TUF 18 Finale Preview
By Mike Fagan, November 26th, 2013
I’ve watched a little more than an hour of this season’s Ultimate Fighter. I know someone beat Shayna Baszler. I know someone slammed eternal internet darling Roxanne Modaffieri hard. I know the show portrays Ronda Rousey as some sort of crazy person, which she probably is. Beyond that, I know nothing, Jon Snow. Nothing outside of what Wikipedia tells me, anyway.
And you probably don’t know anything either. Only 510,000 people watched last week’s penultimate episode (or penpenultimate if we’re including Saturday’s Finale). I’d go on about the stale format, how Brock Lesnar proved coaches don’t draw however many seasons ago, how the women aren’t drawing (though the women’s fights are drawing more viewers than the men’s fights this season, apparently), but there’s only so many times you can Tito Ortiz a Ken Shamrock.
So, let’s make a deal. I don’t know what I’m talking about. You know I don’t know what I’m talking about, but you don’t know any better yourself. I’ll just make it up as I go along, and we’ll have a good time, aight?
-OK. I do know a little bit about Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz. This is a weird, not-really rubber match. They’ve split two fights. The first – Diaz submitting Maynard with a guillotine – took place during taping of the Ultimate Fighter 5. That makes it an exhibition fight, which stays off their official records. I’m sure that doesn’t matter to the UFC, who will probably promote this as a trilogy match anyway.
-It’s still sort of an interesting fight given their career arcs. Three years ago, Gray Maynard looked to be a punch away from winning the lightweight title. Twice. Frankie Edgar survived the first fight with the belt around his waist and finished the third and the trilogy with his fists. Maynard rebounded with a split decision win over Clay Guida which confused everyone watching and set the Five Round Fight movement back some five years. After nearly a year off due to a knee injury, he returned at UFC 160 against T.J. Grant, and found himself as welcomed back as a gay man at Fred Phelps’ Thanksgiving dinner. Maynard’s still ranked fifth in the UFC’s Official-Fan-Just-Kidding-Not-Fan Rankings, but he sure doesn’t feel like a top five fighter between the layoffs, the getting knocked out, and the less-than-impressive win against Guida.
Diaz finds himself in a similar predicament. After Rory MacDonald put an end to his welterweight experiment, he returned to lightweight and rattled off an impressive three-fight streak over Takanori Gomi, Donald Cerrone, and Jim Miller. That run culminated in a title shot against Benson Henderson. Henderson smothered Diaz, limiting the challenger to 30 significant strikes in 83 thrown en route to five-round decision. (Diaz, by contrast, had landed over 80 significant strikes in rounds two and three against Cerrone.) Diaz returned in April against Josh Thomson, whose head kick handed Diaz the first knockout loss of his career. Like Maynard, Diaz is still ranked in the top ten. Unlike Maynard, given his run before the Henderson fight, that still feels right.
-The books list Maynard as the slight favorite (-140ish) here. Stylistically, this is a great fight for him. Both Diaz brothers have trouble with guys who can control them, be it on the fence or on the floor. Maynard at his best (and often, the crowd’s worst) when he’s…controlling guys on the fence or the on the floor.
But Maynard’s 34. He doesn’t have a ton of fight miles (this is only his 15th pro fight), but he looks all of that 34. He’s slow. He plods. Part of what made the Guida fight so awful is that Maynard had no answer for Guida’s marathon game. Diaz can win this fight if he uses movement and his six-inch reach advantage to keep Maynard away.
-In the woman’s bantamweight final, Julianna Pena fights Raquel Pennington or Jessica Rakoczy. Pennington, obviously, is the sister of former New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, who will 100% be in her corner on Saturday. Rakoczy went to my high school. She lettered in three varsity sports: softball, the luge, and mixed martial arts. Pena, though, is a sight to behold. A cyclops, she won the Nebraska State Jiu-Jitsu Tournament (women’s adult division) at age 5. At 7, she won the men’s tournament. Nebraska banned her from competition, so she spent 13 years living in a cave under the site where Caddyshack would have taken place. She emerged with another eye in the back of her head, which led to her nickname: “Bicyclops.”
-In the men’s bantamweight final, Chris “That Guy From Thor, Right?” Holdsworth meets David Grant. Holdsworth is a former Olympic champion in some sport I’m too lazy to fake look up in my fake Wikipedia, who took up prizefighting under the tutelage of Bobby “Bobo” Bodacious in Argentina. David Grant is actually just T.J. Grant fighting under a (poorly thought out) assumed name.
-In the other women’s bantamweight fight on the card, Jessamyn “Randolph and Mortimer” Duke meets Peggy “Did you know Peggy is the nickname for Margaret? That’s weird, right?” Morgan.
Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET at FightFansRadio.com, also available as a podcast via iTunes