One of the most exciting fighters in mixed martial arts (MMA), Justin Gaethje, makes his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut this Friday evening (July 7, 2017) when the former World Series of Fighting (WSOF) Lightweight champion squares off with Michael Johnson in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 25: “Redemption” Finale in Las Vegas, Nevada. In addition, Dhiego Lima will face the winner of the match between Jesse Taylor vs. James Krause in the titular finale, while top 155-pound prospects Marc Diakiese and Drakkar Klose do battle, as well as Jared Cannonier slugging it out against Steve Bosse.
We’ve some “Prelims” undercard bouts to get through before then, however, so let’s get to it.
145 lbs.: Gray Maynard vs. Teruto Ishihara
Once inches away from UFC’s Lightweight title, Gray Maynard (12-6-1) has been in freefall since narrowly beating Clay Guida in 2012. “The Bully” is just 1-5 in his last six bouts, including three knockout losses and a lifeless decision loss to Ryan Hall in December.
He will have an inch each of height and reach on Teruto Ishihara (9-3-2).
The charismatic “Yashabo” earned fans with his brawl against Mizuto Hirota, brutal knockouts of Julian Erosa and Horacio Gutiérrez, and his well-documented love of “bitches.” Charisma wasn’t enough to save him from Artem Lobov, who defied two-to-one odds to take a decision in Belfast. He’s scored eight professional wins by knockout.
Yeah, I give up. Maynard is done. Saul Rogers clearly demonstrated that Ryan Hall can be defused with careful top pressure, and yet Maynard avoided the grappling like the plague even when the striking clearly wasn’t working. While Ishihara is a very flawed fighter, his speed and power are more than enough to take out the withering husk of Maynard.
Maynard will likely find one or two early takedowns thanks to Ishihara’s habit of overcommitting to his left hand, there’s only so long he can avoid getting clipped. Ishihara cracks him sometime late in the first round and pours on the hurt during the traditional Maynard meltdown.
Prediction: Ishihara via first-round technical knockout
115 lbs.: Tecia Torres vs. Juliana Lima
Tecia Torres (8-1) — ranked No. 3 on TUF 20 — went 1-2 on the show thanks to the wrestling of Randa Markos and Carla Esparza. She’s fared a bit better in UFC itself, going 4-1 and losing only to Rose Namajunas in a close fight.
She replaces Amanda Ribas, who ran afoul of USADA, on short notice.
Juliana Lima (9-3) originally welcomed Joanna Jedrzejczyk to the Octagon in 2014, then defeated Nina Ansaroff and Ericka Almeida in successive bouts. An 11-month layoff ended with a loss to Carla Esparza, but she managed to right the ship with a decision over JJ Aldrich in December.
“Ju Thai” stands four inches taller than the 5’1” Torres.
This is a much better fight than Ribas-Lima and will give us some good data on Torres. Her speed and volume make her a universal handful on the feet, but she’s struggled with dedicated wrestlers and Lima is nothing if not an enthusiastic takedown artist.
That takedown is pretty much all Torres will have to worry about, though, as her footwork and combinations should let her run circles around “Ju Thai” on the feet. Even with the short notice, her athletic edge will carry her to one of her usual decision wins.
Prediction: Torres via unanimous decision
We have three more TUF 25 Finale “Prelims” fights to preview and predict tomorrow, including one of the most interesting women’s bantamweight prospects in ages. See you then.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire TUF 25 Finale fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET before the remaining FOX Sports undercard balance at 7 p.m. and then the FOX Sports 1 main card start time at 9 p.m. ET.