The Ultimate Fighter Season 6 has finally come to an end and we now have the finalized fight card for the Ultimate Fighter Finale on Saturday night from the Palms in Las Vegas, Nevada. The featured main event is a barn burner. Clay “The Carpenter” Guida will be taking on Roger Huerta in Huerta’s first major test to begin gaining ground to reach the top of the division. In the TUF Finale matchup to win the UFC Contract, Mac Danzig will be taking on Tommy Speer. Favorite George Sotiropolous lost to Speer in the semifinal, but will have a chance to showcase his skill against a green fighter in Billy Miles. The “TUF” matchups include Jared “J-Rock” Rollins taking on John “War Machine” Koppenhaver, Richie Hightower will stand with Troy Mandaloniz, Roman Mitichyan vs. Dorian Price, Matt Arroyo vs. John Kolosci, and Ben Saunders vs. Dan Barrera. The lone dissenter to the “TUF” format is Paul Georgieff. He will take on Canadian Jonathan Goulet. It’s shaping up to be a fairly decent event, although some of the matchups look to be one-sided. Joe Schmitt and Leland Roling make their picks also for the event, let’s take a look at the card.
Main Event Matchup
Clay “The Carpenter” Guida vs. Roger “El Matador” Huerta
It’s hard for me to remain heavily unbiased in this assessment since Clay Guida is from the heart of Chicago and a die-hard Chicago Bears fan, even though our Bears are terrible this season. I will, however, seek to look thoroughly at this matchup.
Clay Guida (22-8) is the type of fighter that never quits. Highly regarded for his cardio that is often compared to a machine, Guida presses the pace and never seems to gas out during his battles. Guida is also one of the toughest UFC fighters in the Lightweight division, taking on some of the UFC’s best fight after fight. His most recent win was over Marcus Aurelio at UFC 74 by split decision in a somewhat tactical affair. He also has a fairly impressive win over Josh Thomson. He lost to Tyson Griffin and Din Thomas at previous UFC events, and has taken on the such fighters as Gilbert Melendez, Bart Palaszewski, and Tristan Yunker in the past.
Admittedly, Guida is perfectly honest in breaking down his own game. He has stated in past interviews that he doesn’t consider himself a complete fighter yet and that he still has a lot of work to do in his wrestling game and striking game. Specifically, the pre-fight interviews at his Strikeforce battle with Gilbert Melendez stating these comments. This is a good self-assessment, although he does seem to be improving in some aspects of MMA.
There is one glaring weakness that was apparent against Aurelio was Guida’s striking. Although he was very effective when dodging blows and ducking under them to explode with strikes of his own, his pre-emptive strikes on Aurelio were looping and for the most part, slow. His biggest strength has always been his aggressiveness and relentless attack. Specifically, putting his opponent to the mat and pounding him out with his strength is the best style he has.
Roger Huerta (19-1-1) is your typical UFC made cookie cutter fighter. He’s been made to beat the division, and be a darling to the media that the UFC wants to attract. He has an interesting backstory that includes being adopted. It makes for a story, but that’s not all there is to Roger Huerta.
Huerta has some impressive striking ability and a decent chin to boot. He has some fast hands and doesn’t seem to loop nearly as much as Guida has in the past. His style is mostly aggressive movement into the body and putting his opponent down with strikes and pounding on him, or trying to grab top mount on the ground. As we saw in his battle with Alberto Crane, he has very good submission defense.
There are some weaknesses to his game. Doug Evans came out at the TUF 5 Finale and nearly had Huerta early in the first round after getting his back. It is apparent that Huerta has a weakness on the ground, but he can also be caught by a premier striker because he tends to brawl. This could be seen heavily in the Leonard Garcia fight, although he won most of the exchanges.
Leland’s Prediction: Clay Guida by split decision
Huerta is a tough kid, but Guida is one of the most relentless attackers in mixed martial arts. If we see Guida simply shoot and destroy Huerta’s takedown defense, we could see Guida elbows and destruction from the top. Guida isn’t an Alberto Crane black belt on the floor, but he’s very powerful. He’s taken on some of the best and been put down by some of the best (ie. Gilbert Melendez). Impressively, he takes punishment, deals it out, never been knocked out, and has a solid defense and punishing ground and pound. I’ll give Huerta at least a round for the mere fact that he is skilled, and I believe the fight will go to decision simply based on the fact that both fighter have highly-touted cardio.
