Well, at least it's time for the good part.
The nineteenth (numbered) season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) has wheezed past the finish line and it's time for the threematch nobody asked for. Coaches BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar will do battle once again this Sunday night (July 6, 2014) in the main event of TUF 19 Finale, going down inside the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Unfortunately, we've also got to deal with the tournament finals, featuring four Team Edgar fighters. Dhiego Lima takes on Eddie Gordon at middleweight while Matt Van Buren faces Corey Anderson at 205.
Anyway, enough of my whining. We've got half a dozen "Prelims" to get through, the first two on Fight Pass and the rest on FOX Sports 1.
155 lbs.: Kevin Lee (7-1) vs. Jesse Ronson (13-4)
The 21-year-old Lee got the unenviable task of facing Ultimate Fighter vet Al Iaquinta in his UFC debut back at UFC 169. Though he ultimately lost via decision, he showcased some impressive grappling chops in the process, taking and staying on Iaquinta’s back for the majority of the second round. Each of his last four wins have come via submission.
Ronson entered the UFC on an eight-fight winning streak, picking up five finishes in that span. He has yet to find his groove in the promotion, however, losing consecutive decisions to Brazilian grapplers Michel Prazeres and Francisco Trinaldo. Ten of his victories have come inside the distance, six by form of knockout.
Honestly, I’m just not seeing the upside of Ronson. His striking’s decent, but his defensive grappling leaves a lot to be desired. By contrast, I was quite impressed with Lee’s effort against Iaquinta in spite of the loss. He showed excellent groundwork and, considering his age, likely still has a lot of improvement to go.
Ronson was almost able to capitalize late on the fading Prazeres and Trinaldo; so long as Lee’s cardio holds up, though, he ought to be able to own the fight on the mat. Lee takes his back for the finish midway through the second.
Prediction: Lee by second-round submission
135 lbs.: Leandro Issa (11-4) vs. Jumabieke Tuerxun (14-1)
Issa, the former ONE FC bantamweight champ, lost his title in a stunning upset to Korea’s Soo-Chul Kim in October of 2012. After defeating Yusup Saadulaev, Issa debuted in the UFC last January, falling to Russell Doane via submission. His eight finishes include seven submissions, all but one inside the first round.
The top prospect out of China, Tuerxun made his UFC debut last March in Macau, taking on Team Lakay’s Mark Eddiva at featherweight. Despite being a heavy favorite, Tuerxun lost a wide decision, struggling to impose his wrestling game on the Filipino striker. This will be his first fight outside of his native China.
We got battlin’ disappointments here. I don’t know how much of Tuerxun’s poor performance was due to Eddiva’s size advantage and how much was due to being in over his head, but I wasn’t terribly impressed. The same goes for Issa, who I figured would submit Doane without too much trouble.
Might as well go with the more experienced guy.
Issa has faced some quality opposition in ONE FC, including Masakazu Imanari and the aforementioned Saadulaev. Tuerxun has not faced anywhere near that caliber of opposition. While I don’t expect either man to make too many waves in the division, I do think Issa’s superior grappling carries the day.
Prediction: Issa by unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Adriano Martins (25-7) vs. Juan Manuel Puig (11-2)
Martins entered the UFC having won eleven of his last twelve fights and immediately went to work, battering and submitting Daron Cruickshank in his debut. Donald Cerrone proved slightly too dramatic a step up, though, sleeping the former Jungle Fight champion with a vicious right high kick. Though a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) black belt, eleven of his fourteen finishes have come via form of knockout.
Mexico’s Puig has won ten of his last eleven fights, finishing all but two opponents in the process. Three fights ago, he defeated fellow UFC signee Akbarh Arreola, stopping "El Caballero" with punches late in the first round. He is seven years his foe’s junior.
To be frank: barring an absolutely miraculous turn of events on par with a meteor coming through the roof of the arena and hitting Martins in the head, Martins is going to beat the hell out of Puig. Getting knocked out by Cerrone can happen to anyone in the division; Martins is still enormous, powerful, and a damn good grappler.
Puig has solid top control, but very limited striking and, as far as I can tell, nowhere near the wrestling necessary to take Martins off his feet. So long as Martins’ confidence in his physicality wasn’t shattered by the head kick, he should be able to walk Puig down and finish him via the method of his choice. He’s been big on knockouts lately, so let’s go with that.
