Another season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) has come and gone, and that means it’s time for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to wait until the last minute to actually post the fights so I can analyze them.
No, I’m not bitter at all. Why do you ask?
TUF 27 Finale, which takes place tonight (Fri., July 6, 2018) inside Pearl Concert Theater in Las Vegas, Nevada, sees Team Stipe Miocic’s Mike Trizano and Jay Cucciniello take on Team Daniel Cormier’s Joe Giannetti and Brad Katona, respectively, after which kickboxing standout Israel Adesanya takes a serious step up against veteran Brad Tavares in the main event of the evening.
The FOX Sports 1-televised event will feature seven “Prelims” undercard matches, split 4:3 between FOX Sports 1 and Fight Pass. Let’s get to it!
FOX SPORTS 1 ‘Prelims’ (8 p.m. ET start time)
125 lbs.: Rachael Ostovich vs. Montana De La Rosa
Rachael Ostovich (4-3) represented Team Justin Gaethje as his fourth pick on TUF 26, submitting Melinda Fabian in the round of 16 before losing to No. 2-seed Barb Honchak in the quarterfinals. She went on to appear at the Finale opposite Karine Gevorgyan, whom she tapped via armbar in 100 seconds flat.
She is four inches shorter than Montana De La Rosa (8-4) and will give up six inches of reach.
Ranked No. 6 on the show, De La Rosa likewise went 1-1, in her case losing to eventual champion Nicco Montano. Also likewise, she dispatched her Finale opponent, Christina Marks, via first-round armbar, although it took her 20 seconds longer than Ostovich.
All but two of her wins have come via submission.
I’m picking Ostovich for the simple reason that De La Rosa — despite ostensibly being a wrestler — has a bad habit of getting outwrestled. Ostovich is fairly well-rounded and should be able to hold her own wherever the fight goes, especially since De La Rosa has fought at Strawweight before.
De La Rosa’s height and reach make it so, so tempting to pick her and she’s got plenty of time to improve at age 23, but her consistent struggles against quality opposition have me leaning Ostovich’s way. She outstrikes De La Rosa en route to a decision victory.
Prediction: Ostovich by unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Luis Pena vs. Richie Smullen
Luis Pena (4-0) brought four stoppage victories and a regional belt onto The Ultimate Fighter, where he became Team Cormier’s fourth overall pick. Unfortunately for “Violent Bob Ross,” he suffered a foot injury in his quarterfinal victory over Jose Martinez Jr. and had to withdraw from the tournament.
He is six inches taller than Richie Smullen (3-0-1) and boasts an eight-inch reach advantage.
Smullen, fighting out of SBG Ireland, went 6-2 as an amateur before joining the professional ranks in 2016. He looked poised for a solid showing on TUF, but suffered leg cramps before his first fight, ending his run before it could start.
In addition to his three stoppage wins, he drew with former and eventual BAMMA champion Rhys McKee in 2017.
It’s always nice to see a young, lanky fighter who actually knows how to use his height. Though Pena still has a few classic Tall Guy problems such as backing straight up and relying on a check hook with his chin in the air, he’s got a lot of potential. Smullen does, as well, but that physical disparity is more than he can overcome at this point.
Pena has quality hips to go along with his length, meaning Smullen is going to struggle to bring him to the ground even he does manage to get inside. After seeing Smullen have issues with another lengthy boy in “Skeletor” McKee on the feet, I say Pena chews him up at range and ultimately finishes him off partway through the second.
Prediction: Pena via second-round technical knockout
155 lbs.: John Gunther vs. Allan Zuniga
The power of John Gunther’s (6-0) moustache wasn’t enough to save him from Joe Giannetti, who choked him out just 18 seconds. Team Cormier’s assorted misfortunes led to his return in the semifinals, and though he survived the distance this time, he was similarly unsuccessful against teammate Mike Trizano.
He will have two inches of height and reach on Allan Zuniga (13-0).
“El Tigre” — Team Miocic’s penultimate pick — had a bizarre stroke of luck in the quarterfinals when opponent Richie Smullen withdrew because of debilitating leg cramps. The towering Joe Giannetti then met him in the semifinals and finished him with a first-round rear naked choke.
Four of his seven stoppage wins have come via submission.
Zuniga was unimpressive on the show and didn’t look all that dangerous before that, but Gunther looks like he’s just kinda not very good at fighting. He’s slow and incredibly easy to hit. And even though he’s clearly decent from top position, he doesn’t have the tools to get there with any regularity. Hell, even his pre-show highlight reel, which is supposed to get fans hyped for him, showed him getting beaten half to death before pulling off a comeback.
