UFC Fight Night 142 and TUF Finale: Bleacher Report Staff Picks

Matthew Ryder@@matthewjryderFeatured ColumnistNovember 29, 2018

UFC Fight Night 142 and TUF Finale: Bleacher Report Staff Picks

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    Junior Dos Santos
    Junior Dos SantosGregory Payan/Associated Press

    The UFC wheels are churning for another weekend of action, this time providing MMA fans with fight cards on back-to-back nights.

    Friday will see The Ultimate Fighter Finale take place in Las Vegas, headlined by a welterweight tilt between former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos and rising contender Kamaru Usman.

    Saturday's show will emanate from Adelaide, Australia, and will pit former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos against ascendant local star Tai Tuivasa in the main event.

    In general, it appears there's a theme to this weekend: the old guard versus the new (with some random TUF fighters thrown in). It will be a good time to gauge which former stars are still relevant and what new blood is here to stay. Over the course of the two nights, there are some interesting matchups.

    Bleacher Report's MMA staff is here to break the action down and throw out some picks. The floor now belongs to Matthew Ryder, Scott Harris, Nathan McCarter and Steven Rondina.

The Ultimate Fighter Finale: Quick Picks

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    Kamaru Usman
    Kamaru UsmanMike Roach/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
    • Welterweight: Rafael Dos Anjos vs. Kamaru Usman
    • Bantamweight: Pedro Munhoz vs. Bryan Caraway
    • Middleweight: Darren Stewart vs. Edmen Shahbazyan
    • Women's flyweight: Ji Yeoh Kim vs. Antonina Shevchenko

            

    Ryder

    Usman

    Munhoz

    Stewart

    Shevchenko

            

    Harris

    Usman

    Munhoz

    Stewart

    Shevchenko

            

    McCarter

    Usman 

    Munhoz

    Stewart

    Shevchenko

            

    Rondina

    Usman

    Munhoz

    Shahbazyan

    Shevchenko

UFC FN 142: Jim Crute vs. Paul Craig

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    Paul Craig
    Paul CraigBrandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Ryder: Paul Craig is a gem, and as a former schoolteacher myself, I can sympathize with a man who feels becoming a martial arts expert is the only way to survive that career path. I think he does enough on the feet to get by and controls the close-quarters grinding and mat work on his way to a decision.

    Craig, unanimous decision

           

    Harris: Sound the upset alarms. The powerful Scotsman stops the hype train on the Tuesday Night Contender Series breakout.

    Craig, submission, Rd. 2

            

    McCarter: The UFC is going to test Crute right away. Craig is a gatekeeper. He is 2-2 in the UFC, and his only two losses are to notable opposition. If Crute can live up to his "Brute" nickname, expect the UFC machine to get behind him. And I expect that to happen. Craig is a solid fighter, but this appears to be a bad stylistic matchup playing right into the Australian's game. Expect an electric start to the evening.

    Crute, TKO, Rd. 1

            

    Rondina: Hot prospect with the Dana White Seal of Approval on him against a .500 fighter? We know how this one is going to go. Crute wins, and probably looks good in the process.

    Crute, TKO, Rd. 1

Suman Mokhtarian vs. Sodiq Yusuff

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    Suman Mokhtarian
    Suman MokhtarianBrandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Ryder: Ah yes, the portion of an FS1 card where they just throw two people in a cage for a fistfight without name recognition or context. I'll take the unbeaten Mokhtarian for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

    Mokhtarian, unanimous decision

           

    Harris: These are not high-profile fighters. Yusuff is a rarity in 2018—a UFC-level fighter from the controversial Team Lloyd Irvin camp. He's a heavy favorite here and will want the knockout.

    Yusuff, TKO, Rd. 2

           

    McCarter: Neither of these guys are polished or proven. They probably shouldn't have even gotten a main card spot, if we're being honest. Yusuff comes off Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series and that leads me to believe he is getting some favorable matchmaking with this UFC newcomer. But I won't be taking a finish here.

    Yusuff, unanimous decision

             

    Rondina: Nathan hit the nail on the head here. Yusuff seems to be the kind of DWTNCS guy that UFC matchmakers actually like, which mean they're putting him in a position to showcase his talents.

    Yusuff, unanimous decision

Jake Matthews vs. Tony Martin

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    Jake Matthews
    Jake MatthewsJeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Ryder: Matthews is a good prospect who has steadily improved during his UFC tenure. He's won three straight and has in fact never lost at 170 pounds. Expect those trends to continue against Martin.

