Fight Picks – TUF Finale and UFC on FOX

Namajunas Esparza

For the last time in quite a while this weekend will see two UFC events before the new schedule kicks in at year’s end. On Friday, a 115 lbs female champion will be crowned on the same night as the first ever Irish woman fights inside the Octagon while Saturday sees the return of UFC on Fox. Here are my picks, bonus predictions and betting tips.

Carla Esparza vs. Rose Namajunas

After a grueling season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ a women’s strawweight champion will finally be crowned this Friday when team Pettis’ Carla Esparza takes on team Melendez fighter Rose Namajunas. Both women won three in a row on the show as Esparza knocked off Angela Hill, Tecia Torres and Jessica Penne while Namajunas defeated Alex Chambers, Joanne Calderwood and Randa Markos – all via submission. Entering the house these women were on differing ends of spectrum. Namajunas was somewhat of a novice with a 2-1 record while Esparza was the Invicta FC champion and already established as one of the world’s best. In the house, though, Rose proved she is a match for anyone.

Carla Esparza is probably the most technically sound and well rounded woman at strawweight in the world. She has a tight boxing attack and a wrestling game above and beyond anyone else at the weight. Namajunas, though, is the most dangerous fighter at strawweight. She is wild on her feet with both striking and flying submission attempts while she is constantly looking to rip off a limb on the ground. Esparza will be looking to make this fight as uneventful as possible. Her best path to victory is picking Rose off on the feet and taking her down with a huge emphasis on avoiding the submissions. Namajunas won’t hide her game plan even slightly. She will come out fast and strong before trying to drag Esparza down to get the submission. If this fight were a three rounder I would favour Esparza, but over five rounds it’s going to be extremely hard for her to keep up the safe gameplan needed to get a win here. I see Namajunas attacking for as long as needs be and eventually getting the submission.

Pick – Namajunas via submission

Stipe Miocic Vs. Junior Dos Santos

With Cain Velasquez still injured and sitting on the sidelines, and Fabrico Werdum holding the interim belt, this fight takes new meaning. It will either put the winner on track to face Werdum for the interim belt or, if Velasquez can recapture his fitness, on the year long road to fighting for the unified belt. Either way, it’s an important fight for both men. Although Junior Dos Santos has a win over both current champions he has also lost to Velasquez twice in his last three fights and will be desperate to get back to winning ways here. Stipe Miocic has had a much different journey of late winning three on the spin since his sole career loss, albeit against much less daunting opposition.

This is a real collision of big, quick, athletic machines. Dos Santos is primarily a boxing stylish with good takedown defence but has added a nice kicking game to his Arsenal. Miocic, although he does add in takedowns, likes to fight on the feet too but is more of an elusive in-and-out combination thrower in the Manny Pacquiao mould. Against Dos Santos, he will need to be more elusive than ever. The Brazilian will look for the big shot early and often but will mix up his crisp techniques so as not to telegraph the shot. Miocic will need a controlled gameplan to avoid the power and will hope to bring Cigano to the late rounds to test his cardio. I can’t see that happening though. Although I think Miocic is a tremendous talent, I see Dos Santos as technically better at this point. I see JDS finding a home for his power right hand in the opening rounds. Once that happens; it’s curtains.

Pick – Dos Santos via KO

Nathan Diaz vs. Rafael Dos Anjos

Finally, the Diaz family returns to MMA. After 13 months out of the cage, Nathan Diaz draws a tough first assignment against the #3 ranked lightweight in the world Rafael Dos Anjos. Diaz’ last fight saw him knock out Gray Maynard after losing two in a row to Benson Henderson who was then champion and Josh Thomson. Contract disputes and a general unwillingness to fight have put him on the sidelines since. In that time, Dos Anjos has catapulted himself towards the top of the division despite a shaky start to the year. The Brazilian was ragdolled by Khabib Nurmagomedov before bouncing back with superb wins over Jason High and Benson Henderson.

