The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Season 13 has officially wrapped, which means it's time to find out who will be the recipient of the promotion's "six-figure" contract when the UFC hosts its TUF 13 finale tomorrow night (June 4, 2011) live from the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Remember: MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of TUF 13 Finale, beginning with the Spike TV telecast at 9 p.m. ET on June 4. In addition, we will deliver up-to-the-minute quick results of all the preliminary card action much earlier on fight night.
Receiving top billing are lightweight standouts Clay Guida and Anthony Pettis. Can these two division contenders live up to the hype and deliver what many pundits predict will be "Fight of the Night?" Or will TUF 13 finalists Anthony Ferguson and Ramsey Nijem steal the show?
As with most TUF Finales, the remainder of the Spike TV fight card will be filled out with a handful of reality show hopefuls from this season (and season's past) that may not have made it to the promised land, but did enough during their time in the competition to warrant a second look.
Let's break it all down.
Prediction: Nijem takes home the unanimous decision.
Preview: Ferguson entered this season riding a three fight win streak, including a technical knockout victory over Brock Jardine at PureCombat 12: "Champions for Children" last September. He matched that streak on the cable television network, defeating Justin Edwards in spectacular fashion via upkick knockout in episode six. He would move on to the semifinals and paste Ryan McGillivray at the 0:46 mark to earn a semifinal slot opposite Chuck O'Neil. It took three rounds, but the outcome was still the same.
Like Ferguson, Ramsey entered this season having strung together three consecutive wins, including a rear-naked choke over Scott Casey at Showdown Fights: "Respect" back on Sept. 24, 2010. He would use that same submission to deny "Superstar" Charlie Rader the chance to move on when they went to war on episode four. Clay Harvison did his best to stay out of the choke on episode eight but was also submitted by Nijem, who could have went for the hat trick on episode nine but settled for a technical knockout victory over Chris Cope to earn his spot on Saturday night's telecast.
Analysis: Both fighters are talented welterweights and while they may not be ready for the top half of the division, it will be exciting to watch them develop over the next year or so. That said, I'm taking "Stripper" Ramsey, not because I like men who take off their clothes, but because I feel he's the more complete fighter. Ferguson has great hands and I like the way he controls the Octagon, but he's not as fluid as Nijem and doesn't possess the same intangibles. It wouldn't surprise me to see Tony jump out to an early lead and capture the first, but I predict Nijem is the busier and more effective fighter in the second and third rounds.
Fight odds: Anthony Ferguson (+110) vs. Ramsey Nijem (-140)
Prediction: Pettis wins by submission.
Preview: After all the accolades that came on the heels of his five round title win over Ben Henderson at WEC 53, Pettis waited for the winner of the "Edgar vs. Maynard 2" at UFC 125 to unify the lightweight titles following the Zuffa brand merger. Unfortunately, at least for Pettis, that fight ended in a draw and UFC President Dana White called for an immediate rematch to settle the score once and for all. That left "Showtime" without a date to show the audience why he's 13-1 with 11 finishes but his decision to remain active was met with glee from both fans and pundits alike.
Guida is a longtime veteran of the UFC, owning a solid record of 8-5 under the Zuffa banner. Although he's never competed for the title, or even been in an official number one contender fight, the Greg Jackson fighter is a perennial contender within the division. He's been on a hell of a run as of late, finishing his last three opponents by way of submission (one due to injury) and taking home two bonus awards for his hard work. His win over Takanori Gomi at "Resolution" may have convinced a few of the doubters that he's finally ready for a push towards the top of the food chain.
Analysis: Clay is one of those fighters that's really matured inside the cage and his transition to the Greg Jackson camp has paid off in spades. I don't know what to call that bizarre offensive stance he employed against Gomi so I'll just refer to it as "The Dirty Surfer." It worked. But don't expect similar results against "Showtime," who's more comfortable inside the cage than Gomi will ever be and let's face it, he knows how to fight. Guida doesn't have the stand-up prowess his opponent does which is why he's going to unleash hell to compensate for it. It wouldn't surprise me to see Pettis flat on his back -- and it also won't surprise me to see "The Carpenter" getting tapped out via triangle choke.
Fight odds: Clay Guida (+160) vs. Anthony Pettis (-200)
Prediction: Maldonado wins by violent technical knockout.
