clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

TUF 25 Finale: Gaethje vs. Johnson staff picks and predictions

Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale on Friday, July 7th in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The Bloody Elbow staff has submitted its predictions for Friday night’s The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale in Las Vegas. As you could imagine, we’re quite split on who will win the main event between Justin Gaethje and Michael Johnson, but the edge goes towards “The Menace.” It’s also a pretty close call for whether Dhiego Lima or Jesse Taylor will take the $250,000 TUF: Redemption grand prize.

Note: Predictions are entered throughout the week and collected the day before the event. Explanations behind each pick are not required and some writers opt not to do so for their own reasons. For example, if Phil Mackenzie entered all of his predictions on Wednesday without adding in any explanations, he has no idea if he's going to be the only one siding with one fighter for any given fight.

Michael Johnson vs. Justin Gaethje

Mookie Alexander: I just think this is a really tough stylistic matchup for Gaethje. Johnson is the exact type of fast, slick striker who can probably chip away at Gaethje’s defense with his boxing. Of course I’m never going to discount Gaethje’s whirlwind of offense and just how often he just overwhelms his opponents with every strike imaginable, but I believe we’re going to see The Menace play the role of spoiler and get the upset. Then we’ll see Gaethje smash the poor fool who has to face him next. Michael Johnson by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: I love this fight so very, very much. Johnson is a tremendous athlete that’s worked his wrestling and striking into a great blend that gives anyone fits. Unfortunately, he gets sucked into unnecessary brawls, and Gaethje is probably the last guy you want to do that with. Nate Diaz punished Johnson while toying with him, but Gaethje doesn’t fight while giggling. His back to back wars against Palomino probably took some years off the back end of his career (and sadly, possibly his life), and his performances against Brian Cobb, Luiz Firmino and Brian Foster showed a lot of growth and grit. Johnson’s going to outstrike him and land some great shots, then Gaethje starts checking leg kicks and pressing forward landing harder shots. Justin Gaethje by TKO, round 4

Fraser Coffeen: This is a great fight, but a real tough entry into the UFC for Gaethje. Guys coming in often take a fight or two to hit their full potential (Anthony Pettis, Eddie Alvarez) and Johnson is the exact kind of skilled fighter that can spoil that party. If they rematch a year from now, I will likely pick Gaethje - but for now, I see Johnson welcoming him with a strong performance. Michael Johnson, UD

Staff picking Gaethje: Ram, Victor, Tim, Eddie
Staff picking Johnson: Bissell, Nick, Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Stephie, Zane

Dhiego Lima vs. Jesse Taylor

Mookie Alexander: Well I thought this was nailed on for Krause to win the whole thing but I guess not. I’m bad at picking TUF finals but seeing Jesse Taylor’s performances makes me think he’s just going to outwrestle Lima and keep him there and win by ground-and-pound stoppage. Redemption! Jesse Taylor by TKO, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: There's a rule in TUF finales. When the grappler runs through one side of the bracket and the striker runs through the other, PICK THE GRAPPLER. Lima is not his brother, and this time around Taylor has been more obviously impressive in his run anyway. Subbing James Krause is good shit which I honestly never would have seen coming. Jesse Taylor by submission, round 2.

Fraser Coffeen: Jesse Taylor is the best possible finalist for this TUF Redemption season. For those who have not watched, Taylor made it to the finals way back in season 7, but when on a drunken rampage and Dana kicked him off. Now, 9 years later, he’s back in the finals a more mature man. That is redemption, and it’s been great to watch. Stylistically, he’s a straight up Mark Coleman/Mark Kerr type - takedown, ground and pound. But he’s got some good subs down there too as he showed in his win over Krause on the show. So we know what he’s doing. Lima is the way better striker, and he has very good takedown defense. It basically comes down to that defense - if Lima can keep Taylor off, he picks his way to a decision win on the feet. But I don’t think he can. Jesse Taylor, G&P TKO, Round 3

Victor Rodriguez: While I largely agree with Phil’s assessment here, this is Dhiego on a full fight camp. Lima’s going to have a hard time with Taylor considering the fact that Jesse’s not just a wrestleboxer - he’s got a more versatile submission game than people give him credit for. Taylor should be the favorite for all of the reasons noted above, but I’m still gonna take a flyer on Lima here. He’s more accurate with this striking, and is likely to have worked on figuring out Taylor’s game. Dhiego Lima by decision.

