TUF 18 Women’s Bantamweight Final:
Julianna Peña (5-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) [-260] vs. Jessica Rakoczy (1-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) [+200]

Season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter has come to an end – all that remains is the final two fights to determine the winners of both the men’s bantamweight and women’s bantamweight divisions. The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale hosts the women’s finals between first pick and Team Tate’s Julianna “the Venezuelan Vixen” Peña and the last pick of Team Rousey Jessica Rakoczy.

Peña, 24, has been considered the underdog in both of her fights inside the TUF competition which is surprising given both her performances and her first-pick status. Peña was on a two fight losing streak coming into the house but was able to avenge one of those losses against Sarah Moras in the semi finals, submitting her in the second round – Moras being arguably one of the top contenders in the competition. Peña has shown improvements across the board since entering the house; her wrestling has gotten better, her striking has gotten better, and her Jiu-jitsu has gotten better. While she will certainly be at a striking disadvantage against Rakoczy, she has many more tools at her disposal especially if she is able to take her opponent down and impose her top game.

Rakoczy, 36, has been working very hard to make the transition from boxing to mixed martial arts and has gained invaluable knowledge since being apart of TUF – her official record of 1-3 is absolutely no indication of her talents today. In her most recent fight against Raquel Pennington, she was able to stuff a large majority of take downs attempted on her and utilized an excellent stick and move strategy utilizing angles and a stiff jab to avoid the distance being closed on her. In her quarter final fight, Rakoczy struggled with the grappling of Roxanne Modafferi in the first round only to come back strong in the second and dominate the striking earning a second round TKO in an emotional battle. Rakoczy is a six-time world boxing champion and is the current WBC Female World Lightweight Champion, so her keys to victory are quite obvious and very similar to her fight with Pennington – strike from the fringe, stuff take downs, and find the range early.

@MikalMMA ‘s Prediction: Jessica Rakoczy [+200] defeats Julianna Peña [-260] via unanimous decision

I’m going with the underdog on this one – Rakoczy has gone from last pick to by far the most improved fighter in the house and I believe that she has less to improve on to win this fight than Peña. If Rakoczy expands on her training for Pennington she already has the foundation laid out for a very successful strategy – she just needs to be sure to use the same intelligent angles, avoid any clinch game, and circle away and off the cage while creating openings with her elite jab. Peña is a very game fighter and she is aggressive, but she isn’t as technically sound as Rakoczy who appears to absorb lessons from her training like no other on this season of TUF (aside from maybe Holdsworth). I believe Peña is the type that gets frustrated easily while Rakoczy made it clear in her fight with Modafferi that she can make the proper adjustments in between rounds – once Rakoczy finds her range, which I believe will be late in the first round or early in the second, she will work her jab to both the head and body and eventually begin to land her straight right at will earning a pretty decisive decision.