The Ultimate Fighter 19 may be an experience that BJ Penn (16-10-2) would simply rather forget. Last time he was featured on the show, his fighters didn’t perform particularly well, but at least he made amends by dominating Jens Pulver in the coaches fight. This time around it was Penn who played the part of obviously past-his-prime coach trying to make one last run, and Frankie Edgar (17-4-1) was simply not willing to let it happen. After his team went 8-3 against Penn’s on the show, producing all four finalists, Edgar dominated the former two division champion as we have never seen before, stopping him in the third round with ground and pound. From the moment Penn began his walk to the cage, the atmosphere surrounding him was not that of a confident former champion, but instead of a fighter who was on his last legs. Personally, I had been considering playing Edgar to win by decision (which hovered between -110 and -130 on fight day), but decided to pay a bit of extra juice and play Edgar -5.5 instead to account for a potential finish, and I’m glad I did.
Edgar proved that he is still every bit the elite fighter we saw against both Jose Aldo and Charles Oliveira, and with Aldo dropping out of his scheduled UFC 176 bout with Chad Mendes recently, Edgar is the only other fighter than Cub Swanson whose name belongs in title talks at the moment. I have no idea what the UFC plans to do about that August 2nd card, but Edgar versus Mendes is an acceptable pay-per-view headliner, even if it won’t move big numbers. Given the lack of resistance Penn offered, I would find it hard to believe Edgar couldn’t get himself prepared for that date, the only question is if he wants to or not. As for Penn, it was a great career, but as with so many others, a very unnecessary end. This fight was criticized from the time it was booked, and rightly so. Although people got excited as the bout approached, that had more to do with nostalgia towards Penn than any real thought he could come out and beat Edgar. In the light heavyweight final Corey Anderson (3-0) made quick work of Matt Van Buren (6-3), needing just 61 seconds to score the TKO victory which secured himself a UFC contract and motorcycle that he is contractually obligated to avoid riding. Anderson was pegged by many to be the fighter on this season who had the most potential, and while his fights in the house were not particularly awe-inspiring he showed steady improvement throughout the season and was simply a better boxer and wrestler than Van Buren. As TUF winners normally get some favorable treatment, I could see Anderson getting paired with someone like Cody Donovan or Nikita Krylov in his next outing. The middleweight final continued a time honored Ultimate Fighter Finale tradition, as it contained an upset. Eddie Gordon (7-1) was only a +140 underdog (bet $100 to win $140) by the time the bell rang to start his fight with Dhiego Lima (9-2), but merely 71 seconds later anyone holding one of those tickets had cashed it. Gordon was the much bigger fighter in this bout, as Lima is a natural welterweight, and he used that size and power to bully his opponent and hurt him with strikes. It appeared that he landed several strikes to the back of the head in his attempts to finish, but the referee saw no need to intervene. The win capped off a great weekend for Team Serra-Longo, as Gordon’s teammate Chris Weidman successfully defended his middleweight belt the night before, and training with the world’s best 185er seems to be helping Gordon’s game tremendously. At heavyweight, Derrick Lewis (11-2, 1 NC) notched his seventh consecutive TKO victory by stopping Guto Inocente (6-3) with some vicious ground and pound in the first round. Lewis is now 2-0 in the UFC with both wins coming by TKO, and with the state of the heavyweight division, he’s starting to turn some heads. His power and aggression makes him a dangerous fight for anyone, and while he doesn’t have the overall skills that some of the elite heavyweights possess, it’s hard to discount him in any fight. Ben Rothwell should be just about ready to return from his suspension, and that would provide an appropriate step up for Lewis. Kicking off the main card was undoubtedly the fight of the night. Dustin Ortiz (14-3) snuck out the judges decision over Justin Scoggins (9-1) to bring his UFC record to 3-1. Since losing a controversial split decision to John Moraga in January, Ortiz has been on the right side of two very close decisions against Scoggins and Ray Borg. The 25-year-old gutted out a very deep armbar attempt by Scoggins in the first round, and proceeded to outscramble the young ATT product over the final two stanzas to pick up the decision. Neither fighter’s stock should drop as a result of this performance though, as Scoggins still has plenty of time to regroup and get himself back in contention. Ortiz called out the eighth-ranked Chris Cariaso in his post-fight interview, and I think that would be another excellent flyweight tilt. The TUF 19 Finale featured a couple of standout individual performances as well. After arguably dropping the first two rounds (one of them with a point deduction), Leandro Issa (12-4) what many fighters refuse to and came out with urgency to find the stoppage in the third. He managed to drag the fight to the ground, and locked in a slick armbar as he was being shaken off the back of Jumabieke Tuerxun (14-2). Neither Adriano Martins (26-7) nor Robert Drysdale (7-0) had the need for such dramatic comebacks, as they dominated their bouts from the start and gained first round stoppages by KO and submission, respectively. Martins levelled Juan Manuel Puig (11-3) with a right hook that required no follow-up, while Drysdale latched on to the back of Keith Berish (5-1) and locked in a rear-naked choke that caused Berish to fall awkwardly on his left knee and resulted in a submission. Martins and Drysdale were the two biggest favorites on the card, and looked every part of it in their impressive victories. The UFC is taking a rare weekend off following UFC 175 and The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale, but they will return on Wednesday, July 16th for UFC Fight Night 45 featuring Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller. Three days after that, the Octagon heads to Dublin, Ireland for Fight Night 46, headlined by Conor McGregor and Diego Brandao. The betting lines for the main card of Fight Night 45 were recently released on MMA OddsBreaker and Several Bookmakers, and the odds for the remainder of that event as well as Fight Night 46 will be following shortly.