Joe’s Prediction: Clay Guida by split decision
The difference in this fight is going to be Huerta’s ability to keep the fight standing. Huerta has a carefree striking style, and doesn’t mind taking a punch or two if he can hit you three or four times. He likes to use kicks, most notably, the rarely utilized front kick. I think Huerta has a distinct striking advantage in this fight. But, let’s not count out Guida. Guida is predominantly a wrestler that has average striking…sometimes. I say sometimes because when he’s boxing from the outside, Guida throws looping overhand punches that are very ineffective. However, when he gets in the “pocket” he has the ability to unleash some nice combinations with good power. Guida’s going to look to take this fight to the ground, where I think he holds a significant advantage. Huerta’s wrestling isn’t as good as Guida’s, and at some point he will work from his back, something we haven’t seen Huerta do in some time. If you happened to catch the Alberto Crane, or Leonard Garcia fights with Huerta, you’ll know that he has great submission defense. However, Guida is going to look to ground and pound Huerta for a stoppage. I don’t think he’s going to be successful in getting the stoppage, but he will win a narrow split decision. This is going to be a back and forth battle that could go either way.
Mac Danzig vs. Tommy Speer
Mac Danzig (16-4-1) will match up against Tommy Speer (9-1) in the Ultimate Fight Night Finale of the season to win the contract with the UFC. Amazingly, Tommy Speer defeated George Sotiropolous in the last episode of the season in a surprise knockout in the second round to advance. Danzig easily defeated John Kolosci for a second time to advance to the finals. Danzig is a MMA veteran with a lot of good fights against stiff competition. He has recently lost two battles to two names that are notable in the MMA community. Danzig lost by KO to Hayato “Mach” Sakurai at PRIDE 33 and to Clay French by split decision at King of the Cage: Hard Knocks. Danzig will be looking to redeem his recent losing streak and win the UFC contract.
Tommy Speer is an up-and-coming wrestler/ground and pound fighter who was already well on his way before the show started. In fact, he had one fight in the WEC before being chosen for the show. In his last fight, he took on Sidney Silva at WEC 27 and won via knockout in the first round. Nearly all of Speer’s fights have ended by submission due to strikes or a doctor stoppage due to the wreckage he unleashed on his opponent. Strength and power is his advantage during his fights and the combination is a key reason that Speer has destroyed some of his competition
Leland’s Prediction: Mac Danzig via second round submission
Danzig has a very good well-rounded MMA skillset. He has good power, above average striking, good grappling and body control skills, and an eye for the submission. Specifically, his submission game should be the primary area that Speer will have to look out for during the fight. During the show, Speer was caught in multiple submissions that his opponent could not finish. Danzig won’t make that mistake. He will finish those holds. I predict that it may take a bit of time for Danzig to work through Speer’s power, but Danzig should be able to catch Speer in a submission. Also, I believe Danzig’s power is underrated compared to Speer. The ultimate X-factor is Danzig’s training at Xtreme Couture. He will have all the wrestlers he can handle in guys like Frank Trigg. The contract should go to Danzig, and Speer appears to be under the WEC flag, so I’m sure we’ll see more of him, probably in the UFC.
Joe’s Prediction: Tommy Speer via unanimous decision
No matter which way I look at this fight, it’s very hard for me to make a prediction. This fight is that close in my eyes. Mac definitely has the edge in experience, but he’s a natural 155lber. Tommy is a guy who cuts massive amounts of weight to make 170lbs. To me, there are only two ways for Danzig to win this fight. One scenario I see is Tommy getting caught with a good punch, or a knee on the way in, and going to sleep. This situation is unlikely to me, but I could see it happening. The other scenario, which is a very good possibility, is Danzig pulling off a submission from his back. I don’t think it’s a secret that Tommy is going to take Mac down. He knows it, Tommy knows it, and everyone watching at home knows it. So, it’s going to come down to which guy is more prepared. Tommy has some good power in his punches, and could possibly surprise Mac with his power. He also has pure brute strength, which I think will be the difference in this fight. I think the only way Tommy quits is if Mac makes him. By that I mean, snapping a limb, choking him unconscious, or knocking him out. Tommy isn’t afraid to strike with Mac, and I expect him to do so to set up his takedown. From there, he will be patient in the guard and look to work some ground and pound. I just think the strength factor will be too much for Mac to overcome. I think he’ll get frustrated and look to make something happen, giving Tommy the chance to capitalize. This is my upset pick of the year.
