LAS VEGAS — Frankie (The Answer) Edgar knocked out Chad (Money) Mendes in the first round of a main event battle of elite featherweight contenders on the UFC's Ultimate Fighter finale card Friday night.
Mendes connected with some early leg kicks but Edgar finished the fight with a powerful right-left combination that dropped his opponent. Referee John McCarthy stepped in at two minutes 28 seconds to prevent further punishment, with Mendes clearly out of it.
Edgar, a former lightweight (155-pound) champion, came into the fight ranked No. 2 among 145-pounders while Mendes was No. 3. Their fight came one night before UFC 194's featherweight showdown between champion Jose Aldo and interim title-holder (The Notorious) Conor McGregor.
Edgar (19-4-1) moves into the 145-pound on-deck circle, although an Aldo-McGregor rematch could trump that.
"I'm ready ... You've got to give it to me," said Edgar.
Mendes (17-4-0) came into the fight having won eight of 11 UFC outings, with the three losses all coming in title fights — two to Aldo (taking one bout on two weeks' notice) and one to McGregor. Edgar has also lost to Aldo.
Mendes walked out to Aaron Lewis's "Country Boy." Edgar followed to the pounding bass of "Kick in the Door" by The Notorious B.I.G.
In the co-main event at The Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, lightweight Ryan (The Wizard) Hall used his jiu-jitsu to befuddle Artem (The Russian Hammer) Lobov en route to winning Season 22 of "The Ultimate Fighter" via a 30-27, 30-26, 30-26 decision.
Hall was beaten in the show's quarter-finals by Saul Rogers but replaced the English fighter in the final when Rogers was dropped because of visa issues. Ironically Hall, who had been slated to fight another opponent on Friday's card, had gone to Dublin to train with Lobov.
Hall, a decorated black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, had Montreal coach Firas Zahabi in his corner.
Brazil's Edson Barboza, ranked sixth among lightweight contenders, and No. 7 Tony (El Cucuy) Ferguson put on a show earlier, with Ferguson (21-3-0) stopping Barboza (16-4-0) via D'arce choke at 2:54 of the second round of a spectacular action-packed fight that saw both men dig deep into their bag of tricks.
The fight started at breakneck pace, only to be halted briefly when Ferguson lost a point for connecting with an illegal kick on a downed Barboza. Both men were cut in a frantic second round.
"What an amazing fight!!!!." tweeted UFC president Dana White. "Much respect to Barboza for continuing to fight after the illegal kick."
Ferguson, who won Season 13 of "The Ultimate Fighter," extended his win streak to seven.
"I said I was going to take apart this entire division and that's what I'm doing," he said.
Evan Dunham outstruck a subdued Joe Lauzon (25-11-0) en route to a dominant 30-26, 30-27, 30-26 decision. The veteran lightweights came into the cage with 34 UFC fights between them.
Dunham (16-7-0) has now won three straight after dropping four of his previous five fights. Lauzon, who leads the UFC with 13 career performance bonuses, has now lost two of his last three.
"Props to Evan Dunham. No excuses," Lauzon tweeted.
Veteran heavyweight Gabriel (Napao) Gonzaga (17-10-0) ended a three-fight losing streak with a 30-27, 30-27, 30-28 decision over Konstantin (The Russian Bear) Erokhin that was short on action. Erokhin (9-3-0) said later he broke his thumb in the first round.
Welterweight Ryan LaFlare notched his fifth win in six outings via a 30-27, 29-28, 29-28 decision over veteran Mike Pierce, who showed the effects of a 26-month injury absence (torn ankle ligament, sprained medial collateral ligament and broken hand).
The 35-year-old Pierce left the cage with a hematoma the size of a computer mouse on the side of his head.
Veteran Japanese featherweight Tatsuya (The Crusher) Kawajiri, ranked 13th among 145-pound contenders, used his ground game to win a unanimous 30-27 decision over a game Jason (the Kid) Knight, a late injury replacement making his UFC debut riding an eight-fight win streak.
Flyweight Geane (The Revolutionary) Herrera, another late replacement, stopped Joby Sanchez via TKO at 4:28 of the second round, knocking him down with a big left hook.
Lightweight Chris (Gritz) Gruetzemacher (13-1-0) won his 12th straight, a unanimous 29-28 decision over Spain's Abner (Skullman) Lloveras (19-10-1) in a battle of TUF 22 cast members.
Julian (Juicy J) Erosa (15-3) won a split (28-29, 29-28, 29-28) decision over Marcin (The Polish Zombie) Wrzosek (10-4) in another all-TUF 22 matchup.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press