The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale – Predictions


The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale goes down this coming weekend on November 30th at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, featuring a main event of  Gray Maynard taking on Nate Diaz in the lightweight division and a co-main event that see’s the TUF 18 women’s bantamweight tournament reach it’s climax when Jessica Rakoczy takes on Julianna Pena.

Here are our MMAInsider.net staff picks.  Feel free to share your picks in the comments!

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Lightweight Bout – Gray Maynard (11-2-1, 1nc) vs Nate Diaz (16-9)

DR: Firstly it’s important to note that with this bout being promoted to the main event at short notice, it will only be contested over three rounds instead of the usual five for headline contests. Had it been over five rounds I think it would have favoured Diaz, with the Stockton native famed for his cardio and the larger Maynard known for slowing down a touch in the latter rounds. However, with this one being over three rounds that’s now irrelevant and I’d expect both men to be capable of pushing a quick pace without fear of tiring towards the end. While I feel Diaz should control the striking in this one with his superior technique and height advantage, Maynard is a powerful puncher and if he can get inside on the rangey Diaz, then he could well have him backing up. In the wrestling department you would have to favour Maynard to be the one who dictates where the fight takes place, although on the mat Diaz has a dangerous guard and is almost certainly a stronger BJJ practitioner. With them also sharing a win a piece over each other this all breaks down to the fight most likely being a closely contested bout which could go either way. I think there’s a strong chance that Maynard may edge out Diaz by utilising his wrestling to take Diaz down and control him with his top game, however I’m leaning towards Diaz taking a decision by being the more active fighter both in the standup department and on the mat. – Diaz via Decision

CG: As noted by the clever Brit Dave just above this fight will only be a three round affair due to it becoming the main event on short notice.  A fact that will make at least a slight difference in the fight, but I don’t think it will effect the outcome all that much.  Both men are 1-2 over their last three bouts, with each man looking to rebound from fairly brutal knock outs.  Nate suffered the first knock out loss of his career at the hands of Josh Thomson in his most recent bout, and Gray suffered his second knock out loss in his last fight against TJ Grant.  Since leaving Xtreme Couture Maynard has been a little bit of a gypsy with regards to his camp.  He trained for awhile down in Brazil at Nova Uniao, but has most recently been calling the San Jose based American Kickboxing Academy home.  However, at 34 years of age one has to wonder if Gray’s best days are behind him, being 34 myself that is a hard sentence to type!  Nate looked like he was finding his stride in his three fight winning streak leading up to his bid for the UFC Lightweight Championship, but looked far from the part when he challenged Benson Henderson for that title.  These two have faced one another on two separate occasions as Diaz submitted Maynard during their tenure on TUF 5 and Gray later avenged that loss with a split decision over Nate at UFC Fight Night: Maynard vs Diaz.  Outside of his last fight Diaz has proven to be a durable fighter who can absorb an impressive amount of damage without succumbing to a stoppage.  Gray has proven to be able to dish out an almost equal amount of damage, at least early on in his bouts.  I’m expecting to see Diaz push the pace for the entirety of this tilt, tire Maynard out, and overwhelm him on his way to a decision victory. – Diaz via Decision

JS: Maynard via Decision

Women’s Bantamweight Final – Julianna Pena (4-2) vs Jessica Rakoczy (1-3)

DR: While I originally wasn’t expecting someone with one professional win to her name to make it through to the final, Jessica Rakoczy has shown that not only is she a legitimate striker but has also come on leaps and bounds in terms of her takedown defence and grappling awareness so I would have to put her early losses down to the fact that she was inexperienced and facing some strong competition in the likes of Felice Herrig and Zoila Gurgel. Meanwhile Julianna Pena is a well rounded fighter and certainly not scared to throw down with anyone. While she won’t be afraid to strike with Rakoczy she will most likely try to mix up her game and keep her opponent guessing by throwing combinations mixed in with takedown attempts which points to this one being an entertaining affair. Overall I think the standup game of Rakoczy and improved grappling could just be enough to see her eke out the decision victory. – Rakoczy via Decision

CG: If I’m thinking correctly not only is Rakoczy the first person to compete on TUF with a losing record, she is also, obviously, the first too make it to the finale with a losing record.  Jessica seemed able to evolve her overall game leaps and bounds over her time training with Coach Rousey and co.  She has a stellar boxing background and undoubtedly holds an advantage in this bout, and most others, when the fight is standing.  As Dave mentions, I’ve really got to start getting my picks in before him so I don’t have to say that, her record is slightly deceiving being that she was thrown to the wolves straight away in her career having faced Michelle Ould, Zoila Gurgel, and Felice Herrig over her first three bouts.  Pena appeared to have flipped the switch and proved she deserved her spot in the finals as she submitted Shayna Baszler and avenged a previous loss to Sarah Moras with a dominant performance ending in another submission.  So it does appear we have a traditional striker vs grappler matchup for this final.  Jessica showed some impressive takedown defence in her fight against Pennington, but she did make a couple tactical errors given up position to try and land strikes that resulted in Pennington getting the fight to the mat.  These are the sort of errors that could allow Pena to become the first TUF female winner should she make them again.  I suspect Rakoczy has been working hard on her overall game since her time on TUF and that she won’t be making the same mistakes again.  – Rakoczy via (T)KO

JS: Pena via Submission

TUF 18 Men’s Bantamweight Final – Chris Holdsworth (4-0) vs Davey Grant (8-1)