Jared “J-Rock” Rollins vs. John “War Machine” Koppenhaver
This is a battle of two very strong bangers from the TUF season 6. Jared Rollins (6-3) didn’t show too much during his run in the TUF house. He was portrayed as a very strong fighter who maintained an ability to put people to the ground and pound them out. Unfortunately, during his fight with George Sotiropolous during the show, he did not employ that technique and his slow striking style could not counter the quick punching from Sotiropolous.
Koppenhaver was the late replacement for Mitichyan during the first show. He waged a war with Tommy Speer, and at one point, sunk in a rear naked choke after cutting open Speer pretty badly. As all the blood spilled all over Koppenhaver, Speer began to get slippery and Koppenhaver lost the choke. Relentlessly, Speer ground and pounded “War Machine” and turned the tide of the fight. Regardless, Koppenhaver was fairly impressive early with some good strikes and his back control on Speer, a 9-1 fighter who did fight in the WEC.
Leland’s Prediction: I’m split on this one… Rollins by ground-n-pound beatdown, second round
Koppenhaver has some good power, striking isn’t bad, and he has some ground control techniques. Will J-Rock’s power be a big factor? It could be, however, J-Rock’s striking is suspect. I don’t think he will be as careful, but it’s possible Koppenhaver might be able to nullify his standup much like George did. Was J-Rock’s performance on the show just a bad day at the office? Rollins has a record of fighting tougher opponents, so I’ll go with the power of J-Rock.
Joe’s Prediction: Rollins via second round submission
Rollins comes into this fight with a significant grappling advantage. I also think we saw the absolute worst from Rollins on his stint with TUF. Rollins has good boxing, and superior grappling. Koppenhaver has some decent ground skills, but his striking isn’t great. I think the edge in this fight comes down to experience. Rollins has fought better opponents. We all saw how Koppenhaver reacted to fighting in the house; imagine what it’s going to be like live on national TV, with a large audience at ringside. Koppenhaver is going to fold under the pressure like a lawn chair.
Richie Hightower vs. Troy Mandaloniz
Most likely to be the most even matchup of the TUF contestants, both fighters were portrayed for their standup skills. Troy was the cocky guy who claimed he would cut down the tree in Paul Georgiff, and came through as stated. Richie pummeled Blake Bowman in a fairly easy win against an obviously less-experienced opponent. It should be interesting.
Hightower (7-1) has more experience in the cage than his opponent. His only loss was to Steve Cantwell by armbar, but he is currently riding a five win streak coming into the finale. He has the ability to submit people with wrestling technique, but look for Hightower to stand and trade and try to put Mandaloniz to the ground for a beating.
Mandaloniz (2-1) is fairly green in the MMA scene. He’s coming out from Hilo, Hawaii and claimed during the show to be friends with BJ Penn. It was obvious that his ground game was lacking horribly. Fortunately for Troy, he’s been matched up with a guy who may not try to test him on the ground unless he has a surprise for all of us. In three fights, Mandaloniz went to two decisions, making a case for some poor striking and poor finishing power.
Leland’s Prediction: Richie Hightower by second round KO/TKO
I was impressed with Hightower’s performance against George Sotiropolous during the show. He showed some scrambling technique and wasn’t afraid to bang with him at all. Totally fearless, and I give him some credit for standing in there with someone as dangerous on the ground as George. He also has more experience on his side, and I think his ground control tactics may be a little underated. Troy is fairly green, and I think Hightower will take advantage.
