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TUF Finale 25 predictions

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Another season of The Ultimate Fighter is in the books and with it comes a live finale. The TUF 25 Finale, which is part of UFC International Fight Week, is a decent event with an important headlining bout between top-five lightweight Michael Johnson and former WSOF lightweight champion Justin Gaethje. And in the co-main event, TUF 25 season finalists Dhiego Lima and Jesse Taylor will battle it out to see who’s crowned the champion of the welterweight tournament.

What: The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale

Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.

When: The two-fight UFC Fight Pass prelims begin at 6 p.m. ET, the three-fight FOX Sports 1 preliminary card begins at 7 p.m. ET, and the six-fight main card begins at 9:00 p.m. ET also on FOX Sports 1.

Michael Johnson vs. Justin Gaethje

Everyone always wonders how champions from other organizations would fare in the UFC, and every now and then, we get the opportunity to give our curiosity some answers. Today, former WSOF lightweight champion Justin Gaethje will be making his UFC debut against top-five UFC lightweight contender Michael Johnson.

Gaethje is one of the biggest names outside the UFC. Apart from holding the WSOF lightweight title, the 28-year-old fighter made a name of himself in the MMA world with his dangerous striking and careless fighting style. Gaethje remains undefeated with an impressive record of 17-0, which including victories over notable opponents such as Brian Foster, Melvin Guillard, Gesias Cavalcante, Drew Fickett, and Luis Palomino. Gaethje is out to prove he belongs among the elite, and Johnson is the perfect opponent to test if he can hang with the top.

Johnson has been competing in the UFC for almost seven years, and has made his way to the top of the division using his clean and improved boxing along with his crisp wrestling. “The Menace” might be 1-3 in his past four outings, but his losses have come to the very best. There is no doubt Johnson is legit and he is undoubtedly Gaethje’s most high-profile opponent to this date.

So lets take a look at how these two match up, and analyze the factors that will likely the outcome of this lightweight fight:

Distance control: I think this fight will come down mainly to who can control the pace and the distance inside the Octagon. Both Johnson and Gaethje shine best in their striking when they’re moving forward and controlling the distance between them and their opponents. This can be seen in most of Gaethje’s wild fights and can be noticed in great detail in Johnson’s victory over Edson Barboza. I find this factor to affect Gaethje a bit more than Johnson since he has a tougher time fighting off his heels and counter punching. Whoever does the pushing here and gets control of the distance should walk away with the victory.

Durability: This is a five-round fight involving two very violent people that strike with a high output. I don’t think this will be a quick, clean sweep for any fighter, so I expect this to be a long and tough battle where both fighters inflict a good deal of damage on each other. Being well-conditioned and durable will be key to any man’s success here. Both Gaethje and Johnson have never been knocked out in their long careers and have proven many times to be able to take hard shots to the head. The durability needed for this bout is not necessarily one of having a good chin – since we know both fighters are difficult to knock out – but more on the end of how their body deals with wear while still trying to perform at the highest level.

Prediction: This not an easy pick, but I feel like I’m not having as much difficulty as others when predicting this bout. I think Johnson has the footwork, speed, cardio, and striking technique to do what Luiz Firmino did to Gaethje for the first round and a half of their fight last December. Firmino had a good amount of success backing up Gaethje, and not allowing him to base and land his signature leg kicks and power hooks. However, he gassed and Gatheje’s shots began to add up and shutdown his body. I think Johnson will come in and look to keep Gatheje on his heels while landing quick short shots that will beat Gatheje’s long looping hooks.

Pick: Johnson

Dhiego Lima vs. Jesse Taylor

This is a great final for the TUF 25 season.

Both these guys have shown improvement and tons of resilience since their first UFC/TUF runs. Jesse Taylor’s fighting style is not the most complex out there, but it’s certainly one of the most efficient. Taylor has a huge frame for welterweight and utilizes it perfectly to takedown opponents, achieve dominant positions on the ground, and land heavy ground-and-pound. Meanwhile, Dhiego Lima seems to have a bit more tools and have a more intricate style. Lima has slick submissions, solid takedown defense and crisp striking.

This bout comes down to whether or not Lima can stop Taylor’s takedowns and keep the fight standing. I don’t think it’s an impossible task for Lima, but I just don’t see it happening.

Pick: Taylor

Marc Diakiese vs. Drakkar Klose

I thought the Paul Felder fight made perfect sense for Marc Diakiese. I’m not sure why the UFC matched Diakiese up with another undefeated prospect in Drakkar Klose. Either way, still a good fight.

The 24-year-old Diakiese has shown great raw talent in his two-fight UFC career, and carries a lot of promise in the UFC’s lightweight division. Diakiese is an explosive athlete with great timing, and unpredictable, dangerous striking. His opponent, Klose, has a complete different style than Diakiese. The MMA Lab product enjoys fighting at close quarter, and has solid wrestling and ground work. Much like the co-main event, this bout come down to whether or not Klose can takedown or control Diakiese against the cage, while avoiding his dangerous striking.

I don’t think Diakiese is as well-versed on the ground as Klose, but I think Diakiese will be able to power himself out of positions and land the more significant shots of the fight.

Pick: Diakiese

Jared Cannonier vs. Nick Roehrick

Unfortunately, we lost Jared Cannonier vs. Steve Bosse, which could’ve been a solid war, but at least prospect Nick Roehrick is getting his shot at the big leagues.

Cannonier might be 32 years old but he doesn’t have many miles on him and feels like fresh blood in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. Cannonier is a very durable and athletic fighter with solid boxing and big power. On the other hand, Roehrick is a very different competitor. Roehrick might not have the power or the physical gifts of Cannonier, but he has an advantage on the ground. Roehrick has good takedowns and solid ground work. This could present issues to Cannonier, as we saw him fall short to wrestling before.

However, Roehrick is no Glover Texeira and he is taking this fight on short notice, so I see Cannonier getting the victory here. Cannonier will probably stop Roehrick’s takedowns and land his heavy shots.

Pick: Cannonier

Brad Tavares vs. Elias Theodorou

Decent middleweight match-up that has the potential to be quite boring.

Brad Tavares has been fighting for the UFC for seven years now, and has always lingered somewhere a little above the middle of the UFC’s 185-pound division. The Hawaiian is not phenomenal at any specific area, but does everything well. Tavares possesses good kick boxing, good takedown defense, and he’s a strong athlete. Theodorou feels to be around the same position as Tavares in the middleweight rankings. Theodorou is not extremely flashy, but he fights composed and can counter strike. The Canadian can also fight from the clinch and has a few takedowns in his arsenal.

This should be a competitive fight, but I find Tavares to be the more comfortable and confident striker. I also have a hard time seeing Theodorou getting the fight to the ground, at least for long enough to win on the scorecards.

Pick: Tavares

Jordan Johnson vs. Marcel Fortuna

Jordan Johnson has only been fighting for three years, and he’s already in the UFC. The former RFA light heavyweight champion is a talented wrestler with improving striking. Meanwhile, Marcel Fortuna is a decent fighter with some serious skills on the ground. The man has great positioning and dangerous submissions on the ground. Fortuna’s striking is not great, but he does have some knockout power.

I think if Johnson slows down the fight as much as possible and does everything in his power to keep it standing, he should be able to get himself a decision win.

Pick: Johnson


Angela Hill def. Ashley Yoder

James Krause def. Tom Gallicchio

C.B. Dollaway def. Ed Herman

Aspen Ladd def. Jessica Eye

Teruto Ishihara def. Gray Maynard

Tecia Torres def. Juliana Lima

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