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Underdogs become ‘Ultimate Fighters’

Escudero upsets Nover, Bader defeats Magalhaes

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Allison Duck

Efrain Escudero, left, Ryan Bader and Phillipe Nover pose for a photo after the finale of the “Ultimate Fighter” at the Palms on December 13, 2008.

Updated Saturday, Dec. 13, 2008 | 10:45 p.m.

Beyond the Sun

The two fighters were still wearing the uniforms they’ve been most-associated with during their post-fight press conference Saturday night at the Palms.

In the future, Ryan Bader, decked out in an Arizona State jacket since he wrestled for the Sun Devils, and Efrain Escudero, donning a Mexico-colored poncho, will gladly trade in their tops for UFC-issued gear.

The two heavy underdogs became the newest “Ultimate Fighters,” winning their respective bouts along with guaranteed “six-figure” contracts in the finale to the eighth season of the mixed martial art’s reality television show.

“If you say I can’t do something, I’ll find a way to do it,” said Escudero, who defeated the highly touted Phillipe Nover by unanimous decision as all three judges scored the bout 29-28.

“Being the underdog made me work even harder. Them calling him the next Anderson Silva made me go in the gym twice as much. Tonight was gonna be my night.”

While Escudero (11-0 MMA record) used a heavy dose of wrestling to neutralize the superb-striking Nover, Bader went the opposite route in his philosophy against Vinicius Magalhaes.

Bader — a 2001 graduate of McQueen High School in Reno, who was also a two-time All-American at ASU — decided to keep his match against the Brazilian jiu-jitsu artist on their feet.

“The game plan was to come in and stand with him the whole time and use my wrestling to keep him away,” said Bader (8-0), who stopped Magalhaes in the first round after delivering a big right hand followed by a series of hammer fists.

Both Bader and Escudero said they welcomed the role of underdog, stressing it was that kind of confidence that got them through the TV show. Well that, and some unbelievable restraint.

When all the crazy drinking, Junie Browning’s antics, and bodily fluids were creating chaos, Bader said he thought about the previous fighters who had been kicked off the show.

“Any other man would have killed him. I thought about it, but I thought about being kicked off,” said Bader of the time Browning tried to pull him into the pool.

“I didn’t do anything and I’m glad I didn’t.”

Escudero said he also was proud of his handling of Browning, who despite a victory over David Kaplan Saturday night received a loud round of boos from the crowd.

“The guys who were confident stayed in the background and we did our work, and the guys who had doubt, they tried to make a name for themselves by pulling pranks and drinking and doing all that other stuff,” Escudero said of the hi-jinx on the show.

“It got them some publicity, but do you think they’d trade with me? It got them a little publicity, but everyone knows who we are because (Bader and I) won the thing. That’s what it was all about.”

That and a promise he made to his late father.

"A lot of people break down after they lose someone special," said Escudero, whose father, Oscar, died of cancer before the show began taping. "But is that what whoever passed away would really want? You crying? Carry on with life, do what’s best for you.

“My dad didn’t want that. He told me to give a 110-percent and that’s what I did and look at me now,” Escudero said with a huge smile.

Main Card Results

Efrain Escudero vs. Phillipe Nover

Escudero pulled off the huge upset, defeating Nover by unanimous decision (29-28 on all three scorecards). Escudero neutralized Nover's striking with a heavy dose of ground and pound. Every time the heavily-favored Nover tried to strike, Escudero snuck under for a take down. He kept Nover at bay and on his back the majority of the fight. "I want to dedicate this to my father who passed away before the show," said an excited Escudero.

Vinicius Magalhaes vs. Ryan Bader

After feeling out Magalhaes for about a minute, Bader landed a big blow. Bader's second punch was even more devastating. Bader caught Magalhaes with another right that was partially deflected, but Bader quickly jumped on top of the Brazilian with a series of hammer fists to stop the fight at the 2:18 mark of the first round. "I've been working on my boxing at Arizona Combat Sports. I'm not just a wrestler, hopefully you could see that," said Bader, who received a plaque and his six-figure contract from UFC president Dana White as a appreciative crowd cheered him on.

Anthony Johnson vs. Kevin Burns

Johnson might have had both the celebration of the evening as well as the KO of the night, knocking Burns out with a left leg kick early in the third round. After the devastating blow, Johnson floundered around on the mat like a fish to the delight of the crowd. "It's just happened. I just decided to throw it," said Johnson, whose first fight against Burns ended when he was forced to stop after being poked in the eye.

Wilson Gouveia vs. Jason MacDonald

Gouveia won by strikes, reigning down a series of elbows to MacDonald after knocking him down with a big left.

David Kaplan vs. Junie Allen Browning

Browning got the biggest round of boos when he walked to the Octagon Saturday night. But the handful of vocal naysayers had little impact on his performance as Browning submitted Kaplan with a rear-naked choke at the 1:32 mark of the second round. He apologized to the crowd for his controversial antics on the reality show after his victory. “I want to apologize to everyone. The show made me grow up and become a better fighter," he said.

Undercard Results

Shane Primm vs. Krzysztof Soszynski

Soszynkski submits Primm with a well-placed kimura in the second round.

Jules Bruchez vs. Eliot Marshall

Marshall takes the bout thanks to a rear-naked choke at the 1:27 mark in the first round.

Tom Lawlor vs. Kyle Kingsbury

Lawlor wins a unanimous decision as all three judges score the fight 29-28 in his favor.

George Roop vs. Shane Nelson

Nelson wins via split decision after three rounds with scores of 29-28, 28-29, 29-28.

John Polakowski vs. Roli Delgado

Delgado forces submission in the second round with a guillotine choke.

Andy Samuelson is a sports writer/editor for the Las Vegas Sun. He can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.

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