Jay Primetown takes a look at the five biggest storylines to develop from The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale in Las Vegas, Nevada #5 Time for TUF Changes– In the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), the stakes were as high as they have ever been in the 20 seasons the show has aired in the United States. For the first time in the history of the show, the winner of the season would be crowned with a UFC championship. While the introduction of a division and a proper tournament added some intrigue into the season, it’s clear by the lukewarm television ratings that a reboot is in order. Very few shows in American television history have had 20 seasons and of those that did, most will you tell that the early seasons were the best (Fans of The Simpsons are united on that front!). It’s clear the UFC holds the reality show concept to introduce new fighters dear to their heart. Dana White has numerous times said that TUF saved Zuffa / UFC from closing up business, so it’s unlikely they will ever pull the plug on the show entirely. One idea that has been rumored is for TUF to change into a fight camp vs. fight camp show. For example, American Top Team vs. Blackzilians or Team Alpha Male vs Nova Uniao. Many fans want to have an inside look at how the top camps in the sport operate and this would give the type of access that fans want. Another idea would be to make a second chance season to give guys who have been cut by the UFC another opportunity in the organization. Whatever is decided, a change is needed to give fans a different perspective from what they have seen the past 20 seasons. #4 The Expanding Skill Set of Do Bronx – Charles Oliveira has always been known for his offensive grappling. He’s the first and only person to ever submit Japanese mainstay Hatsu Hioki which shows just how good he is in that facet of MMA. As he took on #10 ranked Jeremy Stephens, many wondered how Oliveira would handle the power striking from Stephens. “Lil Heathen” Stephens also has good takedown defense which many thought would force this fight into a prolonged striking exchange. On Friday night, Oliveira showed advances in his striking and a much stronger offensive wrestling game forcing Stephens to the ground for the majority of the first two rounds. It was the most well rounded performance of Oliveira’s career and should push him into the top 10 of the UFC rankings before the end of 2014. With the victory, “Do Bronx” is looking at a bout with the likes of Dennis Bermudez or Dustin Poirier. In a time in which Brazil has struggled to produce new stars, a dynamic finisher like Oliveira who can compete with the best in all facets of MMA is a breath of fresh air. #3 Looking Ahead in the Strawweight Division – With the eight strawweight matchups at the TUF 20 Finale, the division has really begun to take shape. A dominant victory by Tecia Torres over Angela Magana should volt her into the top five of the division. While Joanne Calderwood struggled early on against Seo Hee Ham, her ability to dominate in the grappling was a surprise and raises her stock as well. Jessica Penne was in a dog fight with Randa Markos, but her ability to transition on the mat and dominate control was the difference in a close fight. All three of these winners are within a victory of an opportunity at the strawweight championship. A bit further down in the pecking order are Felice Herrig who was able to outmuscle and outwrestle veteran Lisa Ellis to earn a second round submission win. Another fighter who was able to score a submission win was Aisling Daly who dominated Australian Alex Chambers to get a first round stoppage win. Rounding out the strawweight fights was Heather Clark getting the best of Bec Rawlings and Angela Hill dominating Emily Kagan with strikes to score a dominant decision win. Look for all of these ladies to be mixed and matched against each other again in the spring of 2015. #2 My Take on Eye Pokes – In Friday night’s lightweight bout between Daron Cruickshank and KJ Noons, an eye poke once again marred the result of a promising fight. Less than a week after Urijah Faber scored a controversial with some help from an eye poke, the fight between Cruickshank and Noons needed to be stopped due to a poke. Early in the second round, Noons inadvertently swiped Cruickshank’s eye causing a significant cut on the eye lid. Cruickshank immediately put his hand over his eye and explained he was unable to see. With the bout ending in an accidental eye poke prior to the 3rd round, it was called a no contest. It was another unfortunate situation which resulted in a fight being ruined due to an accident. It’s time to consider making some changes to reduce the amount of eye pokes in the organization. The easiest and most effective change would be to use different gloves than what are currently utilized. Bellator uses a curved glove and since its implementation has really reduced the amount of eye poke fouls. It’s a win for the fighters and a win for the fans. If the UFC is serious about changing the sport for the better, it’s time for a new set of gloves. #1 A Champion has been Crowned – In the TUF 20 Finale main event, Carla Esparza faced Rose Namajunas to become the first strawweight champion in UFC history. The two time NAIA All American in wrestling was widely considered the top strawweight entering the TUF house, but at the time of the opening bell was an underdog to the young Namajunas who really built a following with her aggressive offensive attack and ability to finish in her fights on TUF. In this matchup, it didn’t take long for Esparza’s grappling to become the dominant factor in this fight. Namajunas was dangerous very early on, but once Esparza realized that Namajunas’ submission attempts wouldn’t work on her, she took control of the fight. As the fight entered round three, the result was all but a formality when Esparza locked in a submission and forced Namajunas to tap. It’s been a year since the UFC announced it was a starting a strawweight division, but the person most considered to be the best at that time is the one now holding the belt. Unlike the women’s bantamweight division, strawweight has a laundry list of challengers for the belt. That list begins with undefeated Polish striker Joanna Jedrzejczyk who earned a controversial split decision win over Brazilian Claudia Gadelha on Saturday night. Dana White has already stated that the Polish fighter would be next in line. If Esparza can beat her, the likes of Joanne Calderwood, Claudia Gadelha, and Tecia Torres are all worthy challengers beyond that. Esparza is the champion now, but will have plenty of competition for years to come.
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