Joe’s Prediction: Richie Hightower by third round KO/TKO
This fight could steal the show. Although I didn’t personally like Hightower’s attitude on the show, he gave George Sotiropoulous a good fight. I thought he was going to get run over by ole Georgie. Mandoloniz really didn’t have any time to show his skill set on the show. He knocked out Paul “I have no stand-up defense” Georgieff very early, and was submitted by Matt Arroyo quickly in their fight. Mandoloniz is an MMA trainer, and before the show hadn’t competed professionally since September of 2006. I think he’s a little too small for welterweight, but he packs a good punch. I think this fight is going to go back and forth, with both guy having the other in trouble at some point. I think Hightower is too strong and too big for Mandoloniz and will stop him late in the fight with strikes.
Dorian Price vs. Roman Mitichyan
Price (7-2) has a Muay Thai striking background and Team Gurgel’s camp behind him. Despite being mainly a standup fighter, he has most of his wins via submission due to strikes or chokes. Mitichyan (3-1) is the fighter who was unable to compete on the show due to an elbow injury during the first episode. He is now back for the finale and being given the task of defeating the striker in Price who has a significant choke game on the ground. It’s submission fighter vs. striker with decent ground tactics.
Leland’s Prediction: Roman Mitichyan via first round submission
I believe Roman will have a good chance to shine at the Finale. He didn’t get a fight, nor did he get exposure on the show. He was portrayed as “nuts”, but in a manner that provided insight into what a fighter goes through into getting on the show and the crushing reality that they will be unable to compete on the show. His submission game has proven to be good enough to garner some wins, and he’s primarily a submission figher that will cause problems for Dorian’s lengthiness. My only gripe is that Roman just recently came back into MMA, it will be interesting to see how far his grappling has come.
Joe’s Prediction: Roman Mitichyan via first round submission
Maybe Dorian forgot…maybe he never saw the footage…yeah….that footage. What am I talking about? I’m talking about Roman Mitichyan basically telling a doctor he was full of crap and then going to beg and plead to Dana White and Matt Serra that he could fight. It was a creepy, awkward, and somewhat scary meltdown. The fact of the matter is, Roman wants to prove himself and Dorian will be that chance. Mitichyan is a submission fighter and will best be served to take this fight to the ground as quick as possible. Dorian Price is a Muay Thai fighter with 6 wins coming by way of submission. Wait, didn’t I just say that Roman better get this fight to the ground? Yep, sure did. Dorian holds submission victories over a lot of lesser opponents, and uses his long legs to work the triangle choke. That won’t work against Mitichyan. Roman should come out and throw a few strikes to get Price thinking. He should stay away and wait for price to over commit to something. When Price makes his mistake, Mitichyan should look to push him against the cage and work for a takedown. Price has great standup, and can definitely knock Roman out, but I think Roman will be a man possessed in the cage on Saturday night. He has a lot to prove. This fight won’t last long either way it goes.
George Sotiropoulos vs. Billy Miles
Knucklepit.com (Source)George Sotiropoulos (7-2) was a clear favorite to make it to the finals during the show, but was stopped by Tommy Speer in the semifinal, suffering his first knockout at the hands of Speer. Regardless, Sotiropoulos is one of the best Australian mixed martial artists in the game. Kyle Noke has recently been featured in ShoXC as being one of the better Aussie-born fighters, but Sotiropoulos has a recent decision win over Noke back in February of 2006. Sotiropoulos also has some experience on larger stages. He took on Shinya Aoki at a Shooto event in October of last year in which he was disqualified for a groin kick. He also took on Jung Hwan Cha in Spirit MC in April of this year and won via armbar. He has some experience with higher level competition, a solid ground game, and a tactical style that allows him to last in the cage.
Miles (2-1) is fairly green as a mixed martial arts fighter. In his most recent fight, he took on Matt Horwich back in September of 2004 and lost via RNC in the second round. Since that fight, he hasn’t fought for nearly 3 years. During the show, Miles got caught in a guillotine choke while in John Kolosci’s guard and tapped. This was one of his first fights since 2004, but Miles claims in an interview with MMAJunkie.com that he has been training on and off while maintaining a prison job. Either way, it’s hard to pick Miles in this instance.
