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‘TUF 18 Finale’ Preview and Predictions




It seems that seasons 18 and 5 of TUF are linked together. This was the first season since that season that a fighter has missed weight; not just one but two fighters missed their mark. Manny Gamburyan who coached with Ronda on this season was a finalist on season 5. The winner of that season was Nate Diaz who was a guest coach on this season for Team Rousey. He will face another fellow cast member from that season, Gray Maynard, in the main event of this season’s finale on Saturday night. Both the number 5 and 18 can be found in PI so yeah, the connections are freaky.

Maynard and Diaz fought during that season and Diaz submitted him. A few years later Maynard avenged that loss with a three round SD win. As with many split decisions this one was controversial as Diaz out struck Maynard 70-41 with neither fighter scoring a takedown. They enter this rubber match both surprisingly needing a win.

Diaz is coming into the fight on a two fight losing streak. His most recent loss to Josh Thomson was the first time he had been stopped via strikes in his career. He is not fighting for his job but his spot in the top ten is in jeopardy with a third consecutive loss. Maynard at 12-2-1 would not seem like he would need a win but he has gone 1-2-1 in his last four fights. The two losses have both been by TKO including his most recent fight against TJ Grant which ended in the first round. Another loss and he could also slip out of the top ten and the loser of this fight could be one loss away from being out of the UFC.

Which Maynard we get could determine this fight. Diaz has struggled with strong wrestlers with a good submission defense. Rory MacDonald took him down seven times in three rounds and Benson Henderson did it eight times in five rounds. Both were UD losses for Diaz, but since his draw with Frankie Edgar he has one takedown. If he gets back to his wrestling roots he wins this one but if he tries to stand and box with Diaz he loses. It really is that simple. He may have more one punch power than Diaz but Diaz is the better boxer. He nearly doubled the number of strikes of Maynard in his SD loss to him and if does that again he probably gets the decision. Though you never know when it comes to judging.

My pick: Diaz three round decision win. Maynard tries to box with him instead of wrestle and Diaz takes the decision.

The co-main event features the TUF women’s final. It is Team Tate’s first pick, Julianna Pena versus Team Rousey’s last pick Jessica Rakoczy. Pena is a big favorite in this fight. It is a similar setup to last season’s final between the heavy favorite Uriah Hall and the underdog last pick Kelvin Gastelum. For that fight I predicted Hall with the old do not be surprised if Gastelum win’s caveat. All because I just did have the guts to just pick Gastelum which is bullshit and will not happen again.

People want to overlook Rakoczy and maybe it is because of her less than spectacular record coming into the house. She is 1-3-1 and started out 0-3. Those three losses were to Felice Herrig, Michelle Ould and Zoila Frausto Gurgel. They are a combined 28-10. She does bring a 33-3 boxing record with her and eight world titles in that sport. She found out quickly that MMA is different and instead of getting discouraged she dove into the sport. Her grappling is evolving and she has great hand speed and footwork. Many people are predicting that Pena will bullrush Rakoczy, overwhelm her and get down to the ground. From there she will work her over and get a TKO or submission win. It could go that way but I do not think that it will. Against Roxanne Modafferi, Rakoczy showed what she will do if you rush in against her. She has great footwork and will catch you coming in with devastating results.

My Pick: Look for Rakoczy to get the upset with solid takedown defense, good survival skills on the ground when it does go there and superior striking in the standup. Third round KO upset win for the Ragin one.

In the mens final we get another heavy favorite in Chris Holdsworth from Team Tate taking on Team Rousey’s Davey Grant. Holdsworth looked great on the show, brings a 5-0 record into the fight and trains with Team Alpha Male. Grant is no slouch and he brings an 8-1 record himself and showed off some great survival skills combined with the ability to find the finish.

These are two of the bigger fighters and it should be a great fight. Holdsworth will dictate the action and Grant will be looking to find a way to win. He was able to do that in the house but Holdsworth is too good. Grant can win this fight but he will have to catch Holdsworth who has shown a solid chin so far. Look for him to follow the pattern of using the striking to set up the submission.

My pick: Holdsworth after a tough battle finds the submission in the second round for the win.

The main card kicks off with two more fights from the women of TUF. It starts with Team Tate members Roxanne Modafferi and Raquel Pennington in one and Team Rousey teammates Jessamyn Duke and Peggy Morgan The Big Ass Bantam in the other. Look for two competitive fights with two finishes.

The battle between Morgan and Duke is between two of the tallest fighters in the division. Morgan has good standup with a strong ground and pound game. Duke is much more dangerous. She has excellent striking with her Muay Thai background and a strong submission ground game. For Morgan to win she will need to use her slight advantage in height and reach to control the standup. She will also need to get a takedown or two, score some ground and pound and avoid the submission. She will have a tough time against Duke who is quicker and more fluid with her strikes. Her clinch work is strong and she has a good guard off of her back. Since the show she has been training with Rousey and her camp so you can expect an even more improved Duke on fight night. Morgan will also bring new facets with her as both benefited from their time on the show. They were always locked in and focused during the training segments on the show.

My pick: Look for Duke to use her striking to set up the submission. The first round a little back and forth with Duke starting to take control with some strikes that lead to the fight going to the ground with Duke pulling off an armbar for the win.

The main card will start with another matchup between teammates as Modafferi represents the old school and Pennington the newcomer with an old school soul. Modafferi is easily one of the most likable people period and is one of the true pioneers of the sport. Pennington is just a nice badass. In this case she is a badass with something to prove. In her loss to Rakoczy she was just not the same fighter her fans have seen in the past. Since that fight ended she has wanted nothing more than to get back into the octagon. For most fans the fight of the season was Pennington and Duke but for a fighter all you remember is your last fight. Take nothing away from Rakoczy who was brilliant in that fight but Pennington was not right mentally for that fight. She will be ready for this one and she will be looking to make a statement. Pennington has a big advantage on the feet and she has a very strong grappling game as well. Neither Sarah Moras nor Leslie Smith could get a submission against her. She just has more ways to win.

My pick: Look for the main card to start with a bang as Pennington makes a statement. Modafferi is tough and has effectively awkward movement, but in the second round Pennington gets her timing down. Once she finds her rhythm she will put together a couple of combinations and score the TKO win in the second.

This season of TUF was about the women and the finale is more of the same as they are three of the five fights with the women’s final being the co-main not the men. The Holdsworth and Grant fight will be a great fight but the women will be spectacular. Pennington will start it off, Duke will continue it and Rakoczy will get the big upset to finish it.

cover image – UFC

An avid lifetime fight fan who loves to write about it. So kick back, get comfortable and let's have some fun! "Wants me to tell him something pretty." Al Sweargen "Going wrong is not the end of fucking things, Johnny. Fuck no! I have comeback from plenty of shit that looked like it was going wrong." Dan Dority "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it." Bill Munny

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