The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 Finale predictions, preview and analysis

Copyright: Martin McNeil

Never make an important decision on an empty stomach! Fortunately, your old pal Nostradumbass is stuffed to the gills with fried turkey and corn bread stuffing, so expect a second helping of pre-fight predictions for tomorrow night's return to Las Vegas.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is closing the book on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18, its latest combat sports reality show, coached by Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey.

But since the promotion isn't giving away that fight for free, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans will have to settle for the rubber match (rematch, if you have a stick up your ass and refuse to acknowledge their exhibition fight) between Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz.

And, of course, the male and female finales between the two pairs of bantamweight finalists.

While not exactly a "stacked" line up, TUF 18 Finale does hold serious implications in a couple of different divisions, including 155 pounds, where we find out which former division number one contender is washed up -- and which one still has some fight left in him.

In addition, we could produce a new 135-pound contender in the women's division, since Rousey -- assuming a UFC 168 victory -- has effectively thinned the herd by way of "Rowdy" dominance over the past few months. The ladies have delivered all season and I don't expect them to stop tomorrow night.

But which of these turkeys gets pardoned in "Sin City?"

I'm glad you asked...

155 lbs.: Gray "The Bully" Maynard (11-2-1) vs. Nate Diaz (16-9)

Nostradumbass predicts: I know promotion president Dana White says his roster is too full, but we really shouldn't be in a position where a major UFC card is headlined by two guys who got KTFO in their last fights. True, they only took over as headliners when the original main event was shipped off to Sacramento, but this is not a unique situation.

Just look at UFC Fight Night 33 next month in Australia.

Anyway, we have to play the hand we're dealt, which means deciding which fighter has fallen the furthest. Gray Maynard hasn't looked good in almost three years. After getting waxed in his trilogy against Frankie Edgar, he had that stinker against Clay Guida in New Jersey, before T.J. Grant played the Knockout Game at "The Bully's" expense last May.

Part of that is Maynard's fault.

If he wants the takedown, he's going to get it. There isn't anyone who can stop that from happening at 155 pounds, which was a lesson Jim Miller and the aforementioned Edgar found out the hard way in unanimous decision losses. But somewhere along the way "The Bully" decided he was Floyd Mayweather.

He's got power, but his striking is serviceable, at best.

That's why I was baffled by his first second fight against Nate Diaz at UFC Fight Night 20. He threw 154 total strikes and not only did he not score any takedowns, he didn't even attempt one. I understand that Diaz is a threat on the ground, but if Joe Stevenson can hump his way to a decision, then so can Maynard.

That's why this will be his fight to lose.

Diaz has fallen on hard times lately, but unlike his opponent, was actually looking terrific before his back-to-back losses to Ben Henderson and Josh Thomson. The Stockton slugger set a striking record in his thrashing of Donald Cerrone before tooling Jim Miller on FOX.

Against "Smooth" he was outclassed and I think his arrogance cost him the Thomson fight.

It wouldn't surprise me to see Diaz goad Maynard into a stand-up war, reminiscent of the last time they competed. It also wouldn't come as much of a shock to see "The Bully" get picked apart on his feet, only to start shooting out of desperation late in the fight.

That's unfortunate, because history has a way of repeating itself.

Final prediction: Diaz def. Maynard via submission

135 lbs.: Julianna "The Venezuelan Vixen" Pena (4-2) vs. Jessica Rakoczy (1-3)

Nostradumbass predicts: It's hard to knock a fighter who makes it all the way to the live finale, but there are couple of things to consider when looking at Jessica Rakoczy. First and foremost is her win over Raquel Pennington, which in my opinion was one step above a sparring session.

She was able to unload at will while her partner barely hit back.

The fact that Pennington failed to show up -- and waited until there was 30 seconds left in rounds two and three to implement a ground game -- was the silver platter Rakoczy needed to advance. There was a reason she was picked last by Ronda Rousey.

She's a great striker, but has a paint-by-numbers offense.

Furthermore, Julianna Pena provides a terrible match-up for her. A gritty, in-your-face style of attack that leaves little room for finesse. Those skills as a pugilist are not going to be of much use when "The Venezuelan Vixen" goes into berserker mode.

Just ask Shayna Baszler.