I don’t expect either of these men to last very long in the Octagon. In a clash of extreme mediocrity, Zuniga sprawls-and-brawls to a decision.
Prediction: Zuniga via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Tyler Diamond vs. Bryce Mitchell
Tyler Diamond (9-0) impressed Daniel Cormier enough to be the first overall pick on TUF 27, then rewarded “DC’s” faith by submitting Dulani Perry in the opening round. Despite a strong start, he couldn’t do the same to replacement Jay Cucciniello, who survived early knockdowns to stop Diamond in the third.
The Team Alpha Male-trained product has finished five opponents with strikes.
Bryce Mitchell (9-0) scored first-round submissions in seven of his nine professional wins before becoming Cormier’s second overall pick. His run on the show saw him defeat the aforementioned Cucciniello in the quarterfinals before tapping to teammate Brad Katona in the semifinals.
“Thug Nasty” stands two inches taller than Diamond at 5’9.”
I missed Diamond’s and Mitchell’s semifinal fights and Fight Pass is a few episodes behind, so I can’t watch it there. Their quarterfinal appearances were too one-sided to draw any useful information from. I also didn’t know this fight was going to happen until less than 24 hours ago, so I hope you can all forgive me phoning this one in a little bit.
All things being equal, I’m going to trust Cormier’s judgment and pick the TAM-trained wrestler over the submission specialist.
Prediction: Diamond via unanimous decision
FIGHT PASS ‘Prelims’ (7 p.m. ET start time)
145 lbs.: Matt Bessette vs. Steven Peterson
Matt Bessette (22-8) — a Bellator veteran and CES champion — stopped seven consecutive opponents before falling to Kurt Holobaugh in the inaugural “Contender Series” headliner. “The Mangler” wound up getting an Octagon opportunity anyway, replacing Arnold Allen against Enrique Barzola and losing a unanimous decision to the TUF: “Latin America” veteran.
His last nine victories have come inside the distance, five via knockout and four via submission.
Steven Peterson (16-7) came up just short against Benito Lopez on “Contender Series” and, after pounding out Dustin Winter upon his return to the LFA, got called up to UFC in February. “Ocho” faced fellow “Contender Series” alum Brandon Davis and wound up losing another competitive decision, though a “Fight of the Night” bonus eased the hurt somewhat.
His eight submission wins include five chokes, two armbars and an omoplata.
I still stand by my assessment of Peterson in that he’s incredibly easy to hit and fails to set up his takedowns, but endless forward pressure might be just the ticket here. Bessette gave up five takedowns against Barzola, can be content to work off his back rather than look to scramble up, and didn’t look terribly sharp on the feet.
If Bessette can show some more slickness and volume on the feet, he could win this off the back foot, as Peterson is the world’s easiest target. After seeing him struggle with pressure, though, I say Peterson lands enough and keeps him pressed against the fence for long enough to take a controversial decision.
Prediction: Peterson via split decision
185 lbs.: Oskar Piechota vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Oskar Piechota (11-0-1) dispatched Jason Radcliffe in 32 seconds to win the Cage Warriors Middleweight title, then outclassed Jonathan Wilson in his Octagon debut. He immediately returned to his finishing ways with a brutal knockout of Tim Williams in Austin.
“Imadlo” has knocked out and submitted five opponents apiece.
Gerald Meerschaert (27-9) won the RFA Middleweight title in his final pre-Octagon appearance, then proved he was indeed UFC-worthy with first-round submissions of Joe Gigliotti and Ryan Janes. Though he succumbed to Thiago Santos’ vicious striking at UFC 213, he closed out 2017 strong with a bonus-winning body kick finish of Eric Spicely.
An impressive 19 of his wins have come by submission.
This just looks like a terrible match up for Meerschaert. Piechota is the harder puncher by a fair margin, is likely the better wrestler, and his Brazilian jiu-jitsu is legitimately world-class, meaning “GM3’s” opportunistic submission game won’t be terribly effective. Considering the success Spicely had with his grappling before the comeback, it’s hard to envision Meerschaert doing better on the mat against a ground artist of this caliber.
The only way Meerschaert wins this if either he lands a game-changing body kick or Piechota lets him outwork him on the feet. I don’t see either happening. Piechota hands Meerschaert his eighth submission loss.
Prediction: Piechota via first-round submission
It’s Friday and I’m sure you’ve still got beer leftover after Wednesday. So sit back and enjoy the fights, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire TUF 27 Finale fight card later this evening, starting with the UFC Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.