TUF 16 Finale: Bleacher Report MMA Main Card Staff Predictions

Sean SmithAnalyst IDecember 14, 2012

TUF 16 Finale: Bleacher Report MMA Main Card Staff Predictions

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    Roy Nelson served as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter 16, but he won't be competing against opposing coach Shane Carwin at the season finale on Saturday. Instead, due to a Carwin injury, Nelson is set to meet replacement opponent Matt Mitrione.

    Nelson and Mitrione both joined the UFC after participating on The Ultimate Fighter 10. Mitrione was submitted in the quarterfinals of that season's tournament, while Nelson went on to win the competition. However, Mitrione has made significant strides as a fighter in recent years.

    The Ultimate Fighter 16 featured a welterweight tournament, with Colton Smith and Mike Ricci winning four fights apiece to get to the point where they are now. At Saturday's finale, Smith and Ricci will compete for a guaranteed six-figure contract with the world's premier MMA organization.

    With another season of the UFC's reality series in the books, let's take a look at some Bleacher Report staff predictions for the finale's main card.

Dustin Poirier vs. Jonathan Brookins

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    Sean Smith: Poirier has had the most trouble with grapplers, so Brookins has a good chance of at least getting this fight where he wants it. However, rolling with an American Top Team fighter like Poirier won't be too much fun. Eventually, the 23-year-old Poirier is going to catch Brookins with something to get himself back on the winning track.

    Poirier, Submission, Round 2

    Kyle Symes: I never jumped on the Brookins bandwagon. He has been up against some of the best fighters in the world during his career, though, and I believe his experience will come in handy against Poirier. Regardless of that experience, I still see "The Diamond" pulling out the victory. 

    Poirier, Unanimous Decision

    McKinley Noble: Poor Brookins is getting a step up in competition that he's just not ready for, and more holes in his game appear with every fight. If the past is any indicator, I see Brookins holding onto takedowns and grinding against the fence for a lot of this fight. That gives Poirier more than enough time to find an opening and land the killshot. 

    Poirier, Submission, Round 2

    John Heinis: Poirier is coming off a heartbreaking loss to Chang Sung Jung in May, so expect him to really let Jonathan Brookins have it in this one. Brookins is a decent wrestler with some submission know-how, but "The Diamond" is a way better striker with superior strength and conditioning. This is Poirier's fight to lose. 

    Poirier, TKO, Round 2

    Scott Harris: Poirier is just too dynamic in all phases, and he's hungry to get back in the win column and on track to the division's upper echelon. 

    Poirier, TKO, Round 2

Melvin Guillard vs. Jamie Varner

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    Sean Smith: Guillard and Varner are two lightweights who are going to come out swinging early. Guillard's athleticism will give him the advantage initially before his conditioning fails him late in the fight. Still, he finds a way to keep it standing and does enough in the first two rounds to earn the win on two of the three judges' scorecards. 

    Guillard, Split Decision

    Kyle Symes: A pair of struggling veterans will be looking to extend their careers for one more night by taking out the other when Guillard and Varner face off. Varner has the better overall game, as Guillard is a fish out of water on the ground. Still, Guillard is very athletic and will likely be difficult for Varner to take down. I know Varner has never lost via KO/TKO, but he's also never fought anyone with the power of Guillard. 

    Guillard, KO, Round 1

    McKinley Noble: Guillard's amazing killer instinct is offset by his bafflingly low "fight I.Q." to the point where I almost can't pick him. But I think that the Blackzilians have a game plan for Guillard that involves a lot of patient offense coupled with defensive wrestling. Varner's definitely outgunned here, but he's gritty enough to make it competitive. 

    Guillard, Split Decision

    John Heinis: "The Young Assassin" has looked like anything but in his past four Octagon appearances, including his victory over Fabricio Camoes in July. Varner brings technical boxing, a great power double and decent submissions to the table. As long as he can avoid getting knocked out, this should be an easy win for him. 

    Varner, Submission, Round 3

    Scott Harris: At this stage of his career, I'm willing to bet Varner is more interested in winning a fight than putting on a show (though he's clearly interested in that, too). I think the temptation to take Guillard to the ground and ride him to the win will overtake his desire to make the highlight reel. 

    Varner, Unanimous Decision

Pat Barry vs. Shane del Rosario

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    Sean Smith: del Rosario may have a significant advantage over Barry on the ground, but this fight will stay standing unless a rocked fighter shoots in for a takedown out of desperation. Barry left kickboxing after losing half of his last eight matches, whereas del Rosario left behind the WBC Muay Thai heavyweight title to chase his career in MMA. That should give a good indication of how a stand-up fight between the two will go. 

