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The Ultimate Fighter’ 16 finale blog: Colton Smith seizes reality-show title

Roy Nelson knocks out Matt Mitrione in the first round

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Colton Smith celebrates his unanimous decision over Mike Ricci after their bout at “The Ultimate Fighter 16” Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012, at the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel.

Updated Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 | 8:40 p.m.

'The Ultimate Fighter 16' Finale

Roy Nelson salutes the crowd after knocking out Mike Mitrione during their bout at Launch slideshow »

'The Ultimate Fighter 16' Weigh-In

Roy Nelson, left, and Matt Mitrione face off during weigh-ins for the Season 16 finale of Launch slideshow »

UFC TUF 16 Finale Workouts

Welterweight fighter Colton Smith, left, talks with reporters during UFC Ultimate Fighter Finale workouts at the Hard Rock Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Note: Full results from the preliminary card available at the bottom of the page.

Colton Smith kissed the trophy, shed a tear and saluted the crowd.

Smith realized his dream Saturday night at the Joint in the Hard Rock — well, at least one of them. The active-duty Army Ranger, who grew up wanting to serve his country, became "The Ultimate Fighter" 16 welterweight champion with a lopsided unanimous-decision victory (30-27, 30-27, 30-26) over Mike Ricci.

"It's sweet," Smith said while still in the octagon. "I wanted to finish the fight but Mike Ricci, No. 1 is a 155-pounder, is tough as nails."

Smith is the first active-duty military member to ever sign with the UFC. He's guaranteed a six-figure contract for winning the long-running reality show.

It was an improbable story that came true, as Smith wasn't considered one of the favorites out of the 16 fighters to make it onto the show this season. Oddsmakers listed him as a 2-to-1 underdog against Ricci in the finale.

But Smith took down Ricci in every round and nearly submitted him multiple times. Smith was constantly on Ricci's back, working for rear-naked chokes.

He may have said he was disappointed with not getting the stoppage, but Smith didn't show it. He was too busy celebrating his accomplishment with the large contingent of friends and family that traveled to Las Vegas for "The Ultimate Fighter" 16 finale card.

Included in that group was more than 20 fellow soldiers.

"What we do is not hard," Smith said of fighting compared to serving. "This is easy. What we do out there is hard."

Smith's coach on "TUF," Roy Nelson, had an even easier time in the evening's main event. Nelson took a few hits, but went on to knock out Matt Mitrione with a couple big right hands 2:31 into the first round.

“I was looking to pick him apart, do it in the second and third rounds and show the critics a fat boy can go five rounds,” Nelson joked.

He'll settle for the early finish. Nelson has now won two in a row and seeks top-level competition for his next bout.

Ditto for heavyweight Pat Barry and featherweight Dustin Poirier who opened up the main card with victories over Shane del Rosario and Jonathan Brookins, respectively. Poirier submitted Brookins in the first round, while Barry knocked out del Rosario in the second.

Look below for round-by round coverage of the main card and full results at the bottom. Check back to lasvegassun.com for full coverage later.

Roy Nelson vs. Matt Mitrione

First Round Mitrione lands first with a straight right. Nelson swings hard, but Mitrione evades the haymaker. Mitrione goes for a high-kick, but Nelson checks it. Nelson jabs and counters Mitrione's next high kick. Mitrione is really looking for the head kick, but Nelson has blocked most of them. Nelson clinches up with Mitrione and presses him into the cage. Mitrione reverses position. He throws a knee into Nelson's thigh. Mitrione breaks out with an elbow to Nelson's chin. Mitrione lands a right hook followed by a jab. Nelson hits with a combination now. Nelson has Mitrione against the cage. "Big Country" has gotten the better out of recent exchanges. They land simultaneous hooks, and Mitrione wobbles. Nelson hits Mitrione with a right hand and he falls. Nelson winds up and throws vicious punches on his grounded opponent. The referee steps in. Roy Nelson knocks out Matt Mitrione at 2:58 of the first round.

