On Saturday, Nov. 30, the UFC held The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale from the Mandalay Bay Event Center in Las Vegas.

In the night’s main event, top-10 lightweights and TUF alums Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz clashed for a third time. Diaz submitted Maynard on the reality show’s fifth season via guillotine choke, but Maynard got revenge in the main event of UFC Fight Night 20 in 2010, edging Diaz via split decision. Both fighters were looking to bounce back from stoppage losses; Maynard to T.J. Grant and Diaz to Josh Thomson.

Also on the main card, the promotion crowned the winners of the 18th season of The Ultimate Fighter. In the women’s half of the ladder, Team Rousey’s Jessica Rakoczy squared off with Team Tate product Julianna Pena. On the men’s side, Team Tate’s Chris Holdsworth faced off with Team Rousey fighter Davey Grant.

The 10-fight event kicked off at 7:30 p.m. ET with a single bout on the promotion’s YouTube and Facebook pages, four additional preliminary card fights followed on Fox Sports 1, with the main card beginning at 10 p.m. ET.

Diaz crushes Maynard

Lightweight Nate Diaz put a stamp on his trilogy with Gray Maynard with a violent, first-round stoppage due to strikes.

Maynard took the center of the cage to begin the fight. After trading some looping hooks, Maynard scored with a single-leg takedown. Diaz scrambled back to his feet and scored with a big throw, but the fight quickly returned to the feet. As Maynard rushed forward, Diaz connected with a counter, straight left that buckled Maynard’s knees. Maynard backpedaled along the cage and Diaz teed off with combination after combination. Maynard desperately tried to survive, but Diaz was relentless. Punch after punch connected and referee Yves Lavinge stepped in to stop the assault.

Pena dominates Rakoczy, wins TUF title

Bantamweight Julianna Pena became the first female winner of The Ultimate Fighter, dominating former boxing champion Jessica Rakoczy and scoring a first-round TKO victory.

Pena pushed forward immediately and seemed unfazed by Rakoczy’s counter strikes. Pena scored with a takedown, but Rakoczy was able to kick her off and get back to her feet. It was short-lived as Pena again tripped Rakoczy to the mat in the center of the cage. Rakoczy again tried to kick Pena off, but this time Pena moved to side control and then the full mount. Once on top, Pena was relentless with punches and elbows. Rakoczy desperately tried to escape, but referee Mario Yamasaki had seen enough, halting the contest with one second remaining in the opening round.

Holdsworth submits Grant to claim men’s TUF title

In the men’s side of the TUF ladder, Team Tate’s Chris Holdsworth claimed the six-figure contract with a second-round submission of Team Rousey’s Davey Grant.

Both fighters scored with heavy shots in the opening minutes of the fight. Holdsworth was the first to try and bring the fight to the canvas, but Grant was able to keep the fight upright. Grant then shot, but Holdsworth shrugged him off along the cage. Holdsworth again sought a takedown, but Grant showcased great balance. In the waning seconds of the round, Grant looked for a throw, but it was ill-timed as Holdsworth landed in the top position.

A wild exchange opened round two as Holdsworth looked for a head kick that Grant caught. Grant fired back with a kick of his own, but allowed Holdsworth to get in deep on a takedown . Once on the ground, Holdsworth took over. He quickly moved to mount and then took Grant’s back. Grant tried to defend, but eventually succumbed to the rear-naked choke.

Duke batters Morgan

Team Rousey’s Jessamyn Duke showcased an improved striking attack as she battered her TUF teammate Peggy Morgan en route to a unanimous decision win.

Duke fired combinations to kick off the fight. Morgan responded by looking for the clinch along the fence, but ate an onslaught of knees. Duke reversed the position and locked on an arm-in guillotine choke and pulled guard. Morgan survived the submission attempt, but quickly found herself in a triangle attempt. Duke rained elbows from her back, but the round would expire before she could finish.

The second round opened just like the first as Duke delivered a cross-hook combination. That would set the tone of the round as Duke continued to land it at will. Morgan marched forward through the shots and looked to land her jab, but Duke’s punches found their mark with regularity. Duke scored with a takedown as the round came to a close.

