The Ultimate Fighter China Finale: Main Card Staff Predictions

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterFebruary 27, 2014

The Ultimate Fighter China Finale: Main Card Staff Predictions

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    As you may know, in recent months, the UFC's signature reality television show The Ultimate Fighter was expanded into China. As a result of more than one billion people living there, it's kind of a desirable destination for people who are in the business of attracting eyeballs.

    Reliable ratings information is a little hard to come by, so the jury remains out on the show's success (or lack thereof) among its target audience. In the West, the show's legitimacy was hampered by claims that it featured underwhelming talent, with several top Chinese fighters not participating as contestants and those who did participate—including a yoga instructor who literally did not know how to fight—not exactly turning heads.

    And yet, the show also drew positive reviews as a well-produced piece of television that effectively introduced MMA and the UFC to a massive Chinese viewing audience. That, rather than producing the new featherweight champion, was probably the point from the beginning.

    So, success?

    No matter how you slice it, the finale goes down Saturday from Macau, China. It airs in the U.S. at 8 a.m. ET Saturday on UFC Fight Pass. And the four-fight main card is actually pretty decent.

    Never deterred and never discouraged, our Bleacher Report MMA staff members are here to provide their picks. Riley "Kobra" Kontek. James "The Athlete" MacDonald. Craig "Wiseacre" Amos. Sean "Salmon" Smith. And yours truly, Scott Harris.

    Let's get it on.

2014 Staff Records

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    It's not looking good for your boy, Mr. Harris.

    My 2013 was so strong. I thought I would live forever, in fact. But now, in 2014, it has all come crashing down.

    Meanwhile, "The Athlete" has surged ahead of "Kobra" to tie Amos for the overall lead. 

    I am still in last place. And I'm not going to lie: it hurts. I feel bloodied now. But you know what else? I am also unbowed. I'm coming, Amos and MacDonald. Coming for that No. 1 spot...and it all starts in Macau.

    Craig Amos: 24-5

    James MacDonald: 24-5

    Riley Kontek: 23-6

    Sean Smith: 22-7

    Scott Harris: 20-9

Hatsu Hioki vs. Ivan Menjivar

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    Riley Kontek

    It's Hatsu Hioki's last hurrah if he can't get a win here. Not only that, he is taking on a guy who is moving up from bantamweight in Ivan Menjivar. Hioki still won't have a huge size advantage, but he should have the grappling edge. Menjivar is no pushover, but I like Hioki's odds here since he won't be flying halfway across the world to the United States.

    Hioki, Submission, Rd. 2


    James MacDonald

    I’ve always felt that the problem with Hioki is that he is too one-paced. He lacks the capacity to shift gears when necessary, despite possessing a ton of talent. That being said, I fancy him to tie the veteran Menjivar in knots once he gets the fight to the ground.

    Hioki, Submission, Rd. 2


    Sean Smith

    While Hioki has been slumping lately, he's been having the same problems against wrestlers who dropped down to 145 pounds from lightweight within the past few years. Moving up from 135 pounds, Menjivar is a smaller opponent without great offensive wrestling. Aside from taking a huge step down in competition, this is the kind of matchup Hioki needed to get back into the win column.

    Hioki, Unanimous decision


    Craig Amos

    Hioki's time as a UFC fighter can really only be classed as a disappointment, but he remains a smothering grappler who could very well rebound. He should be able to handle Menjivar on the mat, even if Menjivar is a solid grappler. Hioki will return to the win column.

    Hioki, Unanimous decision


    Scott Harris

    Give credit to Hioki for knowing who he is. The guy's a grinder, plain and simple. I was really high on him when he came into the UFC, but a 2-3 record later, that enthusiasm has eroded. Nevertheless, he should be able to overpower and grind out a smaller opponent in Menjivar.

    Hioki, Unanimous decision

Matt Mitrione vs. Shawn Jordan

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    Former gridiron warriors collide, as former pro footballer Matt Mitrione takes on LSU standout Shawn Jordan. Both men have a similar style, as they like to throw punches at their opponents' domes. While Jordan may have more brute strength, Mitrione is nimble for a man his size. Expect him to use his athleticism to stay away from the clinch and strike from the outside.

    Mitrione, Unanimous decision



    This is a contest between a couple of outstanding athletes, and it’s something of a pick ‘em. Mitrione is the more technical fighter, but Jordan has power in spades. It’s a coin toss, as far as I’m concerned. If pushed, I edge toward Mitrione clipping Jordan and ending the fight late.

