The ProMMAnow.com (www.prommanow.com) staff has come together to share their thoughts and predictions on the TUF 16 Finale card headlined with a heavyweight match-up between coach Roy Nelson and his opposing coach’s replacement, Matt Mitrione. Also TUF 16 finalists Mike Ricci and Colton Smith will square off for that highly coveted six-figure UFC contract. Check out our picks then share your own. Be the first to get them all right and we’ll send you either a Pro MMA Now T-Shirt, a mystery prize or a comic book, at our discretion. Here’s what we’re looking at:
James Head (9-2) vs. Mike Pyle (23-8-1)
ODDS: Head +167 vs. Pyle -207
JAN GAETJENS: Early frontrunner for Fight of the Night right here. I don’t think Pyle will have an opportunity to rely strictly on his top control wrestling game, as Head tends to scramble well. If Head can keep the fight upright, he has more than a fair shot at putting Pyle away. Ultimately, I think Pyle’s still got some gas left in that 37 year old tank though, and if he wants this fight to be a grappling match he has the technical skills on his feet to survive Head’s striking and take the fight into his realm. Pyle by decision.
VERONICA LOCURTO (WMMAROUNDUP.COM): This is a tough one to call. Mike Pyle is a crafty, recently re-focused veteran and James Head is a hungry younger fighter who has won his last two since coming down to welterweight. Mike Pyle wins in the experience department, and it will be interesting to see how he handles James Head’s size. I’m hoping for some slick grappling no matter who comes out on top. If Head wins this, I think it will be by TKO. Otherwise, Pyle by submission.
CHAD BUSH: Pyle and Head is a match-up with huge experience differences. Many will probably look for Pyle to win, but I call Head the winner by 2nd round TKO.
GARY THOMAS: Mike Pyle amazes me at how he stays relevant this deep in his career. Head is a tough guy but I like Pyle putting him to sleep in this encounter. Pick – Pyle via Submission Round 2
RICHARD MANN: Pyle should probably be able to get the better of Head in the striking department. However, his biggest advantage should be on the floor. When Head gets taken down, he gets stuck and tries to strike off of his back. His takedown defense has improved a welterweight, but Pyle should still be able to drag him down. Pyle by decision
BRIAN FURBY: Mike Pyle
KELVIN HUNT: Should be a good fight between two tough guys. I’m go with the more experienced guy here in Pyle via submission.
JACK BRATCHER: Pyle is too experienced. Too good all-around for Head and his striking is looking better and better as evidenced by his recent shellacking of Josh Neer and TKO win over Ricardo Funch before that. Pyle via TKO.
Jonathan Brookins (13-5) vs. Dustin Poirier (12-2)
ODDS: Brookins +195 vs. Poirier -245
JAN GAETJENS: Before I give my pick, I want everyone to take a second to look up MTV’s now-defunct reality series ‘Caged’. When you’re done shaking your head solemnly, I want you to think about the fact that Dustin Poirier has put together a 5-2 record in the UFC and WEC all while training in a setting that not even the marketing wizards at MTV could put a wholly positive spin on. Now that he’s made the jump to training at American Top Team, the 23 year old will only continue to improve his already solid, if slightly unpolished, game. Slight edge to Poirier on the ground; definite advantage to Poirier on the feet. Poirier by (T)KO.
VERONICA LOCURTO (WMMAROUNDUP.COM): Jonathan Brookins will most definitely have his hands full against the 12-2 Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier. I enjoyed watching Brookins throughout the TUF 12 season; he seems like a good dude, is a little funky, and used his skills to earn a big win in the TUF 12 finale. Since then, he’s dropped 2 of his last 3 fights, and his opponent Dustin is definitely not a step down in competition. The American Top Team fighter is coming off of his second-ever loss, and first time being finished…so you know he’ll be back with a vengeance. Although Brookins has some sweet wrestling and dynamic striking, I see Poirier beating him in most aspects of the game this time around. He’ll be too precise, too clean, and too relentless for Brookins, coming away with the victory by decision. Poirier by decision.
