Picks and Predictions for TUF 9 Finale: The Dregs of a Dry Well

By Nicholas Bailey (nbailey@mmaratings.net)

For a professional fight prognosticator, TUF finales can be seriously daunting. Young fighters training like professionals for the first time can make enormous changes in their game in a very short time, and glaring weaknesses can be hidden on TV by running over extremely weak competition. On TV, Vinny Magahales looked like a destroyer and Ryan Bader looked like a one-dimensional wrestler that Vinny would walk through, and that just about says it all for Hollywood Magic when it comes to the reality of the fight game.

The sad fact is that the UFC is siphoning up the last, saddest dregs of the “talent” pool, with many of these fighters coming off of inauspicious losses and having limited upside, even with the best trainers in the world. Unless Zuffa is content to continue the show endlessly with fighters that wash out of the UFC sooner every season, they’re going to have to do a WEC-class TUF with tiny fighters (bantamweights and heavyweights in the same house could be a laugh riot, though), quit doing the show, or find a more serious way to develop and market prospects.

Clay Guida (+250) vs. Diego Sanchez (-300)

Hyperactive takedown caveman is coming off a big win over Nate Diaz, but he barely scraped out a win there with a lot of help from Nate’s poor gameplanning, and should have even more trouble with Sanchez. The X-factor is Diego’s actually capabilities at 155; throughout his career he was an explosive fighter that would spring off the mat with astounding rapidity whenever he was taken down, but against Stevenson he looked a big enervated by the cut, moving a bit slower and less powerfully. Diego depends on raw physicality for much of his wrestling game, and seemed evenly matched with Joe Stevenson, so it will be interesting to see how he copes with Guida, who is weaker and smaller than Joe, but a much more capable wrestler.

Guida has a very tough task in front of him here, as Sanchez will be the larger man, the superior grappler, and the more technical striker. Furthermore, Sanchez is one of the best in the UFC at sweeping or standing when he is put on his back, so Guida will struggle to maintain dominant positions to win rounds. His only real path to victory is to continually force Diego to exert himself to get off the floor, hope that Diego’s gas runs out due to the weight cut, and take control of the fight from there. With Diego looking like he truly struggled at 155 against Stevenson, this might just happen, but the most likely outcome is Diego’s greater offensive capabilities threatening Guida too much, and Diego picking up all 3 close rounds for a decision. Either way, this fight should feature tons of exciting scrambles, a situation where both fighters are at their best. Diego Sanchez by decision

If Guida creeps to +300 or higher, he may be worth a flier. A Diego at 100% should walk through him, but there’s a very good chance that this weight cut will take a lot out of Diego.

Ross Pearson (+165) vs. Andre Winner (-185) (“TUF” lightweight finale)

This is a pick-em fight, pure and simple. On the show, these two would have been evenly matched, with Ross holding a power advantage but Winner having cleaner technique. With additional training, there’s no telling who has improved more. As far as calling the coinflip, I like Pearson, as Winner has historically struggled to stop fights. Ross Pearson by TKO

Pearson is a bit of an underdog here, so if you’re a high-volume bettor, there may be profit in a play on him. Winner trains with a superior team, and training alongside Dan Hardy in his preparation for Marcus Davis may have been a huge benefit to Winner.

DaMarques Johnson (-330) vs. James Wilks (+275) (“TUF” welterweight finale)

Johnson was obviously the class of the show, although in a testament to the weakness of TUF at this point that consists of being a well-rounded fighter with some modicum of talent. Wilks has some real skill on the ground, and has solid enough striking to barely beat Frank Lester, a man constitutionally incapable of throwing a straight punch, twice. DaMarques should be able to take Wilks apart on the feet and keep it standing, but he isn’t as good as he seemed on the show, so there’s no guarantee. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if Wilks lands a big shot and finishes him off or manages a takedown and locks something up. Either of these guys will struggle mightily against real UFC-level competition. DaMarques Johnson by TKO round 2.

If you’re going to place a bet here, a flier on Wilks is the one to take.

Nate Diaz (-150) vs. Joe Stevenson (+135)

Both of these fighters are coming off losses that were huge mental lapses for them. Diaz froze up like windows 95 every time Guida got a hold of him, and spent the entire fight defending takedowns with Kimura attempts, narrowly losing each round without ever adjusting his strategy. Stevenson boxed for three rounds with Diego Sanchez, with no adjustments despite the fact that Diego was taking him apart and winning each round. If either one of them fails to adapt to this fight, they’re going to lose.