Colton Smith vs. Mike Ricci

Third Round Ricci whiffs on a high kick. Smith's kick lands. Ricci kicks again, but Smith uses the opportunity to fly in and push the Canadian against the fence. Smith gets Ricci down again. It's not looking good for the fighter who came in as a large favorite. His grappling is not on the same level as Smith's. Smith has Ricci's back for what seems like the 100th time of this fight. If Ricci deserves any credit, however, it's for being impossibly difficult to finish. He just won't let Smith submit him. Smith keeps the pace up with ground-and-pound strikes, seemingly not at all frustrated with his failure to force Ricci to tap out. Smith continues to look for a rear-naked choke. He can't get his hands around Ricci's neck, however, so he cranks his face instead. Ricci's face is all red and he's bleeding out of a corner of his mouth. Smith ditches the choke for an armbar. Ricci never gives him arm up enough. Ricci rolls around and gets on top of Smith with 40 seconds to go. Ricci now has Smith's back. What a change of fortune. Smith tosses him off, but Ricci has Smith's arm. Smith breaks out and rockets a knee into Ricci's side. Ricci covers up and the bell rings shortly after. Colton Smith wins "TUF" 16 championship 30-26 on the Sun's scorecard. Colton Smith defeats Mike Ricci by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26) to win "TUF".

Second Round Smith legkicks Ricci twice in a row. One appears to hit Ricci in the groin. But as he cowers, the referee doesn't stop the fight. Smith rushes forward to try to take advantage of the situation, but Ricci blasts him with a right hand to the throat. Confusion takes over for a couple seconds, both fighters unaware of what just transpired. They eventually snap out of it, and Smith pressures Ricci. He takes the Canadian down again. Smith loosens up Ricci with knees on the ground in an attempt to take his back. Smith has another rear-naked choke. This one looks even more dangerous than the one in the first round. Ricci weasels out again. Smith picks him up and puts him back on the ground. Smith is raining ground-and-pound from behind. "U-S-A" chants start for the Army Ranger as he takes Ricci's back again. Ricci fights Smith's arm away for another failed submission attempt. But Ricci has done nothing in the form of offense this whole round. Smith is smothering him. Smith did enough to win that round, 10-8 and leads 20-17 overall.

First Round Smith shoots under a high kick from Ricci and takes him down. But Ricci winds up on top, throwing elbows that make Smith cover for protection. They get back up, and Smith keeps up the pressure. He pushes Ricci against the fence until he has enough leverage to slam him on the ground. Ricci gets up again, but he's got Smith attached at the hip. Smith is looking to take Ricci's back. Ricci uses the fence to his advantage, but Smith gets one leg wrapped around. Ricci drops to the floor to try to get Smith off of him. Smith just improves his position. Smith has both hooks in and is going for a rear-naked choke. Ricci is fighting his hands away successfully so far. Ricci sweeps and gets out. His section of the crowd goes wild as they reconvene in the middle of the cage. There's not much action for 30 seconds leading up to the minute-mark. Ricci fights off a single-leg takedown attempt. Smith presses Ricci against the cage. He throws knees when he can and puts Ricci back on the floor eventually. Ricci is on upset-alert, as Smith takes the first round 10-9.

Pat Barry vs. Shane del Rosario

Second Round Barry comes out strong, mixing his combinations of punches. He comes over the top of one of del Rosario's jab with a left hook that wobbles his opponent. Del Rosario is backing up, and Barry smells blood. He throws a combination, including an emphatic right hand, that puts del Rosario down. He's not getting back up. Pat Barry knocks out Shane del Rosario at 0:26 of the second round.

First Round Del Rosario opens up with a kick across Barry's body. Barry fires a couple legkicks in return. Del Rosario moves forward and locks up with Barry. He's working his knees. The first one goes into Barry's stomach. The next couple collide with Barry's thigh. Del Rosario takes Barry down with a double-leg. Barry pops back up and reverses position along the fence. Del Rosario feeds Barry a few more knees. Del Rosario is dirty-boxing from the clinch with Barry not mounting much offense. Barry pushes del Rosario off and they're in the middle of the octagon now. Barry jabs to land his first strike in a while. Del Rosario shoots in for a takedown, but he's too high. One of Barry's legkicks makes a loud noise across del Rosario's shin. Del Rosario gets a takedown. He transitions to Barry's back with one of his legs in hook position. He wants the rear-naked choke, but Barry is trying to slide him off. Del Rosario is too high for the choke. He looks for a kimura instead. Barry gets out of both submissions, but he's still in a terrible position. Del Rosario takes Barry's back again, but is thrown off. Round ends with Barry on top throwing haymakers. Del Rosario wins the first, 10-9.

