"Nate lets you know that he thinks you’re number one."UFC TUF 18 Finale Predictions, Prognostications and PropheciesRyan Benoit vs. Josh SampoThe undercard will kick off with a contest between a pair of newly signed flyweights, both of whom were brought in to continue bolstering the rapidly expanding weight class. The division has thus far been characterized by intense, lightning-fast matches and even some drama (mostly thanks to “Uncle Creepy,” Ian McCall). This pair of fighters will continue that tradition, with Sampo favouring victories by submission and Benoit raking in (T)KOs. While I like “Babyface” a great deal, I’m giving this one to “the Gremlin,” Sampo, who also has the ability to win a grinding decision, if it comes to it. — NZWDespite failing to make weight for his UFC debut (tsk, tsk), the Resurrection Fighting Alliance featherweight champ is still the favourite in this fight. Benoit does have the power advantage, but Sampo is the better grappler, and should be able to utilize his top control game to win a decision or (T)KO. — CJGDrew Dober vs. Sean SpencerFor Sean Spencer, this match is a test. After losing by submission in his UFC debut and winning via split decision in his next contest, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was feeling some pressure to win decisively. Dober, on the other hand, is making his UFC debut and has looked like a wrecking machine in smaller organizations. While being on the big show is a different experience, I have a feeling Dober’s going to take this one by submission (which he excels at). — NZWDespite an eight-and-two record in his last ten fights at lightweight, Dober (who some may be familiar with via his losing a “get in the house” prelim for TUF 15) is taking this fight on the dreaded “short notice” and is also moving up a weight class in the process. Sean “Black Magic” Spencer debuted at 185 lbs., losing to Tim Kennedy KO gif victim Rafael Natal (via arm-triangle), then dropped to welterweight and decisioned Yuri Villefort. Given his size advantage, the level of his last few opponents and experience in the big Octagon, “Black Magic” should easily take a decision here.Walter Harris vs. Jared RosholtAnother pair of fighters making their UFC debuts, Rosholt and Harris are very different heavyweights. Harris’s four professional victories are all (T)KOs due to punches, while Rosholt has proved he can punch, knee, submit or just decision his opponents. If Harris doesn’t punch Rosholt out in the first two minutes of round one, Rosholt wins this one. — NZW
 
