Gray Maynard vs. Nate Diaz:
Mike Drahota: This is a trilogy bout that, to be honest, couldn’t be receiving much less fanfare. Diaz fought for the UFC lightweight title less than a year ago, and Maynard was regarded as a top contender before his May loss to T.J. Grant. But those defeats sent them plummeting downward, destined to headline a TUF Finale. This fight is absolutely pivotal for both Maynard and Diaz, who are supremely talented but fight in a division that may have passed them by. Look for Diaz to use his patented pitter-patter boxing to keep Maynard at range and avoid takedowns. Diaz via split decision.
Rory Kernaghan: Nate Diaz vs. Gray Maynard is a tough fight to call. It all depends on which guy shows up with the better gameplan. Maynard could well bully Diaz around on the mat or Diaz could utilize his rangy striking and slick submissions to win. Personally I think that ‘The Bully’ will knock Diaz around on the mat by scoring multiple takedowns and slams. Diaz may be able to pop off some good shots, but I expect Maynard to take home a decision win.
Brian Cox: I think this fight is a toss-up. We already know that either man can beat the other. With that said, I think we’re going to see a replay of the first official fight, a stand-up war. Therefore I give the power shots to Gray but the volume to Diaz. I don’t think Maynard can set the pace that Diaz can with his punches; pepper, pepper, pepper. Both have great cardio, both have great chins, and where Nate is the better ground fighter, he’s not the better wrestler. I believe this time the winner will be Nate and not Gray. For these reasons, I’m picking Nate Diaz by way of split decision.
Buster Evans: Very hard fight to pick, this one. Diaz is no doubt the better mixed martial artist with far better striking and has some of the best jiu-jitsu in the division. Maynard, on the other hand, is an incredible wrestler with some serious power in his hands. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Maynard win a decision via lay ‘n’ pray and clinching Diaz up against the cage. But I think Diaz will put work “The Bully”and catch him later on. Diaz via round 3 submission, most likely a choke.
Julianna Pena vs. Jessica Rakoczy:
Mike Drahota: Pena has been a buzz saw running through competition on TUF 18. Her submission wins over Shayna Baszler and Sarah Moras were huge boosts to her momentum. Team Tate’s golden girl has the striking to match her grappling and will be a handful for any woman in the Octagon. Meanwhile, Rakoczy has been quietly making waves with her championship-level boxing. However, I don’t think she’ll have the space to get comfortable against Pena. I’ll say Pena wins this fight via second round submission.
Rory Kernaghan: Julianna Pena has made a good name for herself with her TUF 18 performance thus far, but I think that it will be Jessica Rakoczy that earns the win here tonight. Look for her pro boxing experience to shine through as she dominates with slick footwork. Rakoczy by decision.
Brian Cox: In the women’s TUF 18 finale between Julianna Peña and Jessica Rakoczy, the tournament provided fans with a solid matching. Pena is a very well-rounded fighter who has proven that she can stop her opponents on the ground. Rakoczy is more of a stand-up fighter and primarily uses her boxing on the way to victory. She is very good at executing a gameplan and at keeping her distance. Beyond that she’s developed some pretty good takedown defense She also seems to be stronger mentally. That said Pena seems to have more determination in her eyes. I think if she doesn’t cave to the pressure of the big show, she should be able to turn this fight into a brawl and get it to the ground. For those reasons I’m picking Julianna Peña to win this fight by submission in the second round.
Buster Evans: I think this all depends on Pena’s gameplan coming into the fight. She can’t risk standing with Rakoczy. Unlike Shayna Baszler, Rakoczy will make her pay. I think Rakoczy is going to pick away at Pena and finish her late on. Pena has enough tools to win but I think she will get hurt on the feet and struggle to take her opponent down. Rakoczy via round 3 TKO.
Chris Holdsworth vs. Davey Grant:
Mike Drahota: Both Holdsworth and Grant have looked impressive on the show, but we haven’t gotten a chance to see Grant’s full skills. The two fighters are insane submission artists with 11 tapouts in 12 total wins between them. This could turn into a grappling war or it could be a stalemate on the feet because of their mat prowess. I give Holdsworth the edge in striking but it’s close. Grant should be a bit more motivated because of the controversy surrounding his semifinal fight. I say Grant wins a unanimous decision here.
Rory Kernaghan: Chris Holdsworth and David Grant will meet in a battle between two grappling specialists, with Holdsworth possibly holding the striking advantage. Grant is big for his weight class so I expect him to smother his foe to utilize the striking advantage. Look for a tight choke to put Holdsworth out in round two.
Brian Cox: This is another well matched pairing. Both fighters have a 100% finishing rate, very solid ground games, decent stand-up and are in shape. In terms of their heart and focus it can’t be questioned in either case. Both fighters want to win and will fight tooth and nail to do so. Holdsworth seems to have the more formidable ground skills. For those reasons I’m picking Chris Holdsworth for the win and a Team Tate sweep of the finals; Chris Holdsworth by way of submission, round one.
Buster Evans: Another really close fight, I think these could be two of the most talented men to come out of TUF in recent years. Grant is a huge 135-pounder and mixes up his game a lot with striking and takedowns. Holdsworth is one of the best BJJ guys we have seen on the series and has some nice technical striking to go with it. I really hope Grant can pull off the win, but ultimately I think Holdsworth will get the nod. Holdsworth by round 2 submission via rear-naked choke.
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