Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back, yet again, with a weekend chock full of mixed martial arts (MMA) action for you to sink your teeth into as we (believe it or not) slowly approach the midway point of the promotion's 2012 fight campaign.
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15 wraps things up this Friday night (June 1) with its live finale emanating from "The Pearl" at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada, featuring the FX Channel's reality show lightweight finalists, Michael Chiesa vs. Al Iaquinta, vying for the coveted "six-figure contract" and a spot in the UFC's crowded 155-pound division.
Headlining the "Sin City" fight card will be a welterweight showdown between Jake Ellenberger vs. Martin Kampmann in a bout that could have serious title implications for "The Juggernaut" if he's able to win convincingly.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card action tomorrow night (Fri., June 1, 2012), which is slated to air at 9 p.m. ET on the FX Channel. The latest quick updates of the live action from the Palms in Las Vegas will begin to flow earlier than that around 6:00 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FUEL TV.
So who takes home the glory and who takes a dump? Follow
me us after the jump to find out.
Nostradumbass predicts: It may be hard to believe, but Jake Ellenberger has over 30 professional fights in his career. He's also finished 22 of his 27 wins. If you haven't been taking this guy seriously, now's probably a good time. But whether or not he wins tomorrow night largely depends on which "Hitman" shows up to fight.
I happen to think the Dane is the better all-around fighter.
Unfortunately he's his own worst enemy. If he's not going punch-for-punch against Paul Daley in the stand-up, he's rocking Jake Shields and then shooting for a takedown. Being a Kampmann fan can be an exercise in frustration at times and when he's not screwing himself, the judges are doing it for him (see Sanchez, Diego).
"The Juggernaut" is a hard puncher, a strong wrestler and a battle-tested welterweight, but that doesn't make him invincible. He wins this fight if he consistently pressures Kampy with a barrage of power shots, something Marty has been vulnerable to in the past.
However, if he tries to pace himself and play the waiting game, opting to pick his spots, he's likely to get outpointed from a very efficient and technical striker who can also defend the takedown with relative ease (see Sanchez, Diego).
Ellenberger needs to come out guns blazing, trying to finish this fight in order to not just defeat his opponent, but lock up the title shot he's been aiming for (unless Johny Hendricks beats him to the punch).
I think he gets it done.
Prediction: Ellenberger def. Kampmann via technical knockout
Geno Mrosko predicts: Win three fights in three weeks. That's what it will take for one of these two men to become a legitimate TUF guy. But while that has a nice ring to it, it's somewhat disturbing to think of what's being asked of these competitors.
Not only did they have to live in some random house in Las Vegas for 13 weeks, they had to do so with no contact to the outside world. Just a house, a gym, and a lot of testosterone.
This was particularly painful for Chiesa, whose father passed away just as he was moving in. Sure, he was allowed to fly out for a day to take care of his business, but he was back as quick as he left, trying to focus on the task at hand.
When you think about it, it's a small miracle the dude made it to the final.
The problem, of course, is he went long and hard in his three bouts during his time in the house. Yes, he showed a ton of heart and will to win in surviving some deep spots and bringing himself back from the brink of defeat. But his gas tank isn't bottomless, folks. And not only is he physically taxed, he's emotionally drained.
The adrenaline will get pumping come fight night but that will only get you so far. If Iaquinta, who did far less work in the cage on his way to this final showdown, can drag Chiesa into deep waters, will he have enough left in the reserve to pull out one more victory?
It's a better story if Chiesa wins, no doubt about that. He would become the embodiment of what it means to be an Ultimate Fighter, overcoming mental anguish and grueling physical competition to reach his dream of a contract with the world's largest fight promotion.
There's just one problem -- Iaquinta is the better fighter.
Chiesa racked up his four victories thanks to getting his opponents to the floor and dominating them positionally. He always had the advantage in that respect, too. But not anymore. Not in this one. Not against Iaquinta.
If they never hit the floor, which is entirely possible considering Iaquinta's solid takedown defense, Chiesa isn't much more than a sitting
Brock duck waiting to be picked off. The mat is where Chiesa has his best chance of winning but even if he manages to get the fight there, I don't see him smothering Iaquinta like he did so many others.
Chiesa might be a better story but Iaquinta is the better fighter. Reality TV at its finest.