Dos Anjos is an extremely intelligent fighter who is quick in all areas. He puts together a varied yet precise striking game with good takedown defence and slick submissions once it hits the floor. Diaz, on the other hand, is all about output and seizing opportunities. Just like his brother Nick, Nate brings the fight to his opponents on the feet and will jump on any opening from a submission. This is going to be an extremely close fight. Dos Anjos has had success in most of his fight by finding the big shot and outworking his for long periods; that will be tough to do here. I see Diaz coming out, landing with a high output, eating a couple of hard shots but, in the end, taking the decision.

Pick – Diaz via decision

Aisling Daly vs. Alex Chambers

For the first time in the history of the UFC an Irish woman will fight inside the UFC’s Octagon this Saturday as Ais Daly takes her place in TUF 20 finale. The only downside for the Dubliner is that she will face her best friend from the house, Alex Chambers. Chambers is an Australian fighter who lost her only fight on the show via first round submission to finalist Rose Namajunas while Daly fought twice on the show; beating Angela Magana in her opener before losing to Jessica Penne in what is many say is the fight of the season.

At 36 year old, Chambers was a late comer to MMA and will make just her sixth professional appearance on Friday having won four of her previous outings. Daly is by far the more experienced fighter despite being ten years younger and has battled it out for Invicta, Bellator and Cage Warriors, amongst others, before getting her chance at the big show. Daly has impressive career wins over the likes of Jessica Eye and Karla Benitez while Chambers’ biggest win came in her last professional bout before entering the house against Jodie Esquibel at Invicta FC 5.

Daly is a well rounded, unorthodox fighter who is happy taking a punch to land a couple of her own. Chambers is more of a steady kickboxing stylist who can put it together on the ground also. I see experience telling here. Chambers is obviously a talented fighter but still somewhat of a newcomer to the game whereas her opponent will be fighting for the 20th time. I see Daly putting on the pressure early and not giving Chambers a chance to settle with a barrage of strikes leading to takedowns. The hot conditions in Las Vegas are the only worry for Daly but if she can get through that I think she’ll take the decision win here.

Pick – Daly via decision

SHORT PICKS

UFC on FOX

Alistair Overeem vs. Stefan Struve – Overeem via KO
Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Matt Mitrione – Gonzaga via submission
John Moraga vs. Willie Gates – Moraga via submission
Claudia Gadelha vs. Joanna Jędrzejczyk – Jędrzejczyk via KO
Joe Riggs vs. Ben Saunders – Saunders via submission
Jamie Varner vs. Drew Dober – Varner via KO
Derek Brunson vs. Ed Herman – Brunson via decision
Joe Ellenberger vs. Bryan Barberena – Ellenberger via decision
David Michaud vs. Garret Whiteley – Whiteley via decision
Henry Cejudo vs. Dustin Kimura – Cejudo via decision
Anthony Birchak vs. Ian Entwistle – Entwistle via submission

TUF Finale

Jeremy Stephens vs. Charles Oliveira – Stephens via KO
K.J. Noons vs. Daron Cruickshank – Cruickshank via KO
Joe Proctor vs. Yancy Medeiros – Medeiros via submission
Felice Herrig vs. Lisa Ellis – Ellis via submission
Bec Rawlings vs. Heather Jo Clark – Clark via decision
Joanne Calderwood vs. Seo Hee Ham – Calderwood via KO
Tecia Torres vs. Angela Magaña – Torres via decision
Emily Kagan vs. Angela Hill – Hill via KO
Jessica Penne vs. Randa Markos – Penne via decision

BONUS PICKS

Fight of the night – Namajunas vs. Esparza, Diaz vs. Dos Anjos.

Performance of the night – Namajunas, Stephens, Dos Santos, Gonzaga.

BETTING TIPS

My bet for this week is a double of Cruickshank and Stephens which works out as just around 2/1 while Gonzaga to win via submission at 4/1 is definitely worth a punt.

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma