Previewing every bout on The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale fight card
If you’re a fight fan, last week kicked off the busiest and most impressive stretch of MMA scheduling we’ve seen in quite some time.
This week’s offering is The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale at The Palms in Las Vegas.
While some might not consider a Spike TV show a major event – especially in the wake of this season’s disappointing ratings – if you take a look at the card, you’ll see a collection of intriguing fights and fighters not far removed from title contention.
Five fights highlight the main card on Spike TV and six more round out the prelims. Here’s a preview of what to expect from the bottom to the top at Saturday’s TUF 13 Finale.
Clay Harvison (6-1) vs. Justin Edwards (6-0)
Dana White really took a liking to both of these guys during Season 13, or at least it seemed that way on television.
Harvison battled through a horribly dislocated pinkie finger to make his way to the quarterfinals before losing to finalist Ramey Nijem by quick first round submission. While the fight with Ramsey showed his weakness, the fact that he gutted things out when others would have packed it in earned him some fans, and the respect of the UFC President.
“Mini Randy Couture” was everyone’s choice for the wildcard spot according to White, but a medical suspension from his preliminary round fight with the other finalist, Tony Ferguson, left Edwards unable to move forward. As soon as you heard that news, you had to know he would show up on the finale.
This looks like a horrible matchup for Clay on paper; all of Edwards’ six wins have come by way of first round finish, five via submission. He’s billed as a wrestler, so Clay will have to do everything in his power to keep this fight standing so he can get his hands off like he did against Mick Bowman in the preliminary round.
If he’s used his fight against Ramsey as a teachable moment and worked diligently on improving his takedown defense since the cameras stopped rolling, Clay has the hands (and moxie) to do well moving forward. If not, Edwards could be on his way to his first UFC victory.
Shamar Bailey (11-3) vs. Ryan McGillivray (11-4-1)
Teammates Bailey and McGillivray meet looking to prove that the injuries that hampered them in their quarterfinal losses are a thing of the past, and that each deserves to be added to the UFC roster moving forward.
McGillivray suffered a concussion during his entertaining preliminary bout with Len Bentley, but continued fighting anyway. Though he was quickly beaten by Ferguson in the quarterfinal round, the finalist didn’t give any of this three opponents a chance to showcase their skills that much.
The Canadian is one of the more experienced members of the cast, having earned his stripes against solid competition across the Great White North since turning pro in 2006. This is a chance for “The Kid” to make the jump to the next level, and you can be sure he’ll be fully prepared this time around.
HeavyMMA blogger Bailey is in a very similar position as his opponent and former teammate. A pair of slipped discs in his back took away his explosiveness during his quarterfinal loss to Chris Cope, presumably leaving this fight as the former Strikeforce competitors last chance to work his way onto the UFC roster.
In terms of the matchup itself, Bailey has to be the favorite going into this one. Two of his three losses have come against bigger, stronger wrestlers who were able to control the tempo and spacing of the fight, and McGillivray doesn’t fit that description. If he’s completely healthy and true to his word about being more aggressive, the former collegiate wrestler has the skill set to earn the victory here.
That being said, McGillivray is good-but-not-great everywhere in the fight, and if Bailey gets sloppy, the Edmonton native is sure to take advantage.
Reuben Duran (7-3-1) vs. Francisco Rivera (9-2)
Introducing the participants in tonight’s “Thanks for Helping Us Out, Loser Leaves Town” fight.
Duran filled in admirably on short notice back in March, taking former WEC bantamweight title contender Takeya Mizugaki to the scorecards, losing a split decision. Rivera’s last minute performance wasn’t as impressive, getting dropped by an Erik Koch headkick back at WEC 52.
The bantamweight division is lacking depth right now, so this is a chance for both fighter to prove they belong in the same company as the 135 pound elites. Just from their previous performances on the big stage alone, you’d have to favor Duran, but it’s hard to get an accurate read on things from one fight.
With the very real possibility of walking papers being handed to the loser, expect both men to bring their best and leave it all in the cage.
Scott Jorgensen (11-4) vs. Ken Stone (9-2)
Nearly six months after they each last stepped into the cage, Jorgensen and Stone meet in the night’s second bantamweight bout, heading in opposite directions.
Though they each took part in the final show in WEC history back in December, Jorgensen faced 135 pound champion Dominick Cruz in the evening’s co-main event, while Stone met Eddie Wineland in preliminary card action.
Jorgensen’s fight with Cruz continued to confirm that the current champion is on another level than his competition right now. Though he’s known for pushing the pace and imposing his will on his opponents, Jorgensen could do neither against Cruz, as the champion was too fast, too strong and too elusive for “Young Guns” to make anything work.
The loss brought an end to Jorgensen’s two year, five fight winning streak, and you can be sure that he’s ready to start another run towards the title in this one.
Across the cage, Stone is looking to bounce back from a violent knockout loss to Wineland that same evening. He lasted just 2:11 before the inaugural bantamweight champion in WEC history knocked him out with a thunderous slam in December, and having lost two of his last three, a victory over Jorgensen is a must if Stone hopes to keep competing on the big stage.
