This Saturday night (Nov. 30, 2013) Bantamweight hopefuls Chris Holdsworth and David Grant will face off for a "six-figure" Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) contract on the main card of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 Finale from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Holdsworth is the owner of an undefeated 4-0 record in mixed martial arts (MMA). All four of his wins have come by way of submission. He locked up his spot in the finals by submitting noted striker Chris Beal to advance to the semi-finals. He then faced Michael Wooten, again forcing his opponent to tap, this time to a first round rear-naked choke.
Holdsworth has looked nearly unstoppable on the show, mixing a top-level grappling skillset with proficient enough striking to get the job done. "Holds It Down" appears well on his way to securing the contract, but first he'll have to get past Grant.
The British submission artist is most likely Holdsworth's toughest test on the show. Not to be outdone, Grant has an impressive 8-1 record in MMA. His sole loss came in his inaugural pro bout back in 2009. After that Grant settled in to submit seven of his next eight foes. He put the other one away via technical knockout.
Grant looked sharp in his first TUF 18 bout, a submission win over late replacement Louis Fisette. Overall, though, we haven't seen much of him.
But that's not his fault. Anthony Gutierrez missed weight heading into his semi-final bout with Grant, earning "Dangerous" a free pass to the finals. It's probable that Grant would have defeated Gutierrez, whose heart was obviously not in the game.
That doesn't matter at this point, however. All that does is the contract, and it's going to be a hotly contested war between two expert grapplers n Las Vegas. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Chris Holdsworth vs. Davey Grant:
Record: 4-0 overall, 0-0 UFC, 2-0 TUF
Key Wins: Michael Wooten (TUF 18), Chris Beal (TUF 18)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Holdsworth is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who has made a seamless transition into MMA. His opponents have had no answer for his ground game to this point.
He'll get a step up in competition when he faces Grant at Mandalay Bay.
Both Holdsworth and Grant are larger Bantamweights who can submit opponents seemingly at will. Holdsworth doesn't have a single striking stoppage to his name, but his sample size is quite small. He's proved to be effective if not spectacular on the feet. Holdsworth has trained in both kenpo and Taekwondo so he's not completely one-dimensional.
Against an opponent who is very similar in skill, Holdsworth is going to have to control the clinch game. If he can push Grant up against the cage and land some dirty boxing while looking for a takedown, he'll control the fight and gain the favor of the judges. Grant has tapped out before, albeit in his first MMA bout, so the potential for a submission could be there. It just won't be easy to lock up.
From what was aired on the show, it looks like Holdsworth may have a small advantage in the striking department. Any edge will be instrumental in picking up a win at TUF 18 Finale.
A golden opportunity awaits the undefeated Holdsworth. He has to maintain his mental focus and take advantage of the situation. Holdsworth has exhibited supreme confidence throughout his tenure on the show. That could help or hurt him this weekend. There's no reason to underestimate Grant just because he hasn't had much of an opportunity to showcase his talent as of yet.
If Holdsworth shows up to the finals with just enough respect to keep him sharp and hungry, the contract will be ready for the taking.
Record: 8-1 overall, 0-0 UFC, 2-0 TUF
Key Wins: Louis Fisette (TUF 18)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Like Holdsworth, Grant is an absolutely lethal grappler. "Dangerous" finished his last eight opponents, and only two of them made it past the first round. Unfortunately we don't really know much about his ability to fight UFC-level opponents. The same could be said about Holdsworth but at least we saw him face and defeat two worthy opponents on TUF 18.
Grant has had a strange ride to the finals to say the least. He submitted Fisette in the opening round, but that doesn't necessarily prove much. Although it was a good win, it was still against an opponent who was finished in the preliminary fights to get a spot on the show. Fisette only found himself on TUF 18 after Tim Gorman was forced to withdraw with a badly injured hamstring.
That was strange but it got even weirder.
Grant was understandably emotional when he found out that Gutierrez couldn't make weight. He showed true warrior spirit in not rejoicing over the clear road to the finals.
As a submission specialist, his time spent training with UFC Women's Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey will prove invaluable. There's a good chance she taught him a thing or two about escaping dangerous spots on the ground.
Grant isn't exactly know for his striking prowess but he does have the only knockout win between the two fighters. He may look to prove that he can beat another grappler on the ground. It's always risky to engage an opponent in their strong point, but in this case Grant has the mat skills to do just that.
We've often seen bouts between two submission specialists be largely contested on the feet so Grant has to be ready for a kickboxing match. His length and reach should help him out tremendously there.
Grant seems to be the more motivated fighter of the two. He's anxious to prove that he is the rightful owner of the UFC contract and the bout will be a telling test of just where he stands.
Bottom Line from Las Vegas: The bottom line for this fight is that it features a clash of very similar styles. There are a ton of bouts that feature a striker against a wrestler or something similar, but not here. Both fighters like to do their damage on the canvas.
If and when the fight hits the ground, it's anyone's game. A takedown by either fighter is far from a guarantee of dominant position with two active submission artist like these. Each one is obviously going to have their submission defense polished and on point.
Even a temporary lapse in attention could cause the fight to be over quickly.
It will also be interesting to see how Holdsworth and Grant respond to the bright lights of the UFC stage. It's one thing to fight with only your teammates and a few others watching; battling on the main card of a Las Vegas-based event is a different story altogether.
Truth be told the fighter who can manage his emotions best will probably come out the winner. Tensions will be flying high with so much at stake. Both fighters are highly skilled. It's time to officially prove that in the Octagon.
Chris Holdsworth and Davey Grant are set to lock horns for the TUF 18 contract. Which grappler has the skills to etch his name into the history books?