    Mitrione, TKO, Rd. 3



    I'm not expecting this fight to go past the first round. Both heavyweights are coming off losses and are going to come out swinging for the fences. A barnburner on paper, I'm going with the fighter who brings a bit more heat with his punches.

    Jordan, TKO, Rd. 1



    Mitrione's once surging momentum has all but fizzled out, which means this is a must-win for him. However, Jordan, who is also coming off a disappointing loss, is no easy out. In fact, I'll take "The Savage" in this one, assuming he'll eventually find the target with his obscenely powerful hands and end the fight inside the distance.

    Jordan, Knockout, Rd. 2



    This is the kind of fight that purists love to hate, but casual fans (coughChinacough) will eat with a spoon. Two big sluggers will come out slugging and big. Jordan seems a little more cerebral and mobile in the cage, so here's guessing he outduels a flat-footed Mitrione.

    Jordan, TKO, Rd. 2

Sai Wang vs. Lipeng Zhang

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    The TUF featherweight final is postponed because of injury, but fear not! The welterweight finale is still on target. Wang Sai was the favorite coming into the show. He is still the favorite leaving the show, as he is one of the few fighters with decent experience and a somewhat rounded skill set. He has been training in Thailand for this bout, which should pay dividends in the cage.

    Sai, TKO, Rd. 1



    As noted by Cung Le recently, the problem in China is not the level of talent, but the lack of available coaching. However, a couple of decent prospects have popped up on TUF: China. Of the two welterweight finalists, Sai looks to have the biggest upside. Look for him to end the fight late.

    Sai, TKO, Rd. 3



    I'm more curious about the future than the present for these two fighters. Will they continue to be featured on the main cards of Asian events against fellow up-and-comers, or will they be treated like the very raw prospects they are and be sent straight to the prelims? Anyway, Sai looks to be slightly more polished than Lipeng right now and should take the first TUF: China crown.

    Sai, Submission, Rd. 1



    This pair of TUF finalists are both projects—neither guy will make a big splash inside the Octagon in the near future, but both could achieve some degree of long-term success. Right now it is Sai who is further ahead on the learning curve, and he'll demonstrate as much by controlling the pace of the fight and eventually finishing his adversary.

    Sai, TKO, Rd. 2



    Full disclosure: I don’t know a ton about these guys. But I know to not trust either one with much of anything. Lipeng is a ground fighter by background, but he also has five submission losses on his record. At least Sai is 6-4 and coming off a win. I’m not going to get too cute here, so I'll go with the favored Sai to stave off takedown attempts and hurt Lipeng with striking combinations.

    Sai, Unanimous decision

John Hathaway vs. Dong Hyun Kim

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    Two of the dark horses in the welterweight division have to be Dong Hyun Kim and John Hathaway. Both are top-20 guys who are just looking to bust through to the next level with a marquee win. They both do their best work from top position, so a ground war is expected. Hathaway's layoff troubles me, though, so Kim should do enough to grab a win.

    Kim, Unanimous decision



    Hathaway has fallen off a bit since he shellacked Diego Sanchez a few years ago. Whether he can make a statement against Kim remains to be seen. The South Korean is a formidable grappler who is capable of neutralising Hathaway’s smothering style. I’m anticipating a somewhat anti-climactic decision win for Kim.

    Kim, Unanimous decision



    Between being inactive for the past 17 months and having strength on the ground—where Kim is even better—Hathaway finds himself in a rough matchup. The Englishman has some dangerous knees from the clinch, which could help if he finds a way to shut down Kim's takedowns. However, the Korean should be able to get this fight to the ground repeatedly without allowing his opponent much time to land anything when tied up.

    Kim, Unanimous decision



    In a fight between two grinders, it comes down to which guy is the grindier of the two. That'll prove to be Kim, who will control the action with superior takedowns and grappling en route to a convincing, yet perhaps not too thrilling, unanimous-decision win.

    Kim, Unanimous decision



    I’ll go with Kim over Hathaway here for the same general reason I’m going with Hioki over Menjivar. I don’t think the ring-rusted Brit will have the power and skill necessary to outgrind a better grinder in Kim or get his strikes off from the perimeter. Give me the South Korean by smother.

    Kim, Unanimous decision