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The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale: Main Card Staff Predictions

Scott HarrisMMA Lead Writer November 28, 2013

The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale: Main Card Staff Predictions

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    UFC lightweight Gray Maynard faces Nate Diaz in the TUF 18 Finale main event.
    UFC lightweight Gray Maynard faces Nate Diaz in the TUF 18 Finale main event.Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    The 18th finale of The Ultimate Fighter reality show goes down on Saturday from a little events center in the Mandalay Bay facility in Las Vegas, Nevada.

    Fans will need to wait another month or so to watch coaches Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate renew their white-hot rivalry inside a cage, but this weekend still holds plenty of action and intrigue. First and foremost is the small matter of fact that, for the first time, a female MMA fighter will earn the six-figure contract at the end of the TUF rainbow. A male winner also will be crowned, and TUF alumni Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz will battle for the third time.

    Holiday, shmoliday. We put up the bat signal to assemble our finest team of semi-literate fight analysts to offer some picks for the main card fights. You know the names, maybe: Riley "Kobra" Kontek, James "The Athlete" MacDonald, Craig "The Canadian Cookie" Amos and yours truly, Scott Harris. Let's get it on.

Roxanne Modafferi vs. Raquel Pennington

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    Raquel Pennington
    Raquel PenningtonUFC.com

    Riley Kontek

    The most chipper and lovable fighter on the season was Roxanne Modafferi, but her size (or lack thereof) is going to be the reason she doesn't stick around the UFC for long. She is an ace grappler, but Raquel Pennington is strong and tough and should be able to thwart the takedown. Look for Pennington to outstrike "The Happy Warrior" and possibly finish her late.

    Pennington, TKO, Rd. 3

     

    James MacDonald

    I like Modafferi, but I fear this might be a mismatch. “The Happy Warrior” is well-schooled on the ground, but she has never been able to get her striking game up to par. In contrast, Pennington is well-rounded and should be able to take the fight wherever she wants to.

    Pennington, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Craig Amos

    Modafferi has an experience advantage, but Pennington is no stranger to mixing it up with solid opposition. Ultimately, I see Pennington outclassing her foe, getting the better of the exchanges and controlling the pace of the action.

    Pennington, Unanimous Decision

     

    Scott Harris

    Modafferi’s resume is amazing. She is a pioneer of women’s MMA. But in her TUF season match with Jessica Rakoczy, she looked like someone the game passed by long ago. Her athleticism—not to mention a total and complete lack of any stand-up gamewas a glaring shortcoming. Even before TUF, she had lost her previous five pro contests. As wonderful as she is, she won’t have much in the cage for a young bull like Pennington.

    Pennington, TKO, Rd. 1

Jessamyn Duke vs. Peggy Morgan

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    Jessamyn Duke
    Jessamyn DukeUFC.com

    Kontek

    The two biggest women on the show this season were Jessamyn Duke (5'11") and Peggy Morgan (6'1"). Now, these two Team Rousey teammates will square off. Duke is a striker but has shown good skills on the mat. She showed her toughness in the barnburner of the season when she duked it out (pun intended) with Raquel Pennington.

    Morgan, on the other hand, needs to avoid going to the ground, as it was her kryptonite in her loss to Sarah Moras. Duke is the more well-rounded individual here and should take a decision in a fun fight.

    Duke, Unanimous Decision

     

    MacDonald

    How on earth these women make 135 pounds is a mystery to me. They are huge at the weight. Morgan is an absolute bull of a fighter, overwhelming opponents with her size and strength. Unfortunately, Duke’s size means that she won’t enjoy her usual physical advantage. Additionally, Duke is technically superior both on the feet and on the ground. I can see the former fashion model picking Morgan apart for three rounds.

    Duke, Unanimous Decision

     

    Amos

    As the more well-rounded fighter, this one is Duke's to lose. She has a marked advantage on the mat, and if she can take the action there, she should either seal the deal with a submission or grind out a decision.

    Duke, Submission, Rd. 3

     

    Harris

    I might be more excited for this bout than any other on the card. Both these fighters are all limbs and aren’t afraid to use them. I think Duke is the more polished fighter and athlete, although the literature professor will make it a battle and earn a few more fans in the process.

    Duke, Unanimous Decision

Chris Holdsworth vs. Davey Grant

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    Chris Holdsworth
    Chris HoldsworthUFC.com

    Kontek

    How impressive was Team Alpha Male's Chris Holdsworth in the male side of the TUF bracket? In three fights on the show, he had three first-round submission wins over Louis Fisette (arm-triangle choke), Chris Beal (guillotine choke) and Michael Wootten (rear-naked choke). Davey Grant looks to have some good upside to him, but Holdsworth is too well-rounded and vastly superior on the mat to falter here.

