Ahead of her Ultimate Fighting Championship debut, Jessamyn “The Gun” Duke promised she would be a “100% different” fighter than she was during her time on the 18th season.
Showcasing an improved array of stand-up and solid grappling early on, Duke rolled to a lopsided unanimous decision victory over Peggy Morgan at “The Ultimate Fighter Finale” on Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Duke (3-0, 1 no contest), whose most consistent weapons were a left hook, right cross and knees to the stomach out of the muay Thai clinch, remained undefeated, while dealing Morgan (2-1) her first loss.
Morgan and Duke were teammates under coach Ronda Rousey in opposition of Miesha Tate’s team on the latest season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” But the two went toe-to-toe on Saturday night with Duke claiming 30-27 scores across the board.
Following the end of the taping of “The Ultimate Fighter” in July, Duke, along with Team Rousey teammate Shayna Baszler, has been training at the Glendale Fighting Club, while also living with Rousey and Marina Shafir. Making it a full weekend for Duke, she also cornered Shafir on Friday when Shafir won the Tuff-N-Uff featherweight title and improved to 4-0 as an amateur in the process.
Duke, who was announced as fighting out of Glendale and was cornered by GFC’s Edmond Tarverdyan, Baszler and Andy Dermenjian, was only seemingly in danger once in the fight. That came in the third round when Morgan took Duke’s back. However, Duke rocked Morgan throughout the third, landed well in the first round and went for a pair of chokes and in the second also dominated on the feet.
Duke worked a jab and a left hook early, landing a good combination nearly a minute in. Morgan initiated a clinch against the cage, but Duke showcased her muay Thai ability with knees, then used punches and reversed positioning to push Morgan up against the cage.
Duke went for a judo throw, couldn’t quite get it, but it enabled her to go for an arm-in guillotine standing. She sat down on it and worked hard to sink it in, cranking back as Morgan weathered the storm and pulled her head out. But Duke then went for a triangle. After a good while on her back, Duke looked to cinch in the triangle and continued dropping elbows to the side of Morgan’s head and then punches to end a dominant round.
In the second round, the two boxed it out with Duke landing well with her left hook and utilizing leg kicks. Duke also displayed superiority in the Thai clinch, using it to bring knees to the midsection. But it was the left hook and an emerging right cross that truly led Duke, who accentuated the stanza with a twisting takedown.
Duke seemed to add a new wrinkle to her arsenal nearly every round, as she poured on body kicks in the third round as part of an all-out striking onslaught that was seemingly taking its toll on Morgan. In a rarely seen hold in MMA, Duke procured a standard headlock, but it worked against her as it allowed Morgan to take Duke’s back, where she immediately went for a rear-naked choke with 2:20 left in the fight.
Duke laid flat on the mat as Morgan tried to work it in and with 90 seconds left, Morgan rose up to land some punches, but it allowed Duke to roll onto her back and put Morgan in her half-guard. After a questionable stand-up from the referee, Duke went right back to work striking and seemed to land every right cross and left hook she threw, leaving Morgan with a severely battered face.
Following Duke’s debut, “Dangerous” Davey Grant took on Chris Holdsworth in the men’s “Ultimate Fighter” tournament final.
Team Rousey’s Grant, who was cornered by Tarverdyan and Manny Gamburyan, fell in his UFC debut, though, as he was submitted by rear-naked choke at the 2:10 mark of the second round.
The first round was action-packed with both fighters exchanging throughout, taking and giving as good as they dished out. Holdsworth (5-0) likely edged out the round when he forced the fight into a clinch and held the better position and when Grant (8-2) went for a takedown let, but Holdsworth ended up on top.
Holdsworth notched another takedown early in the second round with Grant, his nose bloodied, eventually getting his back taken. Holdsworth was able to sink in the body triangle and then cranked back the choke for the tapout.