Eddie Mercado: I can’t in good conscience pick either of these guys to win a fight, even against each other. No Contest (Wardrobe Malfunction)

Staff picking Lima: Ram, Nick, Victor, Tim, Zane
Staff picking Taylor: Mookie, Phil, Bissell, Fraser, Stephie
Staff picking chaos: Eddie

Marc Diakiese vs. Drakkar Klose

Mookie Alexander: I don’t understand this fight. Klose is an intriguing prospect and Diakiese is an even more intriguing prospect. Why are they facing each other now? I’m going with Diakiese’s timing and power to get him another victory but Klose is very much a live dog here, especially if he can close the distance and make it a bit of an ugly battle. Marc Diakiese by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Everyone's favourite Martian crime boss Drakkar Klose returns, and this is an interesting fight. At some point, Diakiese is going to fight someone that he's within a single standard deviation of athletically, and then his tendency to just do whatever he wants with 100% effort may come back to bite him. Klose could well be that guy: he's tough, athletic, and from a camp which excels at clinch-heavy, scrambling, interstitial fights. However, Diakiese showed that he's starting to be able to pick up on opponent's timing very, very quickly in his last fight, and so every time Klose isn't... well... close, he's going to be in the danger zone. Marc Diakiese by TKO, round 2

Victor Rodriguez: Klose is a gritty wrestler that’s got good control with his wrestling, but Diakiese will find ways to not only defend against the takedowns, but seriously punish Klose for getting sloppy with his striking. I have an odd hunch that both of these guys will be spent if this goes the full way, but I’m gonna go with my man Phil here. Marc Diakiese by KOTKO, round 2.

Staff picking Diakiese: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Victor, Stephie, Tim, Eddie, Zane
Staff picking Klose:

Nick Roehrick vs. Jared Cannonier

Mookie Alexander: I’m just bummed we lost the Bosse-man at the last minute. Jared Cannonier by TKO, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: No sleeping on Roehrick. He's a well-regarded part of a small new wave of heavier talent coming out of the Colorado area, including Blaydes and Dominick Reyes. He's well-rounded, working behind a crisp jab and with decent wrestling and offensive grappling. It's not his speciality, though, which means that he's likely going to have to contest this with Cannonier on the feet, where Cannonier's absurd durability, improving craft and better power seem like obvious advantages. Cannonier's dismal TDD remains a bit of an exploitable area, but Jared Cannonier by TKO, round 2.

Eddie Mercado: Did you hear that Cannonier quit his full-time job to focus full-time on his fighting career? You can read about it HERE. I have to believe that an extra 40+ hours devoted strictly to MMA training will do wonders for Cannonier. I wouldn’t in the least bit be surprised to see this fight finish up early. Getting a confident Cannonier for your UFC debut is not going to be fun for Roehrick. Jared Cannonier by KO in round 2.

Staff picking Roehrick:
Staff picking Cannonier: Bissell, Ram, Mookie, Nick, Phil, Fraser, Victor, Stephie, Tim, Eddie, Zane

Elias Theodorou vs. Brad Tavares

Mookie Alexander: Elias is a great follow on Twitter and an all-around solid dude. That said, this matchup with Tavares is probably going to be awful to watch. Theodorou isn’t one to overwhelm you with volume striking (of which it’s mostly kicks) and Tavares’ game is centered around completely powerless kickboxing. It’s such a middleweight bout, isn’t it? Maybe Elias can overpower Tavares and work from top position just enough to win close rounds? I don’t know. It’s a real toss-up to me and I’m going with Elias Theodorou by split decision.

