The Ultimate Fighter Season 15 Finale: B/R MMA Staff Predictions

John Heinis@HeinisHardNewsSenior Analyst IMay 31, 2012

The Ultimate Fighter Season 15 Finale: B/R MMA Staff Predictions

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    The 15th season of The Ultimate Fighter comes to a close Friday night, determining who has a chance to become the next force to be reckoned with in the UFC's lightweight division. 

    However, the main event of the evening features two seasoned Octagon veterans in the form of Martin "The Hitman" Kampmann and Jake "The Juggernaut" Ellenberger. 

    This bout all but promises fireworks and could quite easily be an unofficial title eliminator at 170 pounds. 

    To determine the next Ultimate Fighter, Michael Chiesa takes on Al Iaquinta in a fight where just about anything can happen. 

    TUF Season 12 winner Jonathan Brookins looks to make a big jump is the featherweight rankings by taking out submission specialist Charles "Do Bronx" Oliveira. 

    Also on he main card, Season 15 TUF competitors John Cofer and Justin Lawrence square off in a fight where the loser will almost definitely see his UFC dreams crash and burn. 

    Predicting the fights this week are Dan Hiergesell, Dwight Wakabayashi and myself, John Heinis. 

    Take a look inside to see who gets their hand raised Friday night.

Justin Lawrence vs. John Cofer

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    John Heinis: Justin Lawrence, who just turned 22 on May 15, was a favorite to win this season of The Ultimate Fighter before being finished by Michael Chiesa in rare sudden death round in the quarterfinals. 

    One of the few non-Brazilian members of Black House MMA, Lawrence has a great combination of aggressive striking, good takedown defense and solid takedowns/top control. 

    He faces a game opponent in the form of John Cofer, who is a quality wrestler with decent hands.

    However, Cofer didn't look like he had much of a game off his back in his submission loss to Vinc Pichel in the preliminary round of the show. 

    Couple that with the fact that Lawrence is definitely the better striker, and this could become one of the easier fights to predict on this card. 

    Justin Lawrence via Round 2 TKO

    Dan Hiergesell: John Cofer may be a solid wrestler who doesn't mind getting his hands dirty, but Justin Lawrence is a special talent.

    His standup game displayed throughout the season of The Ultimate Fighter often resembled that of a tenured UFC veteran.

    He possesses power, some of the best speed we've seen this season, unorthodox kicks and an instinct to pounce on his injured prey.

    This fight with Cofer isn't going to be a cakewalk, but Lawrence should be able to land significant strikes in the first round, ending the fight via KO.

    Justin Lawrence via Round 1 KO

    Dwight Wakabayashi: Lawrence won his first fight of the season before losing to finalist Mike Chiesa via TKO.

    He has some power in his hands and also has a submission win on his record.

    Cofer lost his only fight on the show and I think he is in for a tough night on Friday.

    Justin Lawrence via Round 2 TKO

Jonathan Brookins vs. Charles Oliveira

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    John Heinis: Jonathan Brookins takes on Charles Oliveira in a featherweight affair that promises some solid grappling. 

    While Oliveira has some great Muay Thai, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt is known for his submission prowess.  

    Eight of "Do Bronx's" 15 wins have come by tapout, including an innovative calf crusher submission over Eric Wisely at his featherweight debut in January. 

    Oliveira decided to drop down after proving to be no challenge to most bigger, stronger lightweights in the form of Jim Miller and Donald Cerrone.

    He also had a win over Nik Lentz changed to a no contest due to an illegal knee in the same nine-month span. 

    On the other hand, Brookins is a solid wrestler with a great guillotine and rear-naked choke, though his paths to victory are limited in this one, as he would be remiss to bring this fight to the ground and Oliveira is also the better striker. 

    Unless Brookins can drop some bombs on Oliveira as he tries to lock on a submission off his back, we should see another spectacular finish from the Brazilian. 

    Charles Oliveira via Round 3 submission (triangle armbar)

    Dan Hiergesell: This fight has Fight of the Night written all over it.

    Both Oliveira and Brookins are two hungry featherweights looking to climb the divisional ladder and build on initial struggles thus far in their brief UFC careers.

    For this fight, Brookins should be looking to keep it standing and try to finish a smaller Oliviera on his feet.

    Oliveira, on the other hand should be looking to take it to the ground, as he's a comfortable submission guy who has ended eight of his 15 career wins by way of tapout.

    Oliveira can stand, but his chance to win lies with taking Brookins down. And as we've seen in the past, Brookins can be a little too flashy, often leading to unexpected blips in his performances.

    "Do Bronx" wins via submission in the second round.

    Charles Oliveira via Round 2 submission

    Dwight Wakabayashi: Brookins will try to grind out a win with strength, grappling and wrestling, while Oliveira will look to end it in spectacular fashion either by knees or submission.

    This fight should deliver a hotly contested and fast-paced fight between two young men hungry to make the next step in the UFC.

    Charles Oliveira via Round 2 submission

Michael Chiesa vs. Al Iaquinta

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    John Heinis: The undefeated lightweight prospect was Mike "The Maverick" Chiesa takes on Matt Serra student Al Iaquinta to determine this season's Ultimate Fighter.

    Chiesa became a huge fan favorite when he heard the devastating news that his father passed away during the first episode of the show, shortly ever Chiesa just won his fight to get into the house. 

    The talented grappler has since dedicated his career to his father in a story that is truly heart-warming to even the most grizzled fight fans. 

