'TUF' 16 Finale: Analyzing and Ranking Every Fighter on the Card
This Saturday night, Team Carwin and Team Nelson finally settle their differences, once and for all.
That goes for everyone except Shane Carwin, who got injured. Not the kind of Excellence I was looking for, Shane Carwin.
Luckily for us fans, the card's still pretty good. Lots of good fighters. But you know what? There are some relatively not-so-good fighters as well. This is the way of things.
Here'a a ranking of every fighter on the card, from the first prelim bout to the main event.
24. John Cofer
Opponent: Mike Rio
When last we saw John Cofer, he was on the business end of a head-kick knockout, courtesy of Justin Lawrence.
He'll be gunning for his first UFC win over a skilled wrestler in Mike Rio.
23. Jared Papazian
Record: 14-8 (1)
Opponent: Tim Elliott
Jared Papazian has dropped both of his UFC fights and is probably looking to save his Octagon career by dropping to flyweight for this matchup.
He hasn't been terribly inspiring in either of his previous attempts, a decision loss to Mike Easton and a choke-out at the hands of Dustin Pague.
22. Hugo Viana
Opponent: Reuben Duran
Hugo Viana looks to mainly be a standup point fighter. To make that sustainable at the UFC level, you have to be one hell of a good point fighter.
He's one for one so far; we'll see how he does in his second attempt.
21. Tim Elliott
Opponent: Jared Papazian
Tim Elliott is 0-1 in the UFC, but that loss came to top contender John Dodson. Hard to ding him too much for that one.
He'll have a comparatively easier test tonight in Papazian.
20. Reuben Duran
Opponent: Hugo Viana
Reuben Duran's a pretty tough guy, but he's 1-1 so far in the UFC. That win, however, was a Submission of the Night effort against a very good Francisco Rivera.
19. Colton Smith
Opponent: Mike Ricci
Colton Smith, an active-duty Army Ranger, has probably overachieved by just making this TUF final.
But I think his run ends just short of the six-figure contract tonight against Ricci.
18. Mike Rio
Opponent: John Cofer
This is the formal UFC debut for the former TUF contestant. He was a college wrestling standout and will surely look to ground and pound Cofer.
17. Marcos Vinicius
Opponent: Johnny Bedford
Marcos Vinicius, 33, is a veteran of the sport but is only fighting for the second time in the UFC. (He won his debut.)
He's a pretty well-rounded fighter, though, employing that Muay Thai/jiu-jitsu combination that works so well for so many of his fellow Brazilians.
16. Vinc Pichel
Opponent: Rustam Khabilov
Seven pro fights, seven knockouts for the Californian (though he lost to Al Iaqunita in the TUF 15 semifinals).
Will his UFC debut be any different? We'll see. If Khabilov takes him past the second round, we'll be in uncharted territory.
15. Nick Catone
Opponent: T.J. Waldburger
Nick Catone has had a nice career in the UFC, going 3-3 including a win over Costa Philippou.
But he's shown a slight vulnerability on the ground, and that's just Waldburger's specialty.
14. Johnny Bedford
Opponent: Marcos Vinicius
Johnny Bedford looked great at times on TUF 14. A win over Louis Gaudinot in his official UFC debut was followed by a yearlong injury absence.
This will be his first fight since, and he's got a tough test in Vinicius.
13. Mike Ricci
Opponent: Colton Smith
We all know the book on Mike Ricci by now. He's a smart person and a smart fighter. He draws up good game plans and then executes them. He also looks like Tobey Maguire, and enjoys wearing fancy clothing items.
His fight with Smith should be his to lose.
12. Rustam Khabilov
Opponent: Vinc Pichel
This Greg Jackson fighter has a very strong grappling base and plenty of experience on the world stage. This is his UFC debut; my guess is he's going to be a tough out for anyone on the lower rungs of the division.
11. Pat Barry
Opponent: Shane Del Rosario
Pat Barry needs a signature win. Personality and sheer aggression can only get you so far; a victory over the highly regarded Del Rosario would show he can walk the walk.
10. Jonathan Brookins
Opponent: Dustin Poirier
Jonathan Brookins won TUF 12 as a lightweight. He's been decent, though not amazing, since.
Brookins is a rangy guy and likes to put chokes on people. But he's a pretty underrated banger, too. He's very easy to root for, even if he is still seeking a signature post-TUF victory.
9. T.J. Waldburger
Opponent: Nick Catone
T.J. Waldburger needed only 55 seconds to put a slick armbar submission on Jake Hecht back in March. He couldn't capitalize on that momentum, though, dropping a decision in June to the wily Brian Ebersole. He should use a grappling advantage to rebound against Catone.
8. Shane Del Rosario
Opponent: Pat Barry
Shane Del Rosario thankfully finally has all that car-accident drama behind him.
Now we'll finally see if the knockout artist who made his bones in Strikeforce is equal to the hype.
7. James Head
Opponent: Mike Pyle
James Head is a good boxer and a cagey fighter. His last fight, a win over Brian Ebersole, will always be a feather in his cap.
His fight with Pyle has upset potential, although Pyle's strengths appear to be just a little stronger than Head's.
6. Matt Mitrione
Opponent: Roy Nelson
Matt Mitrione steps in on short notice to replace Shane Carwin versus Roy Nelson. Nelson has made his career as a gatekeeper at heavyweight. Mitrione doesn't appear poised to walk through that gate.
Mitrione has good quickness for a heavyweight and can certainly swing the leather, but Cheick Kongo showed that a smart game plan can stifle him.
5. Mike Pyle
Opponent: James Head
Lots of wily veterans on this card. Mike Pyle is definitely in that camp.
Pyle is 37 but has won five of his last six and is a well-rounded welterweight. As evidenced by his excellent nickname, "Quicksand," Pyle's base is a strong grappling game.
4. Melvin Guillard
Record: 30-11-2 (1)
Opponent: Jamie Varner
Melvin Guillard's story is a familiar one. Amazing God-given talents, flashes of success, but to this point, the narrative is one of missed opportunities and unrealized potential.
He'll want to keep the fight standing against Varner and then plant one of those lightning-quick hands on his opponent's temple.
3. Jamie Varner
Record: 20-7-1 (2)
Opponent: Melvin Guillard
Jamie Varner has converted his eccentric potential into colorful kineticism. The 10-year veteran is a very good wrestler with a strong right hand.
His battle with Guillard may come down to Varner's ability to get Guillard to the mat. Here's guessing he'll find a way.
2. Dustin Poirier
Opponent: Jonathan Brookins
Dustin Poirier is good. Awfully good. He took his May loss to "The Korean Zombie" on the chin and vowed to get better.
1. Roy Nelson
Opponent: Matt Mitrione
Yes, Roy Nelson is a gatekeeper. But he might be the greatest gatekeeper ever.
Deceptively deft grappling and submissions. A ticking time bomb at the end of his right arm. Unparalleled guts and toughness.
Yes, he's fat. Yes, he's weird. But he's one heck of a good fighter. Maybe he'll always be underestimated. But he'll probably keep winning either way, manning the wall for the UFC's most punishing division.
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