UFC President Dana White has been ecstatic because for the first time ever, the gambling consumer was able to make wagers on TUF fights. Online and in Las Vegas, odds were laid for each week's fights, a new development that was a consequence of the show's switch to a live format. While a fun if relatively unimportant development, the major problem this year was how wildly off the mark said oddsmakers were. It wasn't just that there were upsets, although there were those, too. There were a lot of them and often when there was a prohibitive favorite.
So, as we get to predictions for tonight's events, let's be careful about being overly certain about the fighters from the show. Most professional fighters at that stage in their career still have liabilities they've yet to shore up. Things can go wrong for them - especially with a jump in competition - and the fight can change complexion a lot more easily than if there were experienced combatants with twenty or more fights on their record competing.
What: The Ultimate Fighter Live Finale
Where: The Pearl at the Palms Casino Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada
When: Friday, the Facebook preliminary starts at 5:45 p.m. Eastern, the four-fight FUEL card starts at 6 and the five fight FX card starts at 9.
Predictions on the five FX fights below.
This is a very difficult call to make. There are very good reasons to side with either fighter. Kampmann's chin is more tappable than others at the top of the welterweight division, but he is physically durable. He's also clever and has the ability to score submissions in transition spots when opponents least expect it. And as we saw against Thiago Alves, even late into a fight where he's beaten up he can make a fighter who's lost focus pay.
With that said, I'm going to go with Ellenberger. I am worried about his gas tank. He says there are no issues, but I remain unconvinced. I have enough confidence in him, however, to put away Kampmann early. Ellenberger is a nightmare at the beginning of fights. He packs huge power and has demonstrated ferocious finishing ability. I suspect that will be too much for Kampmann to weather.
If the fight goes late, it's Kampmann's to lose, but I'm generally of the belief Ellenberger can make this an early night. Generally.
Iaquinta is the betting favorite, but that just makes me nervous. If Chiesa has shown anything, it's resiliency late in a fight. He can stick it to opponents when they're tired or think they've won and is excellent at capitalizing once the tide has turned. I'm going to stick with the Serra product, though. I believe he'll be able to keep the fight standing and pressure Chiesa with punches on the inside and outside. That's been trouble for Chiesa in this tournament and nearly cost him a couple of times. Perhaps tonight his luck runs out.
This should be a close contest. Oliveira is finally in the right weight class, but Brookins is going to be harder to contend with than many expect. He's a fantastic scrambler and has strong defensive fundamentals. Even if Oliveira is able to take the back, I'm not convinced he can put away Brookins. He'll probably have to be content with a decision and that's exactly how long I expect this fight to go. Oliveira is a serious talent, but Brookins has never been submitted for a reason.
Max Hollaway vs. Pat Schilling
I'll be honest and say I'm not sure why either of these guys is in the UFC. That's not to suggest they should never be in the UFC, but perhaps they're not ready now. In any case, both fighters were thoroughly outclassed in their UFC debuts and both have serious defensive issues. I'll side with Schilling given his submission prowess, but I'm not really confident about either's chances.
I wasn't quite on board with the idea Lawrence was the guy to take it all this season. He had a well-rounded skill set, but seemed a little too hesitant to pull the trigger at times. In the Chiesa fight, he basically got out hustled at the end. The problem is I don't think Cofer has much to really offer Lawrence at the beginning of a fight or the end, even if Lawrence is overly selective about his attacks.