Phil Mackenzie: I have to confess, I don't really get Theodorou. Great dude, wonderful hair, but I don't think his approach really... functions? He's either an OK-ish volume kicker, or he can clinch and scramble on those who try to get in. He beat Ferreira by essentially eating a counter which broke Mutante's hand on the first punch, and still almost lost a decision. Tavares is quite bland, but he's functional and well-assembled, and has traditionally has been very difficult to beat in a range kickboxing match unless he's up against high-end dynamism or power. That's not Theodorou, and Elias' clinch game hasn't been playing that well of late. Brad Tavares by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Hmm… Theodorou is way better at using a style that wins rounds on scorecards. Somehow he’ll sucker Tavares into fighting his way and end up pulling ahead by playing keep-away, pot-shotting from outside and doing damage in the clinch. Elias Theodorou by decision.

Staff picking Theodorou: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Mookie, Victor, Stephie, Tim, Eddie
Staff picking Tavares: Phil, Fraser, Zane

Jordan Johnson vs. Marcel Fortuna

Mookie Alexander: I’m not going against Big Swinging Johnson. He’s enormous and powerful. Jordan Johnson by TKO, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: Fortuna showed that he's a much more natural power striker than we had any reason to expect in his last fight, which makes him a wild card here. He's still going to be outsized, and Johnson's functional jab and takedown game seems like a better pick, but I suggestion caution. Jordan Johnson by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Fun fact: Fortuna lost to Jesse Taylor, also on this card. He’s gonna lose here to a great wrestler that can take damage. Jordan Johnson by decision.

Staff picking Johnson: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Stephie, Zane
Staff picking Fortuna: Tim, Eddie

Angela Hill vs. Ashley Yoder

Victor Rodriguez: Yoder is a capable and wiry grappler that’s gotten her striking to a great point that sets up her strengths. Hill is a far better striker that figures out range and ruins opponents once they get careless. It doesn’t seem to me that Yoder will bring anything Hill hasn’t seen, and her submission defense against then-champion Livia Renata Souza in Invicta was damn near perfect. That and her supporting crew for this camp should set her up to really shine in this bout. Angela Hill by TKO, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: This seems a fight primed for Hill to win, if not easily or impressively, then at least comfortably. She's still not quite experienced enough to entirely prevent some scary moments in this fight, but she's a better clinch fighter and a far better range kickboxer who can likely peck away at Yoder like an aggressive seagull. Angela Hill by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Hill: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Mookie, Fraser, Victor, Stephie, Tim, Eddie, Zane
Staff picking Yoder:

C.B. Dollaway vs. Ed Herman

Phil Mackenzie: I don't really know what to expect here. Dollaway is the better all-round athlete and the better technician, with superior boxing and a sizable edge in offensive wrestling ability. However, he's never been very durable and his thin margins for victory are only getting smaller as he ages out. Similarly, Herman's biggest problem (being a human glacier) has only grown as he's gotten older, and has only slightly been ameliorated by moving up in weight. I dunno, I guess I trust raw toughness over technical ability at Old Person LHW. Give me a slight upset and Ed Herman by TKO, round 2.

Victor Rodriguez: Fun fact: Ed Herman beat Glover Teixeira back in 2005. Crafty veteran, but not a good enough striker to handle Dollaway, nor will he deal well with the pressure as the fight wears on. Herman could pull out a funky submission setup, but Dolloway has better takedowns, a better top game and isn’t as shopworn. CB Dollaway by decision.

Eddie Mercado: Dollaway might be going to join his bud Ryan Bader in Bellator. Ed Herman by TKO in round 2.

