Two Ultimate Fighter (TUF) contracts will be on the line tonight (Sun., July 6, 2014) when Dhiego Lima and Eddie Gordon square off at middleweight and Corey Alexander and Matt Van Buren meet at light heavyweight on the main card of the TUF 19 Finale from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White has stated his belief that this was the worst season of TUF in history, so the fighters have much to prove if they ever want to make a name for themselves in mixed martial arts (MMA).
Lima's ground game looked sharp on the show, aiding him to two submission victories over Ian Stephens and Roger Zapata. His opponent Gordon prefers to let his fists do the talking, but his path to the finals wasn't nearly as smooth as Lima's.
Gordon won a unanimous decision in the opening round after his opponent Mike King suffered a gruesome eye injury. In the semi-finals, Gordon won a hard-fought spilt decision over Irish fighter Cathal Pendred.
At light heavyweight, Anderson has looked solid with his wrestling background, defeating both Josh Clark and Patrick Walsh on his way to the finals. He'll face off a tough opponent in Van Buren, a huge fighter for 205 pounds.
Van Buren didn't do himself any favors with his brutally boring majority decision over Chris Fields in the elimination round, but he rebounded strong to finish tough prospect Daniel Spohn with a technical knockout in the semis.
While the initial results haven't been good, the jury's still out on this season of TUF. The finalists can go a long way towards saving it by putting on a show in Las Vegas tonight. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Lima vs. Gordon and Anderson vs. Van Buren:
Key Wins: Ricky Rainey (XFC 25)
Key Losses: Nathan Coy (MFC 32)
Keys to Victory: Lima is one of few fighters to display the initiative it takes to rise up in UFC on the show. He obviously relies heavily upon his top-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills, and he'll be looking to take down Gordon and finish him where he's least comfortable.
Lima also has three knockout finishes on his record, proving he is well rounded. If he's learned anything from his brother, Bellator welterweight champion Douglas Lima, he should bring a very dangerous Muay Thai game to the Octagon in Las Vegas, complete with some vicious low kicks to sap's Gordon's power and forward progress.
Lima needs to stay out of "Truck's" striking range and make this fight play out according to his mat skills. If he can, he's probably the fighter with the most potential of becoming a star in the Octagon.
Key Wins: Oscar Delgado (CFA 11)
Key Losses: Anton Talamantes (ROC 42)
Keys to Victory: Gordon has two knockouts in six total wins, and he'll be looking for a third tonight. But Lima has never been knocked out, so "Truck" has his work cut out for him.
He proved that he could win a grinding affair against Pendred, but Lima should present a different kind of challenge.
He's a rangier, slick submission technician that can end a fight in an instant, so Gordon will have to put forth his best performance yet. Keeping the fight standing with some disrupting combinations is crucial to victory.
Engaging in a grappling battle with Lima just isn't likely to end well.
If he gasses out looking for too many big bombs early, he'll make it way too easy for Lima to drag him down and submit him. However, if he can press the pace early and find a home for some of his huge shots, a contract could be headed his way.
Key Wins: Stephen Anderson (MMA Xtreme - Fists Will Fly)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: A former NJCAA and NCAA Division III wrestler, Anderson has a smothering top game to go along with developing striking. He stayed out of Wilson's power range to get into the finals, and he'll need to do the same against the towering Van Buren.
Anderson should probably look to push the action up against the cage in an effort to score some takedowns and go to work with ground and pound. It may not be the most crowd-pleasing way to win, but it won't be a surprise given how this season of TUF has played out.
Anderson has proven a proficient finisher with wrestling and strikes. Van Buren has been knocked out before, and Anderson could start his Octagon career with a bang by scoring a finish. He's got the speed and technique to do it, and could have a bright future that begins tonight.
Matt Van Buren
Key Wins: Nick Nichols (Bellator 52), Shawn Levesque (Bellator 57), Mojtaba Najim Wali (Gladiators of the Cage: The North Shore's Rise To Power 2)
Key Losses: Terry Davinney (Bellator 82), Mike Mucitelli (Bellator 73)
Keys to Victory: Van Buren won a very lackluster bout against Fields before finishing Spohn. He's an up-and-down kind of fighter who needs to deliver against Anderson to make people believe he has a future in UFC.
Maintaining sharp takedown defense will be paramount for Van Buren, as will using his height to keep Anderson on the outside with his jab. Kicks may aid his cause, but he'll have to make sure he doesn't get taken down in the process.
Having fought in Bellator four times, Van Buren brings by far the most experience to the TUF 19 Finale. That should keep him calm under the bright lights at Mandalay Bay, but he still has to stop a potential freight train in Anderson. Using his size, striking, and defensive wrestling in unison will be the only way to accomplish that goal.
Bottom Line from Las Vegas: The bottom line for the middleweight final is that it's going to come own to whether or not Gordon can keep the fight standing. He did a great job of that against Pendred, but the Irishman made his attacks all too predictable by constantly shooting for the same double leg.
Lima won't repeat those mistakes, and his attacks will likely come with a lot more variation and speed. If and when the Brazilian finds his rhythm and transitions his strikes into a takedown, it could be a short night for Gordon. If "Truck" gets moving in Las Vegas, the same could be said for Lima.
In the light heavyweight final, Anderson has a chance to prove he's an up-and-coming force at 205 pounds. He's green, and Van Buren actually a decent amount of high-level experience for a TUF competitor, but Anderson should have a big edge in overall athleticism.
Van Buren's wrestling hasn't looked all that impressive, and that could come back to haunt him against Anderson. But he also has the potential to land a ton of strikes on the outside, making this bout a close one on paper.
No matter what, these fighters have to put a good show regardless of if they win or lose. TUF 19 hasn't lived up to expectations, yet there's still some time to turn that around at the Finale.
After a ho-hum season of TUF 19, the four remaining fighters are tasked with delivering big at the Finale. Can they turn it around in Las Vegas, or will it merely be more of the same old uninspired action? Get full results and live play-by-play RIGHT HERE to find out!