Two recent cast members of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 17 will meet this Saturday night (April 13, 2013) as middleweights Bubba McDaniel and Gilbert Smith kick off The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale main card in Las Vegas, Nevada.
McDaniel had an edge on the show, being a training partner of head coach Jon Jones at Jackson's MMA and being a 26 fight veteran, but that didn't help him enough as he lost not once but twice after making it to the quarterfinals as a wildcard winner. He'll be trying to get back to his winning ways against the vastly lesser experienced Smith.
Smith had to deal with not only his lack of experience on the show but also some serious doubt from his own team, who gave him little to no chance of beating Team Sonnen's top pick Luke Barnatt. He was knocked out by Barnatt in the round of 16 and a mini-rivalry with teammate McDaniel developed after being openly questioned by the veteran. He'll have a chance to shut Bubba up on Saturday night.
Record: 20-6 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: Kyacey Uscola (PFC)
Key Losses: Alexander Shlemenko (ShoXC)
How he got here: McDaniel began his professional fighting career in 2005, winning 10 of his first 12 fights. Along the way, he teamed up with Jackson's MMA, who helped refine his game. McDaniel competed in promotions like EliteXC, Bellator and King of the Cage, but didn't stick around in any one place for very long.
After a disheartening loss to Lucas Lopes three years ago, he hasn't looked back, winning six straight fights to enter this TUF Finale with some momentum.
On The Ultimate Fighter season 17, McDaniel was one of the fighters given the most attention due to his attitude and occasional antics. He won his fight to get into the house, but was choked out in his first official bout as a cast member. McDaniel redeemed himself in the wildcard bout against Kevin Casey, but was greeted in the quarterfinals by the wrecking machine that is Uriah Hall and he was finished in less than 10 seconds.
He'll be trying to get the bad taste out of his mouth against Smith.
How he gets it done: McDaniel has a pretty well-rounded skill-set. He can hang with most fighters on the ground and he's very scrappy on the feet. His biggest weakness is the fact that he's been stopped in all of his losses, six professionally and twice on TUF season 17. When things start to go wrong for him, they go wrong in a hurry.
The Jackson's MMA fighter needs to stick to a gameplan and that revolved around beating up Gilbert Smith on the feet and potentially dragging this fight into the later rounds. Smith showed some issues with cardio on the show and he's still young to the sport so if all else fails, McDaniel's experience can carry him to victory here.
Record: 5-1 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: none
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Smith began his mixed martial arts career as an amateur in 2009, winning all five of his fights before turning pro. Once he turned professional, Smith primarily competed in the local No Mercy Extreme Fighting promotion in Colorado where he showcased his wrestling and submission skills, winning all of his fights via either submission or decision.
After one last submission victory in July of 2012, he tried out for TUF season 17 and was accepted into the cast. Smith won his first fight to get onto the show via (you guessed it) submission but he was thrown a bit to the wolves, competing against Luke Barnatt, who dwarfed him in size and experience.
In their bout, Barnatt finished Smith via brutal flying knee in the second round. He'll be trying to redeem himself against McDaniel.
How he gets it done: Smith's bread and butter is his ground game so he shouldn't screw around trying to be cute against an experienced veteran like McDaniel.
Smith needs to get this fight to the canvas and he needs to do it in a hurry. As a shorter, stockier middleweight, he'll be at a disadvantage against the longer McDaniel, who will likely be picking him apart with jabs and straight punches on the feet. The quicker Smith can try to finish this fight the better as his cardio is a big question mark.
Look for Smith to throw a heavy hook or something to make McDaniel react and then immediately change levels and try to power double him to the canvas. Once there, he needs to throw caution to the wind and not respect McDaniel's ground game, similar to what Kelvin Gastelum was able to do when he choked him out in the second round of their fight on the show.
As long as Smith is there mentally and he is confident in his skills, he's definitely got a shot against the veteran.
Who will come out on top at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!