Staff picking Dollaway: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Mookie, Fraser, Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Herman: Phil, Eddie, Zane

James Krause vs. Tom Gallicchio

Fraser Coffeen: Toothless Tom was one of the best stories on this season of TUF - a one-dimensional submission fighter who everyone KNOWS is going to try and take you down and choke you out, but still somehow manages to take you down and choke you out. There’s a lot of fun to be had there. But Krause is just many levels above. He’s got very good takedown defense and his own strong grappling game. The only danger could be if he gets too overconfident in his grappling and allows Gallicchio to play his game, but I don’t see that happening. Gallicchio is tough as nails, and Krause is willing to outpoint someone, so look for a lopsided victory here in the style of the Gallicchio/Lima semifinal. James Krause, UD

Phil Mackenzie: How bad Krause got beaten by Taylor is something of a concern here. As said, I genuinely was surprised that he looked so lost, but I think a major story of TUF 25 has been the weird dynamics caused by chucking in a bunch of career 155 and 170ers into the same group, which combined with traditional TUF weight-cut oddness. Krause isn't going to have the same size or physicality issues here against another lightweight. James Krause by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Krause: Nick, Bissell, Fraser, Phil, Mookie, Victor, Stephie, Tim, Ram, Eddie, Zane
Staff picking Gallicchio:

Jessica Eye vs. Aspen Ladd

Victor Rodriguez: Ladd is younger, craftier, able to adapt better from moment to moment and a far more clever fighter than she’s given credit for. Eye will have a size and strength advantage, but I can’t trust her to succeed here. Ladd’s got the hot hand and better finishing instincts, plus her movement will help against Eye’s stagnant and limited offense. Aspen Ladd by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Eye is completely untrustworthy at this point. Fighting a lesser athlete who gave her the exact fight that she wants in Correia, she still drifted out of the fight and lost a close decision. Ladd has relatively few pro fights, but has gotten some quality experience and has passed some important tests. Eye can probably win the early going just based on pure experience and defensive acumen, but I will not trust her to keep a lead. Aspen Ladd by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Eye: Ram, Fraser, Tim, Zane
Staff picking Ladd: Bissell, Nick, Victor, Mookie, Stephie, Phil

Gray Maynard vs. Teruto Ishihara

Mookie Alexander: Oh no. Teruto Ishihara by KO, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: Hollowed Gray Maynard continues to trudge a bleak path through his own personal Dark Souls. Last time he got to experience repetitive frustration, and this time he probably gets the "YOU DIED" experience. Ishihara isn't anyone to trust, but he generally hits those he fights very hard at least once. Teruto Ishihara by KO, round 1.

Victor Rodriguez: Doesn’t matter how this ends, it’ll be sad because Gray Maynard. Besides, Ishihara is awesome. Teruto Ishihara by something violent immediately followed by regret.

Staff picking Maynard: Bissell, Ram
Staff picking Ishihara: Nick, Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Victor, Stephie, Tim, Eddie,Z ane

Juliana Lima vs. Tecia Torres

Victor Rodriguez: Torres has that odd movement and that pestering style that can easily frustrate an opponent and break their rhythm. Lima’s tough to crack, puts on good pressure by moving forward. Lima’s also got some pretty heavy top control on the ground, and sneaks some pretty hard shots up close whether standing or on the mat. Torres’ speed and footwork should make the difference here, attacking Lima’s legs with kicks the way she did against Herrig back in Invicta. Once she has a rhythm established, she’ll be able to pick her shots from the outside and shuck off takedown attempts for the win. Tecia Torres by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Along with Herrig, Torres is a 155er who has really found their groove of late. Chick Kongo is more powerful, and one of the best offensive wrestlers in the division, but I'm not sure how well she can effectively set up shots on the far more mobile Torres. In a close fight, Torres' volume seems like a clear difference maker. Tecia Torres by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Lima:
Staff picking Torres: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Victor, Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Stephie, Tim, Eddie, Zane