Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) recently finished up season 22 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and will now send coaches Conor McGregor and Urijah Faber on their merry way. They won't be fighting each other, but both "Notorious" and "The California Kid" have work to do at UFC 194.
Was kind of pointless to have them as TUF coaches, but whatever, nobody watches that dumb show anyway.
That said, we did get a couple of talented prospects into the Octagon for tonight's (Fri., Dec. 11, 2015) TUF 22 Live Finale, which takes place inside Chelsea at Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Nevada, as well as an outstanding featherweight main event between Frankie Edgar and Chad Mendes.
Let's break it down and see who gets the job done in "Sin City."
145 lbs.: Frankie "The Answer" Edgar (19-4-1) vs. Chad "Money" Mendes (17-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: Frankie Edgar has never been finished in his career and considering the quality of opposition -- not just at featherweight but at his previous home of lightweight -- that's a pretty remarkable feat. "The Answer" is 34 and now over 10 years in the fight game.
There's nothing I've seen in any of his recent fights that would suggest he's deteriorated and in fact, he continues to look better since dropping a class in early 2013. That means Chad Mendes will need to win a five-round decision against his fight night foe.
From a predictions standpoint, that's a tough sell.
Mendes has undoubtedly improved his striking over the past few years, surprising Jose Aldo in a close and bloody war back in 2014. But I'm not sure he has the footwork to deal with a bouncy bopper like Edgar, who knows how to stick-and-move with the best of them.
Can "Money" get this fight to the floor?
"The Answer" is not immune to takedowns and Mendes has the strength of a gorilla, but taking the fight south may be the exception as opposed to the rule. Edgar is an outstanding wrestler in his own right and as I alluded to earlier, fancy footwork will be the key to this fight.
Edgar has it, Mendes does not.
Final result: Edgar def. Mendes via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Artem "The Russian Hammer" Lobov (11-10-1, 1 NC) vs. Ryan Hall (4-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: Artem Lobov was probably just as shocked as the rest of the combat sports community to learn that Saul Rogers was bounced from the card due to visa issues, and matchmakers have done him no favors in replacing the grounded Brit with jiu-jitsu ace Ryan Hall.
And before we get caught up in all those knockout wins on TUF, let's remember that outside the confines of the FOX Sports 1 reality show, "The Russian Hammer" is still a .500 fighter with two of his 10 losses coming by way of submission.
He's also a puffed-up featherweight who lost a decision to get into the house, but got called back because he's close with Conor McGregor and has that rock-em, sock-em robot style of fighting.
That's not going to cut the mustard against Hall.
Hall has a frightening ground game but his offense was borderline embarrassing in a quarterfinal loss to eventual finalist Saul Rogers. Flat feet, sloppy takedowns, you name it. Those heel hooks only work if you can get the fight to the floor and Rogers shucked him off like a bad case of fleas.
Fortunately for the Team USA rep, Lobov does not have the same defense as Rogers.
If Hall can avoid getting backed into the fence, or has enough sense to keep his head off the center line if and when they bang, it's probably only a matter of time before he can get this fight to the mat. While leg locks are his bread and butter, a comparable submission would not surprise me.
Final prediction: Hall def. Lobov via submission
155 lbs.: Tony "El Cucuy" Ferguson (19-3) vs. Edson Barboza (16-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: Tony Ferguson's name never comes up when fans talk about title contenders in 2016 and that's a bit surprising. We're talking about a fighter who is 12-1 since 2009 with nine finishes during that span. In addition, the TUF 13 champ captured six straight over some very tough opposition.
Make it seven straight.
I like Edson Barboza because he's a gifted striker. His kicks seem so effortless and it's not often you get to witness a fighter who can look so fluid in a fist fight. But sometimes the Brazilian suffers from poor fight I.Q. and let's face it, his chin is not championship caliber.
Exhibit A: Donald Cerrone's epic jab of doom.
