A six figure contract is up for grabs and two very talented featherweights will be battling for it tomorrow night (December 3, 2011) on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 14 Finale as Greg Jackson-trained fighter Diego Brandao takes on Long Island MMA's Dennis Bermudez.
Brandao tore a path of destruction during the filming of this past season, blasting all three opponents he faced and finishing them all with a first round knockout. He pushes a tremendous pace and will be looking for the finish the moment the bout begins.
Dennis Bermudez was much more quiet on the show but he did all his talking in the cage, where his ability to withstand punishment and keep pressing forward, eventually outworking all his opponents became evident. He will be looking to showcase that tremendous heart one more time tomorrow night.
Will Brandao continue his barbaric blitz through this season's cast? Can Bermudez weather the storm and make the Brazilian look human? What does each featherweight have to do to be crowned the next "Ultimate Fighter?"
Let's find out:
Record: 13-7 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: Brian Foster (TAP Entertainment)
How he got here: Diego Brandao got into MMA as a teenager and made his professional fighting debut when he was just 18 years old. Despite being a natural featherweight, Brandao has repeatedly faced men significantly bigger than him throughout his career and he even holds a first round victory over UFC veteran welterweight Brian Foster. Now that's some power.
Brandao eventually found himself training at Greg Jackson's gym where he's had his skills refined. He scored three straight stoppage victories in New Mexico before earning a spot on season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter.
Since he's been on the show, Brandao has been a wrecking ball, knocking out all three of his opponents in the first round, including a brutal finish of Steven Siler inside the first thirty seconds. He's a ferocious finisher and after his stoppage victory of Bryan Caraway in the season finale of TUF 14, he earned a shot at Dennis Bermudez with the winner earning The Ultimate Fighter season 14 featherweight crown.
How he gets it done: Brandao comes out like he's been shot out of a cannon. Instead of calming that fire down, he should harness it and go after Bermudez, who's been a slow starter in some of his fights.
He opened with a flying knee in the first two seconds of his fight with Steven Siler and I wouldn't be surprised one bit if he did something similar on the Finale to try and put his opponent away quickly.
Brandao is a head down, charge forward and throw bombs type of fighter. If he ever gets Bermudez backing up, he needs to explode forward and hurt him, try to overwhelm him with punches, kicks and knees. The most important thing of all will be to not be so wildly aggressive with his strikes that he leaves huge openings for takedowns. Bermudez is a solid wrestler and he could present problems if he ducks a strike or catches a kick and puts him on his back.
If Brandao can have selective aggression and avoid getting clinched or being put on his back for extended periods of time, he's got a very good shot at scoring a stoppage and becoming the next Ultimate Fighter
Record: 7-2 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: Drew Fickett (Shine Fights 3)
How he got here: Dennis Bermudez was a successful wrestler while competing at Bloomsburg University, a Division I wrestling school in Pennsylvania. While living in Harrisburg, he trained at Blackman MMA, the gym started by former WWE fighter Steve Blackman and he had some major success there.
Bermudez got off to a strong 6-0 start in his career and was invited to the one night Shine lightweight tournament. After defeating UFC veteran Shannon Gugerty in the first round, he succumbed to the Brazilian jiu-jitsu stylings of eventual winner Drew Fickett. After another tough loss in his next, fight, he moved back to New York and began training at Long Island MMA.
After dropping down to featherweight for the first time, Bermudez tried out for The Ultimate Fighter season 14 and defeated highly ranked Jimmie Rivera in his elimination bout after recovering from a rough first round. He dominated Stephan Bass in the quarterfinals and came back to submit Akira Corassani to earn a trip to the finals where he'll meet the ever-dangerous Diego Brandao.
How he gets it done: Bermudez is going to have to weather the early storm against Brandao. That's the most important thing for him. He's gotten off to rough starts in two of his three fights on The Ultimate Fighter but if he makes a mistake and gets tagged by the Brazilian, there's no comeback this time.
The yellow-fanged fighter is going to have to have very tight striking defense and should fight defensively early against Brandao. If he can survive past the first round, the odds of him pulling out a victory increase drastically.
Brandao showcased some pretty solid takedown defense against Bryan Caraway in the semifinals, but who knows what his defense will look like if he's taken into the second round? He was TKO'd twice by UFC level fighters earlier in his career in the second round so in my opinion, forcing this fight into the second and third round is what Bermudez needs to do. He just has to avoid getting tagged during that first round, perhaps close the distance, put the Brazilian along the fence.
One thing is for certain and it's that he can't stand in front of the crazed striker and trade early.
Fight "X-Factor:" In my opinion, the biggest X-Factor for this fight is time. Dennis Bermudez is a fighter that gets stronger as a fight wears on. Diego Brandao pushes such an insane pace in the first round and looks for the finish so badly that there is a very real possibility that he tires himself out in the process.
We haven't seen Brandao in the second round, at least not on the show because he destroyed everyone in the first round, but that's a huge question mark heading into this fight. Bermudez needs to do whatever it takes to survive that initial onslaught and drag this fight into the deeper waters. Perhaps he can drown Brandao there.
Bottom Line: This has the makings of a terrific featherweight battle. Both Diego Brandao and Dennis Bermudez have spent the majority of their careers fighting outside of their weight class against bigger, stronger opponents. Now they'll finally battle someone of equal size. These are the two most talented 145 pounders who made it through the season and there are tons of possibilities here. We could see a highlight reel first round destruction from Brandao, we could see an incredible comeback from Bermudez yet again and we could see just how much heart both of these young men truly have. This should be fight of the night in my opinion so sit back and enjoy it.
Who do you have coming out on top at The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!