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Diggin’ Deep on TUF 27 Finale: Tavares vs. Adesanya - Main card preview

Get the scoop on the contests for the main card of TUF 27 Finale, featuring the finals of lightweight and featherweight tournaments of TUF and fan favorite Alex Caceres in action.

David McIntyre-USA TODAY Sports

So… did anyone actually watch TUF this season? I know I didn’t. No disrespect to the fighters on the show as there are some worthwhile prospects who could make a difference on the roster, but show has run its course to the point even the hardest of hardcore fans are done with it. There are rumblings the show won’t be moving on with a 28th season and most people would be perfectly happy with that verdict. We could be looking at the final iteration of the long-running program.

As for the lineup of the show, the lineup of the event wasn’t released prior to the sending in of this piece for publishing. What this consists of is the remaining fights that weren’t covered in the previous preview. So while this says it’s the main card preview, that isn’t completely true. Nonetheless, everything on the event is being covered – as far as I know as of this time – and that’s what matters.

The TUF 27 Finale main card begins on FS1 at 10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM PT on Friday.

Brad Katona (6-0) vs. Jay Cucciniello (8-0), Featherweight

Though he has been training out of SBG in Ireland, Katona is a Canadian whose approach is more reminiscent of Tristar… minus the heavy emphasis on the jab. Katona has proven comfortable working on the counter and pressing forward with combinations and low kicks. He doesn’t pack a whole lot of power in his punch, but he’s tight technically and does a solid job moving in and out of range to avoid taking too much damage. His wrestling and grappling aren’t going to wow anyone – though he does have good timing on his shots -- but they aren’t glaring weaknesses any opponent can expose either.

Tough is the operative word for Cucciniello. He earned his spot in the featherweight finals only after Ricky Steele was unable to make it to the finals due to injury after Cucciniello lost to Bryce Mitchell. He required a comeback to get past Tyler Diamond and was dominated in a similar fashion by Mitchel. Cucciniello is reluctant to let his fists fly until he’s been hit in the face a bit. He does have an insane amount of durability, resilience, and stamina, but he’s in deep trouble if his opponents can maintain a decent pace.

Given that Cucciniello is 31 and has been fighting for almost a decade, he appears to a finished product. Katona still has several years before he is a finished product… and already looks more refined than Cucciniello. Cucciniello could pull it off if Katona overextends himself or begins looking for the finish, but I like Katona’s discipline to pull out a comfortable decision. Katona via decision

Mike Trizano (6-0) vs. Joe Giannetti (6-0), Lightweight

Giannetti caught the eyes of fans with a pair of guillotine chokes in the first round in each of his TUF showings. It wasn’t an aberration as five of his six official wins came by way of submission. He’s particularly adept at chokes, finding a way to sneak in a guillotine from the guard in his last official contest. His lanky frame offers promise too, landing shots from the outside, though he doesn’t offer much power.

Trizano’s negatives are a bit easier to pick out as the natural featherweight has struggled to avoid fighting against the fence. It isn’t that he isn’t capable of grinding away himself, but it’s no guarantee he’s going to emerge on top when the fight hits the ground, nor that he can avoid Giannetti slipping in a choke. Trizano does offer some sneaky submissions himself, just not on the same frequency of Giannetti. As for his striking, it’s as vanilla as it gets.

Trizano shows tremendous resilience, but Giannetti’s natural feel for submissions is uncanny. Granted, he’ll have a more difficult time baiting fighters in the UFC to fall into a trap than those on the regional scene, but some of that skill will surely transfer over. Trizano could grind his way to an uneventful decision, but I see Giannetti finding an opening in that time. Giannetti via submission of RD1

Alex Caceres (13-11, 1 NC) vs. Martin Bravo (12-1), Featherweight

About two years ago, Caceres was headlining a card. Now he’s lining up with a lackluster winner of a recent season of TUF Latin America. Granted, Caceres never should have been headlining a card – maybe the UFC has something against Salt Lake City – but he’s gone just 1-3 in his last four. This could be Bruce Leroy’s last stand.

