TUF 19 Finale: Preliminary Card Predictions
The biggest weekend of the year for MMA is upon us, and quietly leading up the rear for UFC 175 is The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale on Sunday. Headlined by two former champions, the card will also have up-and-coming fighters as well as two men competing for the six-figure UFC contract.
BJ Penn meets Frankie Edgar for a third time after a coaching stint on the reality show. Edgar took the first two bouts via decision—both times with the belt on the line and at 155 pounds. This time, they face off as featherweights.
Last weekend, I was just above the .500 mark. After a solid 4-2 start in New Zealand, I tapped the brakes a bit with a meager 2-3 record in San Antonio.
It's time to bring my record back up. Here is a look at the preliminary card for The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale.
2014 Riley's Record: 88-57
Last Event: 6-5 (UFC Fight Night 43/44)
Robert Drysdale vs. Keith Berish
Two light heavyweights are ready to make their debut with the company, as jiu-jitsu ace Robert Drysdale meets Keith Berish.
Drysdale is an accomplished Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion who has made quick work of all six opponents. His fights have never gone past the 2:10 mark, as he has submitted every opponent with armbars and chokes. It's obvious that he would like to get this fight to the mat as soon as possible.
Berish is similarly undefeated, competing on the East Coast regional circuit. He owns a win over TUF 19 participant Patrick Walsh and has finished all but one of his foes. He needs to stay off the mat at all costs, as being on the ground will result in a Drysdale submission.
That is pretty much how I expect the fight to go. Drysdale has good takedowns and vastly superior mat skills and will prove his worth in this bout.
Prediction: Drysdale def. Berish via submission
Sarah Moras vs. Alexis Dufresne
The women are set to do battle at 135 pounds, as UFC newcomer Alexis Dufresne looks to keep her record perfect against TUF 18 veteran Sarah Moras.
Dufresne is a grappler with great size and heavy top pressure. She is 5-0 with none of her fights leaving the 2:30 mark of the first round. She is a bully on the ground, using great wrestling and vicious ground-and-pound to soften up opponents. The big question mark is her weight-cutting ability, as she has missed weight before and is a large 135er.
Moras is a similar fighter, as she is a wrestler with good ground skills. After beating MMA legend Tara LaRosa to make it into the house on TUF 18, she tapped out Peggy Morgan with an armbar before losing a rematch to eventual winner Julianna Pena.
This will be a grappling match; you can put your money on that. Whoever the better grappler is will win. That is Dufresne, who has proved to be a brute on the mat.
Prediction: Dufresne def. Moras via TKO
Daniel Spohn vs. Patrick Walsh
Kicking things off on the Fox Sports 1 prelims are two light heavyweight cast members of TUF 19, as Team Penn's Daniel Spohn takes on Team Edgar's Patrick Walsh.
Spohn is a Bellator veteran whose only three career losses came in that organization (two split decisions and a loss to TUF 19 cast member Josh Stansbury). He is a power puncher with good submissions on the ground, especially from top position.
His run in the house saw a highlight-reel knockout of Tyler King to get into the house. From there, he dominated Todd Monaghan to a decision before losing a highly entertaining battle to Matt van Buren in the semifinals.
As for Walsh, the Ohio State wrestling product and Wai Kru MMA rep has shown to be a tough, iron-jawed brawler with heavy hands and good top position on the mat. He likes using the kimura lock, though he most noted for his ground-and-pound.
Walsh used said kimura to get into the house, tapping out Doug Sparks with the brutal hold. He then upset top pick Anton Berzin via unanimous decision before being outgunned by Corey Anderson in the finals.
When it comes down to it, Walsh needs to take this fight to the mat, or he will get lit up by Spohn on the feet. Spohn has good enough quickness and takedown defense to keep Walsh at bay and score a win here.
Prediction: Spohn def. Walsh via decision
Adriano Martins vs. Juan Manuel Puig
The lightweights are set to do battle next, as Mexican newcomer Juan Manuel Puig meets Brazilian Strikeforce and UFC vet Adriano Martins.
Martins is well-rounded, though his top game on the mat has been devastating with his heavy punching and solid submission attack. After impressively tapping out Daron Cruickshank in his UFC debut, Martins was steamrolled by Donald Cerrone in his follow-up bout. He holds a much better resume than Puig, which should be a tell-tale sign here.
As for Puig, the Mexican prospect has won most of his fights via submission, though one has to believe he holds a distinct disadvantage on the ground. His biggest win came over TUF vet and now UFC fighter Akbarh Arreola, whom he knocked out in 2012.
Puig is obviously here for the push into Mexico at the end of the year, but he gets a tough opponent in Martins. The Brazilian should have no problem beating Puig on Sunday.
Prediction: Martins def. Puig via submission
Jumabieke Tuerxun vs. Leandro Issa
Next up are the bantamweights, as Chinese prospect Jumabieke Tuerxun looks to regain momentum against Brazilian grappler Leandro Issa.
Issa, who trains with Evolve MMA in the South Pacific, is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter with most of his wins coming via submission. After a nice tenure with One FC, he came to the UFC and was promptly outgunned by Russell Doane, who choked him out with a beautiful triangle choke.
As for Tuerxun, the Chinese fighter took his debut at featherweight with a ton of hype behind him. However, he was thoroughly dominated by Mark Eddiva, which took a lot of the wind out of his sails. He also showed suspect takedown defense against Eddiva, who is anything but a power wrestler.
Tuerxun is representative of most Chinese fighters in MMA right now. He is not nearly on the major league level, which is why he will be thoroughly dismantled yet again at the hands of Issa.
Prediction: Issa def. Tuerxun via submission
Kevin Lee vs. Jesse Ronson
Moving on, we go to the lightweight division, as submission specialist Kevin Lee looks to get his first UFC win against Canadian Jesse Ronson, who is also looking to get into the win column.
Lee came into the UFC as an undefeated prospect with great athleticism and submission prowess. He owned victories over Strikeforce vet JP Reese and top prospect Mansour Barnaoui, which gained him attention as a solid prospect. He took a setback to Al Iaquinta in his UFC premiere, although that was a stiff test for a debuting fighter.
As for Ronson, he is a striker with good boxing and solid takedown defense. He has taken two close split-decision losses to Francisco Trinaldo and Michel Prazeres, both of which could have gone either way. He tends to come on strong late in a fight, something that hurts him earlier in the fight as he falls behind.
I had pegged Ronson as a top prospect before he joined the UFC, and he has not panned out yet. I will go down with the ship or stick with a suddenly resurgent fighter, as I will take Ronson in a close decision.
Prediction: Ronson def. Lee via decision