By Thomas Gerbasi [Watch the TUF 9 Finale]
LAS VEGAS, June 20 – James Wilks and Ross Pearson made it a sweep for the United Kingdom Saturday night at The Palms, as the two Brits defeated DaMarques Johnson and Andre Winner, respectively, to win their divisions of The Ultimate Fighter: Team US vs UK.
In the welterweight final, James Wilks blitzed DaMarques Johnson at the opening bell and didn’t stop attacking until he had submitted his foe and earned recognition as season nine’s 170-pound Ultimate Fighter.
Wilks (7-2) jumped on Johnson (14-7) early, silencing the crowd with some well-placed knees. Soon, the fight went to the mat and Wilks kept the heat on as he looked for a submission. But just as suddenly, Johnson roared back with some flush ground strikes that got him back in the fight. From the botton, Wilks kept looking for submissions, but Johnson wouldn’t give in. With 1:30 left in the round, the two stood, but Wilks wouldn’t release his grip, eventually taking Johnson back to the canvas and attempting a rear naked choke. And though Johnson slipped out of the first one, he wasn’t so lucky the second time, as Wilks secured the tap out at 4:54 of the opening round.
The Ultimate Fighter lightweight final was fought in a phone booth for 15 minutes, and when it was over, it was Ross Pearson who emerged victorious over his UK teammate Andre Winner to earn the unanimous decision win and the season nine title at 155 pounds.
All three judges scored it 29-28 for Pearson.
“Andre’s one tough fighter,” he said. “I knew it wasn’t gonna be an easy fight.”
The battlin’ Brits met in the center of the Octagon to kick the fight off, and they stood in the pocket in an effort to get the early lead while striking. Pearson (11-3) landed the harder blows, and the two eventually locked up against the fence. While there, Winner (10-3-1) was able to get his shots in, with an inadvertent low knee forcing a brief halt to the action. After the fight resumed, the two slugged it out briefly before clinching again at the fence. The round ended with a brief flurry by Winner.
The war of attrition continued against the fence in the second round, with neither fighter able to pull ahead while locked up in close. When separated though, it was Pearson landing the crisper and more frequent blows, and there was more of the same in the third, with the harder shots consistently being landed by the former bricklayer and new Ultimate Fighter.
Chris Lytle and Kevin Burns left it all in the Octagon in their three round welterweight bout, and after 15 spirited minutes of back-and-forth action, it was Lytle emerging victorious via a close unanimous decision.
Scores were 29-28 across the board for Lytle, who improves to 37-17-4; Burns falls to 8-3.
There was no feeling out process between these two welterweights, with Lytle and Burns both swinging for the fences with practically every swing. Burns’ fast hands allowed him to land the more frequent shots, and in the final minute, he was able to stun the granite-chinned Lytle with a right uppercut and put him on the mat briefly before a furious assault that almost put ‘Lights Out’ out of the fight.
Head clear, Lytle came out firing in round two, jarring Burns with an overhand right. Burns quickly got his bearings and fired back, eventually shooting for – and getting – the takedown. Lytle got back to his feet and continued throwing heavy-handed hooks and uppercuts, and by the second half of the round, his body shots looked to be having an effect on Burns, who received two stern warnings from referee Herb Dean for low kicks.
Lytle opened the third with a huge hook that opened a cut over Burns’ left eye. The Iowan fired back immediately with kicks, as Lytle stalked and again tried to hit paydirt with the right hand. Burns was obviously tired, but still game, even as Lytle methodically attacked to the head and body, and the two went toe-to-toe until the final bell.
In the main card opener, former world lightweight title challenger Joe Stevenson broke a two-fight losing streak by going back to his groundfighting roots and drilling out an exciting three round unanimous decision win over Nate Diaz.
“Nate is a very dangerous guy,” said Stevenson. “Luckily, I had great coaching and I didn’t wear myself out. There was no monkey on my back in this fight. There was no pressure.”
Scores were 29-28 across the board for Stevenson, who improved to 35-10 after dropping back-to-back bouts to Diego Sanchez and Kenny Florian; Diaz falls to 10-4.
Stevenson shot for the takedown immediately and got it, with Diaz trying to sink in a guillotine choke. Stevenson powered free, but in the process, Diaz was able to better his position and start to unleash strikes as he worked for his opponent’s arm. Stevenson kept working though, locking up Diaz with his signature guillotine choke. Now it was Diaz’ turn to escape, and the two continued to battle it out on the mat to the delight of the packed house, with Stevenson finishing strong behind some hard knees to the head and body.
The fight went right back to the mat to start the second round, and no one complained about seeing this high level action, with both fighters trading momentum shifts. With 90 seconds gone, the two stood briefly, but in the return visit to the mat moments later, it was Stevenson getting in the top position and landing strikes as he tried to pin Diaz against the fence. A brief stalemate while the two stood followed, with Stevenson again doing solid groundwork from the top as Diaz still tried to mount his offense from the bottom.
The groundfighting battle continued in the final round, with Stevenson going back to his roots in impressive fashion. Diaz was just as determined to turn things around though, and when he got on top, he was able to score points with his punches before trying a couple of submissions that were ultimately unsuccessful. With one minute left, the two finally separated, with Diaz tagging Stevenson a few times while standing before the final bell sounded.
Hail Britannia! Wilks and Pearson are Ultimate Fighter Winners
Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - James Wilks and Ross Pearson made it a sweep for the United Kingdom Saturday night at The Palms, as the two Brits defeated DaMarques Johnson and Andre Winner, respectively, to win their divisions of The Ultimate Fighter: Team US vs UK.