Caceres may still carry a boyish air about him, but he’s officially a veteran at this point, having made his first appearance on UFC programming all the way back in 2010. He doesn’t rely as heavily on the flash that initially made him a fun character to watch, staying on the outside to execute a boxing game with a lot of lateral movement. He still throws kicks as much as he ever did, but he has supplemented the home run round and spinning kicks with low and front kicks.

Bravo’s pressuring style is typically the type that gives Caceres problems. Unfortunately for Bravo, he also proved his lack of defensive acumen means he may not be able to effectively execute it on the highest of levels. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t count on him changing things up despite being finished in 26 seconds by Humberto Bandenay. If anything, he should only continue to improve as the Mexican native is still only 24. Bravo’s offensive technique and volume aren’t the problem.

Predicting a Caceres contest is maddening. He can look like a world beater and a novice in the same fight as his victory over Cole Miller a few years ago can attest to. Bravo has some potential and the right style to upend Caceres. However, I fear it is too early in his development to knock off someone with as much experience as Caceres. Though he is merely an adequate wrestler at best, Caceres is a fantastic scrambler with a creative grappling game. I won’t be surprised to see him find a finish of the young Bravo. Caceres via submission of RD3

Roxanne Modafferi (21-15) vs. Barb Honchak (10-4), Women’s Flyweight

Originally scheduled to go down at the last instalment of a TUF finale, longtime veterans Modafferi and Honchak will finally do the damn thing.

At 35 and 38 respectively, Modafferi and Honchak don’t appear to be for very long in the grand scheme of things. Modafferi appeared to be finished about five years ago after her first stint on TUF, only to move to Syndicate MMA and turn her career around. Always known as a dangerous grappler, she added a functional striking game. No, she didn’t develop KO power, but her funky rhythm and stance can create problems against inexperienced opposition, allowing Modafferi to rack up the volume in the process. That in itself has allowed her to pick up finishes in three of her last four victories, which doesn’t even count her exhibition appearances on TUF.

Honchak is anything but that, holding the inaugural Invicta flyweight title before taking a hiatus from the sport. Despite her advancing age, she is still a plus athlete with the fundamentals of kickboxing down pat. Though most don’t tend to think of her as a grappler, she is more than capable of handling herself in that department too. There isn’t a whole lot of creativity to her game standing or on the ground, both a good thing and a bad thing. Against the likes of Modafferi, I’d be willing to bet it’s a good thing.

Roxy’s career resurgence has been one of the better stories in MMA over the last few years. She is a horrible athlete, yet she has continued to find ways to outwit and outwork her opponents. It won’t be easy to do that to Honchak. Throw in the fact that Honchak is a superior athlete and I can’t see myself picking against the older fighter in this one. Honchak via decision

Bryce Mitchell (9-0) vs. Tyler Diamond (9-0), Featherweight (Editor’s Note: Fight will be on the prelims)

Given there aren’t many people watching TUF anymore, Diamond may be best known for being slapped by Nate Diaz last month after an altercation with Diamond’s teammate Clay Guida. Diamond is a legit prospect, not just a name connected to one of the Diaz brothers. Like any fighter from Team Alpha Male, Diamond possesses a solid wrestling base with a standup game heavy on hooks. Things fell apart for him when things didn’t go his way against Cucciniello, tiring down the stretch and letting his defense down. However, that could prove to be a learning experience for the 27-year old.

Mitchell is a lanky kid with a commitment to learning how to use his long frame. He still hasn’t completely figured it out, but he’s getting there, throwing front kicks, jabs, and presenting a dangerous guard. However, he dropped his fight to Katona by giving up the top position and giving up his back. In other words, he’s still prone to mental miscues. Given he’s only 23, that isn’t much of a surprise. Mitchell is a surprisingly effective wrestler despite a frame that doesn’t suggest takedown artist, not to mention he’s effective with body-lock takedowns.

Diamond isn’t the only prospect worth looking at as Mitchell offers promise too. However, Diamond is further along in his development and should offer problems for Mitchell with his wrestling. A Mitchell win wouldn’t be an upset, but Diamond is the more refined product at this stage. Diamond via decision

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