Dustin Poirier vs. Jonathan Brookins

First Round After they touch gloves, Brookins swings first with a stern jab. Poirier works his right hand, but Brookins has good movement and evades most of his strikes. Brookins rocks Poirier with a right hook. He's stumbling against the fence, but still up. Brookins lets loose and throws everything he has at Poirier, who stays up and takes the punishment. Poirier slips out from in front of Brookins and presses him against the fence. After Poirier shoots for a takedown and fails, the two reconvene in the middle of the octagon. Brookins lands another big right hand. Poirier can't figure him out. Poirier moves forward and presses Brookins against the cage. Each fighter lands some short shots from the clinch. Poirier counters a hook with a straight right that stuns Brookins. But Brookins answers and nearly takes Poirier down. He's off-balance, but crashes into the fence before pressing forward again. Poirier lands a head kick and a few punches. Then, Poirier hits Brookins with back-to-back uppercuts. Brookins can't get away from from Poirier's combinations. Poirier drops him with a straight right, but Brookins bounces back up. They clinch and Poirier punishes with uppercuts. Brookins is down again, with Poirier following and trying for an arm-triangle choke. He's got it. Dustin Poirier submits Jonathan Brookins at 3:15 of the first round.

Pre-main card

“The Ultimate Fighter” seeks the ultimate redemption tonight at the Joint in the Hard Rock.

The 16th season of the UFC’s biannual reality show was, by all accounts, the most lackluster in the program’s history. The competitors were sub par, the arguments were recycled and the fights were bland.

For proof that it wasn’t just fans and critics that felt this way, that the UFC also came away disappointed with the season coached by heavyweights Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin, look no further than tonight’s “The Ultimate Fighter” 16 finale card.

The UFC, in the past, loaded its season-finale cards up with fighters from the show. Not this time.

The finals of the show between Mike Ricci and Colton Smith is the only fight that originated from the season. The UFC granted no other cast members a chance to fight their way into the promotion.

Their loss, in all likelihood, is fans’ gain. Without “TUF” alumni to depend on, the UFC put together a card full of veterans and mainstays that makes this finale the strongest in recent memory.

Carwin fell out of the main event with a knee injury, unfortunately once again halting his long-awaited bout with rival Nelson. But Matt Mitrione stepped in, and his athleticism could give Nelson a comparable challenge.

Another heavyweight bout comes directly before Nelson vs. Mitrione and Smith vs. Ricci, as kick boxers Pat Barry and Shane del Rosario gun for a Fight of the Night bonus. Both are coming off of knockout losses, Barry to Lavar Johnson and del Rosario to Stipe Miocic, but vow to stand in front of each other and deliver blows for the benefit of the crowd.

The first fight on the main card, which is now airing on FX, features a fighter who was as few as one victory from a title fight earlier this year. Featherweight Dustin Poirier looks to come back from the first loss of his UFC career against “TUF” 12 champion Jonathan Brookins.

A lightweight bout pitting Melvin Guillard against Jamie Varner was scratched an hour ago. Varner was throwing up backstage and deemed too ill to compete.

Click to enlarge photo

Mike Pyle lands a knee to the face of James Head to send him to the mat during their bout at "The Ultimate Fighter 16" Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012, at the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel. Pyle won seconds later by TKO.

James Head made Mike Pyle uncomfortable early in their welterweight bout with a combination of punches and knees. It didn't take long before Pyle, a local fighter, turned the tables. Pyle knocked out James Head at 1:55 of the first round with a knee followed by ground-and-pound strikes.

After three cancelled fights and a couple injuries, bantamweight Johnny Bedford finally got into the octagon for the first time this year. And he made the most of it. Bedford knocked out Marcos Vinicius exactly one minute into the second round with a combination of punches after scoring two knockdowns.

The lightweight division needs to make room for a new prospect on the rise. Rustam Khabilov had a flawless UFC debut against Vinc Pichel. Khabilov knocked out Pichel at 2:15 of the first round with his fourth successful suplex of the fight.

T.J. Waldburger submitted Nick Catone with a triangle choke at 1:04 of the second round in their welterweight bout. Waldburger dropped Catone with a combination, then swarmed and tried to sink in a guillotine choke. When Catone defended that, Waldburger transitioned to a triangle choke and got the position to pull it off.

Hugo Viana put a savage beating on fellow bantamweight Reuben Duran. Viana knocked out Duran at 4:05 of the first round with an overhand right after already knocking him down three times before the finish.

Despite getting rocked early, Mike Rio came back to defeat fellow "The Ultimate Fighter Live" cast member John Cofer. Rio submitted Cofer with an armbar at 4:11 of the third round after turning to his grappling to get him out of the hole Cofer had created up to that point on the scorecards.

Tim Elliott beat Jared Papazian by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-25, 30-25) in a frenetic flyweight bout. The fight was nearly, and probably should have been, stopped in the first round when Papazian threw and landed an illegal knee against a downed Elliott. But the doctor allowed Elliott, who also claimed his opponent made another illegal move by biting him, to continue and he made Papazian pay from there.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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