Hey, fight fans! We’ve got another installment in Fight Week. It’s The Ultimate Fighter season 23 Finale, so if you squint hard enough, you could say that three titles are on the line here. The prelims kick off at 7 p.m. ET on Fight Pass, featuring top lightweight prospects Jake Matthews and Kevin Lee looking to move up in the rankings.
The regular prelims will be on Fox Sports 1, starting at 8 p.m. ET. There’s flyweight action between former title challenger John Moraga and up-and-comer Matheus Nicolau, plus Gray Maynard makes his featherweight debut as he takes on Fernando Bruno.
The main card will also be on FS1, starting at 10 p.m. ET. There’s featherweight action as Doo Ho Choi faces Thiago Tavares and former Bellator lightweight champ Will Brooks makes his UFC debut as he takes on Ross Pearson. The strawweight and light heavyweight TUF tournament finals share co-main event spots, and in the main event, strawweight champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk defends her title against Claudia Gadelha.
It should be a great card, so join us for a live discussion of all these fantastic fights. Now let’s take a look at the predictions for these bouts!
2016 Important Results:
Jessica: 116-91-4 (56 percent)
Burnsy: 91-91-3 (51 percent)
Ryan: 5-1 (83 percent)
Jason: 25-22-1 (53 percent)
Jackman: 7-5 (58 percent)
Enrique: 7-5 (58 percent)
Jamie: 16-13-1 (55 percent)
Justin: 13-4 (76 percent)
Marty: 20-12-1 (62 percent)
Jared: 13-11 (54 percent)
Parker: 3-4 (43 percent)
Team Davis: 61-46-3 (57 percent)
Note from Team Davis: Let’s be honest, I mailed it in on this one. I’d make some excuse like, “I had a busy week!” or “I’m all preggers and stuff!”, but…to be honest, I’m lazy and thought the card would be filled with a bunch of The Ultimate Fighter…uh…fighters….that I’ve never heard of. I was only kind of wrong. That’s fine. Now, let’s see how wrong Scrabble is.
Welterweight – Anton “The Professor” Zafir vs. Jingliang “The Leech” Li
Jessica: Zafir feasted on hapless Aussies while Li was battling inside the world famous Octagon against guys like Nordine Taleb and Dhiego Lima. So these two are on pretty even footing, I guess. I’m gonna take Jingliang here to win by decision, I guess.
Suzanne: Li Jingliang – 20
Anton Zafir – 22
Jason: What a great nickname battle. If this were a comic book, The Professor would win, but life isn’t a comic book, it’s hard, cold and things suck at the worst times. That’s why The Leech will win.
Bill: I’m picking Jingliang as well. He’s gonna stuff the takedown and pepper the Professor with jabs aplenty. Decision victory.
Lightweight – Jake “The Celtic Kid” Matthews vs. Kevin “Mo-Town Phenom” Lee
Jessica: Matthews is a solid prospect, but he’s got two issues in this one. It’s his first time fighting out of his native Australia, and he’s also going up against Kevin Lee, who’s a dang good grappler. I think Matthews will have some success, but not enough to definitely take the bout. Lee wins by decision.
Suzanne: Jake Matthews – 31
Kevin Lee – 15
Jason: Kevin Lee, and I think it should be fairly dominant.
Bill: Sign me up for Kevin Lee. Maybe one day those Celtic Kids will get their due.
Middleweight – Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira vs. Anthony “Lionheart” Smith
Jessica: Ferreira is kind of a lump, and it’s going to take a lot of impressive finishes, or an even bigger lump of an opponent, to get me to pick him. Smith ain’t quite that lumpy, especially with an eight-fight win streak, mostly taking place in the Z-leagues. I’ll go with Smith to nab a second round TKO.
Suzanne: Cezar Ferreira – 27
Anthony Smith – 23
Jason: I always pick Mutante for better or worse. There’s no science behind it.
Bill: I’m picking against Smith just because he’s like a one-person repository of bad MMA tattoos. Mutante por vida.
Light Heavyweight – Josh “The Sandman” Stansbury vs. Cory Hendricks
Jessica: I gotta go with MMAdam Driver here. Hendricks locks up a second round submission.
Bill: Cory Hendricks was one of my favorite people this season on TUF. I think he’s got a ton of skill and ability and he’s going to put the Sandman to sleep.
Flyweight – John Moraga vs. Matheus Nicolau
Jessica: I was willing to overlook Nicolau’s typical Brazilian record of beating up Some Dude and That Guy, but then I noticed he took a L, in fact, his only L, to Pedro Nobre. You know, the guy that put on a neckbrace to sell the devastating one punch to the back of the head from Iuri Alcantara. Anyway, Moraga will utterly ruin this dude. Moraga wins by first round submission.
Suzanne: John Moraga – 23
Matheus Nicolau – 21
Winner: The Lil’est Gangster
Jason: I agree with Jessica, Moraga and it’s not close.
Bill: Yeah, Moraga is gonna eat this poor dude’s lunch and probably climb a bit in the rankings as a result.
Featherweight – Gray “The Bully” Maynard vs. Fernando “Acougueiro” Bruno
Jessica: Oh no. No, no, no. Maynard’s got a broken brain, and now he’s dehydrating himself down to 145. This is going to end very poorly. Bruno will punch his face and then finish with a first round submission.
Suzanne: Gray Maynard – 21
Fernando Bruno – 19
Jason: I really wish Gray Maynard would’ve retired a few fights ago, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong and have him get a clean win here without taking damage. I think he’ll get back to his wrestling roots and get the much-needed win.
