Grossly overshadowed by the hoopla surrounding the will-he, won’t-he appearance of Jose Aldo against Conor McGregor on the UFC 189 card (final verdict: he won’t be there, and Chad Mendes is in) is the fact that the day after what was to be the year’s biggest UFC PPV, there’s a free event going down: the finale of The Ultimate Fighter 21.

And if you’ve forgotten about it, you’re forgiven, because you’re not alone: TUF 21’s finale has essentially become the forgotten UFC event.

It’s not as if there isn’t good reason: until Aldo’s broken or bruised rib (depending upon which doctor you speak to, apparently), Aldo vs. McGregor was set to be possibly the biggest UFC event of all time. At least the biggest event since UFC 100. It was a grudge match that rivaled Lesnar vs. Mir II, with an unprecedented build-up and a big budget promotional campaign.

Then there was the TUF 21 finale, standing in the shadows, like the neglected little brother, almost in tears and dying to add “but what about me?”

The UFC went a similar route with their scheduling last year, when The Ultimate Fighter 19: Edgar vs. Penn took place on July 6, the day after UFC 175: Weidman vs. Machida. UFC 175 also had Ronda Rousey bolstering it. Edgar vs. Penn… well, it just couldn’t stack up.

This year’s main event of Stephen Thompson vs. Jake Ellenberger will do even less to bring in the casual fans — perhaps fitting, since the show is struggling to connect with casual viewers yet again this season.

Yet fans shouldn’t be quick to dismiss the event. For starters, it features the debut of the Karate Hottie: former Invicta atomweight champion Michelle Waterson, who moves up to join the UFC strawweights. With a couple of wins in the division, she could be another breakout star for the promotion, along the lines of Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Paige VanZant, who combined probably get more press than some of the UFC’s more established divisions.

Then there’s the aforementioned main event of Thompson vs. Ellenberger. While it’s been a while since Ellenberger was considered a title hopeful in the UFC, he’s still a top fighter, and Thompson is an excellent striker on a four fight win streak who’s looking to make a statement — and break into the top 15 of the division.

Along with names like Jorge Masvidal and Maximo Blanco, this could be a sleeper of a card. So don’t discount it come Sunday night. You might regret it come Monday morning.

 

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.