UFC welterweight Stephen Thompson lived up to his Wonderboy moniker at The Ultimate Fighter 21 Finale.
The five-time world kickboxing champion dazzled with his flashy arsenal of kicks and strikes to top number-nine ranked Jake Ellenberger at 4:29 of the first round to earn a Performance of the Night bonus.
Straight out of the gate, Thompson opened up with low and high kicks from the karate stance. Thompson kept Ellenberger at a distance, utilizing his reach and range advantage. But it was Ellenberger who landed the first significant strike of the bout, flooring an encroaching Thompson.
With Thompson down, Ellenberger swarmed. It would prove to be his only burst of offense.
Thompson quickly responded by returning to his feet and resuming his patient striking approach, mixed in with takedowns and ground and pound. He then threw a spinning hook kick that connected to Ellenberger's head, sending the Glendale Fighting Club product to the canvas.
Ellenberger was eventually able to recover and regain his footing, but he was clearly dazed from the kick. Thompson then followed up with an almost identical head kick that again floored Ellenberger.
The stoppage came shortly thereafter, as Thompson followed Ellenberger down to throw a pair of punches before referee John McCarthy waived off the contest.
"I knew what he wanted to do. I just didn't give him a chance to do it," commented Thompson. "I was listening to my dad, my head coach, in the corner ... when I heard him say 'spin' I know exactly what that means ... so when I hit him with that first one I knew I dazed him, I knew I hurt him ... I just let him back up and did it again, and it worked. So that first spin hook kick definitely helped out with the second."
In the evening's co-main event, which served as the final bout of the current season of The Ultimate Fighter, Blackzilians representative Kamaru Usman submitted rival Hayder Hassan of American Top Team via a second round arm triangle.
Usman, who also collected a 50-thousand dollar performance bonus, pressured the hard-hitting Hassan early, implementing his wrestling to control the bout on the ground. Smothering Hassan, taking his back, Usman pressured and repeatedly attempted submissions during the first frame.
When the second stanza began, Hassan tried to reverse his fortunes, landing a few punches to daze Usman.
But the offensive attack was short lived, as Usman again took Hassan down, this time slapping on the head arm choke, eliciting the tapout at 1:19.
With the victory, Usman wins 300-thousand dollars and joins the list of TUF winners.
"This feels amazing. Not many people believed in me ... I believed in myself and my manager believed in me and I pulled it out when it counted the most," commented Usman. "If I get ahold of your legs though, I don't care who you are; I'm taking you down. I've been working a lot on my jiu jitsu and when I sunk in that choke it wasn't that tight so I kept working on it and I started to hear his breathing change, that's when I knew he had to go."
Earlier in the evening, longtime lightweight Jorge Masvidal made his first appearance at 170 pounds, claiming a victory over Brazilian Cezar Ferreira, who mas moving down a class from middleweight.
With Ferreira controlling much of the first round with takedowns, Masvidal patiently waited for his opening, which came at 4:22 of the first round. Clinched with Ferreira, Masvidal unloaded a devastating elbow and cross that sent the Brazilian to the ground. Masvidal swarmed with ground strikes and was awarded a yet another Performance of the Night bonus.
"I feel great. My speed and energy were much better and I actually enjoyed the weight cut this time around," commented Masvidal. "I give up a little size, but I've got a lot of heart so it doesn't mean a thing to me. I think that was the longest I've been on my back in my life, but I was able to rally and pull off the win. I think I demonstrated my ability in this division and I've got a lot left to show so I'm ready for a top-ten guy next."
Making her UFC debut, former Invicta FC atomweight champion Michelle Waterson topped Angela Magana with a third round rear naked choke.
Waterson persevered through an early armbar attempt by Magana to regain her footing. From there she used a slick combination of strikes and grappling to dominate the bout.
"I think I needed her to try to submit me to wake me up and make me realize I was in a fight," commented Waterson. "The armbar she had me in wasn't that close, my elbow wasn't on her hip so it didn't hurt it was just a bit uncomfortable."
Former TUF 17 contestant Josh Samman captured the evening's final Performance of the Night bonus for his first round rear naked choke of Caio Magalhaes.
Landing a straight punch to open up a cut on Magalhaes' nose, Samman struck with aplomb before bringing the bout to the cage wall.
From there, he quickly took the Brazilian's back and sunk in the choke with Magalhaes still on his feet.
Unable to shake Samman from his back, Magalhaes fell to the ground, finally tapping out at 2:52.
"I want to win iconic fights that fans are talking about for years to come. I knew he was going to be super unhappy at the end of the fight because he's a BJJ black belt who just got submitted in the first round," offered Samman. "He spent his entire life on the mat and he froze up during the striking part of the game and I took advantage of that."
The Ultimate Fighter 21 Finale Results
Stephen Thompson def. Jake Ellenberger via KO (Spinning Hook Kick and Punches) R1, 4:29
Kamaru Usman def. Hayder Hassan via Tapout (Arm Triangle) R2, 1:19
Michael Graves def. Vicente Luque via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Jorge Masvidal def. Cezar Ferreira via KO (strikes) R1, 4:22
Michelle Waterson def. Angela Magana via Tapout (Rear Naked Choke) R3, 2:38
Maximo Blanco def. Mike De La Torre via TKO (punch) R1, 0:16
Josh Samman def. Caio Magalhaes via Tapout (Rear Naked Choke) R1, 2:52
Jerrod Sanders def. Russell Doane via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28)
Trevor Smith def. Dan Miller via Unanimous Decision (30-25, 30-25, 30-26)
George Sullivan def. Dominic Waters via Unanimous Decision (29-27, 30-25, 29-28)
Willie Gates def. Darrell Montague via TKO (strikes) R1, 1:36