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Montano looks every bit the champ in TUF Finale main event

MONTANO vs MODAFFERI

(R-L) <a href='../fighter/Nicco-Montano'>Nicco Montano</a> kicks <a href='../fighter/Roxanne-Modafferi'>Roxanne Modafferi</a> in their women's flyweight championship bout during the TUF Finale event inside Park Theater on December 01, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC) There would be no glass slipper for Nicco Montano in The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale at the Park Theater in Las Vegas on Friday night. Instead, Cinderella received a gold championship belt, as the 14th seeded Montano capped off an improbable run on the reality show to defeat No. 1 seed Roxanne Modafferi via unanimous decision and claim the first women’s flyweight title in UFC history.

“I feel amazing,” Montano said. “I’m at a loss for words now. I’m so happy. I don’t know what else to say.”

There are no adequate words to describe what the 28-year-old from Albuquerque did, as she went from someone thinking of taking a step back from the sport to a fighter who defeated Lauren Murphy, Montana De La Rosa and Barb Honchak in succession before beating the veteran Modafferi and becoming a world champion. And despite the wide margin on the scorecards, she got a fight out of “The Happy Warrior.”

“I gave everything I had, I did my best,” said the 35-year-old Modafferi, a pioneer of the sport who took the fight on one day’s notice after Sijara Eubanks was pulled from the bout due to medical issues.  

Scores were 50-45 and 49-46 twice for Montano, now 5-2. Modafferi, who was originally scheduled to face Honchak on Friday’s card, falls to 21-15.

The fighters set a fast pace on the feet to begin the bout, Montano holding the edge over her veteran foe. Midway through the round, Montano scored a takedown, and Modafferi immediately went searching for a submission from her back. Montano defended well and brought the fight back to the feet with a minute left, but seconds after they stood, it was Modafferi scoring the takedown, putting her in control until the end of the round.

Modafferi kicked off round two with a hard right to the head that stunned Montano, and the Las Vegan followed up with a barrage of strikes, but Montano got her bearings back quickly. Modafferi kept pressing the action, though, and her unorthodox style was proving difficult for Montano to decipher. With under two minutes left, Montano found her range and was peppering her opponent, and while Modafferi turned a takedown attempt into her favor, Montano responded with a triangle choke attempt and some hard strikes until the horn sounded.

The third was tough to call, with both fighters keeping up a remarkably fast pace on the feet as they worked throughout the five-minute stanza. By the end of the round, both were showing the marks of battle on their face, but they didn’t stop moving.

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A takedown by Montano in the second minute of round four broke up the standup exchanges and put a notch in the scoring column for the New Mexico native. But they didn’t stay there long. Modafferi did put Montano on the deck briefly, and kept her locked up against the fence for a spell before breaking. Modaferri went on to bloody Montano with a trio of right hands, prompting Montano to look for – and get – an important takedown in the final minute.

Not surprisingly, neither fighter was willing to take their foot off the gas in the final round, and after some striking exchanges to start the fifth, Montano scored a takedown and landed some strikes before standing. Modafferi answered with her own takedown, but Montano scrambled into the top position and then side control. Midway through the frame, the two rose, and Modafferi landed a couple hard kicks and knees to the body. After scrambling to the mat, Montano wound up on top, and the battle continued, with Modafferi nearly locking in an armbar before Montano pulled loose and the two rose, throwing punches to the final horn.

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