The Fight Report: This weekends TUF Finales

| December 11, 2012 | 10:29 am | Reply

TUF Fight ReportIn some tricky scheduling, we have two TUF Finales in two days, with TUF: The Smashes and TUF 16: Carwin vs. Nelson. While Carwin vs. Nelson itself will be put on the shelf due to Carwin’s knee injury, we’re still treated to a solid card with Matt Mitrione stepping in on short notice against Nelson. Being as us American folks missed out of The Smashes, I’ll be combining these two cards into one epic fight report for your reading pleasure, so let’s dig into the massive report.

Roy Nelson vs. Matt Mitrione: One exciting fight is traded for another, as Roy Nelson brings his belly to bear, taking on replacement opponent Matt Mitrione. Nelson has built his career off of being underestimated, proving time and again that he is just as talented as anyone in the division, even if he looks more like a fan than a fighter. Functional boxing skills and top-level submission grappling make him a terror if you engage him in those areas, though his lack of conditioning and in-fight tactical change has made him a simple punching bag in many of his higher profile fights.

Mitrione, in many ways, is the exact opposite of Nelson. Being one of the most mobile fighters in a division of lumbering giants, Mitrione doesn’t have decades of technical background, but has such a cool confidence and faith in his simple skill set that he makes himself just as tough a draw as anyone. A self-proclaimed fan of Dominick Cruz, Mitrione bounces his large frame around the cage, throwing boxing combinations from multiple angles, and holding his own in grappling and wrestling situations.  While his matwork isn’t expert level, his bottom game and ability to spring up from the mat have saved him a few times. Constant improvement is his game, and with only a few years left to make a mark in this sport, I don’t expect he misses an opportunity like this.

Nelson is a game fighter, but as we’ve seen against the likes of JDS, Werdum and Mir, he can’t always puzzle out opponents and instead looks for a counter against his foes, which never works. This is a symptom of the same stubbornness that has kept him at Heavyweight his entire career, despite being built like a Middleweight, and it’s something that Mitrione can take advantage of. While Nelson is a solid boxer, he lacks the swift footwork to keep pace with Mitrione as he dances around the cage, working low kicks and lunging punches. Nelson can find the mark early with his jaw-crushing power, but if he can’t, I don’t have faith that he finds it in rounds two and three. A hairy first round turns into Mitrione finding a rhythm and cruising to a decision victory as Nelson covers up and counters to no effect.

George Sotiropoulos vs. Ross Pearson: Absent for the spotlight for some time, George Sotiropoulos will return to the Octagon, taking on TUF winner and coach Ross Pearson. Sotiropoulos is a difficult opponent to deal with, having perhaps the most dangerous top game in the weight class with his insanely smooth guard passes, and a trademark kimura from hell. He’s a sound competitor in every other area of the fight game as well, using a traditional boxing game and a rubber guard on the bottom that actually works. While ring rust could be a major issue, he’s known as one of the hardest workers in the gym, and we should expect to see a return to form for the lightweight.

Pearson has had a great run in his time in the Octagon since winning TUF 9 many moons ago. Being underrated in all avenues of the game, the strong competitor brings one of the better pure boxing games around, as well as some high-level mat work. His wheelhouse is really his in-close clinch and boxing game though, eating up space to land short hooks and use his compact frame to his advantage.  While he’s struggled against some opponents in his career, he’s never been out of a fight entirely and can get the job done here as well.

The one thing I don’t like about this fight is the weight, as Pearson was a fully functional Featherweight, and a return to Lightweight seems to be a mistake to me here. Giving up a few inches of height, Sotiropoulos can now control the probing stage of the fight with his fast jabs and footwork, while looking to suck Pearson into a mat game he can’t win. For Pearson, he’ll need to work on the feet without getting too aggressive in his forward movement and do much what Dennis Siver did; Throwing Sotiropoulos off of him with shoves rather than engaging in actual clinch wrestling. The fact of the matter is though, Sotiorpoulos trumps Pearson almost anywhere this fight goes except for that one critical in-fight scenario, and can absolutely destroy Pearson if he puts his back on the mat.  It’s a close one, but one I feel Sotiropoulos pulls off via submission midway through the fight.

