There was a lot to learn from this event, which is proof positive that even the worst shows provide a lot of information on the fighters involved. Nate Diaz was resurgent, Maynard was faded. TUF people did TUF things. And, most importantly, through the majesty of DVR (and unavoidable social plans) I was able to fast forward through all the between fight twaddle.
So journey with me now, back, back into the past for an examination not of things to come, but those that were. Here is the Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale in hindsight. And, of course, I can't forget my disclaimer: that I once put a nickel in a slot machine in Windsor, Canada and have regretted it ever since. So if you're looking for betting tips, read on! (for god's sake don't leave) But be forewarned that I gamble with all the shrewdness of a possum on the interstate.
Hindsight: Ryan Benoit vs. Josh Sampo (I picked Sampo, I was right)
- Sampo has an extremely decent and diverse skillset, but I'm not altogether sure that he has the raw athleticism to be competative with the top five of the division.
- Ryan Benoit is a quality prospect, but very much a prospect relying on physical gifts instead of mastered techniques.
- Striking defense in MMA is probably one of the most difficult skills to master, and it made a big difference for Sampo in this fight.
Hindsight: Drew Dober vs. Sean Spencer (I picked Spencer, I was right)
- Spencer is gaining the necessary confidence to carve out a niche as a Bisping-esque point fighter.
- I don't know that a drop in weight will help Dober. Low powered mechanical kickboxing doesn't tend to get more effective at lower weights.
- Spencer really is a low power striker. If he wants to get TKO's at the highest level he'll need to work on being more accurate.
Hindsight: Walt Harris vs. Jared Rosholt (I picked Rosholt, I was right)
- It's miserable to continually see heavyweights lose fights to poor conditioning. Harris has no one to blame but himself for this loss.
- Harris trains his striking under Jeff Mayweather, and I couldn't help but see shades of King Mo in his complete willingness to under-perform and wait on his opponent.
- Rosholt exhibited the exact amounts of "hittability" and stagnancy on the ground that make it hard to get excited about him as a prospect.
Hindsight: Tom Niinimaki vs. Rani Yahya (I Picked Yahya, I was wrong)
- Niinimaki just proved that he's among the top 20 featherweights in the world and that he should have been in the UFC a lot, lot sooner.
- Yahya is a maddening fighter to root for, and, for all his skill, he's way too beatable even in his own strengths.
- Featherweight seems to be a division stacked with specialists. I will be interested to see how Niinimaki stacks up with some of the better wrestlers and strikers in the division and how reliant on his excellent grappling he is.
Hindsight: Maximo Blanco vs. Akira Corassani (I picked Corassani, I was right)
- Despite the DQ I feel pretty good about this pick. I essentially picked against Blanco because he's incapable of fighting smart, and that's exactly why he lost.
- This is very close to a mirror image of the Pearson, Guillard fight. If there's a rematch I don't see the point as it was pretty obviously one sided for as long as it lasted.
- Blanco is perhaps not as big a waste of raw talent as Dave Herman, but damn if he doesn't feel close.
Hindsight: Roxanne Modafferi vs. Raquel Pennington (I picked Pennington, I was right)
- This fight was a prime example of how far WMMA has come and how far it still needs to go. Pennington did not look good, but she cruised past the old guard in Modafferi.
- Modafferi needs to be done fighting. She's made camp changes, in fact she's changed her whole life to focus more on fighting, and it's not helping at all.
- Even being "not that invested in Roxanne Modafferi" this fight was depressing. It was depressing to see how overmatched Modafferi looked and how under-skilled Pennington looked. It was like watching Derek Brunson vs. Chris Leben all over again (which we already got in Leben vs. Craig).
Hindsight: Jessamyn Duke vs. Peggy Morgan (I picked Duke, I was right)
- Duke needs to put all her focus into throwing straight punches with her elbows down. She opens her guard and flares her arms on every punch and gets hit a lot because of it.
- Morgan is really under coordinated. She's big and strong and capable on the mat, but her footwork and striking were totally out of whack and it took a lot of steam off her strikes.
- Duke still has a lot of potential, just like she did in her time in Invicta, but she needs to show some real, sharp improvement in her striking (and most particularly her kicking) if she wants to capitalize on that.
Hindsight: David Grant vs. Chris Holdsworth (I picked Holdsworth, I was right)
- It feels overly simplistic, but when in doubt pick Team Alpha Male. They're proving that their success is systematic rather than predicated on raw talent alone.
- Holdsworth is huge at bantamweight, to the point that I wonder if he has a future in that division or if he'll be forced up a weight class. I guess if George Roop can do it...
- I'm actually still reasonably interested in Grant. He's got a nice compact power striking style that could serve him well long term in the UFC. Of course that's if he's in the UFC long term.
Hindsight: Julianna Pena vs. Jessica Rakoczy (I picked Rakoczy, I was wrong)
- This was one of those terribly disappointing fights where I felt like if it had gone another round it might have been completely different. I didn't have a problem with the stoppage, but it was hardly satisfying.
- There are still a ton of one dimensional talents in women's MMA which are leaving a lot of big opportunities for truly gifted athletes.
- I'm honestly still not sure which of the remaining women from this season of TUF will have the most UFC success. Pena has the most raw talent, but it is raw. Bad matchups could undo her quickly.
Hindsight: Nate Diaz vs. Gray Maynard (I picked Diaz, I was right)
- Gray Maynard is no longer a top ten UFC lightweight. His split decision to Guida was really the writing on the wall, that his two fights with Edgar had dramatically changed the course of his career.
- This was a win Nate Diaz needed, and it keeps him hanging around in the top ten, but it was hardly revolutionary. The Diaz brothers excel at being accurate and once Maynard showed that his chin was gone Diaz found it over and over and over.
- Reffing is a dreadfully hard business. Lavigne may have been a little late, maybe, but of all the bad decisions I've seen people make that was hardly egregious. Fighters trapped in mount often get that kind of leeway if they're moving to defend themselves; I'm not putting Lavigne on blast for a late call on Maynard, who was clearly still trying (and failing) to defend himself.
That was everything that caught my eye from the Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale. Looking over what I wrote, much of it seems fairly obvious, but, of course, that's the benefit of hindsight.