To be fair, Pena had struggled prior to making the show, suffering back-to-back losses on the regional circuit. The difference is, she's a complete mixed martial artist who needed a few extra days under the lamp, as opposed to a "sweet science" convert who is running to catch up.

A finish would not surprise me.

Final prediction: Pena def. Rakoczy via technical knockout

135 lbs.: "Dangerous" David Grant (8-1) vs. Chris Holdsworth (4-0)

Nostradumbass predicts: I would have really liked to have seen more from David Grant as we head into the live finale, as picking him is kind of a leap of faith when you consider what Chris Holdsworth did inside the TUF house.

Three fights, three first-round submission victories.

On the flip side, Grant has been tearing up the European circuit and in eight wins, has finished all of his opponents -- seven of them by way of tap, nap or snap. If you take into consideration his four amateur fights, Holdsworth is right there with him.

So where does that leave us?

Nowhere, really. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, as two evenly-matched competitors equates to an action-packed fight. I don't think, judging by what I saw on TUF 18, that we're in danger of these guys sticking and moving for three rounds. This is going to be a war.

And Holdsworth is going to win it.

The method of picking is hardly scientific, but I didn't get a chance to see Grant perform when a spot in the live finale was on the line, the kind of thing that can break some fighters (see Pennington, Raquel). I don't think the Brit will go easily, but he won't have a choice once the scorecards are turned in.

Final prediction: Holdsworth def. Grant via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Jessamyn "The Gun" Duke (2-0) vs. Peggy "The Daywalker" Morgan (2-0)

Nostradumbass predicts: Jessamyn Duke has been getting a lot of attention since her days in the TUF 18 house, mostly because she's aligned herself with former head coach Ronda Rousey. But to her credit, she also had an exciting fight against Raquel Pennington, albeit a losing one, back on episode six.

And there was her Invicta FC controversy prior to that.

That said, she's still a work in progress. Duke has the athleticism and definitely the size to make an impact at 135 pounds, now all she needs is the skill. Fortunately, she's been able to draw a favorable match-up tomorrow night against Peggy Morgan.

The towering "Daywalker" -- just like "The Gun" -- is 2-0 since turning pro in June 2012, but unlike her finale foe has five fewer fights on the amateur circuit. That makes a difference when two fighters are still wet behind the ears. I also thought Morgan was exposed by Sarah Moras in a quick submission loss on episode nine.

I would expect Duke to come out throwing with bad intentions, just like "Rowdy" would want her to. Morgan will put up a good fight, but I believe she gets taken down and subbed by armbar because hey, #armbarnation is trending and all that silly stuff.

Final prediction: Duke def. Morgan via submission

135 lbs.: Roxanne "The Happy Warrior" Modafferi (15-10) vs. Raquel "Rocky" Pennington (3-3)

Nostradumbass predicts: Let's just go ahead and say it: Roxanne Modafferi is not a UFC-caliber fighter. I know she's an Internet darling and is probably the nicest person in the entire sport, but I can't overlook the fact that she hasn't won a fight in almost four years and entered the TUF house on a five-fight losing streak.

And she looked god-awful in her loss to Jessica Rakoczy in episode four.

"The Happy Warrior" has a decent ground game and when she first got started over a decade ago, was able to take advantage of Japanese tomato cans with losing records. But in recent years, the division has caught up to her and she's since been overtaken by better athletes.

I don't expect this fight to be any different.

Pennington has some work to do herself, but it looks to be more mental than physical. She's six years younger than Modafferi and has eight amateur fights to accompany her six as a pro. I think she's able to beat Roxy anywhere the fight goes and the longer this thing drags on, the better it is for "Rocky."

I doubt we'll see much of the ground game.

Assuming the Pennington that fought Jessamyn Duke is the same Pennington that shows up in "Sin City," Modafferi is going to get lit up on her feet for most of the fight. She'll try to take things south, but I don;t think she;'s strong enough to get it there.

Final prediction: Pennington def. Modafferi via unanimous decision

That's a wrap.

MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire TUF 18 Finale card tomorrow night (Sat., Nov. 30, 2013), starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET, right on through the main card action on FOX Sports 1, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.

There ya' have it.

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.

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