Barboza struggled with consistency in recent times and he's only secured one finish over the past three years. Ferguson will likely give him the space to operate, but not the target, which means a lot of whiffs that lead to takedowns and battles for position.
This will be the fight where Ferguson reminds fans he was a two-time collegiate All-American wrestler.
Final prediction: Ferguson def. Barboza via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Evan Dunham (16-6) vs. Joe "J-Lau" Lauzon (25-10)
Nostradumbass predicts: Evan Dunham has been something of an enigma these past few years. At one point I was convinced he was getting released after a dreadful run that saw him drop four of five (three straight), but he appears to have righted the ship and already holds two wins in his 2015 fight campaign.
He turns 34 next week, so if he's going to make a run at the top five, it's now or never.
Similarly, Joe Lauzon has been unable to keep himself at the top of the heap. He does hold some fairly impressive victories over the past few years, but also very lopsided losses. Not that it matters, because "J-Lau" fights to win and the results (and post-fight bonuses) speak for themselves.
Both fighters are equally well rounded and I don't expect cardio to be an issue.
I think the deciding factor in this bout is Lauzon's power. Sooner or later "J-Lau" is going to send Dunham ass over tin cups and follow him to the floor, where he will lock up a submission. If not, expect three rounds of action and an early contender for "Fight of the Night."
Final prediction: Lauzon def. Dunham via submission
145 lbs.: Tatsuya "Crusher" Kawajiri (34-8-2) vs. Jason "The Kid" Knight (15-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: UPSET SPECIAL!!! Most people never heard of Jason Knight and that's forgivable because most people don't watch Titan Fighting. But I have nothing better to do on the weekends and I can tell you this "Kid" is for real.
What he can do at just 23 years old is pretty impressive.
Inverted triangle choke? Check. Leg triangle choke? Check, check. Gogoplata? You get the point.
I don't like to pick fighters who are A) coming into a bout on super short notice and B) making their Octagon debut. Especially when you consider it's coming against a "Crusher" like Tatsuya Kawajiri, who has been around the block a few times.
And then some.
That said, there are a lot of miles on those 37-year-old tires and I think he might be coming into this fight a little too relaxed. Knight, who holds 11 submissions in 15 wins, is going to play possum and let the Japanese superstar wrestle him to the ground.
A mistake that will cost him the fight.
Final prediction: Knight def. Kawajiri via submission
155 lbs.: Julian "Juicy J" Erosa (14-2) vs. Marcin "The Polish Zombie" Wrzosek (10-2)
Note: the following prediction comes courtesy of Patrick Stumberg.
Erosa became the sole member of Team Faber to reach the semifinals, defeating Team McGregor's Mehdi Baghdad and Abner Lloveras via decision. In the semis, he squared off with Artem Lobov, who handed "Juicy J" his first ever knockout loss. He has not gone the distance since 2011, submitting eight opponents.
"The Polish Zombie" made his way to the semifinals with a submission win in the elimination round, followed by a decision wins over Tom Gallicchio and kickboxing veteran David Teymur. Unfortunately, he had few answers for the overpowering grappling of teammate Saul Rogers, who locked up a rear-naked choke in the second round. He will give up three inches of height to the 6'0" Erosa.
Erosa moves decently well, but his striking just seems more awkward than anything. He leaves his chin high both while attacking and retreating and tends to throw overly-loopy punches. This lackadaisical defense led him to eat some nasty shots from Baghdad and cost him the fight against Lobov.
Though Wrzosek is hittable as well and needs to shore up his defensive grappling, his speed and combination work seem well-suited to bashing Erosa up something awful. Erosa's constant activity and motion may steal him a round, but Wrzosek will land the better punches, either stopping him with a flurry or just racking up enough damage to take in on the judges' scorecards.
Final prediction: Wrzosek def. Erosa via unanimous decision
There you have it.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire TUF 22 Finale fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the FOX Sports "Prelims" matches, which are scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. ET, before the FOX Sports 1 main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.
For much more on tonight's TUF 22 Finale click here.