Preview: The likable but unsuccessful Kingsbury made his television debut on TUF 8 and was quickly bounced from the competition following a submission loss to eventual winner Ryan Bader in episode two. After Karn Girgoryan was injured, "Kingsbu" was reinserted into the tournament but was submitted by Krzysztof Soszynski in the quarterfinals. He joined some of his fellow cast mates in the TUF Finale in December 2008 but lost to Tom Lawlor via unanimous decision. Since then, he's quietly assembled a three-fight winning streak including an impressive 21-second knockout over Ricardo Romero at UFC 126: "Silva vs. Belfort" back on Feb. 26.
Maldonado has been competing for over ten years, having cut his teeth in local promotions in his native Brazil. The Team Nogueira fighter was successful in his Octagon debut after pasting James McSweeney at UFC 120: "Bisping vs. Akiyama" last October. In fact, Maldonado hasn't tasted defeat since a submission loss back in 2007 and has finished ten of his last eleven opponents (7 KO/TKO, 3 submissions). Scary stuff.
Analysis: It's hard to pick against Kingsbury, who looks better and better in each fight. Unfortunately they paired him against an assassin, who may have crushed a few cans in Brazil but has still proven that he's a dangerous finisher. I know "Kingsbu" has three consecutive wins since coming up empty at the TUF 8 Finale but two of them were decisions (one split) while Maldonado has just been steamrolling guys left and right. I expect that pattern to continue on Saturday night as Kingsbury gets squished in the stand-up.
Fight odds: Kyle Kingsbury (-185) vs. Fabio Maldonado (+155)
Prediction: Credeur wins a "Crazy" split decision.
Preview: If it seems like it's been a while since you heard from these two, that's because it has. Herman hasn't been seen since he suffered a graphic knee injury in a technical knockout loss to Aaron Simpson at UFC 102 back in August 2009. Before taking his extended vacation, "Short Fuse" was on a short leash, having lost three of his last four fights. Not only will he have to fight ring rust, he may also be competing for his job.
Credeur's absence has lasted nearly as long as Herman's, dating back to September 2009. His run of luck after winning "Fight of the Night" honors in a gritty but ultimately unsuccessful effort against Nate Quarry has been nothing short of "Crazy." Multiple injuries have forced the 33-year-old to cancel a few fights in the past year, but he finally appears to be healthy and ready to get right back in the thick of things in the crowded middleweight division.
Analysis: I know everyone is talking about "Guida vs. Pettis" as potential "Fight of the Night," but don't be surprised to see these two middleweights steal the show. Ed Herman is a gamer and has well-rounded skills despite his inability to make his presence felt at 185-pounds. And if you don't know what kind of fighter Credeur is, just go back and re-watch the Nate Quarry fight. My only concern is that with such an extended layoff for both fighters, we could have them sucking wind by the second stanza. In either case, I expect Credeur to earn the split decision win. Strict Nostradumbass policy: Never bet on a fighter coming off a devastating knee injury.
Fight odds: Tim Credeur (-120) vs. Ed Herman (-110)
Prediction: O'Neil wins via unanimous decision.
Preview: Cope was able to overcome Javier Torres by unanimous decision to stay alive in the elimination rounds. "C-Murder" came into the semifinals a heavy underdog against Shamar Bailey, but was able to repel the wrestler's onslaught and eek out a unanimous decision win. He would be unable to repeat that performance in the semifinals and was stopped by Ramsey Nijem in the second round.
O'Neil took over for the injured Myles Jury to notch a spot on TUF 13, but was quickly eliminated by Zach Davis. Fortunately he did enough to earn himself a wildcard spot and made the most of it by submitting Javier Torres and earning a rematch with Davis in the quarterfinals. "Cold Steel" won the unanimous decision to get into the semifinals where he was eventually stopped by Tony Ferguson in the third round.
Analysis: Whoo! Chris Cope is not the goofball some people make him out to be and he's a pretty decent fighter, but if I have to base my prediction on what I've seen to date, I don't know if he has the ability to do enough in this fight to take home the win. My biggest issue with Cope is how tentative he is inside the cage and while he responds well to his corner, he allows his opponents the time to find their comfort zone. And I get this feeling that "Cold Steel" just wants it more. I can't give a whopping advantage to either fighter and the first round will play out pretty evenly, but O'Neil will be busier, dictate the pace and win this contest in the second half of the fight.
Fight odds: Chris Cope (+145) vs. Chuck O'Neil (-175)
That's a wrap, folks.
Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of TUF 13 Finale.
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.