The Ultimate Fighter Nations Finale: A 'Just Bleed' guide to the full preliminary card

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Men and women get together for The Ultimate Fighter Finale: Bisping vs. Kennedy. A lot of solid matchups permeate the card, so who's getting the pink slip and who's not?

The past several weeks had little MMA to offer us, so naturally we're left with a two week span covering three events. Let's get to the meat and potatoes.

So it this stuff worth watching?

It's not Game of Thrones if that's what you're asking. But it is pretty good. To be honest I've been hesitant to preview the prelim cards this way because for awhile I expected to be focusing on one or two fighters, while summarizing the rest. These last two undercards have been solid on paper, however, making my preview life somewhat conflicted. Mark Bocek, Sarah Kaufman...this ain't bad at all.

Yea but it's an undercard. So where are my pinkslip bouts?

Believe it or not, there are none (again). K.J. Noons could theoretically get the proverbial boot. At one point he lost to Josh Thomson, Ryan Couture, and Donald Cerrone in a row. He rebounded with a win over George Sotiropoulas. Potentially going 1-4 in your last 5 would be the end of your Zuffa career and his opponent isn't exactly chopped Canadian bacon either.

Stout has had a modest experience in the division. He's an experience fighter who is well rounded, but limited. Stout is the poster boy for the "if only" game; if only Stout had more power in his strikes, he'd be something. True, but perhaps it's precisely that lack of power that allows him to focus on technique over predictable overhand rights. Good fight that I think favors Stout. Noons is the better pure boxer, but he also gets too cute. Plus volume will be needed to win this bout. Stout is a volume puncher, and won't be intimidated by Noons' power. Sam has a ridiculous chin after all, and Noons only broke out of his own funk by beating a fighter who ran his expiration date.

I want to look cool among my MMA hipster friends. What prospect should I bandwagon?

Well, the key to a MMA hipster's heart is using hard to pronounce names with a six degrees of Kevin Bacon narrative. For example, Nordine Taleb is a massive MW from France, who was listed at #4 on the world MMA Scouting Report (but for WW).

He's swift of foot, and has pretty good pop in his strikes, and his Asian MMA connection is that he fought and lost to Marius Zaromskis: a fighter who used to be good, but is now an afterthought. His opponent is the flawed Vik Grujic from TUF: the product from In2fitness (yes, that's the name of the millenial run camp) is a decent enough fighter, but has awful technique on the feet, and was only not punished from the get go because Luke Harris was extraordinarily awful.

I could be wrong though. After all, Grujic will want the fight on the ground while Taleb will want to keep it standing. Regardless, Taleb is a solid talent while Grujic is a 37 year old specialist.

Mike De La Torre is also a pretty good young-ish fighter. He's got an exciting fighting style, healthily brawling in doses with crisp right hands, and aggressively looking for submissions. The problem is that Mark Bocek is the absolute worst matchup for a fighter he wants to be aggressive on the ground and strikes wildly enough to be susceptible for the takedown. With all three losses being by way of submission, this fight is downright mathematical.

I know some progressives. They think it's time for me to enter the 21st century by watching females shatter archaic perceptions of what they're capable of. What should I do?

Watch Sarah Kaufman vs. Leslie Smith.

Their first fight at Invicta FC 5 was an excellent bout. Kaufman is a fantastic top 10 fighter, and Smith took her to the edge. Smith easily had the best moments, even scoring a knockdown in the middle portion of the bout. For fans it will be a fantastic introduction to the female fighter competing out of the Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu camp. Smith is a deceptive 6-4-1, and will bring her technical, entertaining striking style to the cage this Wednesday.

So are you gonna make me money or what?

The stars of the odds show are de la Torre at +285 and Sean O'Connell at +265. Both are just plain awful bets because they're up against legitimate veterans. If you have to pick one, pick Torre. He's aggressive and dynamic enough to conceivably land a hail mary punch. Rafael dos Anjos schooled Bocek by being aggressive. I predict Bocek to win, but when it comes to betting, it's about identifying the probability of defying the odds. Forget O'Connell and go with Torre.

Smith as a slight underdog will probably change. Same thing with Roop. Roop is always a good bet because of his length, and he's a good stylistic matchup for Dustin Kimura. Richard Walsh at -210 sounds exactly right.

Not sure about Mitch Gagnon vs. Tim Gorman. If Gorman goes any higher than +195, that's a good one. I don't expect Gorman to win, but it's a straight clash of styles with Gorman having solid power, and Gagnon looking to get the fight to the ground. Since fights don't start out on the ground, erring on the side of punching power often seems like the "safe" choice.

Goldbergian Trivia

"Joe, Sam Stout has not lost twice in a row since 2011 and Noons has not lost via TKO since 2007"

Miscellaneous

The Dallas Stars finally made the playoffs after a five year drought. You should root for us.

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