The younger, larger brother of veteran MMA, and former UFC, fighter Jake Rosholt, “the Big Show” is a standout collegiate wrestler from Oklahoma State University (he’s the winningest heavyweight in the history of their program, with a record of 125-27), who’s making his UFC heavyweight debut with an eight-and-one MMA run. Harris, who’s also making his UFC debut, is four-and-one and is a former college basketball player. Despite his amateur boxing experience, wrestling beats hoops every time. Rosholt by ground-and-pound (T)KO. — CJGTom Niinimaki vs. Rani YahyaThis is an interesting matchup: both fighters have long and storied careers, primarily outside of the UFC. While Yahya has been in the organization since January 2011, Niinimaki is making his UFC debut. While Yayha has been doing well, with his only UFC loss at the hands of former Featherweight title challenger Chad Mendes, I’m taking the Finnish featherweight due to the more varied set of tools at his disposal; his 20 wins are split quite evenly between (T)KOs, submissions and decisions. — NZWSince moving over from the WEC, veteran submission grappler Rani Yahya has quietly flown under the radar, going four-and-one, choking out the once rising star Josh Grispi and decisioning former WEC featherweight champ Mike Brown, with his only UFC loss coming to Chad Mendes (by decision). While his opponent, Tom Niinimaki, has just has many professional fights (26) as Rani, Yahya has by far fought the tougher competition and should take this by submission or decision.Maximo Blanco vs. Akira CorassaniThis is a bad match for Akira. His only three losses are by KO or (T)KO, and that’s how Blanco likes to win. Both have a pair of fights in the UFC and stack-up well otherwise, but Corassani is vulnerably to Blanco’s punching power, even if Blanco’s nickname is “Maxi.” Like, dude, come on; it might as well be “With Wings.” — NZWBlanco has yet to show the destructive power that made him such a force in Sengoku, where he had five (T)KOs, as well as a decision victory and a DQ loss for an illegal soccer kick. The formerly ultra-aggressive Blanco hasn’t had a (T)KO in three years now and is two-and-two in his last four efforts (with three of those going to decision, as well as a submission loss to Pat Healy). However, look for that to change. Corassani is a solid fighter who has struggled on-and-off with injury issues; he’s good everywhere but not amazing anywhere. If Blanco can channel some of his Sengoku-era aggression, he should be able to notch his first (T)KO win in the UFC. — CJGRoxanne Modafferi vs. Raquel PenningtonModafferi’s back is against the wall: she has five straight losses in her immediate past (three decisions, a rear-naked choke and a dramatic KO slam at the hands of Sarah Kaufman) and is now stepping into the Octagon. Pennington’s past is briefer but brighter, though she does have recent losses to Cat Zingano and Leslie Smith in Invicta on her resume. Both of these women are tough and will throw absolutely everything they have into proving that they have what it takes to be in the Octagon; I give Pennington the very slight edge. — NZWThe vastly more experienced Modafferi entered this TUF season on a five-fight losing streak, and despite submitting her way into the house, fell to Rakoczy in the quarterfinals. “The Happy Warrior” has long been a staple of women’s MMA, fighting a who’s who during her ten-year-and-counting career (including the likes of Sarah Kaufman, Marloes Coenen, Shayna Baszler, Tara LaRosa, etc.). She’ll need every bit of experience to get past Pennington, who had the “fight of the season” with Jessamyn Duke, before falling to Rakoczy in the quarterfinals. While her three-and-three official record isn’t initially impressive, Pennington has fought the likes of Cat Zingano in Invicta. Raquel will be the larger fighter and better striker, and should be able to defend Modafferi’s takedowns and thus stifle her ground game. Pennington by decision.Jessamyn Duke vs. Peggy Morgan“The Gun” vs. “the Daywalker” — this is going to be interesting. The women have spoken candidly about their friendship, and in fact got matching tattoos in the same locations after the TUF season ended. Morgan has a pair of professional wins behind her, while Duke has two wins and a NC (after her loss to Miriam Nakamoto was overturned by the commission due to an illegal knee). I give the edge to Duke due to her experience in Invicta, and for being a more considered, cerebral fighter. — NZWTwo very tall for bantamweight (the six-foot-one Morgan and five-foot-11 Duke), relatively inexperienced female fighters who fell in the TUF quarterfinals this season will face off against each other. Despite both possessing undefeated records of two wins and no losses, Duke has the experience edge, with three fights for Invicta — one was an NC — under her belt. Morgan likes to employ her size to overwhelm and dominate opponents, but against a fighter of similar stature, this will be no easy task. Duke as shown more well rounded skills during the season and should earn a decision. —CJGChris Holdsworth vs. Davey GrantThe contest between this pair of TUF finalists is going to be a match of submissions specialists. Grant is a choking machine, claiming all but one — a (T)KO — of his pro victories by either rear-naked or guillotine. Holdsworth is an aficionado of the choke as well, but has a single arm-bar win thrown in for good measure. It’s going to be fascinating watching these two go after each other’s carotid arteries. Grant might have a slight edge simply due to his pro experience, but Holdsworth looked fantastic on the show. — NZWUnbeaten Team Alpha Male member Chris Holdsworth entered this season of TUF with no small amount of hype and has delivered in spades, with three first round submissions during the season to advance to the finals. England’s “Dangerous” Davey Grant is also fond of the sub, dispatching his first two challengers in this fashion before receiving a free pass to the finals when his opponent failed to make weight (always a no-no on TUF). When two submission aces square off, sometimes we get a lacklustre stand-up contest instead of the back-and-forth BJJ furball we were promised. However, if this is the case Saturday night, with the power of Alpha Male coach Dwayne “Bang” Ludwig and his sandals in his corner, as well as his height and reach advantage, Holdsworth will have the striking edge, and is also a better wrestler and overall fighter. Holdsworth by sub. — CJGJessica Rakoczy vs. Julianna PenaOne of the most anticipated matches on the card is the clash between the top women contenders from the Rousey and Tate camps. Pena is a young rising star who’s made incredible progress over the course of the show and looks to have a long and wonderful career ahead of her. Rakoczy, on the other hand, is a much more experienced fighter, which her MMA record doesn’t necessarily reflect: the 36-year-old Canadian began a pro boxing career in 2000 and has 31 wins, earning the WIBA title three times. To get into the house, however, she won via arm-bar, and has displayed surprising flexibility, in terms of technique ever since. Rakoczy is a better, tougher, more experienced combatant and this fight is hers. — NZWThe relatively inexperienced Pena shocked the MMA world, and nearly destroyed Ronda Rousey’s sanity along the way, when she upset massive show favourite Shayna Baszler during this season of The Ultimate Fighter. The last pick of the season, Rakoczy also scored an upset of her own (if not one quite as grand) when she (T)KO’d Roxanne Modafferi to advance to the semi-finals, where she decisioned the bigger Raquel Pennington to move onto the finals. Although Rakocy is world champion boxer, who has demonstrated a great deal of MMA skill growth throughout this TUF season, the edge clearly has to go to Pena, especially after her dispatching of Baszler. While the striking edge clearly goes to Rakocy, look for Pena to go for takedowns, work top control and ground and pound for a decision victory. — CJGNate Diaz vs. Gray MaynardI never bet against a Diaz.— NZWt’s a little odd that the powers that be are billing this as a trilogy, as Maynard and Diaz’s first encounter was during the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter (which Diaz would go on to win, thanks to Manvil’s shoulder spontaneously exploding in the finale), and was a two-round exhibition match (as the UFC doesn’t have to release results immediately that way). True, Diaz guillotined the hell out of Maynard on the show, but it doesn’t appear on either’s record. In their first official match at Fight Night 20, Maynard was given a very contentious split decision victory, despite the younger Diaz brother outlanding him by 29 significant strikes (thank you, Fight Metric), and clearing winning the fight on the completely unofficial Staph-Infection score cards. Both fighters would go on to challenge for the lightweight title — Maynard with two incredible fights against Frankie Edgar and Diaz losing a lopsided decision to Benson Henderson, with Maynard unquestionably coming much closer to attaining the ultimate prize. As well, both were (T)KO’d in their last contests (Maynard by T.J. Grant and Diaz by Josh Thomson). Unquestionably this is a must-win rebound match for both, with Diaz on a two-fight losing skid and Maynard having only one win (a horribly frustrating track meet against Clay Guida, who clearly wasn’t there to fight) in his last four contests. Since their initial encounters, Diaz’s ground game and volume Stockton striking have only improved and it’s a case of pick your poison for Maynard, who will likely look to stand once again to avoid Nate’s submission game. Benderson and Thompson both demonstrated effective ways to counter Diaz’s style (specifically, kicks and overwhelming wrestling and control). However, while Maynard has the wrestling pedigree to plant Nate on his back, he doesn’t have the defence to be in his guard for 15 minutes and is more boxer than kickboxer. Diaz by submission. — CJG

"Nate lets you know that he thinks you’re number one."

UFC TUF 18 Finale Predictions, Prognostications and Prophecies

Ryan Benoit vs. Josh Sampo
The undercard will kick off with a contest between a pair of newly signed flyweights, both of whom were brought in to continue bolstering the rapidly expanding weight class. The division has thus far been characterized by intense, lightning-fast matches and even some drama (mostly thanks to “Uncle Creepy,” Ian McCall). This pair of fighters will continue that tradition, with Sampo favouring victories by submission and Benoit raking in (T)KOs. While I like “Babyface” a great deal, I’m giving this one to “the Gremlin,” Sampo, who also has the ability to win a grinding decision, if it comes to it. — NZW

Despite failing to make weight for his UFC debut (tsk, tsk), the Resurrection Fighting Alliance featherweight champ is still the favourite in this fight. Benoit does have the power advantage, but Sampo is the better grappler, and should be able to utilize his top control game to win a decision or (T)KO. — CJG

Drew Dober vs. Sean Spencer
For Sean Spencer, this match is a test. After losing by submission in his UFC debut and winning via split decision in his next contest, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was feeling some pressure to win decisively. Dober, on the other hand, is making his UFC debut and has looked like a wrecking machine in smaller organizations. While being on the big show is a different experience, I have a feeling Dober’s going to take this one by submission (which he excels at). — NZW

Despite an eight-and-two record in his last ten fights at lightweight, Dober (who some may be familiar with via his losing a “get in the house” prelim for TUF 15) is taking this fight on the dreaded “short notice” and is also moving up a weight class in the process. Sean “Black Magic” Spencer debuted at 185 lbs., losing to Tim Kennedy KO gif victim Rafael Natal (via arm-triangle), then dropped to welterweight and decisioned Yuri Villefort. Given his size advantage, the level of his last few opponents and experience in the big Octagon, “Black Magic” should easily take a decision here.