CHAD BUSH: Poirier and Brookins should be a great match to watch. Poirier will no doubt be looking to take the fight to the ground pretty quickly. Brookins will be on his toes against such a tactic and should make the game a little tougher to achieve. However, Poirier will no doubt pull out the win, most likely by decision on the ground.
GARY THOMAS: How will Poirier bounce back after his loss earlier this year. He’s been out of the cage for a bit, switched camps and now faces a tough cat in Brookins. I think Brookins best chance to win is to get it over quick. Easier said than done and I see Poirier finishing this in the third round. Pick – Poirier via Submission Round 3
RICHARD MANN: Brookins only has one hope in this fight. He needs to hold Poirier against the cage for the majority of the three rounds and hope the judges give him the fight. Poirier is a much more dynamic fighter. If he can create some distance, he should be able to land strikes on Brookins all day. “The Diamond” has never been the strongest wrestler, but his foot work should keep him away from his opponent long enough to land strikes. It will almost certainly be by decision victory. No one has stopped Brookins with strikes save for featherweight champion Jose Aldo. Poirier by decision
BRIAN FURBY: Dustin Poirier
KELVIN HUNT: Poirier should win this one via submission.
JACK BRATCHER: I like Poirier’s well-roundedness compared to Brookins, who has secured most of his wins via submission. I don’t see him submitting Poirier and feel Poirier will pick him apart on the feet. Poirier was in the featherweight title fight eliminator before losing a submission to Chan Sung Jung back in May. Prior to that, he’d won five straight. Brookins is coming off a submission loss to Charles Oliveira. I see Poirier getting back on the win track with a TKO.
Melvin Guillard (47-12-3) vs. Jamie Varner (20-7-1, 2 NC)
ODDS: Guillard -130 vs. Varner EVEN
JAN GAETJENS: If Varner can’t secure the takedown and control Guillard from the top, he’s going to find himself on the receiving end of some heavy hands. Still, I don’t see Varner getting thrown off by the striking ability of Guillard, and he should be more than capable of buying himself enough time to create an opening for the takedown. Varner by decision.
VERONICA LOCURTO (WMMAROUNDUP.COM): Which of these fight veterans is going to be “on” tonight? That will be a deciding factor in who takes home the W. If they are both on, the fans win! I’m expecting a hard-fought battle between these two. I like what I’ve seen out of Varner lately; I give the technical edge to him. Anything could happen, but if Varner can avoid the power in Guillard’s hands and use his wrestling to control where the fight goes, I see him coming away with the win. Gut says Varner by submission.
CHAD BUSH: Varner is sort of an underdog versus Guillard. By that I mean his win column is not at the same level. For that reason I really want to root for Varner and I think he will pull out a second round submission against Guillard.
GARY THOMAS: How did Jamie Varner vs. Melvin Guillard not get promoted a little more? Varner is 1-1 in his second go in the UFC but damn he’s been impressive. Interesting match up because Melvin can bang it out with the best and at one point was poised to be a contender. Tough fight to call but I like Guillard pulling out a decision. Pick – Guillard by decision
RICHARD MANN: Guillard can find a way to lose to almost anyone. Hopefully, his recent string of defeats has quelled any talk of Guillard 2.0. At this point in his career, he is who he is. With that being said, he is a fighter who will win this weekend. In a vacuum, Varner should be able to get a takedown and maybe work for a submission. Guillard has lost by submission nine times in his career. However, Varner can take virtually zero damage. If Guillard can contact him in anyway, the ball should roll downhill quickly. Look for Guillard to stuff an outside shot attempt and finish the fight early. Guillard by TKO
BRIAN FURBY: Jamie Varner
KELVIN HUNT: This one will go to whoever doesn’t decide to lose the fight first. Varner has the better chin and better ground game. Varner via submission.
JACK BRATCHER: Melvin is so hit or miss, hot or cold. Varner looked very good in his UFC return against Edson Barboza. However, Joe Lauzon submitted him in his last outing. But Lauzon can submit anyone, so, it is what it is. Melvin won’t submit him and Varner has never been knocked out or lost via TKO. Varner has 9 wins via submission, Melvin has 9 losses via submission. You figure it out. Varner via submission.
