TUF 23 Finale Recap: Jedrzejczyk retains in excellent bout against Gadelha, Suarez shines in TUF finals

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

A fantastic title fight between Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Claudia Gadelha capped off an uneven finale event for The Ultimate Fighter 23 on Friday night, with Jedrzejczyk once again retaining her UFC Strawweight Championship.

Gadelha proved a game challenger early in the fight, knocking Jedrzejczyk down with the first quick strike that she landed and effectively utilizing her wrestling to control the action through the first ten minutes. Jedrzejczyk turned things around in the third, battling out of a couple of takedowns to increase her striking output significantly.

The strikes in the third started to wear Gadelha down, and though the gas tank started to deplete the heart of the challenger never wavered. She continued trying to engage Jedrzejczyk, but it started turning into a one-sided fight in the final two rounds. That was especially so of a vicious fourth round, which saw Jedrzejczyk’s speed and precision completely pick Gadelha apart. The striking disparity down the stretch was incredible, as Jedrzejczyk continued landing combination after combination while Gadelha couldn’t mount much more offense.

It was an extremely entertaining fight, one of the best of the 2016 thus far, but it wasn’t the only highlight in the strawweight field for the night.

In the finals of the 115 lb. tournament of TUF 23, Tatiana Suarez lived up to the promise shown throughout the season with an impressive first round submission over Amanda Cooper. It was another fun fight, with Cooper pulling off some nice sweeps on the ground and nearly catching an armbar before Suarez locked on a D’Arce choke/Japanese necktie variant choke that forced a furious tap.

That was an infinitely better fight than the dismal final between Andrew Sanchez and Khalil Rountree, with neither fighter really making a case they belong in the UFC. Sanchez got the win, but didn’t look very good at all in victory.

Bellator Lightweight Champ Will Brooks – who vacated that belt to get his release to enter the UFC – picked up his first win in the Octagon in expected fashion, out-grappling Ross Pearson to earn a clear decision victory. It wasn’t a standout performance, and won’t necessarily rocket him into the mix, but it was a solid start that puts him in the win column in the UFC.

The other standout moments from the night came in four (T)KO finishes, two from the main card, and two from the UFC Fight Pass Prelims. Perhaps most impressive was Doo Ho Choi, who continues to be a must-watch fighter. The 25-year-old dealt with some grappling from Thiago Tavares early, then knocked him out with a vicious and precise combination midway through the opening round. Joaquim Silva scored a ground and pound finish over Andrew Holbrook in just 34 seconds after throwing him to the ground off a caught kick. On Fight Pass, Kevin Lee handed Jake Matthews just his second career loss, forcing a stoppage after getting Matthews back, flattening him out, and unloading strikes. Finally, Li Jingliang kicked off the night with a first round knockout over Anton Zafir.

With four dull decisions on the Fox Sports 1 prelims, little stood out, with the only result worth noting from that two hour stretch being Gray Maynard’s victory over Fernando Bruno in his featherweight debut. That win snapped a four-fight losing streak for the former title challenger.

[Photo (c) Tom Heitman via USA Today Sports]

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