    Matthews, unanimous decision

             

    Harris: Matthews is Mr. Australia for the UFC. Of his 10 Octagon contests, eight have happened in Australia or New Zealand. With 12 events total taking place in Oceania, well, you see the pattern. The Melbourne native is well-known there, though his low-octane style hasn't led to crossover success beyond his homeland.

    Matthews, unanimous decision

             

    McCarter: Matthews is undefeated since going back to 170, and I expect that train to keep rolling. He is finally starting to realize his potential. Tony Martin won't be the car to derail this train.

    Matthews, TKO, Rd. 2

               

    Rondina: Matthews, as alluded to, is a dude who the UFC kind of likes and is setting up to succeed. The company is not giving him a tomato can here, but this is a fight that was made for Matthews to look good in.

    Matthews, submission, Rd. 3

Mark Hunt vs. Justin Willis

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    Mark Hunt
    Mark HuntAssociated Press

    Ryder: "Big Pretty" Justin Willis is an enjoyable character with some upside, but he's out of his depth here. Hunt is going to vaporize him with a single, crushing blow at some point and add to his highlight reel.

    Hunt, KO, Rd. 1

           

    Harris: Willis is on a tear, ripping off three straight to start his UFC tenure. But despite being 44 years old, Hunt doesn't appear ready to fade away. If it goes the distance, Willis gets it. But it won't.

    Hunt, KO, Rd. 2

            

    McCarter: This is a good matchup for Hunt. Willis is a live dog here, but Hunt should be able to get another win. Hunt's takedown defense and clinch work will wear down Willis, who'll then be just a sitting duck. Put another walkoff KO on the board for The Super Samoan.

    Hunt, KO, Rd. 2

            

    Rondina: It bums me out to write this, but I just don't see Hunt pulling this off. The Super Samoan is finally starting to fight his age and he's crossed the line where I'm not sure he can beat anybody that even resembles a good heavyweight. And Justin Willis? He more than resembles a good heavyweight.

    Willis, TKO, Rd. 2

Shogun Rua vs. Tyson Pedro

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Ryder: A classic "let's get a young guy to beat up Shogun and show he's legit" booking by the UFC. Pedro has looked good for the most part, and you'd have to think the idea of a talented, young 205er with regional star appeal has the promotion excited. I think he hurts Shogun standing and finishes it on the ground with a submission.

    Pedro, submission, Rd. 1

            

    Harris: Pedro is a fighter on the rise; Rua not so much. The well-rounded Aussie gets put over by the aging Pride legend.

    Pedro, unanimous decision

             

    McCarter: Shogun is shopworn beyond belief. Pedro hits hard. I think you know where I'm going with this one. Pedro will need to be cautious, but the first clean shot landed will put the former star down to the canvas.

    Pedro, TKO, Rd. 1

            

    Rondina: Shogun is old, but he's still yet to lose to a middling opponent. It might not be pretty, but I'm expecting the former champ to come out on top here whether via brutal knockout or boring decision.

    Rua, unanimous decision

Junior Dos Santos vs. Tai Tuivasa

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Ryder: Dos Santos is such a strange commodity because he's been smashing guys forever, but his losses are often so ugly and violent that I think people have come to underrate and underappreciate him. He is very good and, while he's hard-headed and aggressive, I tend to think it's too early for Tuivasa to take the former champion out. 

    Dos Santos, TKO, Rd. 3

            

    Harris: Tuivasa is the latest entrant in the informal contest for the hardest hitter in the UFC. This could become a cringeworthy bout given that JDS' jaw may be cracked. Not on the Chuck Liddell level, but there's vulnerability nonetheless.

    Tuivasa, KO, Rd. 1

            

    McCarter: Dos Santos hasn't looked nearly as bad in recent outings as he did a couple of years ago, but he still isn't the same JDS. And that makes it really difficult to buy his stock. On the flip side, Tuivasa struggled with Andrei Arlovski, who should have been a fairly easy out for such a talented, hard-hitting guy. It left me with more questions than answers—answers we are more likely to get with this fight.

    I'm siding with the former champ. If Tuivasa couldn't put away Arlovski, I won't be buying into him putting away JDS. That means 25 minutes with Junior being the more technical striker and picking Tuivasa apart. Tuivasa may win the power exchanges, but volume is what will win the day. JDS takes another prolonged beating but comes out the other end with his hand raised.

    Dos Santos, unanimous decision

             

    Rondina: I'm tempted to pick against JDS because a big part of his staying power is his athleticism and relative youth—and Tuivasa beats him in both of those departments. Still, the technical difference between them will be big enough that I'll resist the temptation. JDS keeps Tuivasa at a manageable distance and lands as many jabs as it takes to score a 48-47 decision.

    Dos Santos, unanimous decision