DR: When the list of participants for TUF 18 was announced, my first pick to win the competition was Chris Holdsworth, so for that reason alone I’m sticking with him here. However, the Team Alpha Male representative and BJJ black belt certainly faces a strong test in Davey Grant, a man also famed for his grappling abilities with seven professional victories by submission to go with his two on the show. With Holdsworth having trained with some of the best grapplers in the sport, down at Team Alpha Male prior and after the show, as well as picking up three submission wins during TUF, I would still give him the edge in the grappling department. However, when it comes to striking it’s much harder to call, Grant seems more diverse and powerful where as Holdsworth has continued to improve that area of his game and utilises his reach well to land straight punches. So as close as this one is likely to be, I still have to go with my original pick of Holdsworth, most likely with one of his trademark submissions. – Holdsworth via Submission

CG: First of all I want to express the respect I gained for Davey Grant over the last couple episodes of this season.  His sheer and utter disappointment at “earning” his spot in the finals due to forfeit served to show that this man is a fighter through and through.  I’m sure he will give Holdsworth all he can handle in this final fight of the season, but I have a hard time picking against a Team Alpha Male fighter.  That camp has a lock on the lighter weight divisions and, as stated numerous times prior, with the addition of Duane Ludwig these guys only seem to be getting better daily.  Both men are what I would call “submission aces” and have won an impressive eleven fights via submitting their opponents (four for Holdsworth, seven for Grant).  One would expect them to be evenly matched on the ground based on those stats, even still I am giving the ground advantage to Holdsworth.  On the feet this fight is also fairly even with Chris being the more technical fighter, whereas Davey seems to possess the more natural power.  I imagine Chris will use his strikes long enough to setup the takedown and begin using his grappling en route to his fifth professional submission win. – Holdsworth via Submission

JS: Holdsworth via Submission

Women’s Bantamweight Bout – Jessamyn Duke (2-0-1) vs Peggy Morgan (2-0)

DR: Standing at 6ft 1″ Peggy Morgan is an imposing figure for anyone and will most likely be trying to land big shots from the outside before closing the distance and getting a takedown where she can work away with ground and pound and turn it into an ugly fight. While Duke may not be quite as powerful as her opponent, she certainly hits hard and is game for a scrap, evident in her bout with Pennington earlier on in the show in what is an almost certainty to win “Fight of the Season”. I expect Duke to show no signs of fear and push forward in this one looking to land that killer shot and if it does go to the ground she’s shown that she is more than capable of attacking there as well with a couple of submission victories already to her name, including a triangle choke to get into the house on the opening episode. This is likely to be a highly entertaining fight for as long as it lasts but I’m definitely going with Duke to force a stoppage here one way or another. – Duke via (T)KO

CG: This fight has the promise of being a good old fashioned barn burner.  It’s also a very close scrap in my opinion and while I’m not entirely sure who will be able to walk away with the victory I lean ever so slightly towards Duke. – Duke via Decision

JS: Duke via Decision

Women’s Bantamweight Bout – Roxanne Modafferi (15-10) vs Raquel Pennington (3-3)

DR: While Modafferi is the much more experienced fighter, I got the impression during the show that “The Happy Warrior” does not have her heart in fighting at the moment after a long career, while it’s also worth noting that she lost her last five bouts prior to competing on the show. Meanwhile Pennington is young, hungry and eager to take this opportunity with the winner set to receive another shot in the UFC, while the loser will most likely be seeking employment elsewhere. Modafferi may make things interesting if she can get this one to the mat but I feel Pennington will be keen to show her disappointing performance in the semi final was just a blip and will take it via a stoppage. – Pennington via (T)KO

CG: I’m starting to wonder if Dave has cameras hidden around my house…. – Pennington via (T)KO

JS: Pennington via (T)KO

Featherweight Bout – Akira Corassani (11-3 , 1nc) vs Maximo Blanco (9-4-1, 1nc)

DR: Blanco via (T)KO

CG: Corassani via Decision

JS: Corassani via Decision

Featherweight Bout – Rani Yahya (19-7) vs Tom Niinimaki (20-5-1)

DR: Yahya via Submission

CG: Yahya via Submission

JS: Yahya via Submission

Heavyweight Bout – Jared Rosholt (8-1) vs Walter Harris (6-1)

DR: Rosholt via (T)KO

CG: Rosholt via Decision

JS: Rosholt via Decision

Welterweight Bout – Sean Spencer (10-2) vs Drew Dober (14-4)

DR: Spencer via Decision

CG: Spencer via Decision

JS: Spencer via Decision

Flyweight Bout –  Ryan Benoit (7-2) vs Josh Sampo (10-2)

DR: Sampo via Decision

CG: Sampo via Decision

JS: Sampo via Submission


Current scores after 17 events:

Chuck Grace:  – 111/165 (67%)

Dave Reid:  – 108/177 (61%)

Jordan Smith:  – 98/164 (60%)

Chris Pohlman: – 66/105 (63%)

Paul Bruens – 50/71 (71%)

Dane Ford:  – 50/83 (60%)

Douglas Keast: – 11/23 (48%)


Remember if you want to compete with the MMAInsider.net crew then head on over to MMAFantasyFever.com and go head to head with us!

About Dave Reid

Dave is an avid MMA fan and the content officer for MMAInsider.net If you would like to get in touch with him you can email him at dreid@mmainsider.net or follow him on twitter @davereiduk

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