History will be made when the first ever all-female Ultimate Fighter comes to an explosive end tomorrow night at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. Despite a lot of critical points of view towards women’s MMA, their first season of The Ultimate Fighter proved to be one of the best seasons yet. We saw a lot of talent in the house, and furthermore we saw the future of the new women’s strawweight division in the UFC. The fight card is bound for fireworks as it contains lots of entertaining match-ups, many of which could be candidates for the event’s “Fight of the Night” bonus. Here are my predictions on what bouts have the potential to earn this award:
Bec Rawlings vs. Heather Jo Clark
A lot of the fights on this card feature one fighter who is the physically stronger fighter and the better wrestler taking on someone with better striking and dangerous submissions off of his or her back; this is one of the rare cases that doesn’t fit that profile. Neither Bec Rawlings nor Heather Clark are known for their wrestling games, and both like to look for submissions on the ground. I’m expecting a lot of fast-paced ground exchanges and momentum swings when the fight hits the mat. I say ‘when’ the fight hits the mat because both Rawlings and Clark don’t have the greatest stand-up skills. Rawlings tends to get a little sloppy and gets sucked into brawls even when she has a good kicking game. Clark on the other hand has a bit tighter combinations, but still is pretty green on the feet. This means both fighters are going to look for takedowns, and both fighters will be really trying to catch each other off guard. This could be an exciting grappling contest.
Joanne Calderwood vs. Seo Hee Ham
Where I think Rawlings/Clark will be a technical war on the mat, I think Calderwood and Ham will put on a technical clinic on the feet. These two fighters are probably the strongest strikers out of all the females on the card, and I’m so glad that they’re matched up against each other. Calderwood presents a very Thai based striking style with lots of kicks, and always looks to tie up and do damage in the clinch. Ham, who wasn’t on the The Ultimate Fighter but is filling in for Justine Kish, is a heavy-handed kickboxer who is known for bringing heat on the feet. Even though Ham holds some good wins by submission and is known for being pretty skilled on the mat, she is going to have a hard time cutting through Calderwood’s reach and dealing with her size. This means Ham is going to have to be real aggressive, and Calderwood is going to have to focus on her counter striking. This could be a back-and-forth war between two of the most skilled female strikers on the strawweight roster.
Joe Proctor vs. Yancy Medeiros
Both Proctor and Medeiros have made names for themselves as being entertaining and exciting lightweight prospects. Medeiros holds the physical edge as he is a lot more explosive in nature, which is going to really make for some fast-paced exchanges on the feet, but also on the ground. Proctor is a crafty guy who has tight stand up while Medeiros is a bit looser, but more powerful. These two styles clashing together is the right formula for an explosive contest. Both never back down from a fight, and both can finish the fight anywhere. This is by far my top pick for fight of the night, the only thing that could hinder that is if this fight gets finished quickly.
Rose Namajunas vs. Carla Esparza
A lot of people are referring to this fight as the female version of Anthony Pettis vs. Gilbert Melendez. Namajunas resembles Pettis in many ways with her diverse kicking attacks, but also in her extremely dangerous submission game (which was ironically how Pettis defeated Melendez). Esparza on the other hand resembles Melendez because she is aggressive, brings lots of heat with her stand up, and has a dominating top game that she will definitely look to use against Rose. On the feet I think this fight is going to be a barn-burner. Namajunas tends to get a little wild and crazy, but Esparza isn’t one to back down from a fire fight. With that said, both of these women are going to look to use their best tools on the ground. Esparza has good ground and pound, control, and can also threaten with submissions, whereas Namajunas is going to look to put her guard game on full display. Expect both fighters to be trying to inflict lots of offense, whether by striking or grappling, wherever the fight goes. This is going to be a war.