135 lbs: Urijah Faber vs. Scott Jorgensen
While Scott Jorgensen has some definite talent as a mixed martial artist, he seems to have settled into a role as a mid to high-level gatekeeper in the UFC bantamweight division. The word “gatekeeper” can have a negative connotation, but Jorgensen is a good fighter. He has a very good wrestling background to go along with decent striking and punishing ground and pound. Make no mistake about it, if a fighter is able to beat Jorgensen, that shows he’s a world-class competitor at 135 pounds.
Of course, Jorgensen’s opponent, Urijah Faber, is not somebody who needs to be tested against even a high-level gatekeeper. Like Jorgensen, Faber has very good wrestling, but beyond that, is an excellent grappler. In particular, Faber is excellent at scrambling, and is often able to take his opponent’s back in awkward situations. Faber is at his best when he’s throwing everything at his opponent – strikes, clinching, takedowns, scrambling, and submissions.
The one thing Faber is not particularly good at is distance striking. If Jorgensen is somehow able to make this fight a striking match, it’s possible he can beat Faber on points, since Jorgensen does throw and land a lot of strikes. I just don’t see it happening – on paper, Faber is a little better than Jorgensen in every area. I don’t think Jorgensen will be put away easily, but I do think Faber will prove to be the better fighter over 25 minutes.
Pick: Urijah Faber by decision
185 lbs: Kelvin Gastelum vs. Uriah Hall
Before season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter started, I felt that Uriah Hall had the highest ceiling of any of the competitors. It might be fair to say that I was more enthusiastic about his potential than most people. Now that Hall is in the finale, his series of brutal KO finishes has left people talking about him as a future UFC champion. I’m enthusiastic about Hall, but not quite THAT enthusiastic. He still has a lot to prove as a fighter.
If you’ve been following Hall’s TUF run, you don’t need me to tell you how good of a striker he is – he’s one of the best in the middleweight division. What Hall needs to prove is that he can defend takedowns and submissions. Against Kelvin Gastelum, Hall will be facing an opponent who is likely to test Hall in those areas. Gastelum is a good wrestler who also showcased an effective ground game by submitting both Bubba McDaniel and Josh Samman. If Gastelum can take Hall down, there’s absolutely a chance he can win this fight by submission in an upset.
Unfortunately for Gastelum, I think he’s going to have some serious difficulty getting Hall down. One reason is that Hall is a lot bigger than Gastelum – Hall is a very lean middleweight, while Gastelum is more of a blown up welterweight. I think that as long as Hall times his strikes well, and keeps Gastelum on the outside, he should be able to sprawl and effectively defend Gastelum’s takedown attempts. If that happens, Gastelum is very likely to end up as the latest fighter to be on the receiving end of a highlight reel finish from Hall.
Pick: Uriah Hall by KO
Women’s 135 lbs: Miesha Tate vs. Cat Zingano
In what will be the second ever women’s MMA fight to take place in the UFC, Miesha Tate will be fighting Cat Zingano in what figures to be a very close and competitive match. I was very impressed by what I saw of Zingano on tape – not because she was amazing at any one thing, but because she was good at everything. Since the sport of women’s MMA is still in its infancy, it hasn’t developed nearly as much as men’s MMA, and that means that truly well-rounded fighters are a rarity. (I mean, Ronda Rousey is a one-dimensional fighter, but a UFC champion anyway because of how good she is at that dimension.)
Against Tate, I feel that Zingano should be the far superior striker, and possibly have the better submission game as well. Tate and Zingano might go back and forth on the ground, as they have both showcased active and attacking submissions in their fights. Either way, I believe Zingano has more paths to victory open to her than Tate does.
The one area Tate should have the advantage is the takedown game, and that may be enough to propel her to victory. In what figures to be a close and competitive fight, the judges very well might award it to the fighter who lands more takedowns. Even so, I’m going to pick Zingano to win this fight, and the striking game is the reason why. In Tate’s fight against Julie Kedzie, she was knocked down multiple times before coming from behind to win by submission. While this has led a lot of people to praise Tate’s toughness, no fighter can endure that kind of punishment indefinitely. At some point, Tate won’t be able to overcome her striking deficiencies.
Pick: Cat Zingano by TKO
265 lbs: Travis Browne vs. Gabriel Gonzaga
It’s no secret that I haven’t been blown away by Gabriel Gonzaga’s recent performances. Even though Gonzaga is on a three-fight winning streak, he hasn’t done anything to make me believe he’s ready to become a title contender in the UFC heavyweight division again. Gonzaga’s skill set is what it always was – he has a very good Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game, a mediocre striking game, and a bad chin. He also has a poor “fight IQ,” because for some reason, he chooses to stand and strike with his opponents, when he should be trying to take them to the ground. Recently, Gonzaga has been going for takedowns more often, and I have no doubt that’s helped him be more successful recently.
Against Travis Browne, Gonzaga will probably need the takedown, because Browne is a fast and athletic striker with a ton of KO power. Unfortunately for Gonzaga, Browne has never been taken down in a UFC fight. Unless Gonzaga can become the first fighter to successfully take Browne to the ground, he’ll have to stand and strike, and if that happens, it’s very likely Browne will win by first-round KO.
At the same time, I do believe Browne is an overrated fighter, and there are definitely ways he can lose this match. If Gonzaga does manage to take him down, he’s in trouble – Browne doesn’t have horrible BJJ, but he’s definitely not as good as Gonzaga, whose BJJ is among the best in the heavyweight division. There’s also a chance that Gonzaga can land a power punch of his own to win by knockout – Gonzaga does hit reasonably hard, and Browne is coming off a TKO loss to Antonio Silva. Ultimately, I do think Browne will win this fight, because he should be the better striker, but I’m not as confident in him as a lot of people are.
Pick: Travis Browne by KO
185 lbs: Bubba McDaniel vs. Gilbert Smith
I understand why Bubba McDaniel has been put on the main card of this show. McDaniel’s arrogance on The Ultimate Fighter has led a lot of fans to root against him, and any time the UFC can capitalize on a fighter being loved or hated by the fans, they’re going to do it. Still, this is a fight that’s really hard for me to get excited about, mostly because I don’t think either fighter is going to survive very long in the UFC.
Let’s start with McDaniel. His strength as a fighter is his submission game – he’s very aggressive on the ground, and can put his opponent in some bad situations, even from his back. He also has very good conditioning, which goes a long way against sub-UFC level competition. Unfortunately for McDaniel, he also has poor striking, a poor chin and ability to take strikes, poor wrestling, and he makes mistakes on the ground that cause him to be submitted. With that list of weaknesses, it’s no wonder that McDaniel went 1-2 on The Ultimate Fighter.
With that said, McDaniel really should beat Gilbert Smith in this fight. Smith… is a very muscular human being. Besides that, I’m not sure what he’s supposed to be good at. I do expect that Smith can take McDaniel down early, and will probably look to land punishing strikes from top position. I just think that even if Smith does land a takedown, he’ll be on the defensive, as McDaniel will probably look for submissions and sweeps off his back. It’s possible that Smith can win by early TKO, but if he doesn’t, this should be McDaniel’s fight to lose.
Pick: Bubba McDaniel by submission