On July 8th, the bitter feud between long term rivals, Strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Claudia Gadelha, will again reignite inside the octagon at the Ultimate fighter finale. Since both women last faced one another in 2014, with JJ winning by split decision, the hostility between the pair has reached new heights. Back and forth insults have been slung through social media and the press, and when both women were announced as coaches for season 23 of the Ultimate Fighter, fireworks began to go off. On the show they both verbally assaulted one another and eventually ended with them having (an apparent) off camera scuffle. When the cage door closes behind them on fight night, don’t expect any touch of gloves but be prepared for an all-out war. Also, before the main event two new winners will be crowned in the climax to the Ultimate Fighter series, further down the card sees the UFC debut of lightweight Will Brooks as he takes on English slugger Ross Pearson, featherweights Doo Ho Choi and Thiago Tavares do battle, UFC veteran Gray Maynard takes on Fernando Bruno and exciting prospects Jake Matthews and Kevin Lee go to war, in what should be an impressive night of fights.
As always, I will now break down all the main card fights, give my predictions and of course put my own “Armchair Expert” title on the line.
JOANNA JEDRZEJCZYK vs. CLAUDIA GADELHA
This fight promises to be one of the fights of the week; both women share nothing but anger and hatred towards one another. The champion was successful when she last faced Gadelha, beating her in a closely fought contest. Since then, JJ has gone on to the claim the women’s Strawweight belt and cemented her status as the best fighter in the division. With a perfect 11-0 record, JJ is constantly improving in each performance inside the octagon. The Polish national is the owner of some of the finest boxing on the entire UFC roster and since the Gadelha fight, has drastically improved her wrestling and takedown defence. Aside from their feelings towards one another, the added spice to this fight is that the hardest fight of JJ’s career thus far was against Gadelha and she will again have to be on her best form to keep her belt. Gadelha was riding a undefeated 12 fight winning streak when she faced JJ back in late 2014, and despite losing to the judge’s scorecards, the Brazilian was adamant she should have been the victor. Since that loss, Gadelha has only fought once; defeating Jessica Aguilar at UFC 190, whereas the champ has won the belt and defended it twice in the same timeframe. For Gadelha to win this fight, she must employ the same tactics as the first time they met, take JJ down but ensure she works more from the top position, it will be a costly mistake if she chooses to stand and trade with JJ. The champ’s game plan will be simple; use her exquisite jab to keep her at bay and find a home for her relentless combinations. The one risk with a fight as tension filled as this is that if either woman fights with their emotions it could end very quickly and very badly. It has certainly got potential to go the distance like their last encounter but I think JJ has improved too much with her movement and wrestling for the less inactive Gadelha to cause her any trouble. JJ to retain her belt as Gadelha gets caught early and put to sleep.
JJ by TKO.
ROSS PEARSON vs. WILL BROOKS
Pearson has desperately been trying to string a winning streak together but it doesn’t seem to be coming off for the proud Geordie, going 4-4 in his last 8 outings. “The Real Deal” is capable of beatings anyone on his day but this next test; welcoming UFC newcomer Will Brooks, will be a real challenge to overcome. Brooks is the former Bellator lightweight champion and comes here on an 8 fight winning streak. With only the one blemish on his record, I can’t see Pearson inflicting another. Pearson is a dangerous fighter who likes to fire shots from the pocket, but unless he connects cleanly and consistently he won’t put a dampener on Brooks’ debut. It will be a difficult contest that should go the distance but once Brooks stays away from Pearson’s vicious hooks and finds a more creative way of landing shots of his own, he shouldn’t have too much trouble throughout the bout. Brooks is too well rounded and should out point and out class Pearson. Unfortunately for the proud Englishman, it will be another frustrating result but a great start to the career of the extremely talented Brooks.
Brooks by decision.
DOO HO CHOI vs. THIAGO TAVARES
“The Korean Superboy” has nasty knockout power, when he throws a shot it’s always with bad intentions; his last 7 opponents can vouch for this. His first two fights with the UFC have lasted a combined total of 1:51 and this contest could go the same way. The one downside to Ho Choi’s game is his tendency, and willingness, to get dragged into brawls, albeit the majority of the time he comes out on top in these exchanges, but it’s a dangerous game to play in the world of MMA. His next task en route to gaining recognition in the stacked featherweight division is veteran grappler Thiago Tavares. The Brazilian is an accomplished fighter on the mat; he will be aiming to drag Ho Choi to the mat and land big shots from the top as he looks to grind out a victory. This will be a tough test for Ho Choi, if Tavares gets him down it could be a very long night for him, as Tavares will keep working until he gets an opportunity to lock in his favoured choke. The other side of the coin is; if Tavares can’t get him down he will be in big trouble, it’s never a wise move to stand and trade with someone as heavy handed as the Korean. If Ho Choi can defend all the takedowns then it won’t be long before he connects with a huge haymaker and the ref calls a halt to the contest.
Ho Choi by KO.
Best of the Rest.
Joaquim Silva vs. Andrew Holbrook
Holbrook to win.
Gray Maynard vs. Fernando Bruno
Maynard to win.
John Moraga vs. Matheus Nicolau
Moraga to win.
Cezar Ferreira vs. Anthony Smith
Ferreira to win.
Jake Matthews vs. Kevin Lee
Matthews to win.
Li Jingliang vs. Anton Zafir
Jingliang to win.
Bet of the Day.
The adventurous bet: all 9 predictions in an accumulator is about 76/1
The conservative bet: JJ to win by KO is 10/3
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