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TUF 8 Finale: Preview and Predictions

Saturday’s live season finale of The Ultimate Fighter (9 p.m. ET on Spike TV) will present two interesting clash of styles in the finals of the lightweight and light heavyweight tournaments held to determine two fighters that will become the next “Ultimate Fighter.”

The light heavyweight final will pit a former NCAA standout wrestler in Ryan Bader against a world class jiu-jitsu black belt in Vinicius Magalhaes. In the lightweight final, we’ll see another former NCAA standout in Efrain Escudero take on Phillipe Nover, who is a true mixed martial artist as he is a threat both on his feet and on the floor.

In addition to the two TUF tournament finals, viewers will also be treated to fights between fighters already on the UFC roster when Jason MacDonald takes on Wilson Gouveia and Anthony Johnson rematches Kevin Burns.

Below’s preview of the five fights scheduled to be televised.

TUF 8 Light Heavyweight Final: Ryan Bader vs. Vinny Magalhaes – Bader trains out of Arizona Combat Sports under Trevor and Todd Lally. ACS is one of the fastest rising fight gyms in the world and in addition to Bader, C.B. Dollaway, Aaron Simpson, Steve and Ray Steinbeiss, WEC lightweight champ Jamie Varner, and WEC welterweight champ Carlos Condit all work out of ACS. Needless to say, Bader isn’t at a loss for good training partners.

ACS specializes in taking standout NCAA wrestlers and turning them into well-rounded mixed martial artists. But that transformation takes time. Pundits were critical of Dollaway’s performance during the course of TUF 7 but overlooked the fact that he’s only been training for a couple of years. Bader is also still relatively new to the world of MMA and should be excused for still being a little green.

A tremendous athlete with a ton of potential, the question that needs to be answered Saturday is whether Bader is ready for the shark tank that is the UFC’s light heavyweight division. He will take his first test on Saturday against Magalhaes, a world renowned jiu-jitsu player who possesses a tremendous amount of danger to Bader on the ground.

Bader’s best weapon is his wrestling and he will need it to prevent Magalhaes from taking him down. The last place he wants to be against Magalhaes is on his back. It also remains to be seen whether Bader wants to be on the floor at all. During a recent interview conducted by contributing writer Cory Brady, Bader expressed little concern about being in Magalhaes’ guard. However, anytime a fighter talks strategy in public, it should be taken with a grain of salt. Even on his back, Magalhaes’ jiu-jitsu is still a threat that Bader might want to avoid.

Bader’s best bet is to keep this fight standing and try to utilize his tremendous strength to knock Magalhaes out standing. If this fight turns into a standup war — which I fully expect — Bader can test Magalhaes’ striking skills. From what I saw on the show, Magalhaes’ striking is a lot better than people are giving him credit for. However, standing and trading with Magalhaes is a better percentage play for Bader as opposed to getting involved in a jiu-jitsu match with him.

Prediction: Bader has a bright future but Magalhaes is just dangerous. I expect the fight to primarily be a standup war but I do think the fight will eventually go to the ground, where I envision Magalhaes winning via third round submission.

TUF 8 Lightweight Final: Phillipe Nover vs. Efrain Escudero – UFC President Dana White confirmed during a special Q&A session in Fort Bragg, North Carolina that the fighter he once referenced as “the lightweight Anderson Silva” was indeed Phillipe Nover.

Nover, who served as a blogger for during the course of the airing of TUF 8, may not yet be the lightweight version of Anderson Silva, but he’s one of the brightest prospects that the TUF franchise has ever produced.

In Nover, the UFC uncovered a hidden gem. I am just amazed how the Manhattan resident has come out of nowhere. Living in Philadelphia, I pay close attention to the East Coast MMA scene. While I wouldn’t call myself an “expert,” I would say that I am very familiar with fighters coming out of New England, New Jersey, Delaware, and Southeast Pennsylvania. I am also familiar with a lot of fighters that are based out of New York. However, in all my travels, I had not heard of Nover. The first time I was ever exposed to him was through TUF.

Possessing well-rounded skills, Nover is ready to come in and compete with the UFC’s top lightweights right now. His dynamic striking ability coupled with his impressive jiu-jitsu skills makes him the worst possible matchup for a fighter such as Efrain Escudero.

Escudero is a strong prospect in his own right, but coming from a wrestling background is still looking for his all-around game to evolve. While his striking looked better than expected during his semifinal matchup, the last thing he wants to do is test his standup against Nover.

Escudero needs to get the fight to the ground as soon as possible because exchanging strikes with Nover will be a losing proposition that could end his night early.

Prediction: Escudero will get it to the ground but fail to keep it there, setting up the chance for Nover to win via second round KO.

Kevin Burns vs. Anthony Johnson – Burns, a jiu-jitsu blue belt who submitted black belt Roan Carneiro in his UFC debut, won a controversial bout against Johnson at UFC Fight Night 14 in July. The official result was a TKO for Burns over Johnson but that TKO was caused by an illegal eye poke that referee Steve Mazzagatti missed.

Upon seeing the replays, Mazzagatti actually approached Johnson a week later at EliteXC’s “Unfinished Business” event in Stockton, California and apologized for missing the poke. Johnson graciously accepted the apology and seemed pretty poised for someone forced to the sidelines after undergoing surgery as a result of the injury sustained.