Morgan came out firing in round three, but Duke’s counters continued to land. As Duke marched her toward the fence, Morgan absorbed a lot of punishment. Duke looked to drag the fight to the ground with a headlock, but gave up her back in the process. Morgan looked to secure a rear-naked choke, but Duke was able to roll into her half guard. Referee Kim Winslow stood up the fight in the final minute and Duke went back to landing with her hands until the final bell.

Pennington too much for Modafferi

In a battle of Team Tate bantamweights, Raquel Pennington edged out veteran Roxanne Modafferi via unanimous decision.

The opening round featured a measured pace as both fighters looked to find their range. Modafferi landed with volume throughout the frame, but Pennington countered with heavy right hands. Late in the round Modafferi looked for a takedown against the cage, but Pennington shrugged her off and landed a big elbow.

Pennington opened up in round two, scoring at will with her strikes. Modafferi again looked for a takedown, but ate a right hand as Pennington sprawled and landed in her guard. Modafferi looked for an armbar, but Pennington defended and delivered short shots from the top position.

In the final stanza, the fight continued on the feet as Modafferi could not secure an early takedown. As Pennington landed another right hand, Modafferi shot again but Pennington sprawled and landed in the half guard. She dropped more punches from the top position until Modafferi worked back to her feet. Once standing, Pennington latched onto Modafferi’s neck and looked for a standing guillotine choke. Modafferi dropped to her back as Pennington mounted her, but the fight went the distance.

Preliminary Card Summary

In an unfortunate and bizarre series of events, Akira Corassani claimed a first-round win via disqualification over Maximo Blanco. Blanco barreled in and clipped Corassani with a pair of right hands and took the fight to the ground. As Corassani started to get back up, Blanco delivered a knee flush to his face. Referee Mario Yamasaki halted the bout for the illegal, intentional foul, handing Corassani the win.

Finland’s Tom Niinimaki made a successful UFC debut, edging out grappling ace Rani Yahya via split decision. Niinimaki was not intimidated by the Brazilian’s credentials on the mat, as he repeatedly scored takedowns and controlled Yahya from the top position. The fighters frequently traded positions with technical transitions and reversals over the course of the entire fight, but it was Niinimaki who was the more active fighter. As such, two of the judges at cageside scored the fight in his favor.

Heavyweights Jared Rosholt and Walt Harris went the distance in both fighters’ Octagon debuts, with Rosholt walking away with a unanimous decision win. Harris landed heavy shots on the feet in the opening round, rocking Rosholt twice. However, the former Oklahoma State wrestler recovered and fired back in round two. In the final frame, Rosholt used his wrestling to plant Harris on his back and secure the decision victory.

Welterweight Sean Spencer earned his second straight Octagon win with a one-sided decision win over last-minute opponent Drew Dober. From the opening bell, Spencer scored with heavy shots on the feet. Dober frequently looked for takedowns, but Spencer was able to keep the fight upright throughout. As the fight wore on, Dober’s face began to swell and bleed from Spencer’s strikes, but he did not go down. All three judges gave Spencer all three rounds.

In a battle of debuting flyweights, Josh Sampo scored a second-round submission win over Ryan Benoit. Benoit scored early with his striking, but Sampo countered with a big right hand and took the fight to the mat. The pair traded positions on the ground for the remainder of the fight, with Sampo securing a rear-naked choke late in the middle frame that coerced a tap from Benoit.

FULL RESULTS
Nate Diaz def. Gray Maynard by TKO (punches). Round 1, 2:38
Julianna Pena def. Jessica Rakoczy by TKO (strikes). Round 1, 4:59 – women’s TUF 18 final
Chris Holdsworth def. Davey Grant by submission (rear-naked choke). Round 2, 2:10 – men’s TUF 18 final
Jessamyn Duke def. Peggy Morgan by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
Raquel Pennington def. Roxanne Modafferi by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Akira Corassani def. Maximo Blanco by disqualification (illegal knee). Round 1, 0:25
Tom Niinimaki def. Rani Yahya by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)
Jared Rosholt def. Walter Harris by unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
Sean Spencer def. Drew Dober by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
Josh Sampo def. Ryan Benoit by submission (rear-naked choke). Round 2, 4:31

Photo: Nate Diaz (R) battles Gray Maynard (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)