Unfortunately, the stylistic pairing doesn’t bode well for him. Like Wineland, Jorgensen is a quick and powerful wrestler who never stops coming forward. Stone will need to keep his distance and hunt for submissions if and when this fight hits the floor, or else Jorgensen will smash and grind his way back into the win column.
Josh Grispi (14-2) vs. George Roop (11-7-1)
Back on New Year’s Day, Grispi was positioned as the #1 contender in the featherweight division. He was supposed to face UFC champ Jose Aldo that evening at UFC 125, but an injury to the Brazilian forced a change in opponents. Fifteen minutes later, Dustin Poirier has derailed Grispi’s hopes, landing him here on the undercard.
Some people would say that Grispi’s rise to prominence is befitting his nickname, “The Fluke,” but I’m not one of them. You don’t go 14-1 with wins over Mark Hominick, Micah Miller, Jens Pulver and LC Davis all by happenstance and good fortune. The 22-year-old Massachusetts native has a very quick guillotine, a smooth overall ground game, and his height and length are usually great weapons in the relatively short featherweight ranks.
The final two facets of his game won’t be of much advantage to him this time around, however, as the 5’11” Grispi will be giving up two inches to Roop.
It’s really hard to get a handle on the former TUF 8 competitor at this point. His knockout win over “The Korean Zombie” was impressive, and his draw with Leonard Garcia before that was a win in the eyes of many, but he lasted just 88 seconds against Hominick back in January.
Grispi is more on the level of Hominick than Garcia and Chan Sung Jung, and despite his numerous opportunities, Roop has compiled a less-than-stellar 3-4-1 record since the conclusion of his run on The Ultimate Fighter.
This one should clarify the questions we have about both fighters… or Roop will go out and upset the apple cart once again and leave us still unsure of what to make of both men.
Jeremy Stephens (19-6) vs. Danny Downes (8-1)
I really feel bad for Downes in this one.
After taking a fight outside the UFC (with their blessing, of course) because there were no immediate opportunities for him, Downes steps in here a month later to face the surging Stephens.
On one hand, you commend the gumption and willingness to take whatever fight is being offered, but at the same time, this is the second time in three fights under a Zuffa banner than Downes has stepped up late against a tough opponent. While held his own against Chris Horodecki at WEC 49, submitting in the third round of a fight he took on four days notice, Stephens has been on a roll and is the toughest test to date for the Duke Roufus trainee.
Stephens asked for and received Marcus Davis last time out, and sent the long-time welterweight packing from the UFC with a brutal third round knockout at UFC 125. At the time, Stephens was behind on the scorecards, and it’s that one-punch power and aggression that makes him a threat to everyone who stands across from him.
One thing that could work in Downes’ favor here is that Stephens has a few holes in his game. He’s not all that comfortable on the ground, and while Downes prefers a kickboxing base himself, the option to take this fight to the ground is his best bet for an upset win. Additionally, we’ve seen Stephens get frustrated by opponents who control the distance well; Melvin Guillard drove him nuts by darting in and out, giving him little chance to engage.
Like most fights, who controls the distance and placement of this fight will determine the outcome; that or one of Stephens’ concussive blows.
Chris Cope (4-1) vs. Chuck O’Neil (8-3)
I have to be honest: it’s pretty hard for me to get excited for this fight. I’d personally much rather see Stephens and Downes on Spike TV than this matchup of semifinal losers, but it is what it is.
Cope was the underdog throughout Season 13, earning a grimy win over Javier Torres in the preliminary round before squeaking out a decision against Shamar Bailey in the quarterfinals. He showed solid takedown defense in each of those bouts, as well as in his semifinal loss to Ramsey, and does well as a counter fighter working in close and on his heels.
Chuck had a change of personas after losing to Zach Davis in the preliminary round. “Trash Bag Charlie” was replaced by “Cold Steel” Chuck O’Neil and his results reversed as well. He blistered Davis in their quarterfinal rematch, leaving him with a pair of detached retinas and shiners to match. While he was out-gunned by Tony Ferguson in the semifinals, Chuck showed a willingness and ability to adapt and improve throughout the season, and should have the edge heading into this one.
Tim Credeur (12-3) vs. Ed Herman (19-7)
September 2009 was the most recent time we’ve seen either of these men inside the Octagon. That night, Credeur lost an entertaining brawl to Nate Quarry at Fight Night 19, earning Fight of the Night in the process. A month earlier, Herman faced Aaron Simpson at UFC 102. In their respective 21 and 22 months away from the Octagon, both Credeur and Herman have been forced to deal with serious injuries.
As detailed earlier in the year here at HeavyMMA, Credeur was all set to fight Tom Lawlor at UFC 113 in Montreal before doctors discovered an abnormality in his brain during his pre-fight medical. He poured himself into his gym, Gladiators Academy, and started coming to grips with the fact he’d never fight again before finding out that the mass was nothing more than a birthmark.
Now, after a starring turn in the documentary film Fightville and helping guide UFC featherweight Dustin Poirier to top 10 consideration, Credeur is finally ready to return to the cage.
