Part one of the UFC’s two-day spectacular goes down this Friday night as the 27th season of the The Ultimate Fighter culminates with two final match-ups and a marquee middleweight main event.
In the headline act, kickboxing sensation Israel Adesanya will look to continue his unbeaten start to life in MMA as he takes on the #8 ranked Brad Tavares in just his third UFC bout. With lightweight and featherweight TUF finale bouts also taking place between unbeaten fighters, The Ultimate Fighter 27 finale should act as a half-decent appetizer to a blockbuster UFC 226 on Saturday.
Brad Tavares (17-4) vs Israel Adesanya (13-0)
While it’s clear that Israel Adesanya has a striking advantage over pretty much everyone in the 185 lbs division, he does have deficiencies in his game that can be capitalised upon in the world of MMA.
With the low pace he sets on the feet and the tendency to back-out of range, Adesanya has been caught with his back to the cage when his opponent applies the pressure and his takedown defence hasn’t been perfect thus far.
With Brad Tavares standing opposite Adesanya, the Hawaiian fighter is an experienced and well-rounded mixed martial artist who has faced the best. On the feet, Tavares has shown the ability to be the aggressor or sit back and counter while he is also a decent wrestler and clinch fighter. With Tavares having fought the likes of Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker in the past, I expect Tavares to use his fight IQ to excel in the clinch and work takedowns against the cage.
I fully expect this fight to be a leap too far for Adesanya and questions will be raised as to why the UFC were so keen to throw a developing fighter into the crosshairs of the promotions 8th best middleweight.
It should, however, be noted that the UFC had Thiago Santos weigh in as a prospective replacement fighter for a reported Tavares foot injury. If the UFC were keen to ask ‘Marretta’ to be prepared, it does hint towards Tavares having trouble with his movement.
Pick: Brad Tavares
Mike Trizano (6-0) vs Joe Giannetti (6-0)
While Giannetti’s stand-up wasn’t seen too much due to him recording two first-round submissions, it’s apparent that Giannetti is an adept submission artist in part due to his long frame.
Trizano meanwhile has shown a decent striking ability with a varied arsenal. His takedown defence, however, isn’t exemplary.
I’ll predict Giannetti to continue his submission streak going by grounding his opponent and using his long limbs to sneak in a choke.
Pick: Joe Giannetti
Jay Cucciniello (8-0, 1 NC) vs Brad Katona (6-0)
Cucciniello has been fortunate to get into this spot after becoming a replacement following an injury. To his credit though, Cucciniello is a gritty fighter who loves being on the front foot but his eagerness for action has come at a cost during his time on TUF.
Katona also has some grittiness to his CV but being five years younger, Katona seems to be the more refined out of the two fighters.
I think Katona’s more well-rounded and disciplined skill set sees him emerge the victor.
Pick: Brad Katona
Alex Caceres (13-11, 1 NC) vs Martin Bravo (11-1)
Martin Bravo has the airs of a Diaz brother with his fighting style as the Mexican pressures his opponent, fires in wide hooks and walks through whatever his foe offers back.
Obviously, that approach only works when your chin can withstand the damage being absorbed and in his last outing, Bravo walked onto a knee in 26 seconds that switched his lights out.
In Alex Caceres, you have a fan-friendly fighter who favours his kicking game but one who has been widely inconsistent in his performances. ‘Bruce Leroy’ has also struggled in the past with pressure but he should have some success when it comes to decision making due to his experience.
This fight could realistically go either way based on Caceres’ unpredictably but I’ll side with the younger fighter in Bravo to show improvements in his game and force his opponent into a fight he doesn’t like.
Pick: Martin Bravo
Roxanne Modafferi (21-14) vs Barb Honchak (10-3)
Roxanne Modafferi isn’t the most athletic fighter the world has ever seen but her heart and output means that she has held a long-standing position near the top of the WMMA world.
Honchak meanwhile is the more physical of the two, despite being the elder, and will look to dominate in the clinch or on top on the ground.
If Modaferri is to win, she’ll have to stay on the outside in the stand-up to avoid the clinch or remain active with her grappling and submissions on the ground. I think while she will always be busy on the mat, Honchak will find herself in the more dominant positions and do just enough on the scorecards.
Pick: Barb Honchak
Alessio Di Chirico (11-2) vs Julian Marquez (7-1)
With both fighters being well-rounded, I think Marquez’s ‘bite down on the mouthpiece’ fighting style will pay dividends here.
Di Chirico isn’t the quickest fighter nor possesses the deepest gas tank and with Marquez missing weight, he should find it tough going against a fighter who knows how to finish fights.
Pick: Julian Marquez
(Last Predictions: 1/4, Total: 56/90, 62% Success Rate)
(2017: 60% Success Rate)