, Bennett, Ostovich, Stewart
Eliminated in Round 1: Dobson, Gevorgyan, Beck, Murphy, Stevenson, Robertson, Fabian, Marks