Thompson utilizes wheel kick to set up finish against Ellenberger in TUF finale

ByBrett Okamoto ESPN logo
Monday, July 13, 2015

LAS VEGAS -- After landing one perfectly thrown spinning wheel kick against Jake Ellenberger, Stephen Thompson figured he might as well throw a second one.

As it turned out, that one landed, too.

Thompson (11-1) earned his fifth consecutive win on Sunday, knocking out Jake Ellenberger with a kick to the head at 4:29 of the first round. The welterweight fight headlined The Ultimate Fighter 21 Finale at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

With about one minute remaining in the opening round, Thompson dropped Ellenberger with a spinning kick. Ellenberger (30-10) somehow managed to get back to his feet, only to get hit by a second spinning shot that turned the lights out.

"He was standing right in front of me, not doing a whole lot of movement," Thompson said. "I heard my coach, my dad, tell me to spin. I knew I hit him on the top of the head the first time. He told me to do it again, I did and it landed, man."

A former world champion kickboxer, Thompson, 32, was forced to overcome some adversity earlier in the round. In an opening exchange, Ellenberger charged forward, hesitated to pick off Thompson's punches and then launched into a straight right hand that dropped Thompson in the center of the cage.

Thompson recovered quickly from the shot, however, bouncing up to his feet and tying Ellenberger up in a clinch near the fence. After separating, Thompson got to work. He landed a side kick to Ellenberger's face from a distance and nearly took Ellenberger's back after forfeiting an outside trip.

"I felt his punch," Thompson said. "It was one of those flash knockdowns. I was still coherent, my legs just went out. I didn't give up. That's what happens when you don't give up."

A straight left hand found its way through Ellenberger's defense later in the round. The shot bothered Ellenberger and appeared to freeze him a bit. That's when Thompson capitalized with the spinning kicks.

Thompson earns the sixth knockout victory of his career. Ellenberger falls to 1-4 in his past five fights.

Usman submits Hassan, earns win for Blackzilians

Kamaru Usman submitted Hayder Hassan at 1:19 of the second round via arm-triangle choke to win "The Ultimate Fighter" 21 reality series for the Boca Raton, Florida-based Blackzilians.

Usman (6-1) outwrestled Hassan throughout the welterweight fight, essentially neutralizing the knockout power of his American Top Team counterpart. Hassan (6-2) hurt Usman early in the second round with an uppercut, but that was about it.

The UFC awarded the Blackzilians' gym, home to Rashad Evans, Anthony Johnson and Vitor Belfort, among others, $300,000 for winning the series. TUF 21 was the first installment that featured a gym versus gym theme.

"I feel great, man," Usman said. "It was a long road. I've been working so hard for this. My manager [Glenn Robinson] believed in me when most didn't. I'm so glad he decided to trust me and put me in a position to represent my team."

Hassan did his best to remain upright in the face of Usman's takedowns, but he struggled to find enough space to get off his punches. Usman scored his first takedown of the fight two minutes in. He rode Hassan's back for a good portion of the round, targeting the side of his head with punches. Hassan managed to get back to his feet at one point, only to get planted again immediately by an outside trip.

In the second round, Hassan came out with a monster right uppercut that put Usman on skates. Even on shaky legs, however, Usman's wrestling advantage showed up. He enticed Hassan to come after him by backing up, and then drove into a strong double leg. He eventually moved to full mount, trapped the left arm and then popped to the side to produce the tap.

The 27-year-old welterweight has recorded finishes in each of his six professional wins. All five of his previous stoppages came via knockout.

Graves moves past Luque, remains undefeated

American Top Team welterweight Michael Graves kept his perfect record intact with a unanimous decision over Vicente Luque.

Graves (5-0) relied heavily on his wrestling background in the fight, converting six of 12 total takedown attempts. After dominating the first two rounds, he slowed down considerably in the third, but was never in danger of being finished. All three judges scored the 170-pound contest 29-28 in his favor.

After the bout, which showcased fighters from rival gyms, Graves was hard on himself for giving up the final round.

"I don't want to take anything away from Vicente or the Blackzilians, but I didn't want to lose the third round," Graves said. "I've been working hard and obviously I need to work harder.

"I wouldn't say [the takedowns] were there any time I went to them. Vicente is tough. I've been working hard with the guys at ATT. They've been beating me up on a regular basis."