Leland’s Prediction: George Sotiropoulos via first round submission
I believe George is by far a much better fighter than Miles. Miles has had a long layoff, although he claims now that he is training multiple days a week and watching tape to improve his techniques. Regardless, Sotiropolous is a much more experienced fighter with a game that is fairly tactical and good submissions to support his style. I don’t think Miles will be able to defend against the ground game of Sotiropolous.
Joe’s Prediction: George Sotiropoulos via first round submission
It’s obvious to most fans that this fight is a “we’re sorry you got knocked out George, here’s an easy fight.” While I don’t think it’s an easy fight for George, I don’t think it’s a significant challenge either. It isn’t going to show us anything we didn’t already know about him. Miles looked terrible in his only fight in TUF. He worked for a takedown against John Kolosci and got caught in one of the slowest guillotine chokes ever. He is a big guy for 170lbs, and should look to use his size advantage on George. He has a wrestling background, so he will be looking to get the fight to the ground very early. The problem is, George is a good grappler, and should easily submit Miles.
Jonathan Goulet vs. Paul Georgieff
The only “TUF” contestant that has drawn a MMA veteran in Jonathan Goulet (20-9) is Paul Georgieff (5-1). Georgieff is most notable for having a death in the family during the show, and then being required to fight before he left for the funeral. He was dropped by Tony Mandaloniz in their battle. Georgieff is mainly a submission fighter and has success due to hit height advantage against most fighters. During the show, his standup striking was definitely a problem and his defense of strikes wasn’t the greatest. This should be a very tough battle for Paul.
Goulet is a French-Canadian MMA fighter who has recently been on the chopping block with the UFC. He has been in and out of the promotion, and had some losses to Josh Koscheck and Duane Ludwig in past UFC events. His most recent loss in the UFC was against Dustin Hazelett, who completely dominated Goulet. He recently defeated Dan Chambers at Xtreme MMA 2 on November 24th. Goulet is primarily a striker with ground and pound and some decent wrestling to sink in the chokes. We should see two different styles, but I will make a bold prediction… for the overdog Goulet.
Leland’s Prediction: Jonathan Goulet via first round TKO
I think Goulet is looking to be impressive and prove his worth. Although he has had some debilitatingly bad performances in the past, I believe he will be coming out to destroy the greener fighter in Georgieff. My only problem is that Goulet is very susceptible to slicker ju-jitsu work. Hazelett put a clinic on Goulet, and Goulet also lost to Jason Day on a UCW card via armbar recently. Regardless, I think Goulet wins this early.
Joe’s Prediction: Jonathan Goulet via first round TKO
My question is: What did Paul Georgieff do to the UFC to deserve a fight like this? Goulet is an experienced fighter and has appeared in the cage multiple times. He seems to go through ups and downs in the Octagon, but he use this fight to prove he deserves to be in the UFC. Goulet has some decent striking ability and possesses some pretty decent power. The downside to him is that he can be caught in a submission. I just think he’s too experienced and too good for Georgieff. Georgieff will be in trouble anywhere this fight goes. His only hope to win this fight is by some miracle submission. Goulet will completely outclass Georgieff.
Ben Saunders vs. Dan Barrera
Ben Saunders (4-0-2) was one of the more impressive competitors on the Ultimate Fighter. He defeated Barrera in the preliminary bout, but was later defeated by a very strong Tommy Speer. Saunders actually had Speer in a full armbar, and Speer was able to escape it. Saunders has some length and a good grappling background. Barrera, on the other hand, only has 1 MMA fight to his credit according to the UFC website. He has a wrestling background and a military boxing background as well. He is obviously fairly powerful, but his ground game seems to be non-existent at times.
Leland’s Prediction: Ben Saunders by first round submission
Barrera’s lack of experience and standup style seem to go hand in hand with the style that Saunders is accustomed to defeating. Saunders should be able to take Barrera down early and put the clamp on him to defeat him. Saunders has also obtained a camp with American Top Team with some of the best fighters in the world helping him train. I look for an easy win by an improving Ben Saunders.
