Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will stage The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 25 Finale as the first of two events populating International Fight Week, featuring a main event between top-ranked lightweight contender Michael Johnson and undefeated regional import Justin Gaethje.
The action gets underway TONIGHT (Fri., July 7, 2017) on FOX Sports 1 from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In the TUF 25 Finale co-headliner, Jesse Taylor and Dhiego Lima will collide for the glass trophy — and “Redemption” — after 12 weeks of reality show drama, as well as three qualifying victories.
The rest of the six-fight main card? Meh...
If you're looking for a closer examination of the TUF 25 Finale “Prelims,” see what the always-lucid Patty Stumberg had to say about them here and here. “Johnson vs. Gaethje” odds and betting lines can be located here.
Let’s get to it.
155 lbs.: Michael “The Menace” Johnson (17-11) vs. Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje (17-0)
Nostradumbass predicts: Much has been made about the signing of former World Series of Fighting (WSOF) champion Justin Gaethje, and for good reason, as “The Highlight” is a perfect 17-0 during his run on the regional scene.
With 15 finishes.
You can say what you want about the level of competition outside the Octagon, but remember too, there was a time when both Jon Jones and Conor McGregor entered UFC with nothing but impressive records from the local circuit.
As for Gaethje? His performances speak for themselves.
It’s not Michael Johnson’s experience inside the Octagon that will give him pause, it’s his speed. “The Menace” has some of the quickest hands at 155 pounds and used them to planish Dustin Poirier and Gleison Tibau, among others.
Johnson — a former collegiate wrestler — also has outstanding takedown defense.
You can knock his performance against Khabib Nurmagomedov but “The Eagle” takes everyone down. Yes, everyone. I think the biggest issue for Johnson is his consistency, and he’s facing an opponent who continues to be the model of consistency.
Johnson has the skills to beat Gaethje. But I just can’t shake those recent memories of lame-duck performances against the likes of Nate Diaz and Beneil Dariush, among others.
Final prediction: Gaethje def. Johnson by unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Dhiego Lima (12-5) vs. Jesse “JT Money” Taylor (30-15)
Nostradumbass predicts: Jesse Taylor pretty much ran through the competition on this season of TUF, primarliy because of his size and strength, coupled with his powerful wresting and relentless takedowns.
For as strong as he is on the mat, he’s equally weak on the feet. Taylor is one of the few fighters who actually gets rocked by the touch of gloves and you can be awed by his TUF run, but keep in mind this is the same fighter who is just 3-6 dating back to 2014.
Six losses to guys you never heard of with names you can’t pronounce.
That’s not to suggest Dhiego Lima has been tearing up the joint. Like “JT Money,” Lima is undefeated on TUF but hot-and-cold when it comes to pro fights. He’s just 3-4 in the wake of TUF 19 and entered season 25 after a technical knockout loss in Titan FC.
Working in Taylor’s favor is the fact that this bout will only last three rounds. That doesn’t give Lima a whole lot of time to make something happen and “JT Money” is less likely to gas in a 15-minute fight
And he only needs to win two out of three rounds.
I’m trying very hard not to be overly impressed with what Taylor accomplished on TUF and Lima only seems to lose by way of knockout. Speaking of knockouts, Taylor has only scored five in 30 of his wins and he’s just too inconsistent to remain a solid pick.
In short, Lima has more ways to win — and probably will.
Final prediction: Lima def. Taylor by submission
155 lbs.: Marc “Bonecrusher” Diakiese (12-0) vs. Drakkar Klose (7-0-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: An exciting battle between two undefeated lightweight prospects. Both fighters demonstrated a flair for striking and already locked up victories inside the cage, but Diakiese’s was more impressive and the Brit — who enters the cage with a three-inch reach advantage — now has seven finishes in 12 wins.
Final prediction: Diakiese def. Klose by technical knockout
205 lbs.: Jared “Killa Gorilla” Cannonier (9-2) vs. Nick Roehrick (7-0)
Nostradumbass predicts: Nick Roehrick is taking this fight on super short notice and don’t have any experience inside the Octagon. That's a pretty tall order when you consider he’s facing Jared Cannonier, a former heavyweight who’s already four fights into his UFC career with experience against top names like Glover Teixeira.
Final prediction: Cannonier def. Roehrick by technical knockout
185 lbs.: Brad Tavares (14-4) vs. Elias “The Spartan” Theodorou (13-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: Outside of his hiccup against Thiago Santos, Elias Theodorou has performed admirably inside the cage, to the tune of a 5-1 record under the UFC banner with two knockouts. Tavares is equally tough but has been on a steady decline over the past few years, mustering up a 2-3 record after winning five straight. More troubling? Tavares hasn’t finished a fight in over six years.
Final prediction: Theodorou def. Tavares by unanimous decision
205 lbs.: Marcel “Maozinha” Fortuna (9-1) vs. Jordan Johnson (7-0)
Nostradumbass predicts: It’s difficult to ignore a five-inch reach advantage, especially when you get up into the heavier weight classes, but Jordan Johnson is a grappler and won’t be doing much boxing. Marcel Fortuna is also a talented ground fighter (baseball choke!) but I have a feeling these two are going to cancel each other out — and not in a good way.
Final prediction: Fortuna def. Johnson by split decision
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire TUF 25 Finale fight card tonight (click here), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 7 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 9 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.
For much more on tomorrow night’s fight card click here.