Herman blew out his knee in his UFC 102 fight with Simpson, and had a re-occurrence of the same injury during his initial rehabilitation. After a grueling second recovery, the former TUF 3 finalist is also set to step into the Octagon once again.
Here’s the really crappy thing: both guys are in serious need of a win here.
Herman dropped three out of four prior to his hiatus, including the loss to Simpson, and is just 4-5 in the UFC. While Credeur has a more impressive 3-1 mark since coming off Season 7 of the Spike TV staple, two of the three men he’s beaten have subsequently been released and the other, Nick Catone, hasn’t exactly been setting the middleweight division on fire.
Hopefully both fighters make it out of this one healthy and both get the opportunity to fight again in the UFC, win or lose. Their perseverance alone should afford them that chance.
Kyle Kingsbury (10-2) vs. Fabio Maldonado (18-3)
Maybe I’m alone in this thinking, but this is a really interesting fight to me.
Maldonado earned a TKO finish in his UFC debut back in October, sending TUF 10 alum James Sweeney packing. While a win over the British kickboxer isn’t a giant feather in the cap, the Brazilian also boasts a pair of wins over the recently released Maiquel Falcao and has lost just once in the last six-plus years; a submission defeat to fellow UFC light heavyweight Alexandre “Cacareco” Ferriera.
Meanwhile, Kingsbury is one of the main reasons I want to watch this card, as his development intrigues me to no end. He’s unbeaten over the last two-plus years, and over that same time period, he’s been working with former BALCO founder Victor Conte.
The fighter discussed the relationship with Ben Fowlkes following his 21 second finish of Ricardo Romero at UFC 126, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting his return ever since. Whatever his checkered past, Conte is surely under heavy scrutiny these days, meaning Kingsbury is by association, and all signs point to his development being on the up-and-up. That is what has me so curious to see what he does for an encore.
Kingsbury was almost nondescript during his run as the pseudo-leader of Team Nogueira on Season 8 of The Ultimate Fighter, and has since transformed himself into a physically impressive specimen on a three fight winning streak. He improved by leaps and bounds between his last two fights, and I want to see if the same holds true this time around.
Maldonado is on par with his toughest tests to date, if not the toughest, so this fight should help us get a real gauge on where Kingsbury stands in the light heavyweight division.
Ramsey Nijem (4-1) vs. Tony Ferguson (10-2)
On one hand, I’m excited to see this fight because I want to see which of the two comes away with the title of The Ultimate Fighter. On the other hand, after 12 finales and a string of winners who have underwhelmed off the show, how can anyone be expected to get pumped up for this fight?
These two have similar styles with opposing strengths. Both would tick wrestling and boxing if asked to choose their primary styles, but Ramsey is far more proficient and precise with his wrestling than his hands, while Tony is the opposite.
Though Ramsey earned a finish over Chris in the semifinals, his takedowns and ground game are his bread and butter. Conversely, Tony might have been able to dragged Justin Edwards to the ground in the opening round, but it has been his hands that carried him to this point and he’d be smart to try to keep this fight standing.
Neither fighter has any great experience to detail and pore over; Ramsey has all of five fight with no notable apposition, while Tony lost to the only recognizable name on his resume, former WEC lightweight competitor Karen Darabedyan.
This one will test both fighters and force them to show more than we’ve seen from either during the season. Ramsey is far more aggressive and talented as a wrestler than anyone Tony has face thus far, while he has a better combination of hands and wrestling than anyone Ramsey has met in the cage.
Where this fight takes place will dictate who earns the title of The Ultimate Fighter. If Ramsey can keep it in the clinch or on the ground, it’s his fight to lose, but if he can’t, he’ll do just that.
Anthony Pettis (13-1) vs. Clay Guida (28-11)
This fight has been circled on my calendar since the day it was announced.
Pettis is one of the most promising prospects in the sport and launched himself to mainstream recognition by landing “The Showtime Kick” on Ben Henderson back in December. Guida, on the other hand, has been a mainstream staple for some time, one of the most popular fighters in the sport thanks to his wild hair, non-stop motor and entertaining brand of fighting.
Upping the ante is the fact that this fight has a great deal of impact on the lightweight division moving forward.
Pettis was originally supposed to meet the winner of the UFC 125 main event in a lightweight title unification bout. Of course, there was no winner in the second meeting between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, pushing Pettis to pursue this fight instead.
The general consensus is that a win here will secure the 24-year-old a shot at the eventual winner of Edgar-Maynard 3, whenever that fight finally goes down, but interestingly enough, the same opportunity is not necessarily being afforded to Guida.
Despite a three-fight winning streak, “The Carpenter” could still be behind the winner of the Jim Miller-Ben Henderson fight slated for UFC 133 in Philadelphia even if he wins here, not to mention guys like Melvin Guillard and Dennis Siver. And don’t forget Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez either.
Bottom line: both fighters need a win to keep their title dreams alive, and with their always entertaining styles meeting in the center of the Octagon, and a healthy dose of trash talk between them in the build-up to this bout, don’t be surprised if this ends up gaining Fight of the Year consideration like Guida is predicting.