PRO MMA’s “The Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale” staff picks

“The Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale” takes place tonight, Saturday, June 20, 2009, at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nev. Headlining the card will be The Ultimate Fighter season 1 winner Diego “The Nightmare” Sanchez vs. Clay “The Carpenter” Guida. In addition, the lightweight and welterweight TUF 9 tournament finals will be held, and a new “Ultimate Fighter” will be decided in both weight classes, each receiving a coveted six-figure UFC contract.

As has become our custom for most UFC events and large fight cards, the PRO MMA ( staff has submitted their predictions. So check out our picks, see if you agree or disagree, let us know who is on the money, and who is off in left field.

Diego Sanchez vs. Clay Guida
Jeff: Diego wins by decision. Sanchez is a monster at 155 lbs. and is so focused, I don’t see Guida derailing the Nightmare in this one.
Denny: Guida has been grinding out some tough victories of late, but I believe that Diego is going to be too much for him. I see Diego dominating the stand up, and shrugging off Guida’s smothering style en route to a unanimous decision victory.
Dusty: I think Sanchez is just a little better at everything than Guida who always brings a tough fight. Sanchez by unanimous decision.
Jack: Diego’s wrestling is too good in my opinion for Guida to do what he did against Nate Diaz. Most people hate that style Guida used against Diaz of holding him and grinding the fight to a halt. It is a very un-fan-friendly way to win, but the judges seem to reward it. But he will try it, make no mistake. It’s the only thing he could possibly do to Sanchez. Sanchez will tear him up on the feet. Guida will desperately try the same tactic of holding and lay and pray but it won’t work against Diego is my prediction. I do think Clay is too crafty to get stopped so I see it going the distance and Diego wins by unanimous decision. For some reason, my hope is that Diego could catch him with something and get a KO.
Tim: Guida because he has superior wrestling to Diego and I would even say they are close in striking. If Nate Diaz can’t submit Guida then neither can Sanchez. Guida is more hungry so he will come out on top.

DaMarques Johnson vs. James Wilks
Jeff: Johnson wins via TKO in round 1. Wilks has a good ground game, but was caught by Lester in their first fight. Johnson is a lot more skilled than Lester and should make short work of Wilks.
Denny: Everybody has been waiting for the match up between Damarques Johnson and James Wilks. It could have happened in the semi’s, but Dana was holding out for this to be the finals match up and he got it. There is bad blood between the two, but I see this being more one-sided than most people. Wilks is dangerous on the ground, but Johnson will be bringing the heat and will likely be in top position dropping bombs on Wilks. Johnson has superior wrestling skills and should have no trouble getting this to the ground, which is where Wilks is comfortable. Johnson will be too much in this one and will earn his contract by ground and pound TKO in Round 2.
Dusty: I like Johnson a lot and he seems the more motivated one. If Wilks could get him down he has a real good chance of submitting him, however I don’t see him taking Johnson down. Johnson by KO 2nd round.
Jack: I’m going with DaMarques Johnson just because I think he is the better athlete. Truthfully though, it’s just a guess cause I can’t even remember his fights on the show, but he looks more athletic in the photos.
Tim: Johnson is another fighter who showed amazing upside. He has to deal with a bigger fighter in Wilks but it seems he was one of the most dedicated and most serious fighters in the house.

Chris Lytle vs. Kevin Burns
Jeff: Lytle is too experienced for Burns and will choke him out in the second round.
Denny: Burns and Lytle. Two guys that are likely going to stand and bang. This should be exciting. Lytle always brings all he’s got when he steps in the Octagon. Burns is coming off a devastating KO at the last Ultimate Fighter Finale, and may be hesitant to stay in the pocket with Lytle… oh hell, no he won’t. I have to go with Lytle edging out a decision victory over Burns.
Dusty: This could be fight of the night to me. Lytle is always willing to throw with anyone and Burns doesn’t back down either. Lytle by TKO
Jack: I’m taking Lytle. With only nine professional fights I don’t think Burns is ready for someone as experienced and as solid as Chris Lytle. Lytle has turned into somewhat of a gatekeeper and the gate is closing on Burns tonight. Second round TKO.
Tim: Lytle is one of the most experienced and explosive fighters in the UFC. When he fights you know two things. You are definitely going to see some leather thrown and there is a strong possibility his fight will be the Fight of the Night.

Ross Pearson vs. Andre Winner
Jeff: Pearson looks to be the better of these two Brits. I have the fight going the distance with Pearson getting the unanimous decision.
Denny: Either way, we will have a U.K. fighter as the next lightweight Ultimate Fighter, but Pearson stands out in this match-up in my opinion. He’s a very fast starter with 8 of his 11 fights ending in the first round, while Winner tends to start more slowly, with most of his fights going to decision. Pearson is a tough kid, and will overwhelm Winner via submission in Round 2 on his way to the UFC contract.
Dusty: Andre is just too athletic and technically better for Pearson to handle for three rounds. Andre Winner is the winner by TKO in the 3rd round.
Jack: I’m taking Andre Winner because Bet U.S. says he is the odds favorite. Truthfully I was so uninspired by this season of TUF, I could care less… just being honest.
Tim: Pearson showed more skills on TUF then maybe anyone else. A tough kid who I think will find a great camp after he wins TUF and go on to be great.

Joe Stevenson vs. Nate Diaz
Jeff: Both guys are likeable and both are coming off of losses. If either of them were to be in a “must win” situation, I would have to say its definitely Stevenson. With that said, I foresee a decent back and forth fight with Diaz sinking in a sneaky choke mid-way in the third round for the victory.
Denny: Will Stevenson come in to this fight with Diaz and show us something new? If not he’s in trouble. He’s got a a great guillotine choke, but you are not going to catch a Diaz with a one dimensional attack. Diaz will win the war standing up and when Stevenson takes the fight to the ground, Diaz will finish him there. Diaz by submission in Round 3.
Dusty: I like Joe’s strength against Diaz and I could see him getting a takedown early, but I don’t see him doing much with it. Diaz will use his reach to win the standup and defend Joe’s shot and win a decision.
Jack: Nate Diaz by unanimous decision. I’m not sure if Nate will be able to stop Joe unless he hurts him enough to choke him out. But I do see him picking him apart standing up with his long reach and on the ground he’s too good to get caught in anything Joe may throw. The only advantage Joe has is in wrestling but I don’t see Joe being able to finish Nate in any way.
Tim: Diaz is one of those fighters who improve with every fight. His last fight with Guida he was flat out over-powered and it was still a close fight. Stevenson is going to be ready after losing two straight but the fact of the matter is the Diaz brothers both hate to lose and there is no way Stevenson will catch Diaz in his patented guillotine.