Prediction: Iaquinta def. Chiesa via knockout in round one
Nostradumbass predicts: Jonathan Brookins is 6-2 over his last eight fights and those two losses came to Jose Aldo and Erik Koch -- two guys duking it out for the featherweight title -- so it's safe to say he's doing work (and doing it well) since capturing the TUF 12 championship back in December 2010.
In four losses he's never been submitted, which is usually something I would tout if he weren't fighting a jiu-jitsu wunderkind like Charles Oliveira. Still, as good as "Do Bronx" is on the ground, it doesn't mean a submission win is a foregone conclusion, either (See Cerrone, Donald).
Do I think Brookins, who's tapped eight of 13 himself, can submit the Brazilian?
No, but I do think he's durable enough to grind out a decision. Oliveira started off hotter than a chili fart and aside from slicing through the calf of Eric Wisely back in January, stiffer competition at 145 pounds has made him look mortal.
I expect Brookins to do the same.
The key to victory is shluffing off the takedowns and keeping an aggressive striking attack, something Oliveira will give away to the judges in his attempt to razzle-dazzle the audience with a dynamic offense that looks good on television, but does very little to win the fight.
Prediction: Brookins def. Oliveira via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: Max Holloway made his Octagon debut last February at UFC 143 in Las Vegas, getting submitted in the first round by Dustin Poirier to kick off his ZUFFA career with an 0-1 start. So what's he doing on the televised portion of a UFC fight card?
Well, they needed someone who matched up evenly with Pat Schilling, who was also choked out in his UFC debut earlier this year, courtesy of Daniel Pineda at UFC on FX. From that standpoint, this is good matchmaking. I'm just not sure of its placement on the card.
In any event, this is a great way for one of these up-and-comers to make the haters eat crow.
I'm leaning towards Schilling, because in a fight-by-fight comparison, he's done a better job of winning when it counts. Holloway has four wins, but three of them went to a decision. By contrast, Schilling has taken home five "W's" and finished all five of his victims.
I guess that's why they call him "thrilling" Schilling.
Look, it's not much, but they haven't shown us much. With just a handful of fights we don't quite know what to expect from these two featherweights, which is why they need to come out and put on a show. For my money, I'm expecting Schilling to get it done -- and get it done convincingly -- in the latter part of round one.
Prediction: Pat Schilling def. Max Holloway via technical knockout
Patrick L. Stumberg predicts: (Editor's note: Patty made this prediction prior to its promotion to main card status and has been promoted from his undercrad preview.) Coming out of absolutely nowhere to become a favorite to win the show, Justin Lawrence made one hell of a statement in the elimination rounds, completely annihilating World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) veteran James Krause in less than two minutes and earning a spot atop Team Cruz.
"The American Kid" quickly built up steam, knocking highly-touted Cristiano Marcello in two rounds to make it to the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, Mike Chiesa would not be denied, and after 2.5 exciting rounds, pounded Lawrence into oblivion from full mount.
The Black House representative's hype train may have taken a knock, but expect it back in full force if he puts down John Cofer.
Known for his wrestling aptitude, Cofer was selected by coach Urijah Faber to take out Team Cruz's premiere knockout artist, Vinc Pichel. Unfortunately for Team Faber's fifth pick, the fight only wound up hitting the ground on Pichel's insistence as he locked up an arm-triangle early in the bout's third round.
Cofer was riding a four-fight win streak prior to entering the house and would undoubtedly bring a smile to Mr. Faber's face if he made it five this Friday.
Lawrence isn't just impressive for his age, he's DAMN impressive for his age. Despite the massive experience gap, he pretty much won every second of his fights with Krause and Marcello, displaying an impressive grappling game to complement his striking arsenal. He's still got some growing to do, of course, but I'm pretty sure it's in a good chunk of the division's best interest to stay the hell out of his way while he's doing so.
There's always the worry when a young fighter takes on someone with a good takedown game that he's going to get unceremoniously smothered, but from what I've seen of Lawrence's takedown offense and defense, I don't think that'll be an issue. Expect something along the lines of the Marcello fight, with Lawrence controlling distance and picking apart Cofer before landing something big in the middle rounds.
Prediction: Lawrence def. Cofer via second-round knockout
That's a wrap, folks.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for TUF 15 live finale click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Ellenberger vs. Kampmann."
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.