For the second time in as many days, the UFC stages an event in Las Vegas. This time two of the best featherweights not named Conor McGregor or Jose Aldo will battle for a No. 1-contender's spot. The card also decides the title for season 22 of The Ultimate Fighter.
Where: The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas, Nevada
When: Friday, the four-fight Fox Sports 1 card starts at 8 p.m. ET and the six-fight Fox Sports 1 main card starts at 10 p.m.
What a tough choice. Mendes has bigger power and may even be faster (he's certainly more explosive). He can chain wrestle while mixing in strikes. The smaller cage favors him as it leaves less room for Edgar to move. And yet, I can't quite bring myself to pick Mendes here. That isn't to say he won't win or that there's no good argument for Mendes. There's a very strong one, and I believe there's a lot of merit to the idea Mendes technical prowess on the feet and lights out takedown defense is enough. Ultimately, however, I believe Edgar's ability to find an opening standing will be a key difference maker, especially as it relates to the counter. How much effective wrestling will be a part of this fight seems highly debatable, but striking is in order. Mendes has the better power and will likely take and early lead with damage, but in a five-round contest, Edgar's ability to adapt, change and overcome is virtually peerless. Add in that Edgar trained with Michael Chandler for this fight and one gets the sense it may take Edgar a while, but he'll eventually get the victory he needs here.
The fact that this is The Ultimate Fighter 22 final fight is kind of bizarre, considering both men lost on the show. Lobov was brought back after losing in the elimination round, which likely has a lot to do with his status as a good friend and training partner of Conor McGregor. Hall was brought back after the man who defeated him, Saul Rogers, had visa issues and couldn't get into the United States.
Lobov is a stand-up fighter, but more of a brawler. He keeps his hands too low and has a tendency to get into a firefight when it's not to his benefit. However, he makes up for in power what he's lacking in aesthetically pleasing striking. Hall is one of the top Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners in MMA and has a variety of entries into a leglock, even from the standing position.
It's a mismatch of styles, which could either make the fight very interesting or tedious to watch. Lobov, who is far more experienced in MMA, probably has a better chance of landing a big punch in transition than Hall does a submission. The Russian by decision is the most likely scenario, though it'll be close.
Marc Raimondi's Pick: Lobov
In theory, Ferguson should have everything to takes to defeat Barboza. He's finally showing up the kind of angles, distance changing and overall movement to give any and all strikers problems. He has an array of devastating, unusual combinations and perhaps most importantly, he has big, big power. Ferguson doesn't have the body type of the typically more compact frame that we associate with punching power, but that only undercuts the value of said frame as a the benchmark. Ferguson can crack. When you have a fighter who can mix it up as well as Ferguson - who, it should be noted, is facing a late replacement - and who has the power to create trouble very quickly against an opponent who doesn't have a tremendous ability to take a shot, there's all the ingredients necessary for success.
Dunham seems physically rejuvenated and has a clear sense of purpose when he competes. There's a game plan that marries the best of his talents against the those of his competitors, but one where their strengths are defused. Lauzon is no one's pushover and can cause trouble anywhere, but perhaps especially in the very control positions Dunham expects to use. That said, I overall like Dunham's ability to be the one physically dictating the terms of offense even if Lauzon is going to make him work for it.
Knight is making his UFC debut here, and while I'm not suggesting Kawajiri is a sprightly young man, I'm also not too convinced the formidable guard of Knight is enough to defeat the Japanese veteran. Knight's guard is very tricky, but there's a gap between the level of his submission ability off of his back and the rest of his offense. And it may not even matter, as Kawajiri likely has what it takes to beat Knight even on his ow terms. It would be foolish to discount Knight's submission prowess, but banking on that alone to earn the victory isn't convincing.
Julian Erosa vs. Marcin Wrzosek
I'm not sure what sort of future either really has in the UFC, but whatever the case, I like Erosa's chances here. Wrzosek is a forward pressure kind of fighter, but lacks a lot of polished skills. Erosa isn't as physical, but has good takedown defense along the cage and a craftier set of finishing skills.
From the preliminary card:
*Editor's note: Marc Raimondi is doing the prediction for the Hall-Lobov bout because I know Hall in real life and have for some time. My prediction isn't particularly analytical, so Marc filled in for me. Thanks, Marc!