The least-watched season of The Ultimate Fighter is coming to a close. And while this particular season didn't light the world on fire, the finale for the event presents several good fights in a variety of weight classes. One-time lightweight title contender hopefuls Jamie Varner and Melvin Guillard will square off as will two heavyweights aiming at progressing up their divisional ladder.
There's naturally the finale for the season as well as the coaches fight even if Mitrione wasn't technically a coach at all. Can Nelson prove he still has something for elite heavyweights? Will Mitrione get the signature win of his career? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Saturday's event.
Where: Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
When: Saturday, the three-fight Facebook card begins at 5:30 p.m. ET, the four-fight FUEL TV card kicks off at 7 p.m. ET and the five-fight FX fights start at 9 p.m. ET.
Predictions for the four main card fights airing Saturday on FX are below.
Mitrione is going to be hard to put away, so I don't necessarily see a finish as likely. But I do see Nelson as the superior striker and even more well-rounded of the two. If he needs the big punch, I suspect he'll be able to use it. And if he wants to cruise out a decision win with his takedowns and top control, he has that as well. I'm not suggesting this will be a runaway, but I have a hard time seeing what tool in his arsenal Mitrione can use to win.
This is a really tough call. When two guys fight with borderline reckless abandon and they pack a punch, anything can happen. I could easily see Varner getting starched at the beginning of the round or Guillard himself being wobbled and punched into a TKO stoppage. They're both going to make contact early and it's likely to be devastating. Over time, however, skills win fights. Of the two, Varner is more skilled. He doesn't quite have the dynamic movement of Guillard standing, but puts together very good punching combinations. He is also a skilled wrestler and works a potent guillotine. Lastly, he endures over the course of a fight much better than Guillard. Assuming he doesn't get torched early, Varner should take over late.
If this fight stays standing it's anyone's guess or maybe Barry's fight to lose. Del Rosario is no slouch standing, but I see Barry's proactive style and pressure attack. On the ground, however, it's a different story. Del Rosario has decent takedowns and even better guard passing jiu-jitsu. If Barry is put on his back, I see little reason why del Rosario can't finish the fight in one of those instances.
Brookins might be one of the better fighters who has a well-rounded skill set and fidelity to real technique that, in my judgment, under performs. For Poirier, the key is mixing it up against Brookins. A single form of attack won't get the job done. Brookins has to be forced to react and then beaten with the decision making in various transitions. Poirier should be able to do exactly that, too. He is able to define the offensive complexion of a fight and force bad decision making by his opponents. Brookins is a tough customer and won't go away easy, but Poirier's ability to lead the attack should be the difference maker.
Head to head, Ricci is just the superior fighter. Perhaps most importantly, he's the superior finisher. He has more ability to end a fight even if Smith is durable and has the ability to drag a fight out. I won't say Smith eeked through the tournament, but there were fights that should've had extra rounds and opponents he should've put away. Ricci is just the better of the two.