The UFC returns to Las Vegas this weekend with two events. The first of the two cards is The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, which goes down Friday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Here are my top-10 fighter rankings for the TUF 25 Finale.
1. Justin Gaethje ($7,800)
My top pick on the card is Gaethje, who takes on Michael Johnson in the main event of the evening. The former WSOF lightweight champion is making his UFC debut with a lot of hype behind him but with a perfect 17-0 record including 15 finishes. He’s looked amazing so far in his career but the UFC is a different animal. Johnson is a top-10 fighter to be sure, but he’s shown a lot of flaws in his game as well. I think Gaethje will be extremely aggressive like he always is and swarms Johnson for a knockout. In a five-round fight that should be striking based, Gaethje could pick up some serious points.
2. Teruto Ishihara ($9,200)
Another fighter who I believe is going to have a big night is Ishihara, who takes on the ghost of Gray Maynard. Ishihara got exposed somewhat by Artem Lobov, but I feel like that was just a bad performance, and I think he can bounce back and be the guy who picked up back-to-back knockouts in the UFC. Maynard has lost four of his last five fights and he’s suffered a number of brutal knockout losses. Ishihara is younger, faster, and has better striking against a fighter with a bad chin. Let’s go with Ishihara to win this fight by knockout.
3. Marc Diakese ($9,000)
I’m high on both Diakese and his lightweight opponent Drakkar Klose, but I think ultimately Diakese wins this fight. He’s shown amazing athletic and massive knockout power in his UFC fights so far, and while Klose did look good in his UFC debut, I feel like Diakese is on another level right now. Look for Diakese to have another amazing performance and likely win this fight via TKO.
4. Jarred Cannonier ($8,900)
One of three light heavyweight bouts on the card sees Cannonier take on UFC newcomer Nick Roehrick, and I like Cannonier in this fight. He’s shown the ability to knock people out at the UFC level, and while his wrestling isn’t up to par as he showed against Glover Teixeira, I don’t really feel like Roehrick is on that level. I see Cannonier beating Roehrick everywhere here and probably finishing the fight.
5. Jesse Taylor ($8,600)
The TUF Redemption Finale has Taylor taking on Dhiego Lima. Both men put on a show inside the TUF house, and both men are very deserving finalists. That being said, I really like this matchup for Taylor. He has a major wrestling advantage in this fight, and Lima’s chin is very fragile. I think Taylor is going to take Lima down at will, and I believe he has a great chance to finish the fight with ground-and-pound.
6. Ed Herman ($7,700)
A battle of aging light heavyweights features Herman fighting CB Dollaway. Both men are on their last legs in the UFC, and both are coming off of brutal knockout losses as age and damage have finally caught up to both of them. That being said, I like Herman in this fight. I just think he’s a little bit more dangerous with his striking, and he has the better chin in this matchup. I don’t think Dollaway is a good fit at 205, and I think Herman finishes him with knees just like he did to Tim Boetsch.
7. Jordan Johnson ($8,700)
A light heavyweight prospect who I hold in high regard is Johnson, who fights Marcel Fortuna. Johnson is a young phenom armed with a strong wrestling base and finishing ability all over. Fortuna did have a great UFC debut against Anthony Hamilton, but he won’t have the same speed advantage down at 205. I think Johnson beats up Fortuna everywhere and probably finds a way to finish him late.
8. Elias Theodorou ($8,300)
A middleweight contest sees the Canadian Theodorou take on rival Brad Tavares, and I’m picking Theodorou to win here. Both are the same age at 29, and both men have had success in the Octagon with Theodorou going 5-1 and Tavares going 9-4. Both are primarily wrestling-based grinders who thrive on their cardio advantage. The one big difference here is the chin of Tavares. He’s a guy who has been knocked out a few times in the UFC, and I just don’t trust his chin anymore. In a close fight on paper, I think the chin will be the difference, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Theodorou win this fight via late TKO.
9. Angela Hill ($8,800)
I like Hill in this women’s strawweight bout against Ashley Yoder. Hill has a lot more experience in the UFC and while she hasn’t performed well inside the Octagon with a 1-3 record, she’s still an excellent striker as she showed in Invicta. Yoder missed weight for this fight, and she didn’t look very good in her UFC debut either. I think Hill’s striking advantage is going to earn her a clear decision victory here, if not a knockout.
10. James Krause ($9,300)
The consolation bracket of the TUF Redemption Finale has Krause taking on Tom Gallicchio, and I think this is a fight Krause wins. He has a ton of experience fighting in the UFC and has had success at this level while Gallicchio is still unproven. Both men did well in the house, but the UFC is a different animal. I think Krause welcomes Gallicchio to the UFC with a loss, though I’m not sure if he’s going to be able to finish the fight, which is why he’s at the bottom of this list.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is MMAdamMartin) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.