Roxanne Modafferi vs. Raquel Pennington

Starting things off on the main card of the TUF 18 Finale is a women’s bantamweight bout between two TUF 18 competitors in Roxanne Modafferi and Raquel Pennington. Modafferi has had quite a bit of experience outside of The Ultimate Fighter while Pennington has only had a total of 3 fights. With that said, Pennington has some powerful hands and solid ground game to go against Modafferi’s dangerous BJJ skills. This is really a match-up between sharp technique and brute force, so I’m expecting this to be a very closely contested bout.

Ultimately, I’m going to go with Modafferi. She has the most experience and she is the more technical fighter which, with some proper defense, should be able to aid her in the last half of the fight. Expect a strong beginning for Pennington, but Modafferi will squeeze by in the last part to steal a decision.

Roxanne Modafferi via Split Decision

Jessamyn Duke vs. Peggy Morgan

Another bantamweight bout here between the women, but this one doesn’t seem quite as intriguing as the one before. Both girls here were beat out in the elimination round, so we didn’t get to see much of them. However, there are a few things that we do know. Duke is a very long and rangy fighter with some pretty good kicks, so expect her to take advantage of the few inches of height she’ll have on Morgan. Peggy on the other hand struggled very badly against Sarah Moras on the ground, so it’s safe to say Morgan will want to stay in control of this bout; if not, this could turn one-sided.

Duke should have the ability to control this bout. Her long range will keep her in control of the fight, and she’s savvy enough on the ground not to get caught with anything. Expect Duke to out-strike, and also out-grappler Morgan using her size and reach to pick her apart for three rounds.

Jessamyn Duke via Unanimous Decision

Chris Holdsworth vs. Dave Grant

To see who will be crowned TUF 18’s Male “Ultimate Fighter”, Chris Holdsworth takes on Dave Grant. Grant received a free-pass in getting into the finals due to his opponent not making weight. On the other hand, Chris Holdsworth has scored two first-round submissions to make his claim for the finals.

When looking at both Holdsworth and Grant, you can make the statement by calling both of them grapplers, but Chris is definitely more of the specialist. Holdsworth has very long limbs that makes him a crafty submission artist, and very sneaky. Grant on the other hand is a little more basic, he goes for rear-naked chokes and guillotines, so don’t expect him to do anything real crazy. However, Grant is the one with the power. Neither Chris nor Grant are too incredibly technical on the feet, but Grant seems to be a little more inclined to throw-down than Holdsworth is. Chris likes to stay out of range, utilize a good jab, and wait for his moment to take the fight to the ground where he out-smarts, and out-grapples his opponent. I ultimately expect that strategy to work wonders for him here, as long as he can stay out of range. Expect Chris’s jab and range to frustrate Grant, and open up the opportunity to take the fight to the ground, and score the winning submission.

Chris Holdsworth via 2nd Rd Submission

Julianna Pena vs. Jessica Rakoczy

And now its time for the TUF 18 women finalist match-up between Julianna Pena and Jessica Rakoczy. Pena has won her way to the finals by scoring two second-round submissions. Pena is noted for her heart, her toughness, and her will to win. Rakoczy on the other hand played the role of the underdog the entire show. Picked last, Rakoczy had to rely on her tight boxing skills to knock-out Roxanne Modafferi, and then out-point Raquel Pennington to get to the finals.

The biggest x-factor in this bout to me is going to be whether or not Pena takes this to the ground. We saw Rakoczy struggle a bit against fighters who take her down, being that she’s a talented boxer and not quite as experienced on the mat. But, Pena has the attitude to go in there, eat punches, and really make it a slug-fest. That style can really hurt her when going against someone with the hands of Rakoczy. Pena seems to be the favorite in this bout, but I’ve been seeing Rakoczy as the one with more fan-support, being that she has been the underdog this whole time. I expect Jessica to pull through one final time. Look for Rakoczy’s boxing and foot-work to give Pena a hard time on the feet, and do enough to edge out a decision in the end. Even if Pena can get takedowns, I’m confident in Rakoczy’s defense.

Jessica Rakoczy via Split Decision

Nate Diaz vs. Gray Maynard

For our main-event of the evening, two former lightweight title-contenders battle eachother in what is an unofficial rubber-match. Diaz bested Maynard in season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter, but it was Maynard who beat him later on the UFC. Now they meet eachother at a cross-roads for a third time in what is a very pivotal bout for both men.

Coming off of back-to-back losses, Nate Diaz finds himself in a very desperate situation. Diaz was shut-down in his attempts to capture the title from Ben Henderson, and then was stopped for the first time in his career due to strikes in the bout after that. Now he faces a guy who has already beat him before, and is a guy who poses many threats. Gray Maynard is one extremely familiar with the title picture; afterall, he did face Frankie Edgar twice for the title. Both Diaz and Maynard seem to be fighting for the same spot in the lightweight scheme-of-things, so expect a do-or-die attitude out of both men Saturday night.

While Diaz hasn’t looked too impressive, it’s hard to say Maynard has either. Before getting knocked-out by TJ Grant, Maynard cruised to a lackluster decision against Clay Guida in a bout that didn’t see much action. However, the one thing that I took away from that fight is Maynard’s improved footwork. Staying light on his toes will aid him tremendously against a fighter like Diaz who takes advantage of fighters who trap themselves in corners. That, and the fact that Maynard’s power punches still remain to be his number-one source of damage output, Maynard could very well rattle Diaz more than he is expecting.

In order for Diaz to stay competitive with Maynard in this stage of his career, he needs to avoid damage. That will be hard to, because, well, he’s a Diaz. Once Maynard tags him a few times, don’t expect him to continue and try to knock him out. Maynard will most likely be thinking about getting that takedown and over-powering Diaz. It’s the blueprint to beat any Diaz brother, and it’s one that Maynard will most likely take. I predict Diaz to fight back valiantly, as he always does, but Maynard will just be too much with him now that he knows how to move his feet.

Gray Maynard via Unanimous Decision