TUF 18 Finale: Julianna Pena vs. Jessica Rakoczy preview and the prognostication

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighitng

Julianna Pena faces off against Jessica Rakoczy in the TUF 18 finale to prove she's the favorite for a reason. Will Jessica be able to spoil Julianna's journey to make it a sweep for Team Tate if Chris Holdsworth wins too?

Julianna Pena (4-2) vs. Jessica Rakoczy (1-3-1 NC) Women's Bantamweight

When we last left our heroes...In the past, the criticism towards the female fighters is that the division isn't deep enough. Critics told Dana it was a bad idea to create a female division for the UFC for basically one fighter; in this case, Ronda Rousey. If Rousey loses, who picks up the torch? Can enough interesting fights be made?

TUF has not done a good job of making its case against the critics. I'm not saying these women don't deserve to be finalists. Only that I don't think this is the best fight that could have been made with the competition on hand to start the show. However, it's important to keep in mind that the same could be said of the men after the first few seasons. I do look forward to future seasons involving the female division, hopefully with a show dedicated to women instead of the split for season 18.

First off, I should point out that I think Pena is a good fighter, and the above paragraph is directed at her opponent more than anything. Three of her official wins come by way of submission, and one of her official losses was to Sarah Moras, which she avenged on the show in thorough fashion.

Rakoczy's record is a bit misleading because she proven that she's better than her 1-3 record indicates. After all, her three losses were to Felice Herring, Zoila Gurgel, and Michelle Ould; all solid fighters.

And on the show she took out Revelina Berto, Raquel Pennington, and Roxanne Modafferi; three fighters I might have picked to beat her on any other day. Will she be able to defy expectations once again?

What both women can do: Pena did a really good job on the show of just overwhelming her opponents, including Shayna Baszler, which was a bit shocking. She loves to move forward with a strong one two, that while a little uncoordinated (her straight right is all arm, and always seems to fall an inch short of missing the target the first time she throws it), is nonetheless very effective.

She's an adept grappler, but she excels at throwing punishing strikes in top control. As for Rakoczy, it's hard to define her assets. She has a very active, efficient kicking game, and is able to commit to a jab when she needs to. On the ground I would call her 'defensively responsible', and would leave it at that.

What both women can't do: It was a minor miracle to see Rakoczy even finish her fight with Berto, who had Jessica in all kinds of trouble in the first round as submission after submission was chained on her. It's nice to know she's capable of overcoming that kind of adversity, but it's an asset that makes for the proverbial double edged sword.

Pena should dominate this bout. Jessica is tough, and that toughness may take her farther than the first round, but Pena's aggression will be the difference maker. Julianna will have trouble when she runs into a fighter with a good left hook and solid takedown defense, but Jessica ain't it.

X-Factor: None. This is not a fight that will go to a judge's decision, though a Kevin Randleman falling backstage ending in a self knockout is always a possibility.

In-Fight Soundtrack: Die by the Drop.

Prediction: Julianna Pena by TKO, round 1.

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