The first round of The Ultimate Fighter 16 has been highlighted by bad judging, seven decisions, one finish and a lot of unneeded drama in the house (mostly from Julian Lane).
As of now, Team Carwin and Team Nelson have four fighters each left in the competition. From Team Carwin, Neil Magny, Bristol Marunde, Mike Ricci and Igor Araujo remain, while Team Nelson boasts Mike Hill, Colton Smith, Joey Rivera and Jon Manley.
Here are the quarterfinal predictions for this season.
In a surprising announcement, Dana White matched up teammates Neil Magny and Bristol Marunde for the first fight of the quarterfinals.
So far in the competition, Magny defeated Frank Camacho in the first round by unanimous decision. Then, he was the fourth pick by Team Carwin (seventh overall) and matched up against Team Nelson's Cameron Diffley, winning again by unanimous decision.
As for Marunde, he defeated George Lockhart in the opening round via guillotine to get into the house. He was second pick of Team Carwin (third overall) and defeated Julian Lane by unanimous decision to reach the quarterfinals.
Magny is well-rounded and possesses a 7-1 career record fighting in smaller midwest promotions. His only loss is via guillotine choke, the very choke Marunde used to get into the house.
Marunde is a well-traveled veteran, having fought with M-1, Strikeforce and the IFL. The 12-7 Marunde is usually a middleweight, so he will likely have the size advantage. However, his weight cut will likely be tough.
This is an extremely close fight to call. Marunde has the experience and better submission grappling, while Magny has solid takedowns and striking. I flipped a coin and have decided Magny's cardio will carry him to a close decision.
Prediction: Magny def. Marunde via decision
In what is looking to be a very heated fight, as seen in the preview of next week's show, Igor Araujo of Team Carwin will meet Team Nelson's Colton Smith. Araujo was seventh pick of Team Carwin (13th overall), while Smith was the fourth pick of Team Nelson (eighth overall).
So far, Araujo has a submission and decision win in the competition. He choked out Cortez Coleman in the prelims with a triangle choke while edging Nic Herron-Webb in the first round.
Smith faked a glove tap before shooting a takedown in his prelim against Jesse Barrett, eventually winning by unanimous decision. In the first round in the house, he won a good back-and-forth fight against Eddy Ellis.
The striking battle will be close, but Smith is undoubtedly the better wrestler. The only problem is that Araujo is a fantastic jiu-jitsu artist and will be very dangerous with submissions if Smith takes him down.
Araujo has finished 17 professional fights by submission, and I expect him to do the same here. I am going to go out on a limb and say he wins with an armbar.
Prediction: Araujo def. Smith via submission
Another pair of teammates meet in the next quarterfinal, as fifth pick of Team Nelson (10th overall) Jon Manley meets seventh pick (14th overall) Joey Rivera.
In the prelims, Manley defeated Ricky Legere via unanimous decision to get into the house. In the first round, he would earn the only finish of the first-round fights when he tapped out James Chaney with a guillotine choke.
As for Joey Rivera, he knocked off Saad Awad in via majority decision in the prelims. Then, he would defeat Team Carwin's top pick in Sam Alvey via majority decision.
Rivera is a grinder that will look for a ground battle. Manley is a submission grappler with good wrestling himself.
With that, they may cancel each other out and have a striking battle. If that is the case, I think Manley will earn the judge's nod. This one is too close to call, so I flipped a coin and decided Manley will win by decision.
Prediction: Manley def. Rivera via decision
In a battle of bitterness brought on by Mike Ricci's eagerness to fight fellow Canadian Mike Hill, these two will go at it in the final quarterfinals. Ricci was Team Carwin's third pick (fifth overall), while Mike Hill was Team Nelson's second pick (fourth overall).
Ricci has looked the most impressive of the fighters in the house so far. In the prelims, he knocked out Jason South in under two minutes. In the first round in the house, Ricci defeated Team Nelson's top pick in Dom Waters by unanimous decision.
As for Hill, his two fights were greatly different. In the prelims, he quickly knocked out Lev Magen. Then, in the first round, he earned a razor-thin split decision over Matt Secor.
Ricci is the more technical striker, while Hill is likely more powerful. Ricci probably also has the better ground game, which means he can dictate the fight wherever it goes.
I don't know how this fight will end, as Hill has never been finished, but I think Ricci will take it by decision.
Prediction: Ricci def. Hill via decision