by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
LAS VEGAS – It was a chilly night in Sin City, but the action was white hot in The Pearl at the Palms Hotel & Casino where Roger Huerta made the move from over-hyped Sports Illustrated cover boy to iron-clad Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight contender.

Clearly the fight of the night, Huerta and Clay Guida fought one of the highest paced, most dynamic battles of the year. This fight was everything and more that the hype promised.

Guida appeared poised on the brink of victory as he dropped Huerta to his back in the second round, but somehow Huerta dug deep into his heart and found a way to survive. Then in the third round, Huerta shifted gears, yet again, rocked Guida and then took his back and clamped down the fight-ending rear naked choke.

Huerta was clearly overwhelmed with emotion after the fight, thanking God and his mother before declaring, “I want to bring the UFC to Mexico.”

The Ultimate Fighter welterweight finale went pretty much as expected, with the bigger Tommy Speer trying to utilize his size and strength, while Mac Danzig went for skill and technique. In short order, it was Danzig that took Speer to the ground and quickly transitioned to his back to sink in a rear naked choke.

Leading up to the finale, Danzig made no bones about why he signed up for the hit reality series. He wanted to win it all and build up his name to the legions of mixed martial arts fans around the world. He easily did that on Saturday night.

“I was really nervous going into this fight with Tommy,” said Danzig after the fight, although it didn’t show in his performance.

Asked if he would now drop back down to his usual weight of 155 pounds, the new Ultimate Fighter winner stated, “Absolutely. I’m really happy about jumping in the mix with (Roger Huerta and Clay Guida).”

In an amazing battle of wills, John Koppenhaver and Jared Rollins bloodied each other near the end of the first round, trading elbows on the ground, and commenced to fight a see-saw battle of wills.

As both fighters were cloaked in crimson, Rollins looked like he would end it with a succession of brutal knees, but Koppenhaver was able to reverse position on the ground and put Rollins out with a fight-ending ground and pound assault.

“I didn’t want to have to fight him tonight,” said Koppenhaver in tears after the fight. “I love him man. He’s a tough, tough dude.”

A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under the Machados, George Sotiropoulus, now training with UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra, wasted no time getting Billy Miles to the ground. Once there, he fixed himself on Miles’ back, locking in the rear naked choke at 1:36 of round one.

“I knew that was his weakness,” said Sotiropoulus of Miles’ ground game. “I knew once it was on the ground it was going to be over.”

In the opening bout of the live telecast on Spike TV, Dan Barrera and Ben Saunders fought a fairly close back-and-forth affair early with Barrera trying to employ a ground and pound attack, while Saunders went for the submissions. As the fight progressed, Saunders took over and earned the unanimous decision.

In the final preliminary bout, Troy Mandaloniz and Richie Hightower gave fans an exciting slugfest. Hightower took charge in the first half of the first round, landing some wide punches, along with a succession of forearms and knees. But in the end, it was Mandaloniz that caught Hightower walking into a stiff left jab, dropping him to the mat, and then finishing him off with a couple of hammerfists for the TKO.

Unable to compete in the semi-final round due to injury, Matt Arroyo made up for it with by putting on a submission clinic at the expense of John Kolosci at Saturday’s finale. He attempted several submissions, finally finishing Kolosci with an armbar late in the first round.

Roman Mitichyan’s fight in the finale was even more short-lived than his injury prone stint during the regular season, albeit this time in his favor. He immediately took Dorian Price to the mat and dropped into a straight ankle lock that had Price tapping almost immediately.

In the event’s opening bout, Paul Georgieff knocked Jonathan Goulet down with a left hook about halfway through round one, but it was Goulet that would call upon the depth of his experience to put the fight away. After going down, he grabbed Georgieff’s legs and put him on his back. The Canadian then transitioned through various positions to Georgieff’s back and locked on a rear naked choke, causing him to pass out.

Roger Huerta def. Clay Guida by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 0:51, R3
Mac Danzig def. Tommy Speer by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 2:01, R1
John Koppenhaver def. Jared Rollins by TKO (Strikes) at 2:01, R3
George Sotiropoulos def. Billy Miles by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 1:36, R1
Ben Saunders def. Dan Barrera by Unanimous Decision, R3
Troy Mandaloniz def. Richie Hightower by TKO (Strikes) at 4:20, R1
Matt Arroyo def. John Kolosci by Submission (Armbar) at 4:42, R1
Roman Mitichyan def. Dorian Price by Submission (Ankle Lock) at 0:23, R1
Jonathan Goulet def. Paul Georgieff by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 4:42, R1