The second of two UFC events in the same city in two days ends with the finale for the most-recent season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) on Fox Sports 1. The event will crown two new TUF winners in the middle and light heavyweight divisions. The card is headlined by the third meeting between Frankie Edgar and B.J. Penn.
Will Penn finally get his revenge on Edgar or is 'The Answer' still one step ahead of 'The Prodigy' even at featherweight? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Sunday's fights.
Where: Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas, Nevada
When: Sunday, the two-fight preliminary Fight Pass card starts at 6 p.m. ET and the four-fight Fox Sports 1 main card starts at 7 p.m. and the five-fight Fox Sports 1 card kicks off 9 p.m.
Penn's blind, stubborn ambition has been his source of greatness as much as the source of his many pratfalls. The same impulse that drove him to submit Matt Hughes at welterweight for the first time is the same one that say him corpulent and on the wrong end of a semi-beating at the hands of Lyoto Machida at light heavyweight. The question today is not whether that impulse is gone, but which direction it will steer him in his third fight with Edgar.
Rationally, there's very little reason to pick Penn. Whatever speed advantages he picks up at featherweight are likely to be negated by the very ones Edgar has assumed as well. As for how they match up, well, we know. Edgar's movement, incessant jab and takedown defense are simply too much for the Prodigy. Or, at least, they have been. Edgar hasn't looked poor at featherweight by any stretch, but it's not clear that the weight class has been some sort of revelatory place that many had expected it be once he dropped from lightweight.
Still, I can't pick Penn as much as I want to. I'm not really fans of individual fighters anymore and haven't been for some time. But when I was simply a fan, Penn was the guy I gravitated to first. I thought his marriage of elite skill, durability and regulated savagery was everything we could ever want out of a fighter. No one will ever be able to undo what he's accomplished in the game, except for maybe Penn himself. Either he avenges two career losses tonight by proving his self belief was justified or he leaves the game with double-digit losses on his ledger. Let's see what the Prodigy can finally do.
I've personally commentated several of Van Buren's fights on the regional scene here in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia. Van Buren is lanky and doesn't have particularly amazing use of his reach. His guard isn't bad, but it's not clear how effective that will be against competition at this level. He packs a good punch, but isn't necessarily some enormous KO threat. I don't think particularly highly of Anderson's ability anywhere, but I suppose he knows how to manage a clock and control position. That might work against Van Buren. I wouldn't be surprised, but it's not something I can necessarily count on.
Pick: Van Buren
Dhiego Lima vs. Eddie Gordon
I'm not particularly overblown by Gordon or anyone else from this past season of TUF. I'm not of the belief 'they just didn't want it' as much as they just don't have it. At least not yet. Lima is a tempting pick and certainly has more skills everywhere, but I was really unimpressed with his takedown defense or ability to get up off the bottom (I'm excluding guard work since so few fighters even make a serious attempt at it). There's not much beyond Gordon's wrestling to speak of, but that might be enough. If he can get Lima backing up, worried about takedowns and ultimately find himself unable to stop them anyway, that's all he really needs to get the job done.
Inocente is a physical bruiser, but not in the way Lewis is. The American is an exceptionally hard puncher and Inocente, who hasn't competed in years, can fade in fights where opponents don't go down right away. If Inocente mixes it up and controls distance, anything is possible. However, all indications are that this is a gun slinger's contest and on those terms, it's hard to see how Lewis loses.
Ortiz is a hell of a fighter. He's an excellent scrambler, strong submission threat (particularly from turtle and then the back), can strike at least well enough to facilitate the other portions of his offense and has an unending gas tank. The problem is he's fighting the next big thing at flyweight in Scoggins, who should be one step ahead of Ortiz just about everywhere. Scoggins can do just about everything, although I don't suspect Ortiz will fold. It will take a lot of what the American Top Team flyweight has to offer to get the job done, but I just don't see how Ortiz puts it on him long enough to win rounds or the fight.
From the preliminary card:
Kevin Lee def. Jesse Ronson
Leandro Issa def. Jumabieke Tuerxun
Adriano Marins def. Juan Manuel Puig Carreon
Daniel Spohn def. Patrick Walsh
Alexis Dufresne def. Sarah Moras
Robert Drysdale def. Keith Berish