That takes us to The TUF 16 Finale.
You know, it’s almost unfair how we — and when I say “we,” I mean the entire MMA community — have treated The Ultimate Fighter over the past couple seasons. It’s almost as if we’ve let a few bad apples, the terrible time slot/failing ratings, and the insane title shots set up to fix said ratings serve as excuses for why we should no longer watch the show, when truth be told, there is still some talent to be found amidst all the fabricated drama. I understand the irony of me addressing this issue mere paragraphs after relentlessly ripping on the show for those exact reasons.
So while I’m sure both Colton Smith and Mike Ricci (those are the two welterweight finalists, by the way) are talented fighters in their own right, the truth of the matter is that I will likely use the time they spend fighting on Saturday to push my way to the front of the bar for another beer, or if I’m home, make a sandwich or dispose of one from lunch. All you have to know about this fight is that Ricci is a Bellator veteran who holds a victory over Jordan Mein and that Smith is entering the UFC on a loss. I’m currently compiling a list of fighters who have entered the UFC on a loss, and without giving too much away, I will say that Smith’s chances of victory have decreased significantly based on that fact alone.
With that in mind, let’s get to the real matchups.
From the Prelims: Again, there is only one fight on Saturday’s preliminary card that should raise any of your eyebrows, if only ever-so-slightly, and that’s Mike Pyle vs. James Head. As was the case in Pierce vs. Baczynski, here we have two welterweights on win streaks squaring off in a fight that will probably end inside the distance. Although most would consider Pyle a Jiu-Jitsu practicioner first, he has shown in his past two victories over Ricardo Funch and Josh Neer that he can just as easily put your lights out on the feet. Fortunately for Head, this is where he will want the fight to take place. Unfortunately for Head, I don’t see him hanging with Pyle in either category despite his age and size advantage, and I predict he will succumb to either a TKO from follow up shots after being dropped or a second or third round submission.
The Main Card: Now here are some fights that could excite even the most casual of fans. First off, Dustin Poirier is going to straight up manhandle TUF 12 winner Jonathan Brookins, who simply hasn’t evolved enough in the standup department to take on a powerhouse like Poirier. Expect a late first round/early second TKO stoppage there. Secondly, Melvin Guillard and Jamie Varner are probably going to be responsible for at least one end of the night bonus: Knockout of the Night if Guillard can keep it standing and Sub of the Night if Varner can get it to the ground. Then again, Varner proved in his storming of Edson Barboza that he can still knock a motherfucker out if need be, so if he fights smart, I see this going down similar to Lauzon vs. Guillard, with Varner taking advantage of Guillard’s tendency to leave himself open to the takedown and submitting him. But there are so many extraneous factors in a given Melvin Guillard fight that it’s hard to ever truly predict what’s going to happen.
In the night’s next fight, Pat Barry will take on Shane Del Rosario in a battle I’ve dubbed “For the love of God, please don’t take us down.” As much as I like Barry’s persona, I’ve gotta take Del Rosario on this one. Barry has been getting his ass kicked pretty much everywhere lately, and his gameplan of sitting on the fence and letting Lavar Johnson tee off on him at UFC on FOX 3 didn’t exactly give me a lot of confidence in his abilities. Plus, when you add together the fact that Rosario dropped his UFC debut to Stipe Miocic and submitted “Big” Johnson before that, you will find a man who is willing to risk alienating some fans to secure a victory in the least risky fashion possible. Rosario by armbar in the first.
As we know, Mitrione is stepping in on short notice to replace an injured Shane Carwin, and like Shane Carwin, “Meathead” has fought so little in the past year that it really makes you wonder which version of him will show up Saturday night: the hard-nosed killer that picked up four of his first five UFC victories by KO/TKO, or the tepid, non-committal fighter that showed up for his last fight against Cheick Kongo. In either case, I highly doubt Mitrione has the power to put away Nelson, who couldn’t be finished by the current heavyweight champ or Fabricio Werdum 2.0. Add in Nelson’s power, experience and submission advantage and its looking like a long night for Mitrione. However, I see this one lasting the distance, with Nelson emerging victorious by UD.
And there you have it, Potato Nation, a complete rundown of all of the fights you might be interested in this weekend. Feel free to agree, disagree, discuss, curse my existence, etc. in the comments section.