    Regardless of who you're rooting for, Chiesa will certainly have a tough test in the form of Iaquinta. 

    The New York native has slick Muay Thai, vicious ground and pound and at least competent grappling to round out his game. 

    Neither fighter is short on heart or a gas tank either, so expect a good old-fashioned dog fight in a bout that could really go either way. 

    Michael Chiesa via unanimous decision (29-28 x3)

    Dan Hiergesell: I really like Michael Chiesa's chance to win this fight; I truly do.

    But when you consider the chin of Al Iaquinta and his willingness to stand and bang inside the pocket and out, you have to take him over his Urijah Faber teammate.

    What Chiesa does best is use his reach to keep guys at bay until he feels comfortable enough to come inside.

    With Iaquinta, he's not going to wait around for Chiesa to make the first move. He's going to swarm and throw heavy hands from the get-go, which is a true testament to the type of fighter he is.

    In the past, whenever Chiesa gets overwhelmed on his feet, which was evident in his victory over Justin Lawrence, he looks to bring the fight to the ground and end it there via TKO or submission.

    However, Iaquinta is no chump on the ground. His wrestling skills are awesome and probably will have no trouble defending any sort of Chiesa takedown.

    With that said, this TUF finale bout should stay on the feet, seeing Iaquinta secure the victory early into the second round.

    Al Iaquinta via Round 2 TKO 

    Dwight Wakabayashi: Sometimes fate and destiny play a role in this game and I truly believe that Chiesa has a higher power on his side.

    He is channeling his grief over the death of his father like a champion right now and something has to be said for the way he has handled this whole experience.

    Iaquinta is ready and game and can match Chiesa in skill, but he may be against a force that can't be punched, kicked or choked out.

    Michael Chiesa via unanimous decision

Jake Ellenberger vs. Martin Kampmann

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    John Heinis: Martin "The Hitman" Kampmann pulled off a stunning comeback win in March over former title contender Thiago Alves, countering a sloppy takedown attempt into a picture-perfect mounted guillotine. 

    While Kampmann was a game opponent for the 14 minutes before that, he was clearly being outstruck for the majority of the bout. 

    The Xtreme Couture product has won four of his past six and could easily have seen a title shot by now had he not lost two extremely controversial decisions to Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez along the way. 

    Kampmann's biggest claim to fame right now is holding a split decision victory over current interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit, although that bout happened back in April of 2009.

    A slick striker with very underrated jiu-jitsu, many are still giving the advantage in this bout to Jake "The Juggernaut" Ellenberger. 

    Ellenberger is 6-1 under the UFC banner, with his sole loss being a razor-thin split decision that went the way of Condit. 

    Since then (Sept. 2009), Ellenberger has won five in a row and has already been clamoring for a rematch with Condit after beating top-10 opponents Jake Shields and Sanchez one after the other. 

    While Ellenberger is recognized as a wrestler with heavy hands, he also has a purple belt in BJJ, which, if nothing else, has given him solid submission defense. 

    Kampmann's BJJ brown belt may test this, but a submission win on either end seems unlikely. 

    Expect an entertaining bout where Ellenberger's takedowns and solid chin are just enough to have him eke out a decision win. 

    Jake Ellenberger via split decision 

    Dan Hiergesell: This is a very tough fight to pick.

    Both Martin Kampmann and Jake Ellenberger have been on fire over their past few fights, combining to beat the likes of Jake Shields, Thiago Alves, Rick Story and Diego Sanchez.

    The fact is that this fight, presumably a welterweight No. 1 contender bout for the right to face interim champion Carlos Condit by the end of the year, seems amazing considering it's being shown for free on FX.

    But when it comes down to the action inside the cage, I feel as if Kampmann's kickboxing is too strong to ignore.

    Sure, Ellenberger has heavy hands and great wrestling, but Kampmann has destroyed strikers in the past and showcased an ability to stuff takedowns as well.

    With that said, I do see both of these guys being tentative. This is a big fight for these guys, each of whom has made claims as a top contender over the past year.

    But considering the magnitude of the fight and the fact that both guys could secure a TKO victory at any moment, the first round and a half may be a feeling-out process.

    "The Hitman" should rain strikes from the outside and inside the clinch for the majority of the fight. He just can't stay on his back for too long or Ellenberger will make him pay.

    Martin Kampmann via unanimous decision

    Dwight Wakabayashi: This is a fight with large implications and both fighters are ready to punch a ticket to the welterweight title shot they both want so much.

    Kampmann is a lot more experienced than Ellenberger and his accurate all-around striking will test Ellenberger like he hasn't been tested before.

    I see Jake taking longer to find his mark, but he'll hurt Kampmann more when he does in a very entertaining fight. 

    Jake Ellenberger via Round 3 TKO 

Fight Bonuses

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    John Heinis: Fight of the Night – Jake Ellenberger vs. Martin Kampmann

    Submission of the Night – Charles Oliveira

    Knockout of the Night – Justin Lawrence

    Dan Hiergesell: Fight of the Night – Charles Oliveira vs. Jonathan Brookins

    Submission of the Night – Charles Oliveira

    Knockout of the Night – Justin Lawrence

    Dwight Wakabayashi: Fight of the Night – Jake Ellenberger vs. Martin Kampmann

    Submission of the Night – Charles Oliveira

    Knockout of the Night – Jake Ellenberger

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