TUF 20 Finale Main Card Preview & Predictions
UFC makes history on Friday as The Ultimate Fighter 20 featuring the first ever all-female cast concludes with the inaugural Women’s Strawweight Championship bout between Carla Esparza and Rose Namajunas. Esparza and Namajunas defeated Jessica Penne and Randa Markos, respectively on the season’s final episode on Wednesday to advance to the title bout.
Penne and Markos will tangle to kick off the main card while the rest of the TUF 20 cast will fill the undercard. Featherweight contenders Charles Oliveira and Jeremy Stephens will co-headline the event asa pair of lightweight scraps between crowd-pleasing strikers K.J. Noons and Daron Cruickshank and gutsy vets Yancy Medeiros and Joe Proctor round out the main card.
Rose Namajunas (-170) vs Carla Esparza (+165)
Inaugural Women’s Strawweight Championship (115 lbs)
Despite being the top seed, Esparza finds herself as a slight underdog due to the dramatic ascent of Namajunas. The stylistic matchup is completely different as Esparza is the blue-collared type of wrestler-grinder with an improving striking game. Fundamentally Esparza is sounder, tougher and also has the better striking defense.
Namajunas on the flipside is a spectacular crazy fighter not unlike Lightweight Champion, Anthony Pettis. Namajunas throws a variety of kicks and is very aggressive in looking for a submission, pulling off two kimuras against JoJo Calderwood and Randa Markos.
Rose’s one weakness is her porous defense. As a very aggressive fighter, she is susceptible to getting tagged. Rose is the better finisher and the early rounds favor her but so long as Esparza weathers her attacks and neutralizes her submissions, the score cards should favour her.
Prediction: Carla Esparza def. Rose Namajunas via Unanimous Decision
Jeremy Stephens (-115)vs Charles Oliveira (+135)
Featherweight Bout (145 lbs)
Stephens hits like a demon. In just 40 seconds, he kicked Rony Jason’s head off handing the Brazilian his first UFC loss. Much earlier in his career at lightweight, he knocked out now-contender Rafael dos Anjos with one punch in a fight he was losing. Stephens has a purple belt in BJJ but he prefers to sprawl and brawl and has been submitted a few times.
Oliveira has won 100% of his fights by way of submission. The BJJ black belt has six UFC submissions with five earning a post-fight bonus.At only 25, Oliveira’s already had 11 fights in the UFC and all four of his losses have come against the elite. The fight will be a true test to see who the real contender is. In a striker versus grappler affair it really is a coin-flip fight but Stephens’s power can break Oliveira’s confidence and ability to take the fight to the ground.
Prediction: Jeremy Stephens via TKO (Round 1)
Daron Cruickshank (-165) vs K.J. Noons (+155)
Lightweight Bout (155 lbs)
A really fun match-up two entertaining strikers as the “Detroit Superstar” Daron Cruickshank will test his spectacular arsenal of Taekwondo kicks against gritty kickboxer, K.J. Noons. Cruickshank is the more versatile and rangy striker and has a wrestling background—though rarely used—should he decide to switch it up on the Hawaiian.
Noons has been fighting since 2002 and has notable stoppage wins over Nick Diaz and Yves Edwards. Cruickshank has the slight edge in striking and grappling (should it go there) but Noons gets the edge on dirty boxing and clinching. The smaller TUF cage will prove to be a huge factor however as it’ll help Noons cut off the distance and neutralize Cruickshank’s kicks. A close fight that can swing either way but Noons could eke out a mild upset in the score cards.
Prediction: K.J. Noons def. Daron Cruickshank via Split Decision
Yancy Medeiros (-235) vs Joe Proctor (+218)
Lightweight Bout (155 lbs)
An underrated scrap right here. Medeiros is a Team Gracie fighter and a good friend to the Diaz brothers. He shows a lot of relative swagger and is dangerous in either striking or grappling. “The Kid” has a lot of promise as a versatile aggressive fighter but can get pretty reckless and susceptible to getting hit or taken down.
Proctor is almost the opposite as a more fundamental technical grappler with heavy hands. In a smaller octagon, Medeiros can let loose and finish Proctor in spectacular fashion but the chances of him running into a knockout blow or getting taken down may just be as likely. Proctor could surprise a lot of people if and when he capitalizes on a mistake from The Kid.
Prediction: Joe Proctor def. Yancy Medeiros via TKO (Round 1)
Randa Markos (-110) vs Jessica Penne (+101)
Women’s Strawweight Bout (115 lbs)
Another grappler versus striker match;outside Rose Namajunas, Markos was the best sleeper in the show with upset wins over Tecia Torres and Felice Herrig. She made a critical mistake against Namajunas and was submitted. She has a strong wrestling base and is tough as nails.
Penne is a very crafty BJJ fighter and the longer of the two. She has a slight edge in the striking department but both are pretty raw. Like most lanky fighters, Penne has issues defending takedowns and could find herself on her back a few times. The issue with Markos is her submission defense as Namajunas exposed. Markos could hope to grind out Penne but in the span of three rounds, Penne eventually capitalizes on a mistake to capture a submission win.
Prediction: Jessica Penne def. Randa Markos via Submission (Round 3)