Six fights in The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 house, six finishes.
TUF 17 has drawn to a close, leaving 30 fallen combatants and two very hungry up-and-coming mixed martial arts (MMA) Middleweight fighters in its wake.
The Finale event, which is set to go down at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, this Saturday (April 13, 2013), features a clash between Team Chael Sonnen members Uriah Hall and Kelvin Gastelum for the legendary "six-figure" contract. Both fighters have torn through their competition, with Hall scoring the finest collection of knockouts in the show's history and Gastelum -- the last pick -- upsetting some of the top picks of Team Jon Jones.
In addition, both the men's and women's Bantamweight divisions will see some shake ups when Urijah Faber takes on Scott Jorgensen in TUF 17 Finale main event, while Miesha Tate and Cat Zingano will each step inside the Octagon for the first time ever. The latter bout is of particular interest because the winner will earn the next title shot against 135-pound champion Ronda Rousey.
Yesterday, we looked at three "Prelims" bouts that will stream live on Facebook.com right here. Today, we examine the remaining four that will air on FUEL TV prior to the FX main card broadcast that begins at 9 p.m. ET.
Here we go:
185 lbs.: Josh Samman vs. Kevin Casey
Having scored three consecutive knockouts, including one over highly-touted Swede Tor Troeng in particularly brutal fashion, one-time Bellator veteran Josh Samman (9-2) seemed a shoe-in for the Finale; in fact, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana intentionally avoided matching him with Uriah Hall in the semifinals. Unbeaten Kelvin Gastelum had other plans, however, choking out the Team Jones-trained fighter in the first round of their bout.
In professional competition, Samman has not gone the distance in victory since his debut, knocking out five opponents in that span.
Despite falling to Collin Hart in his first fight after the elimination round, Kevin Casey (5-2) sufficiently impressed coach Sonnen to earn himself a spot on the wildcard. Unfortunately, his shot at redemption would not come to fruition as kidney failure forced "King" to bow out in the second round against Bubba McDaniel.
Casey, who has faced the likes of Matt Lindland and Ikuhisa Minowa during his career, will be saddled with a four-inch height disadvantage.
I’m just going to cut to the chase: I have no idea how Casey wins this match. He’s smaller, has inferior striking and doesn’t have the wrestling to drag down Samman with any consistency. Samman’s grappling may need work if the Gastelum fight is any indication, but his power is murderous and Casey’s going to wind up forced to engage with him from the get-go.
There’s a reason Dana and Co. wanted to have Samman face Hall in the finals. Like him or not, he is devastating on the feet, which Casey will realize moments before having his jaw turned inside-out.
Prediction: Samman by first-round knockout
185 lbs.: Luke Barnatt vs. Collin Hart
Luke Barnatt (5-0), Sonnen’s first overall pick, made good use of his towering 6’6" frame in his match with Gilbert Smith, putting the significantly-smaller fighter to sleep with a flying knee as he shot in for a takedown. The quarterfinals were not as kind, as "Bigslow" found himself unable to overcome the wrestling and power of Dylan Andrews and suffered a third-round knockout loss.
The Brit will have a four-inch height advantage come Saturday.
Collin Hart (4-1-1), a veteran of Tachi Palace Fights, rode his impressive grappling game to victory in both the elimination and first house rounds. He was less successful with his striking against eventual finalist, Gastelum, who put him down with a left hook during a wild exchange.
Hart has tapped three opponents in official competition and drawn with Maximum Fighting Championship (MFC) standout Joseph Henle.
"Bigslow" is one of the more amusing and appropriate nicknames I've heard -- Barnatt is enormous, but he's awkward as hell ... and not in a good way. He’s got some solid knees and a crazy-long reach, but his footwork and overall speed are so poor that closing the distance on him is easy.
That inability to maintain range is going to cost him dearly against Hart unless Barnatt has substantially overhauled his wrestling game since the Andrews fight. Hart should be able to get inside and work his ground game without too much trouble provided he doesn’t leave himself open to one of those killer knees. A finish isn’t out of the question, but a more likely outcome is Hart delivering a steady stream of damage from Barnatt’s guard, trying and failing to pass those long legs, but avoiding submissions for a dominant decision victory.
Prediction: Hart by unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Dylan Andrews vs. Jimmy Quinlan
Generally, the last overall pick tends not to make much of a splash on TUF, but Dylan Andrews (15-4) elected to be an exception, scoring wins over Team Sonnen’s first and third picks. The semifinals saw this impressive string of upsets come to an unpleasant halt, however, as Hall pounded him standing before putting him away with shots from his back.
"The Villain" is not one to dawdle in the cage, putting down 13 opponents inside two rounds.
He had to go through hell to do it, but Jimmy Quinlan (3-0) scored a sizeable upset in his first match in the house proper, submitting top Team Jones pick Clint Hester through sheer grit. Sadly, his heavy grappling attack was not up to the task of taking out Samman, who forced Quinlan to tap to strikes in the first round.
Quinlan, coach Sonnen’s fifth pick, is the least experienced of all the show’s cast members.
Quinlan is a bit of an oddity because Hester visibly hurt him in their fight, but he somehow dredged up his inner reserves and pulled out the win, then Samman hurts him and he taps out.
Whether brave Quinlan or tap-happy Quinlan shows up, though, the outcome won’t be any different. His strength of schedule is quite weak, and while Andrews hasn’t taken out any world-beaters, he’s got six times the cage experience and much bigger power.
Quinlan is going to come out with his same single-minded pursuit of the takedown, but will encounter diminishing returns as the fight progresses, allowing Andrews' power and experience to carry him to a mid-round stoppage victory.
Prediction: Andrews by second-round technical knockout
185 lbs.: Clint Hester vs. Bristol Marunde
While he fell to Quinlan in his first fight after the elimination round, Clint Hester (7-3) sufficiently impressed in defeat that a spot on the wildcard seemed inevitable. Unfortunately, the former boxer lost out on his chance at redemption in favor of teammate Bubba McDaniel, a training partner of coach Jones.
Six of Hester’s victories are stoppages courtesy of his hands.
As a member of Team Shane Carwin on TUF 16, Bristol Marunde (12-7) did the world-at-large an excellent favor by defeating Julian Lane. Karma would not smile on Marunde for long, though, and he found himself on the wrong end of a decision to Neil Magny.
His last official fight, which took place before the show, was a submission loss to "Jacare" Ronaldo Souza in a fight where he came in as a late replacement.
For being a former boxer, Hester’s hands don’t impress me that much and he’s still got some work to do on the ground. That said, he packs some legitimate power and Marunde just doesn’t seem to be much good at all. As long as Hester can scramble and stuff takedowns with reasonable consistency, he should be able to win this without too much trouble.
Hester is raw, but he’s young, has significant upside and is facing an opponent coming off a one-year layoff who has fallen short effectively every time he’s stepped up in competition. Expect Hester to stuff a handful of takedowns before landing something big from in close, kicking off a fight-ending flurry in the middle of the first round.
Prediction: Hester by first-round technical knockout
Two finishing machines duking it out for a contract, two incredibly entertaining Bantamweight contenders in a five-round scrap and a high-quality WMMA fight. Not bad for a free card.
See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of TUF 17 Finale main card action on fight night (Sat., April 13, 2013), which is slated to begin promptly at 9 p.m. ET on FX. The latest fight-by-fight updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 5:30 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FUEL TV.