The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 13 Finale will televise two rising light heavyweights this Saturday night (June 4, 2011) in Las Vegas, Nevada, as a TUF veteran takes on a top Brazilian prospect with some nasty power in his hands.
Kyle Kingsbury is looking to continue his amazing run. After nearly losing his job, he's now won three straight in the world's biggest promotion including a 21-second knockout this past February at UFC 126. The former Arizona State wrestler is hoping to continue his momentum by derailing the hype train of his Brazilian counterpart.
Fabio Maldonado enters the Octagon for the second time riding an impressive 11 fight win streak. He took James McSweeney's best shot in his UFC debut last October and still came back to dominate the fight. The Nogueira-trained striker is looking to connect with his heavy hands and send "Kingsbu" packing.
Will Kingsbury stand toe-to-toe against the Brazilian boxer? Is Maldonado's all-around game advanced enough to keep the fight standing? Who's ready to take their game to the next level?
Check out the complete fight preview after the jump to find out:
Record: 10-2 (1 No Contest) overall, 3-1 in the UFC
Key Losses: Tom Lawlor (TUF 8 Finale), Tony Lopez (KOTC: River Rage)
How he got here: Kyle Kingsbury was razer close to being done with the UFC three times. He entered season eight of The Ultimate Fighter on a technical knockout loss to the always tough Tony Lopez. Despite that, he made the cut but was eliminated by eventual show winner Ryan Bader in the qualifier match. After an injury to a contestant, he was allowed back on the show as a replacement and was given the role of "team leader" by his coach, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Kingsbury would lose a match to Krzysztof Soszynski on the show but would be brought back again to face Tom Lawlor in the season eight finale, a fight he would also lose.
Despite four straight losses dating back to 2007 (counting his TUF season 8 exhibitions), he was given one last chance against Razak Al-Hassan on the UFC 104 undercard, a fight he would win via split decision. With a new lease on life, Kingsbury came out a man possessed in his next fight, a show-stealing battle against Jared Hamman that won both men a "Fight of the Night" bonus at UFC Fight Night 22. Kingsbury would follow up his excellent performance by arriving in the best shape of his life at UFC 126 and destroying Brazilian submission specialist Ricardo Romero in just 21 seconds with some will-breaking knees to the body.
He was rewarded with a televised fight against a talented striker in Maldonado. The Zuffa brass has faith that he'll put on a show for the fans.
How he gets it done: Kingsbury's striking has improved by leaps and bounds but he's still too stiff to simply stand and solely trade strikes against Maldonado.
If Kingsbury really wants to get things done, he should batter the Brazilian's legs with kicks and then use his wrestling to take the knockout artist down as often as possible. For a guy who trains with some amazing ground fighters like the Nogueiras, Maldonado's ground skills leave something to be desired. If Kingsbury can take Maldonado down and keep him there, he'll have a stellar chance of winning this fight by decision or even a ground and pound stoppage.
What Kingsbury absolutely cannot do is get suckered into Maldonado's mind games. The Brazilian boxer loves to taunt his opponents, leaving his chin out and repeatedly raising his hands and pointing to his face. Kyle must try to avoid getting caught in the trap of wanting to stand and strike with the boxer for an extended period of time. Maldonado was 22-0 in boxing and he's got 12 knockouts in MMA. The Arizona State product should only stand with him long enough to lower his defenses and allow for takedowns.
Record: 18-3 overall, 1-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: Alexandre Ferreira (MTL: Final)
How he got here: Fabio Maldonado was an esteemed Brazilian boxer who made the transition to mixed martial arts (MMA). He lost two of his first four fights 10 years ago, took a three year break from MMA and came back with a fury in 2004, having won 16 of his 17 fights since then.
Maldonado stopped ex-UFC middleweight Maiquel Falcao via TKO twice during his run and he made a big splash in his UFC debut against James McSweeney. After eating a ton of punishment in the first round, the Brazilian landed a devastating body shot that took the fight out of the UK kickboxer. The Team Nogueira fighter showed no mercy, repeatedly coming back to the body with uppercuts and ground and pound after McSweeney dropped to eventually score a TKO victory early in the third round.
Now that his Octagon jitters are gone, he'll be ready to give Kingsbury his best shot.
How he gets it done: Maldonado isn't the most complicated man. He's got some legitimately impressive boxing skills and an extremely durable chin. James McSweeney threw everything but the kitchen sink at him in the first round of their fight and he still came out in the second round like nothing had happened.
The Brazilian wants to keep this fight standing and he wants to work his big power punches to the body and head of "Kingsbu" if he can get close enough without surrendering a takedown. If he has to, he might leave his hands at his sides to entice Kingsbury to trade strikes with him.
As an all-around mixed martial artist, Maldonado is rather limited. He doesn't have great kicks, good defense or much of a ground game. He's primarily a boxer who's not afraid to take a shot to give one. That being said, his boxing is extremely good. If he can stay on his feet and land something flush to Kingsbury's head or body, he could end the AKA fighter's night in a hurry.
Fight "X-Factor:" The "X-factor" for this fight has to be Kyle Kingsbury's progression as a fighter. He's come a long way from the guy who got out-wrestled by Tom Lawlor in his UFC debut. The self proclaimed lover of 80's music spends his down-time training with Power MMA alongside top wrestlers like Ryan Bader, C.B. Dollaway and Aaron Simpson. When he's doing his pre-fight training camps, he works at the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) with top grapplers like Daniel Cormier, Cain Velasquez, Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck.
Depending on how much his MMA wrestling and top control has improved since the last time we've had a chance to see it in September (he didn't get a chance to showcase it at UFC 126), Kingsbury has a legitimate shot of taking Maldonado down for three rounds and beating on him.
If he hasn't progressed enough to the point where his top control is still spotty, he could be in a lot of trouble. Kyle still leaves some big openings when he's striking and Maldonado is probably salivating at the chance to exploit them.
Bottom line: Depending on whether Kingsbury is hunting for another bonus or not, this match could be an all-around stand-up brawl that ends in devastating fashion, or it could be a wrestling clinic. With his 21 second knockout in his last fight, "KIngsbu" just might have the confidence to want to stand and bang with the Brazilian boxer. Whether that's a good idea is up to his trainers but this match definitely has potential.
Who will come out on top at the Ultimate Finale? Let us know in the comments section below!