    Del Rosario, TKO, Round 1

    Kyle Symes: On paper, this should be an exciting striking battle. Both Barry and del Rosario love to use a full arsenal of striking attacks, but del Rosario is more of a well-rounded fighter. It will be interesting to see how Barry's transition from the Death Clutch camp to Minnesota MMA works out. In the end, I believe del Rosario's better technique and overall game will help him overcome Barry's power. 

    Del Rosario, Submission, Round 2

    McKinley Noble: del Rosario put in a good showing in Strikeforce and almost put the brakes on Stipe Miocic. Barry has been fighting better competition, but he's lost to some guys that he really should have beaten. Much like in his fights against Lavar Johnson and Cheick Kongo, Barry is going to overcommit to an ill-timed combination and get caught early. 

    Del Rosario, TKO, Round 1

    John Heinis: This one looks like a good, old-fashioned heavyweight slugfest as both guys here have serious knockout power and love to show it off. del Rosario is actually surprisingly crafty off his back, but I don't think this one lasts long enough for him to utilize those skills. Barry is desperate for a win here, so I think he manages to pull off a mild upset. 

    Barry, KO, Round 1

    Scott Harris: Both men could really use a win, but del Rosario should fight smarter and finish Barry the gunslinger. 

    Del Rosario, TKO, Round 2

Colton Smith vs. Mike Ricci

4 of 5

    Sean Smith:  Smith's game plan is about as one-dimensional as they come. He's going to try to take Ricci down and hit the Canadian with punches until he curls up or gives up his back. With a taped season of The Ultimate Fighter, Ricci has had plenty of time to prepare for that at the Tristar Gym. 

    Ricci, TKO, Round 1

    Kyle Symes: Mike Ricci seems eerily focused on his MMA career. Like he literally sounds like Richard Kuklinski when talking. That and the fact he trains with all the top guys at Tristar is reason enough for me to pick him to win. 

    Ricci, Unanimous Decision

    McKinley Noble: If people think that Rory MacDonald sounds like a potential serial killer, they need to see the oddly intense and eloquent Mike Ricci on camera. I'm not picking against him because this is going on the Internet and he might find out where I live. Nope! No thanks! I like my kidneys where they are. 

    Ricci, Unanimous Decision

    John Heinis: Smith is a respectable grappler but Ricci is a serious striker that knows how to finish. He also is pretty good at defending the takedown, so he should win this one without too much difficulty. 

    Ricci, TKO, Round 2

    Scott Harris: Who knew Tobey Maguire could fight? Well, he can, and he will grind out Smith on Saturday night. 

    Ricci, Unanimous Decision

Roy Nelson vs. Matt Mitrione

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    Sean Smith: There's a good chance Nelson could stand with the more athletic Mitrione and still walk away with a knockout or definitive decision victory. However, Nelson's biggest advantage over Mitrione comes on the ground, where he should try to take this fight early. The veteran has a serious experience advantage over the former NFL lineman in that area. 

    Nelson, Submission, Round 1

    Kyle Symes: This fight comes down to Mitrione being the better athlete than Nelson. If he can use his footwork to avoid Nelson's powerful right hand, I see him having success on the feet. Unfortunately for Mitrione, even if he does avoid the big overhand right, he isn't good enough to avoid Nelson's black belt-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills on the ground. 

    Nelson, Unanimous Decision

    McKinley Noble: Even though the Blackzilians are supposedly the hottest MMA camp around, I don't believe they can turn Mitrione into the kind of fighter that can beat Nelson. Eventually, "Big Country" is going to gauge the distance and throw something heavy. I'm still not sure about Mitrione's chin, especially given his prior football career, but he did stand up to Joey Beltran. 

    Nelson, Unanimous Decision

    John Heinis: Hard to imagine that we'd ever be pining for Nelson vs. Shane Carwin, but here we are. Not much to say here, Mitrione has heavy hands but so does Nelson and he's a much more well-rounded fighter. On paper, he couldn't ask for much more than "Big Country." 

    Nelson, Submission, Round 2

    Scott Harris: Mitrione's probably better than his fight against Cheick Kongo, and I'm sure he's getting better every day. But he's not ready to walk through the gate to contender town, and that's what gatekeepers are for. 

    Nelson, Unanimous Decision