Joe’s Prediction: Ben Saunders by unanimous decision
This was one of my favorite fights on this season of TUF. Saunders got dropped early with a huge overhand right, but he battled back to win a controversial decision. I felt the fight needed a third round, and it’s good for the UFC to pull this fight off. I think we’re going to see a completely different Dan Barrera. The man is a maniac in the training room, and in my eyes, it looked like he was over trained for the fight against Saunders. Saunders has average skills all-around. He displayed his grappling prowess against Tommy Speer, and he showed decent stand up against Dan Barrera. Barrera’s best bet for this fight will be to keep it standing. He has good boxing, and a fair amount of power. He will need to keep his hands high, and continue to work his jab. If he uses his feints well, he can keep Saunders guessing and look to bull rush him with strikes. Saunders will want this fight to go to the ground at some point. He has some decent submission skills, and against the unproven Barrera, that could pay dividends. I think Barrera will be in this fight at the beginning, but Saunders will rally late and pull off a decision victory.
Matt Arroyo vs. John Kolosci
This fight could be an upset win for Kolosci. Arroyo (2-1) was fairly impressive on the show, disposing of Dorian Price and Troy Mandaloniz in easy fashion on the ground with slick ju-jitsu skills. Although both his opponents has next to no ground game, Arroyo is still favored to win a matchup with John Kolosci, who also seems to have a small amount of ground skills. Kolosci, however, does have a bit more power and at least some decent wrestling ability.
Kolosci (8-4) was the only fighter in the house that stepped up to take on Mac Danzig when Arroyo had to give up his dream after a rib injury. Kolosci was unimpressive in his first fight against Danzig, being beaten to a pulp and submitted fairly easily by Danzig. In the second fight, Kolosci once again submitted to the rear naked choke, but managed to last a bit longer in the fight. Danzig showed a weakness in Kolosci’s ground game, and it could be the glaring weakness that Arroyo will take advantage of when they clash at the Finale.
Leland’s Prediction: Matt Arroyo via a late second/third round submission
I believe Kolosci will be a bit tougher for Arroyo than most people think. He has a slightly better ground base than the opponents Arroyo faced in the show. Arroyo, however, has a very good ju-jitsu ground game. He should be able to catch Kolosci in some sort of hold, but I think it will take much longer than one round. Look for a submission in the second round most likely from Arroyo, but I would be surprised if Kolosci puts Arroyo out. He is powerful and has some wrestling abilities that could be problems for Arroyo.
Joe’s Prediction: Matt Arroyo via second round submission
Arroyo has something to prove in this fight, and that spells bad news for Kolosci. Arroyo left the show early when he walked out of a semifinal match with Mac Danzig. Arroyo is going to look to prove to himself and the fans that he is a good fighter, and that his injury was legit. Arroyo is an above average grappler, and he seems very fight smart. He showed great patience in the Mandoloniz fight by throwing some strikes to set up his takedown. Mandoloniz knew it was coming, but couldn’t defend it. There will be some pressure on Arroyo, but he should be able to handle Kolosci’s game. Kolosci will look to work his wrestling game to get Arroyo down. From there, he’s going to want to ground and pound his way to a victory. I think Kolosci should look to use his hands, and if that works, he should stick with it. The smaller the amount of time on the mat, the less chance Arroyo has of beating Kolosci. I think Kolosci will get desperate at one point and shoot for a telegraphed takedown. Look for Arroyo to capitalize on a mistake from Kolosci. Arroyo has been training extensively with Serra, and I think we’ll see an excellent display of jiu-jitsu from him.
It looks to be a fantastic night of fights coming up at the Ultimate Fighter Finale 6. The headliner itself is enough for me to want to watch this event, Guida vs. Huerta should be one of the more exciting battles if both fighters show up wanting to destroy each other. I imagine we may see more of a paced fight however. With the K-1 Grand Prix in the wee morning hours for die-hards, the TUF Finale, Hatton vs. Mayweather, and Ring of Fire from the Phillipines all packed into a 1-2 day span, it’ll be a major weekend for combative sports that you won’t want to miss.
Leland Roling is the editor-in-chief of MMA-Analyst.com and Joe Schmit is a continuting write at MMA-Analyst.com