It was far from easy for UFC welterweight contender Kamaru Usman to extend his winning streak to 13 on Friday night at the Palms.
But he made it look that way at times as he dominated former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos in the main event of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 28 Finale card.
Usman relentlessly pressured dos Anjos against the cage and repeatedly put him on his back in the corners, punishing him with punches and elbows on the ground on his way to a unanimous decision.
It was Usman’s second consecutive main event victory and eighth straight in the UFC since winning the “TUF” Season 21 title at the MGM Grand.
“I’m a man on a mission,” Usman said. “I hope I showed that not only can I go five rounds, but I can dominate and I’m next in line for that welterweight (belt).”
Usman racked up 189 total strikes, mostly on the mat, and 11 takedowns against dos Anjos.
Juan Espino and Macy Chiasson won the “TUF” Season 28 titles with submission victories in the two tournament championship bouts to earn UFC contracts.
Espino took down Justin Frazier seconds into their heavyweight bout and forced him to tap, as he turned a crucifix into an armlock at 3:36 of the first round.
“It was a long journey to get here,” Espino said. “I am very happy and excited.”
Chiasson won the women’s featherweight tournament with a second-round submission of Pannie Kianzad moments after Kianzad almost had secured a belly-down armbar.
After stepping over Kianzad and out of trouble, Chiasson locked in a rear-naked choke and forced the tap.
“I’ve only been fighting for four years, so this is amazing for me,” Chiasson said. “Fighting started as a hobby because I liked the competitive nature. When I graduated with a degree in biology, I decided to follow my dreams and try to fight professionally because I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t.”
Middleweight prospect Edmen Shahbazyan, who is managed by former women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, remained undefeated by winning his UFC debut with a split decision over Darren Stewart.
Las Vegan Bryan Caraway suffered his second consecutive loss when he was knocked out by a body kick from Pedro Munhoz in the first round of a bantamweight bout.
Women’s flyweight prospect Antonina Shevchenko won all three rounds over Ji Yeon Kim to make her UFC debut a success under the watchful eye of her sister Valentina Shevchenko, who was yelling instructions from the corner.
“It was great to finally fight in the UFC,” Antonina Shevchenko said. “We prepared very hard for my debut. Everything was good. Training was good and hard. I was preparing with my sister for her fight as well.”
Valentina Shevchenko fights Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the vacant 125-pound women’s title at UFC 231 on Dec. 8 in Toronto.
Las Vegan Joseph Benavidez highlighted the preliminary card with a first-round knockout of Alex Perez, his seventh win in the past eight fights.
The flyweight contender hopes to challenge the winner of next month’s title bout between champion Henry Cejudo and bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw, who is coming down in weight.
Veteran welterweight Tim Means needed 1:18 to knock out Ricky Rainey.
Maurice Greene and Roosevelt Roberts scored first-round submission victories, and Kevin Aguilar won all three rounds of a decision over Rick Glenn, who had missed weight for their featherweight bout by more than 3 pounds.
Leah Letson scored a split-decision victory over Julija Stoliarenko in a matchup of semifinalists from the women’s featherweight tournament on the show.
Bantamweight Raoni Barcelos opened the card with a second-round submission of Chris Gutierrez.
‘TUF’ Season 28 Finale
Main card results of Friday’s “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 28 finale at the Palms:
— Kamaru Usman (14-1) def. Rafael dos Anjos (28-11), welterweights, unanimous decision (50-43, 49-45, 48-47).
— Juan Espino (9-1) def. Justin Frazier (10-3), first-round submission (3:36), to win the Season 28 heavyweight title.
— Macy Chiasson (3-0) def. Pannie Kianzad (10-4), second-round submission (2:11), to win the Season 28 women’s featherweight title.
— Pedro Munhoz (17-3, 1 No contest) def. Bryan Caraway (21-10), bantamweights, first-round knockout (2:39).
— Edmen Shahbazyan (7-0) def. Darren Stewart (9-4, 1 No contest), middleweights, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
— Antonina Shevchenko (7-0) def. Ji Yeon Kim (7-2-2), women’s flyweights, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).