As TUF finales go, what’s in store for us on Saturday night isn’t half bad. A TUF winner-turned-reviled coach is taking on a happy-go-lucky former “Bully Beatdown” host, a quartet of promising bantamweights and featherweights are vying for the coveted brass ring of “The Ultimate Fighter” status (which guarantees them a few somewhat easy fights as they’re eased into the Octagon proper), a TUF winner from last season gets to take on someone who was once the uncrowned UFC lightweight champ, and the baddest dude with green hair you’ll ever know gets another crack at glory. It’s sort of fitting that we have a TUF 14 Finale that promises so much combative fun, as it will mark the end of a reality TV show that gave rise to a sport that – when it first aired in 2005 – was struggling to find itself. And find itself it did! Our baby is all grown up and huge! So on Saturday night, kick back on the couch with a bowl of raw almonds and a freshly-opened can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, and take in the last TUF finale on SpikeTV. It should be a good one, and dammit, we’ve earned it. Preview time!
-Michael Bisping vs. Jason “Mayhem” Miller – If there were lessons about douchey-ness that needed to be learned after his first stint as TUF coach, Bisping absolutely did not heed them. He’s still one of the most unlikeable persons on the planet when the cameras are rolling. Which isn’t such a bad thing in this instance, as the heat between him and opposing coach Miller hovered around nil all season yet people will still tune in to watch the cocky, self-centered Brit get his ass kicked by the goofy, always-smiling guy standing on the other side of the cage. In terms of skills, everyone knows how well-rounded Bisping is when fists and takedowns start flying. Mayhem is well-rounded too, although his jiu-jitsu is top notch – and that, coupled with his aggressive style, gives him the edge over the Brit. This one is ending via rear naked choke, and it sure ain’t gonna be Michael Bisping who’ll be cinching in that choke.
-Diego Brandao vs. Dennis Bermudez – Supposedly, featherweight Brazilian jungle beast Brandao knows a move or two in jiu-jitsu. But you’d never know that, because throughout the entire TUF 14 season he was swinging for the rafters and knocking cats out. Bermudez, on the other hand, proved to have the kind of resilience that makes you wonder if he’s human or really just organic matter covering a robotic endoskeleton. Either way, this should be a fantastic fight, with Brandao favored early – when the power in his fists is greatest – and Bermudez favored later. I’m picking the American to get the Brazilian down and grind him into oblivion, but with Brandao’s firepower, you never know.
-TJ Dillashaw vs. John Dodson – Dillashaw is going into this bout with a distinct size advantage (Dodson could, and maybe should, compete at flyweight) plus he’ll have that Team Alpha Male propensity for blending wrestling with face-punching with the unpredictability of a methamphetamine addict. Dodson moves like Speedy Gonzales and usually lands about eight strikes to an opponent’s one. Where does that leave us? Probably with one fighter somewhat successful at getting the other down and holding him there, but with interludes on the feet where the smaller guy blasts the bigger guy in the grill. I see Dillashaw earning the decision, but it won’t be easy for him.
-Tony Ferguson vs. Yves Edwards – The TUF Winner World Tour continues for Ferguson, who will follow up his jaw-breaking performance over Aaron Riley with a clash against the once-great Edwards. How great was Edwards? In 2004 the UFC didn’t have a lightweight belt, but the general consensus was that if they did, it would’ve belonged to him. Unfortunately, Father Time has taken his toll on Edward’s speed and ability to absorb punishment, so what we’ll likely get on Saturday night is Ferguson using his pinpoint-accurate boxing to great effect against someone who would’ve killed him seven years ago. *Sigh* Ferguson takes this one via TKO.
-Louis Gaudinot vs. Johnny Bedford – Like Dodson, Gaudinot is totally going to kill it once the UFC opens up the 125-pound weight class. Until then, however, he’s going to have to employ his lightning-like striking, capable grappling and unending tenacity against dudes with longer reaches and heads way up in the sky (comparatively). When it comes to Bedford – who didn’t really show much on TUF 14 other than toughness – Gaudinot shouldn’t have a problem getting around the size difference. He’s going to be too fast to get a bead on, and too dangerous when Bedford gets his hands on him. Watch for the Green-Haired One to snag the “W” via TKO.