(“Julianna Pena, you’re the first female Ultimate Fighter in the show’s history, so I gotta ask, what was your favorite room in the house?” Photo via Getty.)
The UFC 171: Hendricks vs. Lawler card is filling up fast, Nation, and has recently added a pair of intriguing bouts featuring TUF winners as well as matchup between top featherweights. Let’s get right to it…
“The Venezuelan Vixen” may not have made many friends in the TUF household (which we imagine she wasn’t there to do in the first place), but her performances in the octagon spoke for themselves. With stoppage victories over Shayna Baszler (rear-naked choke), Sarah Moras (guillotine) and Jessica Rakoczy (TKO), Pena is riding high on momentum at the moment, and she’ll need plenty of it against Jessica Andrade.
Currently 10-3 and 1-1 in the octagon, Andrade is submission specialist who has tangled with the likes of Liz Carmouche, Rosi Sexton and Jennifer Maia. She has only been the distance twice in her professional career, and while the holes in her wrestling game were exposed by Carmouche at UFC on FOX 8, she should easily make for the toughest test of the TUF winner’s career come March 15th.
In his first post-TUF appearance, season 17 winner Kelvin Gastelum showed that his victory over Uriah Hall was no fluke, dominating and submitting the now retired Brian Melancon in just two minutes at Fight Night 27 last August. The win kept Gastelum’s unblemished record intact, but unfortunately, bad luck would rear its head in the form of a PCL tear that would force him out of his UFC on FOX 9 fight with fellow TUF winner Court McGee.
Thankfully, Gastelum’s legs are not held together by tissue paper and dental floss, so he will be making a quick turnaround against veteran Rick Story. “The Horror” has been struggling with consistency for the past couple of years, going win-loss over his past five contests, but recently scored a unanimous decision victory over the returning Brian Ebersole at UFC 167. A win over Gastelum would easily make for his biggest since defeating Thiago Alves at UFC 130, so expect an all out war for this one, Nation.
Call me crazy, but this is the matchup I’m most excited to see out of the three. Despite a minor setback against Marcus Brimage last year, Hettes has been on fire since entering the UFC, scoring submission wins over Alex Caceres and Robert Whiteford and dominating Nam Phan en route to a decision at UFC 141. Bermudez, on the other hand, has notched five straight victories since coming up short in the TUF 14 finals.
We all know Bermudez and Matt Grice put on a Fight of the Year contender at UFC 157, but “The Menace” also scored highly-entertaining decision victories over Max Holloway and Steven Siler in 2013 as well. The winner of this fight could easily find himself facing a top 10 opponent next, is what I’m getting at. In fact, if I were to GIF-rank this fight, I’d have to give it a solid
Can’t argue with the facts, folks.
UFC 171 goes down on March 15th from the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.