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The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale predictions

Roxanne Modafferi (EL, MMA Fighting) Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Well, the first women’s flyweight champion will be crowned on Friday night at The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale. Underdogs Sijara Eubanks and Nicco Montano were supposed to battle for the belt in the main event of the card, but Eubanks had to withdraw from the bout and now veteran Roxanne Modafferi will take her place. Apart from the women’s flyweight title fight, this card also features the promotional debut of DWTNCS star Sean O'Malley, and an interesting women’s flyweight bout between veterans Lauren Murphy and Barb Honchak.

What: The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale

Where: Park Theater, Las Vegas, Nev.

When: Friday, Dec. 1. The main card starts on FOX Sports 1 at 10 p.m. ET, while the undercard starts at 7:30 on UFC Fight Pass before switching over to FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET.

Roxanne Modafferi vs. Nicco Montano

Well, either Roxanne Modafferi or Nicco Montano will be the new and first women’s UFC flyweight champion of the world. I can’t say I saw that coming.

Modafferi is a true veteran of the sport. “The Happy Warrior” has been fighting at an elite level for several years now. Modafferi was at one point on a six-fight skid, but in the last three years, she managed to turn things around and put together a solid record of 6-2. The former Invicta FC title challenger has really good jiu-jitsu, fights composed, and strikes with an odd style that can puzzle her opponents. Modafferi might not be a great athlete, but she’s durable and has really good cardio.

Nicco Montano is a very strong fighter for the flyweight division. Montano is great in the clinch, has takedowns in her arsenal, and can hold her own on the feet. It’s safe to say that Montano is a pretty well-rounded fighter.

I can see Montano outmuscling Modafferi and being the more dominant fighter. However, being a five-round fight now, things get a little more tricky. Modafferi has way more experience than Montano, and also has a better gas tank. My brain tells me Montano should get a win here, however, my gut is with Modafferi.

Pick: Modafferi

Terrion Ware vs. Sean O'Malley

This is a really good booking , and it should be fun stand up war.

Sean O'Malley has some big shoes to fill tonight. O'Malley made big noise with his first-round KO over a very game Alfred Khashakyan at Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series 2. The marijuana-friendly fighter has unorthodox striking, reach, and good movement. O'Malley has some grappling, but his bread and butter remains his striking.

Terrion Ware might come off as a sacrificial lamb here since he’s 0-1 in the UFC, and he’s being paired against a promising prospect, but that idea is just simply not correct. Ware is a very skilled fighter. The 31-year-old has a sharp jab and can put together high-level striking combinations. Ware fights composed and has plenty of experience, having over 20 fights under his belt.

This should be an entertaining stand up battle. I think O'Malley is capable of picking up a win here, but I don’t find that to be the most likely result. Ware is far more experience than O'Malley and his striking technique also seems more advanced. I don’t see O'Malley posing much of threat on the ground, and on the feet, Ware should be superior.

Pick: Ware

Lauren Murphy vs. Barb Honchak

This match up might be actually better than both of the bookings these two fighters were originally involved in.

Barb Honchak is as battle tested as they come. The 38-year-old fighter is a former Invicta FC flyweight champ and holds wins over notable opposition such as Leslie Smith, Roxanne Modafferi, Nina Ansaroff, and Felice Herrig. Honchak is a very technical striker that can also grapple. Despite being 38, Honchak appears to be in great shape and still remains very strong for the weight class.

Like Honchak, Lauren Murphy is also another physically strong fighter with a good amount of experience. Murphy likes to move forward and dictate the pace. The UFC veteran has solid takedowns in her game and decent grappling skills.

I see Honchak getting the better of the striking exchanges. Honchak is just simply more technical and fights well off the counter. I’d say Murphy is the superior grappler, but many of her takedowns come against the cage, which is not ideal when facing someone that’s strong in the clinch.

I think this bout will be very competitive, but I see Honchak getting a decision win.

Pick: Honchak

Eric Spicely vs. Gerald Meerschaert

I like this booking. Both guys will be looking to bounce back from losses, and they sort of seem to be on the same level of the UFC’s middleweight division.

Eric Spicely is an interesting character. He doesn’t look like he should be in the UFC, but he can be a threat to almost anyone. Spicely has a deep grasp of jiu-jitsu and that alone makes him dangerous. Spicely is not particularly a good striker or a great athlete, but he’s quick at locking up submissions.

Gerald Meerschaert is also a talented grappler. Meerschaert might not be as crafty as Spicely on the ground, but he has a lot more tools than Spicely. Meerschaert is a decent striker, and a fairly athletic guy. Meerschaert is also durable, and unlike Spicely, he has solid takedowns.

You can’t never count out Spicely, but Meerschaert just seems way more complete here. Meerschaert is no scrub on the ground, so he should have the ability to fight off any submissions attempts. I see Meerschaert finding success on the feet and on the ground against Spicely.

Pick: Meerschaert

Deanna Bennett vs. Melinda Fabian

I think this is one of the easier fights to call from the main card.

Deanna Bennett is one of the more experienced girls from the TUF 26 house. Bennett has been around for some time, she’s a former Invicta FC title challenger. The 33-year-old fighter is very well rounded. Bennett has good striking and mixes things up well. She also has solid takedowns and submissions. On the other hand, Melinda Fabian is not so well-rounded. Fabian is tough and has good kickboxing, but her ground game is not so great.

I think Bennett could do well on the feet against Fabian, and even better on the ground. Fabian is a capable fighter, but Bennett just seems to have way more tools to win the fight.

Pick: Bennett

Joe Soto vs. Brett Johns

Solid bantamweight fight.

Joe Soto is a very well-rounded fighter that can do well on his feet and on the ground. Soto is durable, has smooth boxing, and can also get the fight to the ground. His opponent, Brett Johns, is very similar but perhaps is a bit more of a natural grappler than Soto. Johns has good wrestling with a dominant top game. The Welsh fighter also possesses solid striking, and he’s not afraid to get in the pocket to trade punches.

This should be a high-paced fight. I think both guys are very solid, making this a difficult pick, but I find Johns to be a bit quicker than Soto and I think his wrestling will give Soto some issues. This will likely be a close fight, but I see Johns getting the nod from the judges here.

Pick: Johns


Montana De La Rosa def. Christina Marks

Andrew Sanchez def. Ryan Janes

Rachael Ostovich-Berdon def. Karine Gevorgyan

Ariel Beck def. Shan Dobson

Emily Whitmire def. Gillian Robertson

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