Do or die, homie.
Both in the midst of nasty mixed martial arts (MMA) slumps, Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz likely have one last chance at Lightweight contendership when they clash in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 Finale, which goes down this Saturday (Nov. 30, 2013) at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In addition, TUF 18 finals for the men and women will feature one member of Team Ronda Rousey and one of Team Miesha Tate, meaning the competition has come down to the wire.
We have five "Prelims" under card matches this time around, the first of which will stream online via Facebook and the remainder will air on FOX Sports 1.
Let's take a look at the first batch below:
265 lbs.: Jared Rosholt vs. Walt Harris
Younger brother of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) veteran Jake Rosholt, three-time NCAA All-American Jared Rosholt (8-1) enters the the Octagon as one of the most decorated wrestlers in the organization. He’s also proven to be no slouch on the feet, wiping out his last foe in just 34 seconds.
"The Big Show," who will give up two inches of height to his opponent, has won four straight since falling to the terrific power of Derrick Lewis.
Walt Harris (6-1), a former Division 1 basketball standout, has made quite an impact already, scoring six knockouts in a grand total of 7:55. His sole defeat came at the hands of Chris Barnett, who weighed in an astonishing 29 pounds over the Heavyweight limit in that fight.
Harris trains with American Top Team and has honed his boxing at the Mayweather Boxing Club.
While Rosholt is rightly the favorite, there is real potential for an upset because Harris can crack. His right hook is devastating and Rosholt has proven worryingly easy to hit.
Still, can’t pick against the giant dude with, on paper, better wrestling than anyone in the division.
Rosholt lacks Cain’s and Cormier’s speed and has yet to develop that level of fluidity in striking, but he still has excellent takedowns and solid ground-and-pound. His conditioning should also be the better of the pair’s and he has experience on much larger stages than Harris.
The opening minute of each round is going to be hairy, but once Rosholt gets Harris down, he’s staying there. Rosholt grinds down Harris for a ground-and-pound stoppage late in the second stanza.
Prediction: Rosholt by second-round technical knockout
After a late-notice debut at Middleweight against Rafael Natal went poorly, Sean Spencer (10-2) dropped to his natural weight of 170 pounds for his bout with Yuri Villefort. Despite being on the Brazilian’s home turf, he soundly outstruck the one-time prospect, taking home his first UFC victory.
Spencer will have a two-inch height advantage over his late-notice opponent.
Drew Dober (13-4) got his first chance at the UFC on TUF 15, but lost in the elimination round to Daron Cruickshank. He has since won five of six bouts , including a submission of former UFC fighter T.J. O’Brien. Dober, who ordinarily fights at Lightweight, is a late replacement for Sergio Moraes, who himself was originally set to fight Zak Cummings.
Dober is a solid all-around fighter who normally fights at lightweight. Spencer is a solid all-around fighter who has fought at middleweight. Dober’s biggest stage was a single Bellator fight in 2009, Spencer’s already fought twice in the UFC proper. Dober had eleven days to prep for this fight, Spencer had a month.
What I’m saying is that this isn’t the hardest choice in the world. Spencer pieces him up on the feet for a wide decision.
Prediction: Spencer via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Josh Sampo vs. Ryan Benoit
Since suffering a come-from-behind knockout loss to Will Campuzano, Josh Sampo (10-2) has established himself as one of the premiere flyweights in the sport, winning four straight and picking up the CFA Flyweight title. Among his victims were former Bellator competitor Alexis Vila and World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) veteran Antonio Banuelos, the former suffering the first submission loss of his career at Sampo’s hands.
He most recently defended his title by snapping the four-fight win streak of Sam Thao, cruising to a five-round decision win.
Though Ryan Benoit (7-2) lost the biggest fight of his career to Anthony Birchak in May, the fact that he has seven finishes, six by knockout, makes him an intriguing addition to the UFC Flyweight roster. Most of his career has been spent in Legacy Fighting Championship, where he earned four first-round finishes.
He has never gone past two rounds in victory.
Benoit’s finishing rate is no fluke -- he has serious power in his hands on the feet and when unleashing ground-and-pound. The problem is that he simply does not have the defensive grappling to handle Sampo. Benoit does great work from top position but was put in bad spots multiple times by Birchak.
Should Sampo find himself in the same spots Birchak worked his way to, Benoit isn’t getting out.
Benoit’s submission defense should be up to the task of surviving Sampo’s attempts to finish, but his takedown defense and positional defense most likely aren’t. Sampo dominates him on the mat for a clear decision win.
Prediction: Sampo via unanimous decision
We've got two more TUF 18 Finale "Prelims" fights to break down, both intriguing bouts in the Featherweight division.
Stop by tomorrow -- same space, same place -- for a look.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of TUF 18 Finale main card action on fight night (Sat., Nov. 30, 2013), which is slated to begin promptly at 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1. The latest fight-by-fight updates of all the live action will begin to flow around 7:30 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bout on Facebook.