The UFC is closing out November with the season 18 finale of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rousey vs. Team Tate. Headlining the show is TUF 5 alums and lightweight contenders Nate Diaz and Gray Maynard, both coming off shock knockout losses a month apart earlier this spring. But before those two square off once again, there's the matter of two TUF finals plus a couple of women's bantamweights from TUF 18 making their UFC debut.
Unlike past TUF Finales where there are at least 2 non-TUF related fights on the main card, this one has just the main event with everything else dedicated to this show's season. Here's a quick rundown of all of the main card fights preceding Diaz/Maynard. You can watch all of these fights live on Fox Sports 1 from the Mandalay Bay Events Center at 10 PM ET/7 PM PT.
Miesha Tate chose Pena as her top pick on the show, and it paid off brilliantly. "The Venezuelan Vixen" was pitted against WMMA veteran Shayna Baszler, and after dropping the first round, she dominated Baszler in the 2nd, took her back, flattened her out, and sunk in a rear-naked choke for what was considered an upset win given Baszler's experience. The 24-year-old Pena's semifinal fight against Sarah Moras was a very convincing showing, with Pena able to bloody up Moras with hard strikes before sinking in a guillotine choke in the 2nd round to advance to tonight's final.
Rakoczy is a 36-year-old Canadian with an extensive and successful pro boxing background. She held both the WBC super bantamweight title as well as the WBA lightweight title and has an overall record of 33-3-1 NC (12 KOs). Her pro MMA record may stand a meager 1-3, but on TUF she was able to take advantage of a tired Roxanne Modafferi in the quarterfinals and knock her out with a slam and strikes. In the semifinals she was able to use her superior boxing skills to beat Raquel Pennington en route to a showdown with Pena for the TUF crown.
Holdsworth was one of the favorites to win the tournament and is in prime position to do just that. He has won all three of his TUF fights by 1st round submission, including a rear-naked choke stoppage of Team Rousey's Michael Wooten in the semifinals. He's been superb thus far and counting his professional wins, he's won all 8 of his fights by submission. His aggressive ground game should make for a very entertaining finale.
In a season where two fighters on the men's side missed weight, David Grant benefited from his opponent failing to make the 135 lbs limit. The Brit was supposed to fight Anthony Gutierrez, who advanced to the semis via Cody Bollinger missing weight, but Gutierrez weighed in at 140 lbs and Grant made to the finals by default. Grant did actually fight on the show, submitting Danny Martinez to get into the TUF house and choking out Louis Fisette to move to the semifinals.
This is a battle of really tall bantamweights. Duke is 5'11" but Morgan is even taller at 6'1"! Duke submitted Laura Howarth to qualify for the TUF house, and ended up on Team Rousey. Duke fell short against Raquel Pennington in a great fight, but definitely made a convincing case for a "Fight of the Season" bonus. Duke's entire 3 fight pro career took place under Invicta, with her first two fights ending in wins before a KO loss to Miriam Nakamoto was overturned to a no contest when it was deemed that Nakamoto "illegally kneed her while she was downed".
Morgan is probably better suited for featherweight, but women's 145 is neither in the UFC nor worth adding to the fold any time soon. She ran through Beth Marshall to get into the house, but Sarah Moras shut the door on any hopes of her winning the competition after taking her down and locking in a fight-ending armbar in the opening round. Peggy's pro career is obviously just as short as Duke's, with her most recent win coming at 145 lbs against Revelina Berto in Florida.
Roxanne Modafferi (15-10 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. Raquel Pennington (3-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) - Women's Bantamweights
Modafferi is far and away one of the pioneers of women's MMA, and has more fights to her name than the combined total of all of the other women competing on tonight's show. Time has seemingly passed her by unfortunately, and she enters the UFC having lost her last 5. Modafferi was bounced in the TUF quarterfinals when she faded against Jessica Rakoczy and was TKOed in the 2nd round. While not a dangerous submission fighter, Modafferi possesses a very formidable ground game predicated on her top control, and she'll need that against Pennington, who is definitely the better striker.
As mentioned above, Pennington will probably get a "Fight of the Season" bonus for her war with Jessamyn Duke, which she was able to win via unanimous decision in a sudden victory 3rd round. The run for Pennington came to an end at the hands of Rakoczy, who used her boxing effectively to eliminated Pennington from the competition. Pennington went 1-2 in Invicta but lost to some stiff competition in Cat ZIngano and Leslie Smith. Her lone win in the organization came via decision against fellow TUFer Sarah Moras.