Prediction: Martins by first-round TKO
205 lbs.: Daniel Spohn (8-3) vs. Patrick Walsh (4-1)
Spohn breezed through the elimination round of The Ultimate Fighter 19, scoring a rapid knockout and becoming Team Penn’s third light heavyweight pick. After becoming the sole Team Penn 205er to reach the semifinals, Spohn lost to Matt Van Buren by second-round knockout. He is four inches taller than Walsh, standing 6’4."
Walsh, Team Edgar’s second pick, defeated Team Penn premier Anton Berzin in the quarterfinals, setting up a match with teammate Corey Anderson. In one of the season’s few exciting fights, Walsh took Anderson the distance, impressing with his durability despite losing on 30-27s across the board. Three of his four pro victories have come inside two minutes.
Look, I’ll be honest with you: my experience of watching TUF 19 consisted entirely of some of the elimination round, having Pendred’s first fight on the TV while I looked at naughty things online, and seeing a minute of the last episode before realizing Dhiego Lima had already fought and switching back to South Park. Thus, I’m pretty much flying blind with only Internet recaps as my guide.
Spohn can apparently crack and Walsh’s most notable achievement was walking forward and eating punches in a way Dana White considered reminiscent of the walking dead. Now, I’m just a southern gent who gets paid to write about fights, but to the best of my knowledge, that combination tends to end really badly for the latter. Let’s go with that.
Prediction: Spohn by first-round TKO
135 lbs.: Alexis Dufresne (5-0) vs. Sarah Moras (3-1)
Team Quest’s Dufresne has been wrecking shop on the regional circuit, ending all five of her professional bouts in the first half of the first round. Most recently, she thrashed Kim Couture in just 45 seconds, her third straight TKO inside two minutes. She is three inches taller than Moras.
After defeating veteran Tara LaRosa in the elimination round, Moras became Miesha Tate’s second pick on The Ultimate Fighter 18. After defeating the towering Peggy Morgan, Moras fell in the semis to teammate and eventual winner Julianna Peña by guillotine choke. She is Dufresne’s second scheduled debut opponent, an April bout between Dufresne and Amanda Nunes falling through.
All I’ve seen of Dufresne is that stomping of Couture, who’s kind of awful, but I’m extremely impressed. She seems to have excellent takedowns and is brutal from mount; seeing Moras get grounded and controlled so easily by Peña makes me question whether Moras can avoid the fate of Dufresne’s other five victims.
Again, I’m not working with too much information here, but Dufresne really does look like the real deal. I think she takes Moras down and picks up her fourth straight stoppage via strikes.
Prediction: Dufresne by first-round TKO
205 lbs.: Keith Berish (5-0) vs. Robert Drysdale (6-0)
Berish, a Ring of Combat veteran, has not gone the distance since his professional debut, ending each of his last four bouts in the first round. The finishes are split between TKO and submission, TUF 19 castmember Patrick Walsh numbered among his sub victims. He will give up three inches of height to Drysdale.
A world-class jiu-jitsu player with a long history of success at the highest level, Drysdale’s grappling has been on full display in his MMA career, ending all fights via submission inside three minutes. He won gold in his division at the 2004 Mundials and gold in the ADCC 2007 Absolute division, submitting Marcelo Garcia in the latter event. This will be his third scheduled debut, fights with Ednaldo Oliveira and Cody Donovan scratched due to injury and a preposterous amount of testosterone (preposterone) on Drysdale’s part, respectively.
I have found zero recent footage of Keith Berish. Therefore, I’m going to have to pick this fight based on alternative criteria.
Namely, which one of these guys is and isn’t Robert Drysdale.
Drysdale is one of the most accomplished grapplers to ever set foot in the Octagon. Unless that 19.4 T-E ratio fried his brains or he hits his head on a pipe on the way in and forgets how to wrestle, Drysdale ought to make short work of him. The jury’s still out on whether Robert can handle the beasts waiting at the top of the division, but Berish shouldn’t trouble him much at all.
Prediction: Drysdale by first-round submission
Eh, there are worse ways to spend a Sunday. See you there, Maniacs.
Current UFC "Prelims" Prediction Record 2014: 92-44 (1 NC)