Luque (7-5-1) had some success with his boxing combinations, but he failed to maintain any kind of momentum due to the takedowns. Graves, 24, put him on his back within the first 10 seconds of the fight. When he didn't have him down, he typically had him pushed against the cage, where he'd throw short punches.

In the final round, Luque sprawled on a telegraphed takedown and looked for a choke from the front head lock, but couldn't secure it. With 90 seconds left in the fight, Graves scrambled to top position.

Luque, 23, suffers his first official loss since 2013. It is the first fight of Graves' professional career to go the distance.

Masvidal proves successful at welterweight

Fighting at welterweight for the first time since 2010, Jorge Masvidal made quick work of a former middleweight in Cezar Ferreira.

Masvidal (29-9) handed Ferreira his second consecutive knockout loss, as he staggered him with an inside left elbow and then dropped him with a right hand in the first round.

Referee John McCarthy gave Ferreira (8-5) an opportunity to recover, but Masvidal followed him to the floor and landed five unanswered punches to finish the fight. The official time of the TKO finish was 4:22 of the round.

"Feels great to get a knockout," Masvidal said. "I knew it was a matter of time. At this weight, I feel I have an incredible gas tank."

Ferreira, who has now suffered four first-round knockouts losses, attempted to get Masvidal to the floor the majority of the round. He was successful once, ducking under a looping Masvidal right hand and driving in on a double leg, but wasn't able to keep him on the ground. According to immediate cageside stats, Ferreira landed just nine total strikes.

Masvidal intends to remain at 170 pounds, after compiling a 5-2 record in the UFC's lightweight division. Fighting out of American Top Team, Masvidal has 11 career wins via knockout.

Waterson delivers in first UFC bout

Making her UFC debut, former Invicta FC atomweight champion Michelle Waterson did not disappoint.

Waterson (13-4) made her first win in the Octagon look easy, submitting Angela Magana at 2:38 of the third round of their strawweight bout. It was Waterson's first appearance since losing the Invicta 105-pound title in December.

"Martial arts is not just a sport, it's a way of life," said Waterson, who trains out of Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "If you do it right, you can conquer your biggest fears."

The finish came midway through a dominant third round for Waterson. She hurt Magana with kicks on the feet and suplexed her to the ground. She eventually took Magana's back, flattened her out and secured the rear-naked choke finish -- the third of her career.

Magana (11-8) entered the fight as a 6-to-1 betting underdog. She threatened to pull off the upset in the first round, attacking Waterson from off her back with an armbar attempt. The hold appeared pretty tight, but Waterson eventually scrambled out and back to her feet. Later in the round, Waterson tossed Magana down again and moved into full mount.

Waterson's advantage on the floor continued to play out in the second round. She looked for an armbar of her own at one point and once again worked back into full mount. She started to find her groove on the feet as well, tagging Magana with kicks to the body and several hard right hands.

It was a completely dominant performance start to finish by Waterson, as indicated by cageside stats. Waterson outlanded Magana in total strikes, 102-19.

Magana falls to 0-4 in her past four bouts.

Blanco earns controversial stoppage

Maximo Blanco earned his third consecutive win inside the Octagon, thanks in part to a premature stoppage by referee Yves Lavigne.

Blanco (12-6-1) knocked outMike de la Torrein just 16 seconds in a featherweight bout, although it was clear de la Torre was conscious and still defending himself at the time of the stoppage.

The Venezuelan featherweight dropped de la Torre (13-5) with a right hook, but replays showed de la Torre maintained eye contact with Blanco as he fell, and he immediately jumped up and started working on a single-leg takedown. Lavigne, however, had already stepped in to stop the bout, based on the way de la Torre limply fell backward from the punch.

It was a somewhat controversial ending to a fight that got off on the wrong foot on Friday, when Blanco missed the 146-pound weight limit by 2.5 pounds.

"I have to acknowledge that I didn't make the weight," Blanco said. "But yes, I wanted to finish the fight early."

The stoppage didn't exactly sit well with de la Torre.

"I think it was an early stoppage," de la Torre said. "I don't know what to say; it was early. My last fight, I was hurt like that and they let me fight. The ref didn't even give me the chance to fight. I'm really upset right now."

The win improves Blanco's UFC mark to 4-3. The 16-second finish is the fastest of his career. De la Torre, who fights out of MMA Lab in Glendale, Arizona, falls to 1-2 in the UFC.

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