    Holdsworth, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    MacDonald

    I’ve kept an eye on Chris Holdsworth’s progress ever since I watched him submit Denny Prokopos—Eddie Bravo’s first black belt—at a Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournament a few years ago. The fact that his striking has developed so rapidly suggests that he could be a title contender some time down the line. I can’t write off Grant, though. The Brit has looked terrific on TUF, demonstrating wicked striking and an impressive all-around game. This could be a tight one, but I can see Holdsworth securing a submission late in the fight.

    Holdsworth, Submission, Rd. 3

     

    Amos

    Not a bad TUF final here, with two submission machines squaring off. Holdsworth has impressed me too much for me to pick against him, and I think he could finish the fight.

    Holdsworth, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Harris

    I came to like Davey Grant more than any other fighter on the TUF 18 cast, with apologies to Modafferi. But I see no scenario in which Holdsworth is denied. He was an outstanding prospect before the show, and he met expectations as the season unfolded. Takedowns, top control, scramble, back mount, chokeout.

    Holdsworth, Submission, Rd. 2

Jessica Rakoczy vs. Julianna Pena

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    Jessica Rakoczy
    Jessica RakoczyUFC.com

    Kontek

    Two women who normally fight at 125 pounds end up being the finalists of the 135-pound women's tournament. Funny world, right? Pena is a brawler who has shown some improvements on the mat, but getting into a battle of strikes with a world champion boxer like Rakoczy isn't smart. Rakoczy has shown solid takedown defense during her time in the tournament, and assuming her shoulder has finally healed, she should be able to counterstrike and bloody up "The Venezuelan Vixen."

    Rakoczy, Unanimous Decision

     

    MacDonald

    Pena is a tough fighter to judge. On one hand, her technique leaves something to be desired. On the other hand, she is so relentless that it almost doesn’t matter. For someone who ordinarily fights at 125 pounds, the way that she outmuscled her opponents on TUF was remarkable. That being said, I’m a fan of Rakoczy. Her striking is outstanding, and she is constantly improving her grappling. I’m putting my money on the more technically sound fighter. Team Rousey will have at least one winner.

    Rakoczy, Unanimous Decision

     

    Amos

    History in the making, right here. Rakoczy has the pure skill, but Pena has the intestinal fortitude and the brute power to prevail. I’m calling the upset. The first woman to earn the six-figure contract is...Julianna Pena!

    Pena, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Harris

    Pena persevered despite being disliked in the TUF house. She didn’t drown her sorrows in mayonnaise sandwiches or ice cream sundaes, did she, Anthony Gutierrez? No, she did not. She literally put her head down and charged forward. She’ll try that again against Rakoczy and get a knuckle sandwich for her troubles. The chilled-out Canadian veteran takes it.

    Rakoczy, TKO, Rd. 2

Nate Diaz vs. Gray Maynard

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    Nate Diaz
    Nate DiazMark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Kontek

    The unofficial rubber match is here. Nate Diaz took the first (albeit exhibition) fight via submission. Gray Maynard took the second by decision. This fight will come down to power and cardio. If Maynard doesn't waste all of his gas looking for the early finish, he should mix in wrestling and ground strikes to snag the victory.

    Maynard, Unanimous Decision

     

    MacDonald

    Nine months ago, this fight would have had major title implications. But with both men struggling for form, this is more about determining who will remain relevant at 155 pounds. If Diaz shows up in prime form, this should be his fight to lose. Since their second fight, the Stockton native has improved beyond all recognition. Maynard will likely be at a disadvantage wherever the fight goes.

    Diaz, Submission, Rd. 3

     

    Amos

    Sometimes, hard experiences turn fighters into better versions of themselves. Question is, will Maynard come out of the rough patch he's recently stumbled through as a broken man or a better competitor? It's definitely a hard call, but I believe he'll rise to the occasion and hand Diaz his third consecutive defeat.

    Maynard, Unanimous Decision

     

    Harris

    Maynard is the bigger and stronger fighter, and his wrestling advantage seems, well, advantageous. But Diaz’s guard is no place to be, particularly for a fighter like Maynard, who hasn’t seemed sharp in his last couple of contests. As the fight wears on, Diaz will win the scrambles and make the wrestler uncomfortable. Eventually, very uncomfortable. Score one for Stockton, Calif.

    Diaz, Submission, Rd. 2

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