In the lone light heavyweight bout on The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale main card, TUF season eight alumnus Kyle Kingsbury (10-2-0-1) will square off against dangerous Brazilian professional boxer turned mixed martial artist Fabio Maldonado (18-3). Kingsbury enters this contest riding a three-fight win streak that includes victories over Jared Hamman, Razaak Al-Hassan, and a 21-second drubbing of New England-based wrestler Ricardo Romero. Maldonado has the slightly more impressive streak of eleven straight wins with his most recent victory coming in his debut at UFC 120 in a highly-entertaining scrap with The Ultimate Fighter season ten contestant James McSweeney.
The bout was a showcase that highlighted exactly what Maldonado brings to the table. A granite chin, an iron will, and above average boxing skill-set. As a professional boxer, Maldonado was considered a rising prospect, amassing a 22-0-0 record with 21 knockouts. The strength of competition wasn't the highest, but it's difficult to dismiss the fact that Maldonado was able to cripple 21 out of 22 of his opponents, mostly in the first round. As evident in the McSweeney fight, Maldonado has a propensity to mix up his combinations, utilizing the success that body shots can have when masked properly in an attack.
Maldonado will have his hands full, either in a showcase of his offensive boxing skills or defending against Kyle Kingsbury's brand of fighting. The 29-year-old "Kingsbu", as he's nicknamed, has an offensive arsenal that features solid wrestling ability coupled with a Muay Thai foundation on the feet. His most recent victory over Ricardo Romero highlighted the improvements in his stand-up game, devastating Romero in the early moments of the round with knees in the clinch.
Maldonado's dangerous striking ability and knockout power make this an incredibly easy contest to predict. Kingsbury would be crazy to try to go toe-to-toe with Maldonado, unless he intends to use his height advantage and build to manhandle Maldonado into the clinch. I don't see that as being a simple task, especially if Maldonado utilizes better footwork and quick counters to Kingsbury's rushes.
The best option for Kingsbury is to hit the mat and hit it often, putting Maldonado on his back as frequently as possible. Kingsbury isn't the most accomplished wrestler, and he's had problems toppling more stand-up focused fighters in the past who haven't historically proven to have great takedown defense. Maldonado may fit the striker mold, but he's a cagey veteran with enough know-how to get back to his feet and sling the meathooks.
I think this could be a fight in which Kingsbury surprises fans with improvements in his game. I'm not convinced, however, that he has the wrestling game to smother Maldonado. Maldonado's granite chin, boxing experience, and decent conditioning will wear on Kingsbury. Even if Kingsbury can win the opening frame impressively, we've see what Maldonado can do when he settles in and implements a boxing-centric gameplan. Look for Maldonado to go the body, sizzling rib roasting blasts into the midsection of Kingsbury, wearing him down as the fight drags on. By the late second or third round, Kingsbury should be weary and tired, allowing Maldonado to finish him off.