Pat Barry (7-5) vs. Shane del Rosario (11-1)
ODDS: Barry +185 vs. del Rosario -235
JAN GAETJENS: If del Rosario plays this correctly, he takes the fight to the ground and slips in a quick arm triangle. He can’t get goaded into fighting a kickboxing match, as that’s really Barry’s only shot of winning this fight. Del Rosario by submission.
VERONICA LOCURTO (WMMAROUNDUP.COM): Pat Barry vs. Shane del Rosario should deliver some fast-paced, heavy striking early on. If I’m Barry, I look to throw a high volume of hard shots, then capitalize on a well-placed strike for the KO or TKO. The more I can attack Shane’s legs, the better. As Shane, I’ll weather Barry’s onslaught of strikes, use my reach well and return the aggression, eventually taking Barry to mat for the TKO or submission. It may not be pretty, and I don’t expect a safe fight from either of these guys as they each have something to lose. In the end, I’m not convinced that Barry’s grappling skills and takedown defense will be enough to keep the fight standing if Shane wants to take it to the ground. Shane del Rosario by submission.
CHAD BUSH: I believe Rosario will go the distance with Barry in striking, but the match will undoubtedly end on the ground with Rosario tapping Barry out in the third round.
GARY THOMAS: Pat Barry has been on the shelf for awhile and Del Rosario took a good beating from Stipe Miocic. Good filler fight for the card. Barry will find a way to win this. Pick – Barry via TKO Round 3
RICHARD MANN: You could make the argument that Barry has zero wins over fighters who belong in the UFC. At the same time, Del Rosario has not exactly faced a murderer’s row. Both fighters struggle with guys who take them out of their striking game. In theory, this should come down to an exciting battle between strikers. Del Rosario’s striking credentials have been questioned in the past, but his skill level should allow him to use his physical advantages against the smaller and shorter fighter. If they fight stays on the outside, reach will be a factor. If Del Rosario tries to clinch, size will be a factor. Del Rosario by TKO
BRIAN FURBY: Pat Barry
KELVIN HUNT: Del Rosario should take this…I think his standup attack is a bit more diverse…Del Rosario via TKO.
JACK BRATCHER: You can’t underestimate del Rosario. He has submitted heavy hitters like Lavar Johnson in the past and all eight of his wins have come via KO. Barry always says he likes guys that stand with him, now he’s got another one that can do some real damage. It’s interesting to note Barry is coming off a KO loss to Lavar Johnson, who del Rosario submitted last year. Del Rosario had a tough showing in his UFC debut with a TKO loss to Stipe Miocic. This should be a great fight, but I like Barry’s more dynamic striking and kicks. Barry via TKO. Won’t go the distance.
Mike Ricci (8-2) vs. Colton Smith (5-1) “TUF 16” final
ODDS: Smith +175 vs. Ricci -215
JAN GAETJENS: Just based off of what we’ve seen on this season of TUF, Ricci is the more complete and capable fighter. Really the only question here for me is whether or not anyone from this season can actually finish a fight. Ricci by decision.
VERONICA LOCURTO (WMMAROUNDUP.COM): The winner of TUF 16 will be decided in a bout between Mike Ricci and Colton Smith. Coming into this fight, Ricci has two advantages over Smith: his experience and his track record in finishing. Throw in his striking and fight camp and Ricci should take this one…assuming he can weather the takedowns and potential GnP of Smith. I’m thinking he’ll have prepared for those. Ricci by decision.
CHAD BUSH: Smith versus Ricci should be worthwhile. I suspect both men will look to deliver a severe beating. The game will end on the ground with a submission in the second round by Colton Smith.
GARY THOMAS: How can you not just automatically assume Mike Ricci is the shoe-in for this seasons TUF? He trains at an established camp and has a tough skill set. Smith grinded his way to the finale and may find a way to be a journeyman in the company. Pick – Ricci via decision.
