Friday, December 12, 2014

Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale preview and Episode 12 recap

After a season of excellent fights and compelling in-house feuds, the time has come to go solely on the fights.

Carla Esparza (10-2), top seed in the house and former champion in Invicta FC, will face seventh-seeded Rose Namajunas (3-1) for the first-ever UFC World Strawweight Championship.

(I'm not adding a 'Women's' qualifier. There is no men's equivalent, so it's the one and only World Strawweight Championship.)

The season showed a lot of drama within Team Pettis, so I can only imagine that having a full camp was a welcome change of pace for Esparza.

I expect her strategy to be focused on her wresting and using her boxing skills to set up her takedowns. She will most likely employ a similar 'take down and get up quickly' style that was seen in her fight with Jessica Penne in the semifinals.

Meanwhile, Namajunas (aka the Next Ronda Rousey) has looked incredible since all her teammates were eliminated, making her the focus of an entire unit of people. Despite having a predominately striking-based background, 'Thug Rose' submitted all three of her house opponents, the last two times via kimura.

The big danger for her will be her inexperience. Counting the tournament fights, she's been in six professional fights (and only four count on her record). Facing a decorated fighter like Esparza may well expose some holes in her game.

That said, I'm taking Thug Rose to beat the Cookie Monster due to her superior height/reach and deadly submission game.

Pick: Namajunas via submission in Round 3

In the third-place bout, which will open the card, Randa Markos will square off against teammate/in-house feud enemy Jessica Penne.

For those who didn't see, Penne, Felice Herrig and Esparza got into a row with Markos over her attempts to overrule their request to split the practices in half. I can see both sides of the argument, but regardless, there is beef here.

Penne looked like she certainly belonged at 115 despite being a former 105-pound champion in Invicta. However, Markos made a name for herself in dropping Tecia Torres and Herrig in the tournament.

I'm going with Markos by decision due to her ability to detach emotionally and simply be aggressive.

Rest of the Main Card

Featherweight bout: Jeremy Stephens vs. Charles Oliveira - The battle is on between two ranked fighters. It's Stephens' striking and takedown defense vs. Oliveira's ground game. I'm going to trust Stephens to not be controlled too much, avoid submissions, and eke out a decision win.

Lightweight bout: K.J. Noons vs. Daron Cruickshank - Noons is a well-known Strikeforce fighter while Cruickshank is a good fighter that keeps his opponent at range. Going with my gut here, but I'm going with Noons to wear down Cruickshank here and pick up a decision.

Lightweight bout: Joe Proctor vs. Yancy Medeiros - I'm going with Proctor to surprise some people to pick up a submission win in round 1.

Undercard Bouts (all Strawweight fights involving TUF 20 members)

Felice Herrig v. Lisa Ellis - Didn't get to see much of Ellis outside of her loss, but she has issues with Herrig. I see an aggressive fight, but Herrig by KO 2.

Bec Rawlings v. Heather Clark - How bad did Rawlings and the Scrapettes hate Heather Clark? Rough times, and I see a healthy Clark getting revenge here with a decision win.

Joanne Calderwood v. Seo Hee Hamm - One of the house members was still hurt, so Seo makes her debut in the UFC against the 2-seed who lost to Namajunas. Calderwood's a tall, terrifying striker, so I'm taking her by KO 1.

Tecia Torres v. Angela Magana - The fight will be respectful, but both definitely had their enemies in the house. Torres is too good a fighter to lose to three TUF house fighters, so I'll take her by decision.

Alex Chambers v. Aisling Daly - Daly missed weight and though I hate to admit it, her backstory in the house leads me to think she might be in her head at the moment. I'm certainly rooting for the Irish fighter, but Chambers is my pick by KO 2.

Angela Hill v. Emily Kagan - Two lower seeds face off. Hill, I think, has more upside, so I'll take her by KO 1.

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