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- American mixed martial artist
Nicco Montano undoubtedly faced the toughest road of any fighter during The Ultimate Fighter 26, but it all paid off as she is now the first ever UFC women's flyweight champion.
When the reality show started, Montano was rated as the No. 14 seed out of 16 fighters, but with each fight she continued to prove that rankings are nothing but numbers. She racked up wins over Lauren Murphy, Montana Stewart, and former Invicta FC champion Barb Honchak before facing Roxanne Modafferi on Friday night.
What resulted was a bloody five-round war with Montano coming out on top in one of the most improbable championship runs in UFC history.
Montano was very active in the early going, tagging Modafferi with a solid combination of strikes including very fluid boxing and kicks to the legs.
While Modafferi's corner was shouting for her to look for the takedown, it was Montano who ended up on top after grabbing a kick and bringing the fight to the ground.
After fishing for submissions from the bottom, Modafferi slipped free and got back to her feet before landing a takedown of her own near the end of the round.
Modafferi came out guns blazing in the second round with a very aggressive offensive onslaught as she tried to apply pressure with her punches, chasing Montano around the Octagon.
Modafferi connected in a hard combination that snapped Montano's head back and the two-time “Ultimate Fighter” veteran rushed forward trying to do more damage, but she couldn't find an opening in her opponent's defense.
Despite being hurt early, Montano powered back and stayed very active throughout the remainder of the round, throwing a ton of strikes until Modafferi finally grabbed onto a body lock to take the fight back down to the mat.
Montano was quick to lock up a triangle choke from the bottom while bludgeoning Modafferi to the head with elbows from the bottom until the horn sounded.
The activity from Montano continued into the third round as she kept pressing forward with Modafferi firing back with solid counter shots. By the end of the round, Montano had a bloody nose and swelling under her eye, showing the effects of the striking landed by Modafferi.
On the flipside, Montano was definitely more active and throwing with a lot more volume with her striking in another tough round to score.
Montano seemed to have a set strategy in mind as each second ticked away on the clock as she continued to put a ton of pressure on Modafferi with her aggressive combinations on the feet. Montano did manage a nice takedown against the cage but the fight only stayed on the ground for a matter of seconds before they worked back up to the feet.
Late in the round, Modafferi landed her best punches perhaps of the entire fight as she nailed Montano with a series of stinging right hands that backed her up. Montano was able to weather the storm before landing a late takedown while trying to tag Modafferi with punches on the mat as the fourth round came to a close.
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) December 2, 2017
With five minutes remaining, Montano took the fight to the ground on two different occasions, trying to advance her position while attempting to punish Modafferi with short punches and elbows.
Montano stayed very active throughout the final round and remained in control from the top position every time the fight hit the mat. Modafferi did make a late attempt at an armbar from the bottom, but Montano slipped free as they worked back to the feet just as the fight came to an end.
When it was all over, Montano and Modafferi were both bruised and bloodied as UFC president Dana White gave them a standing ovation before stepping inside the Octagon to crown the new champion.
The judges all agreed after five rounds that Montano did more than enough to earn the unanimous decision victory to become the first ever UFC women's flyweight champion with scores reading 50-45, 49-46, and 49-46.
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) December 2, 2017
“I feel amazing. So lost for words right now,” Montano said following the win. “I'm so happy, I don't know what else to say. I love Roxanne. She's been an inspiration since before I even thought of fighting and to be sharing this experience with her. We were bunkmates on the show and I know how huge of a heart she has. I'm so happy.”
It was obviously a heartbreaking loss for Modafferi, but considering she accepted the fight on 24-hours notice, she certainly can't hang her head low following a five-round war with Montano.
Montano will now stand tall as the fourth women's champion in the UFC, as the flyweight division officially gets underway.