Diaz, despite opening at +110 or better at some books, should be a clear favorite here. Stevenson’s arms are too stubby and his improved boxing is still behind Diaz’s swarming style, and, despite Stevenson’s impressive chops on the floor, Diaz is dangerous enough to finish him off there as well. Stevenson’s only real path to victory is to continually take down Diaz and stay active enough to win rounds without getting triangled. That will be hard unless Diaz gets stuck in repeating a losing pattern again, and decided he’s just going to fish for a kimura all night. Unless Joe learned a big lesson from his loss to Sanchez, he’s going to just box with Diaz all night and get busted up for a lopsided decision loss. If Joe decides to run some kind of dominant top position/takedown game, he’s going to struggle to even take Nate down, let alone control him, but it will be a more competitive fight. Nate Diaz by decision.

-150 isn’t too enticing, but I snagged Diaz at +110 back in March (follow my twitter to get live updates on stuff like this). I’d take him at anything much better than -130.

Kevin Burns (+200) vs. Chris Lytle (-250)

Lytle fights dumb, away from his best abilities, but he won’t be able to find an aspect of the fight game where he doesn’t have a clear-cut advantage over Burns. Unless Lytle decides to try playing turtle guard, he’ll bash Burns up and TKO or submit him. Chris Lytle by TKO round 1.

I don’t give Burns much of a chance here, although -250 isn’t really that enticing a number. Perhaps if you wanted to roll this fight into a parlay, that would be good, since Burns will struggle to win by anything aside from eyepoke. Lytle opened much closer to -200, and I was able to get him at -215.

Jason Dent (-255) vs. Cameron Dollar (+230)

It wasn’t highlighted on TUF, but Jason Dent has actually been in the UFC before (Losing to Roger Huerta and Gleison Tibau) and has a long and serious record as a pro fighter, although he’s lost to all the good competition he’s fought. Still, obnoxiously sullen Cameron Dollar isn’t exactly MMA elite, and Dent should be able to outstrike him or find a submission. In Dollar’s favor, he can certainly outwrestle Dent, and could potentially wear him out and control him from in his guard. Either way, don’t expect much from this fight or these fighters. Jason Dent by submission.

Frank Lester (+180) vs. Nick Osipczak (-200)

Frank “no teeth” Lester is utterly incapable of throwing a straight punch. Nick Osipczak can. Tough as Lester is, that just means he’ll take more damage from a superior striker such as Nick. Nick isn’t defensively excellent, but he should be able to beat Lester to the punch every time. The one X factor is Lester’s size and strength. If he follows a smart gameplan and beats Nick up in the clinch and takes him down, he could win out over the lankier, weaker fighter. Given how easily Lester got frustrated and abandoned all pretense of listening to his coaches, I don’t think that’s likely. Nick Osipczak by KO round 2.

Mike Ciesnolevicz (-125) vs. Tomasz Drwal (-105)

This is one of the more compelling fights on this card, a gem in comparison to the TUF retreads at least. Drwal rebounded from the gassed-out slopfest loss to Thiago Silva with a thorough whalloping of hapless Ivan Serati. Ciesnolevicz is coming off a depressingly lame victory over Neil Grove, in a fight where the giant basically threw himself into a heel hook and Mike happily obliged. “Gorrila” Drwal may be unable to live up to his name against a very large wrestler such as Cieznolevicz. I expect Mike to be able to take him down and wear him out, with a stoppage coming eventually. Mike Ciesnolevicz by submission round 1.

Mike opened at EVEN, and I took him there. There’s still value at -125.

Brad Blackburn (-130) vs. Edgar Garcia (+105)

This is the other intruiging fight on the undercard, with Blackburn coming off a mostly impressive win over Ryo Chonan and Garcia being white hot and undefeated. Blackburn has shown a greater variety of skills against a higher quality of opposition, but he’s also shown glaring weaknesses. He essentially ran away from Ryo Chonan for the entire third round, incapable of much else due to a completely vaporous gas tank. If he gases like that in this fight, Garcia hits a hell of a lot harder than Chonan does, and will likely take his head off. However, Blackburn has the skills to take Garcia out of his comfort zone and put more pressure on him than he’s ever dealt with before. Brad Blackburn by decision.

Melvin Guillard (+200) vs. Gleison Tibau (-240)

No mystery here. Tibau is huge, has improving boxing, and is lethal on the ground. Melvin is incredibly explosive and hits like a truck, but is a basket case and doesn’t offer much aside from athletic ability and punching power. Unless Melvin tags the fragile Tibau early and puts him away, Tibau is going to embarrass him. Gleison Tibau by submission round 1.

My Plays:
3u on Nate Diaz at +110 to win 3.3u
.2u on Ross Pearson at +165 to win .33u
2.15u on Chris Lytle at -215 to win 1u
1u on Mike Ciesnolevicz at EVEN to win 1u

What Do You Think of This Fight/Event?