Hector Lombard vs. Rousimar Palhares: Two of MMA’s least forgiving fighters square off, as Lombard takes on Palhares. Lombard’s debut fight was perhaps the most anti-climactic event since James Toney’s debut in the Octagon, standing stark still and allowing Boetsch to have his way with him for much of the match. While Lombard claims injury, some could claim nerves, yet both scenarios suggest a return to form in this fight. One of the most devastating strikers in the sport, Lombard’s speed and power occasionally make you forget he’s also a world-class judoka with a lifetime of grappling experience.  While his build will never allow him to take to no-gi grappling as well as he did in his judo days, he presents a nightmare for many Middleweights if sound of mind and healthy.

Palhares is himself a nightmare, using a slick leglock arsenal that’s put several fighters in the hospital since his start in the division. While he only has a one round gas tank in most cases, that round is usually all he needs to dismantle fighters with his elite-level submission attacks. He’s also one of the few fighters that bring enough power to contend with Lombard early, as a massive and explosive Middleweight.

You can never count out a leglocker, but Lombard comes equipped to deal with this issue, both technically and physically. Being one of the badiest fighters around, Lombard hardly has a leg to lock in the first place, being all torso with short powerful limbs all around. Lombard is also incredibly fast and has almost as much mat-time as Palhares himself with his time in the Olympics and international judo competitions. The one giant X-factor here is Palhares’ ability to sustain a hit, as Dan Miller, Alan Belcher and Nate Marquardt have all either turned his lights out completely or badly hurt him with blows, particularly on the mat. One thump from Lombard could easily put Palhares lights out here, and this is what I’m counting on, giving Lombard an early KO win.

Pat Barry TUF 16 Finale

Pat Barry was a coach on TUF 16 and will also be fighting on the finale.

Quick Reports:

Pat Barry vs. Shane Del Rosario: A fun fight against two very similar opponents. Both are nearly pure strikers, both are undersized for the weight class, yet experience is the main factor here in terms of striking, with Barry having the far better technique and better chin. Del Rosario has never been able to take a real hit and Barry is slick enough to deliver one early to snatch a KO win.

Mike Ricci vs. Colton Smith: A TUF finale that has me somewhat underwhelmed, Ricci will face Smith.  Ricci isn’t a bad fighter at all, with his patient technical game, and being undersized shouldn’t affect him here either, as he looks to hang back and counter shot on the incoming Smith. Smith has a high-degree of wrestling and submission defense, but his entry is lackluster at best and that’s exactly what Ricci needs to flatten Smith. A frantic pace leads to a fantastic KO as Ricci puts one on Smith’s chin in the second round.

Melvin Guillard vs. Jamie Varner: There is no other fighter as kill-or-be-killed as Guillard, and we’ll see what he brings to the table here against former WEC champ Jamie Varner. Guillard has two modes: The All-Out Attack Mode, and the Methodical Boxer Mode, depending on his situation in a fight.  Considering Varner is the superior fighter in every facet, this leaves the All-Out Attack Mode for Guillard, who will try to lay into Varner with his thunderous punching. Varner can take a beating, but no one hits as hard as Guillard at this weight and I see Guillard getting his punch in before Varner can return fighter for a first round KO.

Dustin Poirier vs. Jonathan Brookins: This is a great bout featuring young talent coming off of losses, and a close one at that. Poirier is a talent with a well-rounded game, while Brookins is perhaps the most fluid grappler this side of Gunnar Nelson. Brookins, however, strikes me as someone who loves training and the science and technique of combative, but hates to actually fight; Being unable to gut out tough situations or be bold. Even still, I think his suffocating attack is enough to put Poirier into a grappling bout he’ll have trouble coming out on top of, relenting a decision nod to Brookins.