Walter Harris vs. Jared Rosholt
Another pair of fighters making their UFC debuts, Rosholt and Harris are very different heavyweights. Harris’s four professional victories are all (T)KOs due to punches, while Rosholt has proved he can punch, knee, submit or just decision his opponents. If Harris doesn’t punch Rosholt out in the first two minutes of round one, Rosholt wins this one. — NZW

 

The younger, larger brother of veteran MMA, and former UFC, fighter Jake Rosholt, “the Big Show” is a standout collegiate wrestler from Oklahoma State University (he’s the winningest heavyweight in the history of their program, with a record of 125-27), who’s making his UFC heavyweight debut with an eight-and-one MMA run. Harris, who’s also making his UFC debut, is four-and-one and is a former college basketball player. Despite his amateur boxing experience, wrestling beats hoops every time. Rosholt by ground-and-pound (T)KO. — CJG

Tom Niinimaki vs. Rani Yahya
This is an interesting matchup: both fighters have long and storied careers, primarily outside of the UFC. While Yahya has been in the organization since January 2011, Niinimaki is making his UFC debut. While Yayha has been doing well, with his only UFC loss at the hands of former Featherweight title challenger Chad Mendes, I’m taking the Finnish featherweight due to the more varied set of tools at his disposal; his 20 wins are split quite evenly between (T)KOs, submissions and decisions. — NZW

Since moving over from the WEC, veteran submission grappler Rani Yahya has quietly flown under the radar, going four-and-one, choking out the once rising star Josh Grispi and decisioning former WEC featherweight champ Mike Brown, with his only UFC loss coming to Chad Mendes (by decision). While his opponent, Tom Niinimaki, has just has many professional fights (26) as Rani, Yahya has by far fought the tougher competition and should take this by submission or decision.

Maximo Blanco vs. Akira Corassani
This is a bad match for Akira. His only three losses are by KO or (T)KO, and that’s how Blanco likes to win. Both have a pair of fights in the UFC and stack-up well otherwise, but Corassani is vulnerably to Blanco’s punching power, even if Blanco’s nickname is “Maxi.” Like, dude, come on; it might as well be “With Wings.” — NZW

Blanco has yet to show the destructive power that made him such a force in Sengoku, where he had five (T)KOs, as well as a decision victory and a DQ loss for an illegal soccer kick. The formerly ultra-aggressive Blanco hasn’t had a (T)KO in three years now and is two-and-two in his last four efforts (with three of those going to decision, as well as a submission loss to Pat Healy). However, look for that to change. Corassani is a solid fighter who has struggled on-and-off with injury issues; he’s good everywhere but not amazing anywhere. If Blanco can channel some of his Sengoku-era aggression, he should be able to notch his first (T)KO win in the UFC. — CJG

Roxanne Modafferi vs. Raquel Pennington
Modafferi’s back is against the wall: she has five straight losses in her immediate past (three decisions, a rear-naked choke and a dramatic KO slam at the hands of Sarah Kaufman) and is now stepping into the Octagon. Pennington’s past is briefer but brighter, though she does have recent losses to Cat Zingano and Leslie Smith in Invicta on her resume. Both of these women are tough and will throw absolutely everything they have into proving that they have what it takes to be in the Octagon; I give Pennington the very slight edge. — NZW

The vastly more experienced Modafferi entered this TUF season on a five-fight losing streak, and despite submitting her way into the house, fell to Rakoczy in the quarterfinals. “The Happy Warrior” has long been a staple of women’s MMA, fighting a who’s who during her ten-year-and-counting career (including the likes of Sarah Kaufman, Marloes Coenen, Shayna Baszler, Tara LaRosa, etc.). She’ll need every bit of experience to get past Pennington, who had the “fight of the season” with Jessamyn Duke, before falling to Rakoczy in the quarterfinals. While her three-and-three official record isn’t initially impressive, Pennington has fought the likes of Cat Zingano in Invicta. Raquel will be the larger fighter and better striker, and should be able to defend Modafferi’s takedowns and thus stifle her ground game. Pennington by decision.

Jessamyn Duke vs. Peggy Morgan
“The Gun” vs. “the Daywalker” — this is going to be interesting. The women have spoken candidly about their friendship, and in fact got matching tattoos in the same locations after the TUF season ended. Morgan has a pair of professional wins behind her, while Duke has two wins and a NC (after her loss to Miriam Nakamoto was overturned by the commission due to an illegal knee). I give the edge to Duke due to her experience in Invicta, and for being a more considered, cerebral fighter. — NZW

Two very tall for bantamweight (the six-foot-one Morgan and five-foot-11 Duke), relatively inexperienced female fighters who fell in the TUF quarterfinals this season will face off against each other. Despite both possessing undefeated records of two wins and no losses, Duke has the experience edge, with three fights for Invicta — one was an NC — under her belt. Morgan likes to employ her size to overwhelm and dominate opponents, but against a fighter of similar stature, this will be no easy task. Duke as shown more well rounded skills during the season and should earn a decision. —CJG