RICHARD MANN: I will always have a lasting memory of Ricci walking to the cage at Bellator 14. Everyone in press row agreed that Ricci would not only beat Pat Curran but would probably win the tournament. One “blogger” actually stood and applauded. When the public relations guys gave him weird looks, he said, “Hey, I’m Canadian.” Of course, this was after they had to politely ask him to turn off his camcorder during the fights. The point is that Ricci is a talented fighter. On the feet, he fights like a lot of the Tristar guys. He throws a lot of exotic strikes, but rarely finds time for set up punches like, you know, jabs. With that being said, he should have enough game to defeat Smith who still needs some time to develop. Ricci by decision
BRIAN FURBY: Mike Ricci
KELVIN HUNT: I haven’t watched much of TUF…from what I could tell…Smith might be able to grind it out against Ricci….but this one could probably go either way…I’m go Smith via decision because he looks like Denny. [Editor’s Note: ahahhaha — he does look like Denny Hodge @ProMMAnowDenny]
JACK BRATCHER: Ricci is tough guy despite his nice hair parted to the side and clean-shaven look. Great camp, great training partners. Mike Ricci via decision.
Matt Mitrione (5-1) vs. Roy Nelson (18-7)
ODDS: Nelson -240 vs. Mitrione +190
JAN GAETJENS: Personally, I’m just amused by the mental images I conjure up when I picture Mitrione hanging out with the rest of the Blackzillians crew. I mostly imagine a lot of inside jokes and Portuguese sayings that he’s not completely hip to but laughs at anyway… maybe even a clever nickname like ‘Raposa Branca’. But I digress; Nelson takes it to the ground, throws a hammer fist or two every now and then, an walks away with his ever-middling place in the heavyweight division unchanged. Nelson by decision.
VERONICA LOCURTO (WMMAROUNDUP.COM): In this heavyweight main event we see Matt Mitrione step in for the injured Shane Carwin to face Roy “Big Country” Nelson. Both TUF alums, Nelson and Mitrione were members of Team Rashad on The Ultimate Fighter 10. Since TUF 10, Nelson has gone 3-3 in his last six bouts, while Mitrione sports a pro record of 5-1, coming up short most recently in a unanimous decision loss against Cheick Kongo. With 4 of his 5 wins coming via some form of knockout, Mitrione’s long reach and heavy hands may prove a test for Big Country’s beard. That said, Nelson’s grappling skills and experience will likely prove too much for Mitrione to overcome, unless he can land a big left and put Big Country away. Roy Nelson by TKO.
CHAD BUSH: Mitrione and Nelson will be a great match. Both of them have crazy stand and strike games. I think this fight will go to decision with Mitrione walking away the winner.
GARY THOMAS: Mitrione has fell into this fight at short notice and I think that will hurt him. Nelson has those heavy hands and that under utilized ground game that will help him coast in this. I would love to see that big over hand right end this one quick. Pick – Nelson via KO Round 1.
RICHARD MANN: Mitrione is not the type of fighter that gives “Big Country” trouble. Sure, he is a big athletic guy, so he probably belongs in the UFC, but what can he do to Nelson? If he stands outside and tries to strikes, he will eventually eat a colossal over-hand right and go to sleep. If he tries to work a clinch, he will probably get the worse end and get stuck on the ground or against the fence. On the other hand, a win here for Nelson does not really change the story on him either. He will continue to beat the lower end of the division and struggle against guys in contendership. Nelson by TKO
BRIAN FURBY: Roy Nelson
KELVIN HUNT: As long as Nelson is in shape he should take this fight. Mitrione doesn’t have the power to knock Nelson out (who does). I think Nelson closes the distance and puts Mitrione away via TKO.
JACK BRATCHER: I feel Roy’s experience, his great ground game, punching power and beard of steel is going to make this a very tough fight for Matt Mitrione. If Junior dos Santos couldn’t finish Roy, I don’t see any way Mitrione can. Mitrione’s athleticism may give Roy some trouble and it will be interesting to see how much Mitrione has progressed, but I feel Roy will do what he does best with heavy punches and ground and pound if he can get Mitrione down. Nelson via decision.