Bill: Fighters really have a way of sticking around past their prime and performing just well enough, just often enough to make you think they still have something in the tank. Graynard is going to give us one of those glimmers of hope with an unlikely win here.
Lightweight – Andrew Holbrook vs. Joaquim “Netto BJJ” Silva
Jessica: Light the undefeated prospect siren! Wait, no, don’t do that, it’ll melt. Sh*t. Anyway, both dudes are solid with a ton of low-level finishes, and they both have split decision wins in their UFC debuts. I think I’m more impressed with Silva, who beat Nazareno Malegarie, over Holbrook, who defeated Ramsey Nijem. I’m going with Silva to win by decision.
Suzanne: Joaquim Silva – 33
Andrew Holbrook – 27
Jason: This is close and I don’t really have a dog in this race, so I’ll guess Silva, but only because as of this writing I hope Anderson Silva is fighting Cormier for the 205 belt at UFC 200.
Bill: It’s always interesting when two undefeated fighters go head to head. But historically, it doesn’t go well for Americans when they take on undefeated Brazilians. Silva by submission.
Featherweight – Thiago Tavares vs. Doo Ho “Superboy” Choi
Jessica: H*ck yeah, Superboy! This baby dude is pretty rad at destroying people with his limbs. Tavares is okay, I guess, but Choi is gonna ruin him. Choi wins by second round KO.
Suzanne: Doo Ho Cho – 17
Thiago Tavares – 20
Jason: Tavares is a fine fighter, but Choi seems better at this point in their respective careers. Choi decision.
Bill: How can you NOT pick a dude that looks like Choi AND is nicknamed Superboy? I’m all-in on Choi by decision.
Lightweight – “Ill” Will Brooks vs. Ross “The Real Deal” Pearson
Jessica: A potential top-flight grappler taking on a British striker? Looks like Ross is going to get turned into a fine powder. Brooks grinds out Pearson and gets a third round submission.
Suzanne: Ross Pearson – 13
Will Brooks – 19
Jason: I like Will Brooks and I don’t get why Bellator let him go. On one hand, Pearson is a fine gatekeeper for Brooks to enter the lightweight picture, but if he loses, then the UFC kinda signed a middling guy and a middling guy is then technically still the lineal Bellator lightweight champion (or is Eddie Alvarez?). I don’t know. This fight just makes me think the Bellator lightweight title is a weird curse, but we have Eddie fighting for the belt tonight, so maybe it’s actually powerful. Will Brooks takes the decision and makes the next step towards fulfilling some weird prophecy because I already predicted Eddie Alvarez was going to win in the previous predictions. So Will Brooks and EA will somehow come to fight where the UFC will be hosting a Bellator title fight in the UFC for the physical UFC belt, kind of like the time Taz fought Mike Awesome for the ECW belt while he was under contract with WWF and Mike Awesome was under contract with WCW, except nothing like that at the same time.
Bill: I feel like UFC is really high on Brooks and he’s going to prove them right with a big, impressive win in his debut. He has the potential to be a star and I also have no idea why Bellator would allow him to jump ship.
Strawweight – Amanda Bobby “ABC” Cooper vs. Tatiana Suarez
Jessica: Suarez is a really good grappler. I think she’s just going to run through ABC and get a first round submission.
Suzanne: Amanda Cooper – 19
Tatiana Suarez – 22
Jason: Cooper, and this has nothing to do with the Bellator men’s lightweight title.
Bill: As we found out on TUF, Cooper is really big for a strawweight. I think she’s going to overpower Suarez, stuff the takedown attempts and grind out a decision win.
Light Heavyweight – Khalil “The War Horse” Rountree vs. Andrew “El Dirte” Sanchez
Jessica: Sanchez lost to Kevin Casey, which is really tough to recover from. He didn’t do enough on this season of The Ultimate Fighter to erase that blemish in my brain. Rountree wins by second round TKO.
Suzanne: Andrew Sanchez – 31
Khalil Roundtree – 23
Jason: I didn’t watch this season and I haven’t watched TUF in a long time, sadly. Sanchez because Sanchezes do well on TUF.
Bill: Khalil was without a doubt my favorite fighter this season and it wasn’t even close. That said, he was 1-1 on the season for a reason. Sanchez is a damn good fighter and he’s going to get a deserving victory here.
Strawweight Title – Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Claudia “Claudinha” Gadelha
Jessica: Oh dip. Oh dip! OH DIP! I gotta admit, after a recent re-watch, part of me think Claudia won the first fight. It was close, but I think Gadelha edged it. However, Jedrzejczyk’s take down defense has improved a bunch and also, this is a five rounder, which probably gives the advantage to Joanna Champion. I think Claudia will struggle to get take downs, get tired and get her whole entire face parts shredded. Joanna Champion retains the belt by fourth round TKO.
Suzanne: Joanna Jedrzejczyk – 66
Claudia Gadelha – 22
Winner: Joanna Violence
Jason: Joanna. Always.
Bill: I really, really, really want Claudia to win. That said, I don’t think there’s any way that’s going to happen. Jedrzejczyk by third round TKO.
Performance of the Night
Jessica: Choi, Suarez
Jason: Will Brooks, Jedrzejczyk
Bill: Brooks, Jedrzejczyk
Fight of the Night
Jessica: Lee vs. Matthews
Bill: Jedrzejczyk vs. Gadelha