Chris Holdsworth vs. Davey Grant
The contest between this pair of TUF finalists is going to be a match of submissions specialists. Grant is a choking machine, claiming all but one — a (T)KO — of his pro victories by either rear-naked or guillotine. Holdsworth is an aficionado of the choke as well, but has a single arm-bar win thrown in for good measure. It’s going to be fascinating watching these two go after each other’s carotid arteries. Grant might have a slight edge simply due to his pro experience, but Holdsworth looked fantastic on the show. — NZW

Unbeaten Team Alpha Male member Chris Holdsworth entered this season of TUF with no small amount of hype and has delivered in spades, with three first round submissions during the season to advance to the finals. England’s “Dangerous” Davey Grant is also fond of the sub, dispatching his first two challengers in this fashion before receiving a free pass to the finals when his opponent failed to make weight (always a no-no on TUF). When two submission aces square off, sometimes we get a lacklustre stand-up contest instead of the back-and-forth BJJ furball we were promised. However, if this is the case Saturday night, with the power of Alpha Male coach Dwayne “Bang” Ludwig and his sandals in his corner, as well as his height and reach advantage, Holdsworth will have the striking edge, and is also a better wrestler and overall fighter. Holdsworth by sub. — CJG

Jessica Rakoczy vs. Julianna Pena
One of the most anticipated matches on the card is the clash between the top women contenders from the Rousey and Tate camps. Pena is a young rising star who’s made incredible progress over the course of the show and looks to have a long and wonderful career ahead of her. Rakoczy, on the other hand, is a much more experienced fighter, which her MMA record doesn’t necessarily reflect: the 36-year-old Canadian began a pro boxing career in 2000 and has 31 wins, earning the WIBA title three times. To get into the house, however, she won via arm-bar, and has displayed surprising flexibility, in terms of technique ever since. Rakoczy is a better, tougher, more experienced combatant and this fight is hers. — NZW

The relatively inexperienced Pena shocked the MMA world, and nearly destroyed Ronda Rousey’s sanity along the way, when she upset massive show favourite Shayna Baszler during this season of The Ultimate Fighter. The last pick of the season, Rakoczy also scored an upset of her own (if not one quite as grand) when she (T)KO’d Roxanne Modafferi to advance to the semi-finals, where she decisioned the bigger Raquel Pennington to move onto the finals. Although Rakocy is world champion boxer, who has demonstrated a great deal of MMA skill growth throughout this TUF season, the edge clearly has to go to Pena, especially after her dispatching of Baszler. While the striking edge clearly goes to Rakocy, look for Pena to go for takedowns, work top control and ground and pound for a decision victory. — CJG

Nate Diaz vs. Gray Maynard
I never bet against a Diaz.
NZW

t’s a little odd that the powers that be are billing this as a trilogy, as Maynard and Diaz’s first encounter was during the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter (which Diaz would go on to win, thanks to Manvil’s shoulder spontaneously exploding in the finale), and was a two-round exhibition match (as the UFC doesn’t have to release results immediately that way). True, Diaz guillotined the hell out of Maynard on the show, but it doesn’t appear on either’s record. In their first official match at Fight Night 20, Maynard was given a very contentious split decision victory, despite the younger Diaz brother outlanding him by 29 significant strikes (thank you, Fight Metric), and clearing winning the fight on the completely unofficial Staph-Infection score cards. Both fighters would go on to challenge for the lightweight title — Maynard with two incredible fights against Frankie Edgar and Diaz losing a lopsided decision to Benson Henderson, with Maynard unquestionably coming much closer to attaining the ultimate prize. As well, both were (T)KO’d in their last contests (Maynard by T.J. Grant and Diaz by Josh Thomson). Unquestionably this is a must-win rebound match for both, with Diaz on a two-fight losing skid and Maynard having only one win (a horribly frustrating track meet against Clay Guida, who clearly wasn’t there to fight) in his last four contests. Since their initial encounters, Diaz’s ground game and volume Stockton striking have only improved and it’s a case of pick your poison for Maynard, who will likely look to stand once again to avoid Nate’s submission game. Benderson and Thompson both demonstrated effective ways to counter Diaz’s style (specifically, kicks and overwhelming wrestling and control). However, while Maynard has the wrestling pedigree to plant Nate on his back, he doesn’t have the defence to be in his guard for 15 minutes and is more boxer than kickboxer. Diaz by submission. — CJG

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