Mike Pyle vs. James Head: Holy dopplegangers! Both physically and technically similar, this is a tough fight to pick as they’re both lanky strikers with hybrid BJJ grappling styles. The area this differs is in experience for Pyle, which is both blessing and curse. Pyle has had success facing fighters built similar to himself and faced the higher level competition, but also taken some severe beating in his day and seems to have a problem taking shots when on his back. Head brings a slight size advantage as well as the cleaner technique standing, and may be a bit sturdier than his 37-year-old opponent here, giving him the edge in my book.

TJ Waldburger vs. Nick Catone: A phenomenal grappler that doesn’t get his due sometimes, TJ Waldburger will face tough New Jersey boxer/wrestler Nick Catone. Waldburger brings a complete grappling game, with strong takedowns and transitions, but it’s his bottom game submissions that spell doom for most opponents. While his chin isn’t always up to par against heavy hitters, Catone isn’t the best puncher he’s faced by a long shot, and Waldburger’s diverse grappling game can put the veteran grappler in real trouble. Waldburger’s array of techniques to engage his opponent, and lack of fear for being submitted himself give him the edge to win here, taking a late submission or decision win.

Mike Rio vs. John Cofer: Two of the weaker fighters to come from their respective TUF seasons, both guys are wrestlers first, with Rio being slightly better as a top positional ground and pounder, and Cofer being better pretty much everywhere else. What I don’t like about Rio is his lackluster attitude if he can’t immediately dominate opponents, which doesn’t help him here against a tough customer like Cofer.  While Rio could get it done, I expect Cofer to gut out a tight decision.

Jared Papazian vs. Tim Elliott: Papazian brings absolutely stellar kickboxing, but unfortunately little else to this fight, taking on the unique Tim Elliott. Elliott exhibited a ridiculous chin and arguably beat John Dodson in his UFC debut, using every trick in the book to take the fellow flyweight off his game. Just the fact Papazian doesn’t have much of a ground game makes this a runaway fight for Elliott, who need only fight with an ounce of smarts to put his opponent away via submission.

Igor Pokrajac vs. Joey Beltran: Can you think of a boring fight with either of these guys involved? Neither can I. Beltran is a great guy to watch, but he’s not a winner at this level; surviving due to a concrete jaw but lacking the fine-tuned skills to find victory. While I wouldn’t consider Pokrajac a world-beater either, he packs an insane punch, can take just as much punishment as Beltran, and has the wrestling to steal those close rounds if this goes long. A bloodbath for sure, but one Pokrajac should come out of with his hand raised.

Mike Pierce vs. Seth Baczynski: One of my favorite welterweights, Seth Baczynski takes on a stiff test in Mike Pierce. Baczynski is both gigantic at 170lbs and agile, with a knack for hooking subs during a scramble. Pierce however isn’t the kind of guy that scrambles, unless we’re talking about an opponent’s brains. Packing one-punch power and a nearly unmovable wrestling base, Piece can shut down Baczynski’s game and stay safe from top position, taking a decision or blasting the younger fighter with his crushing punches.

Stay tuned for predictions from both the TUF 16 Finale and the TUF: Smashes Finale, which is actually titles UFC on FX: Sotiropoulos vs Pearson.

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Category: Exclusive, Featured, MMA, Opinion, UFC, Ultimate Fighter

Mike Hammersmith (Featured Staff Writer)

About the Author ()

I'm a 20+ year veteran of martial arts and a fan of MMA since UFC 1, when my world was thrown on its head by the budding sport. I'm obsessive in the pursuit of martial abilities and have competed across the country in everything from Vale Tudo to archery to Scottish broadsword. Once my body broke down, I picked up a pen and went in the direction of writing. I specialize in betting advice, predictions, and I'm a walking encyclopedia of MMA trivia. I own a cafe in Exeter, NH called Hammersmith Sandwich Company and write out of my office between customers.

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