For the first time in UFC history, the Ultimate Fighter consisted of all female contestants. Furthermore, the season was the first to not only introduce a new weight class to the promotion, but also the first to crown a champion. And tonight, the season comes to a close.
The prelims consist of all the female contestants that did not make the semifinals, while all but one of the four male bouts take place on the main card. The main card opener is an intriguing bout for third place, while the main event is the Inaugural UFC Strawweight Championship.
At last week’s UFC 181, I had my worst night of picking ever, going a mediocre 6-5 on the evening. The record brought my record to 286-127-1, with a no contest. Surely, things will go better tonight, right?
Fight Pass Prelims (6/5c, UFC Fight Pass)
#15 Emily Kagan (3-1) vs. Angela Hill (1-0)
The first fight of the evening involves two women that were expected to do nothing in the tournament, and that’s exactly what happened. Hill got submitted early in her bout agains top-ranked Carla Esparza, while Kagan lost a split decision to second-ranked Joanne Calderwood. That’s right, these women were the lowest-ranked on the show.
That said, Kagan has professionally lost to Rose Namajunas, while Hill has only fought once. She’s really raw, and while the experience edge clearly goes to Kagan, I see Hill’s potential winning tonight. Prediction: Hill via decision.
#5 Aisling Daly (14-5) vs. # 10 Alex Chambers (4-1)
The second fight of the evening is a fascinating fight between two foreign fighters. The Irish Daly has a lot of experience, but recently had a three-fight losing skid. She won her preliminary house fight against Angela Magana, before losing her quarterfinal bout against former Invicta Atomweight Champion Jessica Penne. Each of her losses came against UFC veterans or champions from other organizations. She also owns a win over Jessica Eye.
Meanwhile, Chambers is a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (one notch below Daly’s brown belt), but also possesses a third Dan black belt in Karate. Her lone fight against a notable opponent was Mizuki Inoue, against whom she got submitted in the first round. She was also submitted by Rose Namajunas in her lone fight inside the TUF house. Daly is a finisher who has only lost once via finish, so this will end early. Prediction: Daly via submission, round 2.
Televised Prelims (7/6c, FS1)
Tecia Torres (4-0) vs. Angela Magana (11-6)
The first televised of the evening is one that should be one-sided. Torres has never lost professionally, possessing wins over championship challenger Rose Namajunas, as well as Felice Herrig and current UFC fighter Paige VanZant. She has gone to decision in every fight, but has black belts in Karate and Taekwondo.
As for Magana, well, she’s a joke. She has an attitude problem, has been a cancer on multiple reality shows, and is delusional. She has lost to every notable opponent barring Jessica Aguilar, who has beaten her twice. She has also lost to Jessicas Penne and Eye, as well as Stephanie Eggink, and even some woman named Lisa Higo. She will get wrecked, in an extremely one-sided decision. Prediction: Torres via unanimous decision.
#2 Joanne Calderwood (8-0) vs. Seo Hee Ham (15-5)
The next bout features two potential stars. Calderwood is undefeated and even though she lost to Rose Namajunas, and seems to go to decision all the time, the former Kickboxer hones four knockouts, and has very crisp striking.
Meanwhile, Ham, nicknamed “Hamderlei SIlva”, is considered the number two Atomweight in the world. She has fought every notable Japanese female MMA fighter out there, including Megumi Fujii, and has won six straight. I see this fight being a close, hard fight, with the Scot pulling away late. Prediction: Calderwood via tko, late round 3.
#8 Bec Rawlings vs. #11 Heather Clark (6-4)
The next bout features some bad blood. After Magana, perhaps the next most despicable fighter of the season was Rawlings, if not Esparza. She was viewed as a bully, against Heather Clark and others. From a professional basis, it’s hard to configure her. All of her wins came against fighters who were making professional debuts against her. Meanwhile, she has lost to Esparza, Mizuki Inoue, was blasted by a head kick in her pro debut.
Meanwhile, Clark has not been much better. None of her wins came against notable fighters, while two of her losses also came against nameless opponents. She has lost previously o Felice Herrig back in Bellator 94, as well as to Stephanie Eggink. Since I’m not sold on either, so let’s go with the less spiteful one. Prediction: Clark via decision.
