When we last left our heroes...Iaquinta has turned into what you'd expect out of any fighter coming from TUF that lost in the finals; a serviceable dude that abides. He won't wow you with his athleticism. But he'll pick up wins because the guys that get signed to UFC contracts these days are sometimes as good as the fighters who lose on the show, leaving only the memory of their drunken fratboy antics behind.
He's also coming off a solid win over Ryan Couture. Opposite Iaquinta will be Piotr "Pletwal" (which means ‘whale' in Polish, identifying how the Polish are only slightly more creative than Americans when it comes to nicknames)Hallmann. Hallmann took a pretty solid win over Francisco Trinaldo at UFC Fight Night 28 in September.
What both men can do: Al has a reputation of being a solid boxer with good power, and a sturdy wrestling base. He's a wrestle-boxer that prefers the boxing portion of said profile. His right hand is particularly something to look out for, and he has enough to threaten the very underrated Myles Jury en route to a decision victory on the show.
Hallmann is more of an unknown. His striking is aggressive insofar as he likes to charge in, but his real strength lies in what he's able to do when he gains top control. He's an absolute monster with his ground and pound. But he's not wreckless with it. In fact he does an expert job at making sure he's in a good position to rain down right and left hands.
What both men can't do: The problem with Hallmann is that he's still raw on the feet. While he has relatively quick and somewhat powerful hands, he still charges in because he likes looking for the takedown. This can be incredibly predictable for a smart opponent.
In a way this is the perfect fight for both men to deal with each other's flaws. If Hallmann gets it to the ground, he has the strength to keep Iaquinta down, which could potentially lead to a submission; Al's only legitimate flaw.
X-Factor: How Iaquinta handles Hallmann's work on the ground. If he can keep the fight standing, it's his fight to lose. If he can't, it's Hallmann's fight to lose. I personally like Hallmann in this one. I think he'll spend too much time in the clinch for his power to be a real factor. So...
When we last left our heroes...Barnatt made a name for himself on TUF by having a brutal war with Dylan Andrews. Outside of that there's not much known about Barnatt as he's led a very brief career. Before getting on TUF he was a 5-0 British prospect.
Craig will be a very tough opponent for the young upstart. While Craig only has four more fights than Barnatt, he's the much more experienced, with wins over Rafael Natal (in a very weird bout), Kyle Noke, and Chris Leben.
What both men can do: Craig is a solid fighter who fights in the spirit of the Alpha Male camp. He throws wild, but clean strikes, and transitions well into heavy double legs. It also helps that he's always active, and keeps his hands on his opponent. Everytime Noke shot in for a double, Craig would hammer him on the side of the head. In addition, he has solid kicks and knees.
At 6'6 Barnatt will always be tricky for opponents to deal with. With his reach (an advantage he barely has against Craig, oddly enough) he does a good job maintaining distance, and landing combinations on his opponents. He has solid kicks from the right side, and is agile in the clinch, able to score trip takedowns for what has turned into a solid ground game, especially with regard to his back control.
What both men can't do: For Barnatt the problem is that he does what a lot of tall fighters do when it comes to striking defense; leans back hoping his height will take care of the rest of his defense. This obviously got him in trouble on the show when he lost to Andrews (his only loss thus far).
His lack of power might be considered problematic as well. Craig's real problem is dealing with someone that can put him on his back. Unfortunately Barnatt needs the clinch to score real takedowns, and I feel like Craig will just plain outmuscle him there. I think Barnatt has room for improvement. But this is just too stiff a test for him. Craig will be able to land punches with his quickness, and Luke isn't fast enough to avoid Craig's inevitable onslaught. He'll need this fight on the ground, and Craig will fend off his takedowns comfortably.
X-Factor: Fighters can fear things they don't need to. If Craig feels threatened by Luke's height, he might try to win by shooting for takedowns, in which case, Barnatt's ground game might be a factor. While I don't think Barnatt is the better grappler per se, lanky fighters are always a chore in this regard.
When we last left our heroes...Sexton is the perfect example of how women far more interesting stories than the men in MMA. With a PhD in Theoretical Computer Science with an emphasis on pointfree topology (yea I had to wiki that too and I still don't know what it means), she's decided to focus full time on MMA. She's coming off a tough loss to Alexis Davis.
Opposite Sexton is Jessica Andrade who made her UFC debut against Liz Carmouche in what ended up being a solid effort despite losing in the 2nd round. How do the two submission specialists stack up?
What both women can do: One of the things we got to see against Carmouche was just how capable Andrade is despite her size when it comes to grappling. She basically pulled a fireman's carry against the tank-built Carmouche, and had several very good guillotine opportunities. This is the game Andrade brings to the table; intense grappling prowess, and an iron will.
Sexton is basically the same fighter, but older and better at math. If you want to see what Sexton brings to the table, watch her brilliant ground war with Aisling Daly of June last year. She is incredible in the transitions and has a real knack for positioning herself into side control.
What both women can't do: The problem with both fighters is that they just aren't that good on the feet. Sexton, as we saw against Carano and Gurgel, comes in with her hands over her face hoping that'll be enough against heavy punchers. Andrade's problem is that she's a one punch at a time swinger.
Despite that, I feel like Andrade has the edge here. She will have the edge on the feet and while I don't necessarily think she's the better grappler, I think when it comes to grappling, all things being equal, the edge goes to the stronger of the two. I see her grinding out a decision in a very awesome, very back and forth ground war that will see both women threatened by submissions.
X-Factor: Judges still don't know how to correctly tally a punch, and some openly dismiss leg kicks. I could see this one being controversial.
Prediction: Jessica Andrade by Split Decision.