Friday night, FX airs the main card of the UFC Ultimate Fighter Live Finale. Featuring five fights, the main card is headlined by Jake Ellenberger vs. Martin Kampmann, along with Al Iaquinta vs. Michael Chiesa in the TUF finals. Other main card fights include Charles Oliveira vs. Jonathan Brookins and Max Holloway vs. Pat Schilling. The FX show begins at 9:00 p.m. ET / 6:00 p.m. ET, with a prelim show airing on Fuel TV 2 hours earlier.
Opening the FX show will be a featured fight from the Ultimate Fighter Live cast as Justin Lawrence faces John Cofer. Here, we preview that fight, along with my prediction. Check back tomorrow for the rest of the card as I will handle preview duties for the TUF portions, with Dallas providing his always great Dissections for the rest.
Justin Lawrence (3-0) vs. John Cofer (7-1)
When a fight between two eliminated TUF contestants is chosen for the main show, it's often to highlight one of the fighters. Here, that's Lawrence. Picked first overall in the season by coach Dominick Cruz, Lawrence was an early favorite, winning his first two fights impressively, including a round 2 KO of Cristiano Marcello to make the quarter-finals. There, he was upset by eventual finalist Michael Chiesa in the 3rd round. Cofer was more of a middle of the pack contestant who didn't really stand out before being eliminated by Vinc Pichel in the opening round.
As a professional, Lawrence doesn't have much experience, going just 3-0 in his career. He hasn't faced any notable opponents, though he did make his debut on the undercard of a Strikeforce show. Lawrence also claims a gaudy 150-0 amateur record, though obviously that's undocumented (and, frankly, a bit suspect). He's primarily a stand-up fighter who uses a Tae Kwon Do background to aggressively outstrike his opponents. In particular, Lawrence mixes in a lot of unorthodox kicks, which he often throws from a side stance. He's very active and is a definite finisher who likes to jump on a hurt opponent and take him out. He's also happy to engage on the ground in order to get the finish.
Against Marcello, Lawrence looked fantastic. He fought a patient game, slowly outstriking his veteran opponent and setting him up for the KO. That KO came with a beautiful hybrid MMA/TKD technique. Lawrence attacked with the side of his hand, using what would be called a ridge hand strike in Tae Kwon Do. But he combined that hand positioning with the swing of an MMA style hook. It was a great shot that showed how blending two styles together can work wonderfully.
Against Chiesa, he was not nearly as impressive. In that fight, Lawrence showed very poor fight IQ. Chiesa is a superb wrestler, but a bad striker, so the path for a Lawrence was clear - keep it standing. Instead, Lawrence repeatedly threw kicks, allowing Chiesa to catch them and take him down. There, Lawrence was willing to engage on the ground in an area where Chiesa was superior. When he couldn't get the finish and the fight went into round 3, Chiesa dug deep while Lawrence seemingly gave up. He didn't come out ready to fight in round 3 and was quickly taken down and pounded out. Time will tell if that was a momentary arrogance or lapse of judgement based on the pressures of TUF, or if this is a permanent flaw in Lawrence's game.
Continued in the full entry.
John Cofer most distinguished himself by being a Southern folk potter in his spare time. Meaning he makes pottery. Which, in all honesty, I find pretty awesome. He trains with Rory Singer at the Hardcore Gym, and before the show, I characterized him as more of a wrestler. He has good smothering control on the ground, and used that control to defeat Mark Glover in the qualifying round. On the feet, Cofer is a southpaw who keeps his hands very wide and as a result tends to get hit straight up the middle.
In his fight against Pichel, he showed much improved stand-up. His defense was tighter, and he did a better job than Pichel at finding the holes in the defense and connecting. On the feet, I thought Pichel would easily take him, but it was surprisingly competitive until Pichel turned up the heat in the 3rd round and got the win.
Lawrence is the obvious favorite here, but like Chiesa before him, Cofer has the tools to defeat the young fighter. Lawrence struggles against wrestlers, and does not respond well to being pushed. That said, Cofer is not the wrestler Chiesa is, nor is he as singularly focused on the takedown. I think Lawrence will find his way through those open hands and get the win that he is set up for here, but this is a fight definitely primed for an upset.
My Prediction: Justin Lawrence by KO, round 2