Saturday night in Las Vegas, The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale was largely about the 115-pound ladies. Even so, co-main eventers Jeremy Stephens and Charles Oliveira, considered two of the more exciting fighters on the roster, weren’t about to give up the limelight without a fight.
Oliveira quickly established himself as the dominant force, quickly taking Stephens to the mat and locking up his left arm. Try as he might to free himself, including scooping Oliveira up and slamming him to the mat, Stephens couldn’t shake his grasp.
The Brazilian eventually locked out the arm, but Stephens toughed it out, and eventually wriggled free, reversed position and landed some ground and pound. But once the fight hit the feet, which was supposed to be Stephens’ world in this fight, Oliveira went toe-to-toe with him giving as good as he got.
Oliveira continued to attack Stephens throughout the fight, taking him down repeatedly and attacking with armbars and chokes. Although the ground game was his domain, Oliveira couldn’t find a way to finish Stephens. He dominated, he attacked, but Stephens defended.
Stephens came out firing in the final frame, likely knowing that he would have to find a way finish Oliveira if he were to win the fight, but Oliveira again forced him to the canvas.
Stephens stayed off the mat for much of the rest of the round, but even when he forced Oliveira to stand, the Brazilian continued to score well on the feet. Oliveira kneed Stephens in the latter part of the round and drug him down into his full guard. Stephens landed a few good punches and hard elbows from inside the guard, but it wasn’t enough to win the fight.
When the scorecards were read, they unanimously favored Oliveira: 30-27, 29-28, 29-28.
“I came here and I striked with him,” said Oliveira after the fight, trying to quiet the naysayers that felt Stephens would out-duel him on the feet. “If you’re gonna beat me, you’re going to have to be better than me.”
The victory is Oliveira’s third consecutive should move him up from his spot at No. 14 in the UFC featherweight rankings, possibly even propel him into the top ten.
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