#6 Felice Herrig (9-5) vs. # 13 Lisa Ellis (15-8)
Honestly, I don’t see why this fight is happening, or why it gets top billing. Perhaps the UFC just wants to shove more Felice down our throats. I mean, it’s not as if they have a history of loudmouth fighters who always floundered under the pressure, right? I’ll jsut assume that they felt this would be an entertaining standup fight, and that’s why it was booked. I’m not stupid enough to actually believe that, but I’ll just pretend that’s the case.
Herrig has a history of beating fighters that she should beat. Her lone losses, barring the first two of her career, came against Invicta champions (Carla Esparza and Barb Honchak), and the always formidable Tecia Torres. The Torres bout was her last professional fight, and ended her four-fight winning streak.
Ellis is a decorated and experienced fighter, but I just don’t know if she has the urge to fight anymore. Her last professional fight came in July 2012, and prior to that, she had lost three straight fights, against Jessica Penne, Jessica Aguilar, and arguably the best ever, Megumi Fujii. She has a child that she evidently missed during the show, and as much as I’d like her to get her 12th submission victory, oh screw it. Prediction: Ellis via choke, round 3.
Main Card (9/8c, FS1)
#4 Jessica Penne (11-2) vs. #14 Randa Markos (4-1)
The first fight on the main card features the two semifinalists who fell short on the season’s final episode. Penne lost a unanimous decision to fellow former Invicta Champion carla Esparza, while Markos followed up her surprising wins over Tecia Torres and Felice Herrig with a submission loss to Rose Namajunas.
Honestly, I love both fighters. I was fans of both before the show, and the season only made me root for them more. That said, Penne is an Atomweight, and everybody knows it. She is smaller than Randa, and while I do think there’s a chance she can submit her, i see Markos prevailing in a good fight. Prediction: Markos via unanimous decision.
Joe Proctor (10-2) vs. Yancy Medeiros (10-2, 1NC)
In the first male fight of the night, the first of three straight, Lightweights Joe Proctor and Yancy Medeiros will face off. Proctor was part of TUF: Live, and has gone 3-1 inside the octagon. Meanwhile, Medeiros is a finisher who has only gone the distance twice. He has gone a subpar 1-2 with a no contest inside the octagon, with the no contest being initially ruled a knockout victory. I think this will be a terrific fight, but while my heart says Proctor should win, my head is strangely telling me to pick the Hawaiian. Prediction: Medeiros via unanimous decision.
KJ Noons (13-7) vs. Daron Cruickshank (16-5)
Two things: First, this fight will be a barnburner that will garner at least one bonus, whether it be for performance of the night or fight of the night. Second, don’t blink. Prediction: Cruickshank via headkick from hell, round 2.
Jeremy Stephens (23-10) vs. Charles Oliveira (18-4, NC)
In the co-main event of the evening, a pair of explosive Featherweights will take the stage. Jeremy Stephens is coming off a tough decision loss to Cub Swanson in a fight where he was expected to fare much worse than he did, while Oliveira has won two straight. He has gone 6-4 with a no contest in the UFC, with every victory coming via submission. Now, whenever a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt is on stage, I tend to pick him. But, Stephens has only been submitted once in his career, and I will begrudgingly pick him. Prediction: Stephens via tko, round 2.
UFC Strawweight Championship: #1 Carla Esparza (9-2) vs. #7 Rose Namajunas (2-1)
Oh, here we go. In the main event of the evening, the two TUF 20 finalists will battle it out for the Inaugural UFC Strawweight Championship. Esparza, a grinding wrestler, was the first Invicta Strawweight Champion, and enters the UFC holding on to that honor. Meanwhile, Namajunas is a feisty 22-year-old that has a black belt in Taekwondo and Karate, while boasting every victory ending via submission.
For anyone wanting to pick Rose, here are a few cautionary tales. At the TUF 16 finale, Mike Ricci, who had finished two opponents in the competition, faced “lay n’ pray” artist Colton Smith. Ricci was the sexier choice, but Smith ground his way to a decision win. The following season, Uriah Hall dominated everyone he faced in the house, and was overhyped beyond belief. He faced wrestler Kelvin Gastelum, and lost via decision. Tonight, I see Rose fighting hard, but meeting the exact same fate. Prediction: Esparza via grinding unanimous decision.