It began with 32 fighters with the dream of earning a spot on the UFC’s lightweight roster.  On Friday at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, only one remained.

Al Iaquinta and Michael Chiesa faced off in The Ultimate Fighter: Live Finale to decide this season’s winner.

Iaquinta came out aggressive with his striking, but Chiesa remained patient and got an opening for a takedown.  He transitioned, taking Iaquinta’s back.  He applied a rear naked choke , putting Iaquinta to sleep to become The Ultimate Fighter.  The end came at the 2:47 mark of the first round.

Chiesa’s father, Mark, passed away following the first episode of the season.  It was a long, emotional journey for Washington native.

“This is exactly what I wanted.  It’s been such a journey and there was no way I was going to sell myself short of losing tonight.  I wasn’t making it an option.  There was no way I was going to lose this fight,” said Chiesa following the submission victory.

“My hat’s off to Al.  He’s an animal.  He was in my head all season.  I overcame a lot of things to win this fight,” he added.

Chiesa’s mother, Teresa, was in the Octagon to celebrate her son’s accomplishment.  She commented, “It’s been a long journey.  It’s hard to talk about.  I’m so proud of him.  I couldn’t be any more proud of him.”

Chiesa earned a six-figure UFC contract, a plague, a custom Harley Davidson, a three-fight endorsement deal with the MMA apparel company TapOut and the title of The Ultimate Fighter.

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