Winners Circle: What victory means for UFC Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 Finale's featured fighters

Photo by Esther Lin from MMA Fighting

What does a victory mean for Nate Diaz, Gray Maynard, Julianna Pena and Jessica Rakoczy this Saturday night (Nov. 30, 2013) at The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale in Las Vegas, Nevada? We explore their possible profits and consequences below, ahead of their respective fights which can be seen on FOX Sports 1 this weekend.

Nate Diaz and Gray Maynard know each other all too well.

The Stockton, Calif., native defeated "The Bully" in the semifinals of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 5 en route to winning the tournament, although Maynard was able to exact revenge at UFC Fight Night 20 nearly three years later in 2010 in a fight where some believe Diaz did enough to win.

The pair will meet for the third time in their careers on Saturday night (Nov. 30, 2013) at The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale, which takes place at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, and can be seen live on FOX Sports 1.

The finals for both the men and women's Bantamweight tournaments are also on deck, with a fight between Chris Holdsworth and David Grant taking place on the main card. All eyes will be on Julianna Pena, however, who is one victory away from being crowned the women's 135-pound winner. Unless, of course, Jessica Rakoczy, is able to steal her thunder.

Here we go:

Nate Diaz

Apart from declaring himself unavailable for this fight, Diaz believes that after he gets through Maynard, Josh Thomson and Anthony Pettis is on his radar and that he will hold the lightweight belt in no time.

Obviously, Diaz is bit ahead of himself in that regard. If the Cesar Gracie product wants to insert himself in the title picture again, his focus should be entirely on "The Bully."

His loss to Benson Henderson at UFC on FOX 5 was his chance to acquire the lightweight championship, and despite an inspiring effort alongside a bunch of middle fingers that FOX had to deal with, it was nowhere near resembling a performance worthy of being called a champion. Diaz proved he was tough as nails, although he was greatly overmatched.

Diaz has his eyes on the prize, but if he suffers his third-straight defeat at the hands of Maynard on Saturday night, he can kiss any hopes of a title fight goodbye.

In order to make that dream a reality, the younger Diaz brother needs to win -- plain and simple. And after that, he needs to win again. His job probably is not on the line, yet if he provides the public with another senseless tweet, who knows what could happen.

Gray Maynard

The case of Maynard is a tricky one.

He is ranked No. 5 on UFC's official website, yet is that warranted or has "The Bully" proved himself to be a force after being with the company for so long?

Hopefully Maynard has put his trilogy with Frankie Edgar to rest, in order to focus on the rubber match that is in front of him."The Bully" looked okay when he defeated Clay Guida, since "The Carpenter" really did not make too much of an effort to engage. When Maynard met TJ Grant, that is when it all fell to pieces -- suffering his second-career knockout loss.

His win over Guida is the only victory he has in his past four fights -- which date back to January of 2011. The American Kickboxing Academy lightweight needs to win over Diaz to not only prove that he can topple him again in more decisive fashion (in regards to their UFC Fight Night 20 main event), but also to show that he is still worthy of being a contender for the title at 155 pounds. If he loses again this weekend, his hopes will fade drastically.

Julianna Pena

The obvious answer -- a six-figure contract and a spot on the UFC's roster.

From what we have been seeing on TUF 18 this season, nobody likes Pena. Apart from bouncing from team to team and apparently dishing out information on each other early on in the season, there has not been too much to distinguish the facts of why this is.

All the more reason for Pena to prove the naysayers wrong and establish herself as a prospect to watch in the women's bantamweight division.

She has a decent skillset; definitely more skilled on the ground than she is on the feet. With a career-defining performance on Saturday night, Pena can worry about how to better her game once she is awarded as the winner of the tournament.

For now, it is about respect -- and Pena needs that from her peers that would want nothing more than to see her lose and feel she does not deserve to be in the final.

Jessica Rakoczy

Rakoczy is 36 years old, and possesses a record of 1-3-(1) in the sport.

The Hamilton, Ontario native has let us know that she is doing this for her son, and that is what motivates her going forward. Everyone loves a true underdog story, and Rakoczy will have a lot of supporters behind her on Saturday night.

"Ragin'" does need a win in order to continue her career as a high-level mixed martial artist. Having lost to Zoila Gurgel and Felice Herrig in the past (whom are not contracted by the UFC), time is winding down for her to make an impact at the highest level -- trying to find success and comfortable living as a full time fighter.

Between both women's Bantamweight fighters, Rakoczy needs it more, since she is the older fighter who will feel pressure to perform in what could be her last chance to gain a spot on the UFC roster.

For news and updates regarding this Saturday's TUF18 Finale click here.

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