Mike Ricci battled his way through The Ultimate Fighter house and made it to the finale. He will meet Colton Smith of Team Nelson in the night's co-main event to determine the winner of the season.
With a career record of 7-2, Ricci has already fought stiff competition. He holds a win over hot prospect Jordan Mein and his two career losses are to Bellator champion Pat Curran and former The Ultimate Fighter cast member Daron Cruickshank.
On Saturday evening, he will be in another big fight. Ricci will have the added pressure of being under the UFC lights with a tough scrapper standing opposite him.
Here are three keys to a Ricci victory.
Colton Smith will no doubt receive quality training as he prepares for the finale on Saturday, but Ricci has been at one of the top camps in all of MMA at an important time.
As he prepares to go for The Ultimate Fighter crown, the Canadian has been training at Tri-Star, where Georges St-Pierre and Rory MacDonald were until recently prepping for their high-profile bouts.
Iron sharpens iron, or so the saying goes.
Ricci had a prime opportunity to learn from the absolute best. He was featured on FOX's Road to the Octagon show alongside MacDonald.
There is nothing to suggest Ricci has not taken complete advantage of the opportunity, but if he hasn't, that leaves the door open for Smith to upset the Canadian.
Training alongside his teammates at Tri-Star, Ricci has had a better chance to grow as a fighter much more quickly than Smith.
He could make an impressive showing at the finale.
Ricci is a methodical fighter. That will come in handy against Smith.
Smith has enjoyed more than one slugfest on the show this season, and after a few fights, it is clear that Ricci is the more technical striker of the two.
Ricci is smart enough not to get involved in a risky brawl. If he makes Smith fight his fight, the action will be much slower on the feet. Ricci will take his time to pick Smith apart.
The Canadian entered the show as one of the favorites. He was already ahead of most of the cast from a technical standpoint, and he should show his technical superiority by taking his time against Smith.
He cannot allow Smith to turn this into a brawl.
Ricci is smart, and he will not allow that to happen.
As previously mentioned, Ricci is an intelligent fighter. Why risk standing up with Smith in the finale?
Ricci is the more technical fighter in every aspect. He can make this an easier fight to finish by putting Smith on his back.
If he can put Smith on his back and make him uncomfortable, he can soften him up with ground-and-pound. Ricci has good submission defense, quality submissions and some nasty elbows.
If the fight hits the mat, Ricci will be in good position to get the stoppage.
Smith likes to strike and is an offensive wrestler inside the cage. Ricci should try to make him uncomfortable. The Tri-Star product should summon the powers of his ultra-talented teammates and put Smith down.
It will only increase his already high chances of victory.
Intelligent fighters find the quickest and most efficient path to victory, and putting Smith down is certainly just that.