Burns has been professional through the ordeal as well, apologizing and taking the blame for the illegal strike. However, he attributed to his frequent eye poking during the course of the bout to having a broken hand that hasn’t healed properly. It begs the question that if Burns couldn’t throw a close handed jab in July, will he be able to do so on Saturday? Mazzagatti may have missed a few calls during their first encounter, but based on all the controversy, there will likely be zero tolerance for poking this time around.

Johnson is a tremendous athlete with a ton of upside, and as such, I was surprised that Burns was able to hang with him for much of the fight. Athletically, these two are on two completely different levels and Burns is the kind of opponent that Johnson needs to put away in order to realize his potential.

Look for Johnson to not only be more aggressive in this fight, but to also be more effective since he will be able to fight without impaired vision.

Prediction: As long as Johnson can see clearly, I expect him to enact a measure of revenge and knock Burns out in the first round.

Jason MacDonald vs. Wilson Gouveia – This should be an interesting fight in that it’s cutdown season in the UFC. Both MacDonald and Gouveia are talented fighters that certainly belong in the UFC but with both having moved up the pay scale, one has to wonder what might be in store for the loser of this encounter.

MacDonald recovered from a loss to blue chip prospect Demian Maia at UFC 87 in August to come back the next month at UFC 88 to submit Jason Lambert. The loss forced Lambert out of the UFC and MacDonald received a new contract soon after. However, as many fighters have learned the hard way, your UFC contract isn’t worth the paper it’s printet on if you’re not winning fights.

Gouveia, a former light heavyweight competitor, has won some fights and has lost some. A member of American Top Team, he possesses a lot of potential but hasn’t been able to win on a consistent basis. There’s a real opportunity for Gouveia at 185 but he’s going to need to be able to put together three to four straight wins if he hopes to be able to contend for a title.

Both fighters are strong on the ground and if it hits the floor, a stalemate is possible. The fighters would be wise not to expend too much energy fighting a game of inches on the ground. Instead, their best bet is to keep the fight standing and vie for “Fight of the Night” honors.

Prediction: MacDonald is nicknamed “The Athlete” but I think Gouveia actually might be better athletically. I am picking Gouveia via unanimous decision, as he has the better standup of the two.

Junie Browning vs. Dave Kaplan – I was really impressed by Junie Browning during the qualifying round but felt that he underachieved once he got into the house. It just seemed like Junie was at war with himself every time he had to fight and Dave Kaplan’s standup is good enough that he’ll put Junie down if he’s not mentally ready to fight. Maybe the switch finally clicked for Junie while he’s been training in Vegas these past few months, but I still think the safer pick is Kaplan.

Prediction: Kaplan via third round TKO.

  • mike wolfe says:

    Bader v. Magalhaes won’t be a stand up war. Imo, Bader will chase Magalhaes around the ring while Magalhaes backpeddles and counters. There’s always the chance of a lucky punch, but I’ll bet that Bader eventually tires, the fight goes to the ground, and Magalhaes submits him.

    The question for Browning v. Kaplan is Browning’s conditioning. He looked gassed in the first round of his TUF fights, and if they were only allowed to train two hours per day, it’s easy to see why. If he’s in shape, he KO’s Kaplan for the second time Kaplan’s never been KO’d.

  • hindsightufuk says:

    Magalhaes bjj looks awesome, im hoping its as good as it looks so far. If it is, i cant think of many light heavy weights who could hang with his submissions. The submissions were instant, as soon as he hit the ground he was in position, obviously the opponents werent elite on TUF, but still, the boy got skills.
    I never predict fights but i fully expect first round submission from him.

  • Leland Roling says:

    I expect either a Bader decision or Vinnie subbing him early. If Vinnie has to stand with Bader for any extended amount of time, he better have improved his striking significantly because the raw power Bader will be throwing could be tough to deal with… unless Bader comes in like Lambert and Vinnie possesses Gouveia striking.

  • Hawkins says:

    Call me insane, but I think the time back at his home gym will help Junie. I also think there’s a possibility that knowing his UFC life is on the line might help as he’s not surrounded by a bunch of people trying to take a job away from him (I think the paranoia contributed to his fragile mental state).

    Whether it translates to the ring is another story.

  • portland mma says:

    I think Bader is going to win off of athleticism and heart. I think it will be an ugly stand up war and he’ll wear Vinny out. Also Vinny doesn’t like to be hit so if Bader can rock him it should help him break him, however if Vinny has the smallest opening on the ground its over. I think Phillipe is going to run through Efrian (even though I think Efrian could end up in the UFC). Anthony Rumble Johnson is going to win by KO to avenge the stitches in his eye. I think Wilson Gouivea is going to work the Athlete and I just hope somebody gets KO’d in the match between the drunken southern moron against the quasi intelligent pee drinker “who can’t be knocked out.” I honestly hate both of these guys, my dream would be if they both knocked each other out at the same time and i never heard there names again.

  • Joey says:

    Bader won’t KO Vinny. Vinny will clinch if the standup is going bad and pull card and quickly sub Bader.

  • Kaplan gets rocked by Junie (look at him come weigh in) Junie is in shape and more focused then he has ever been. I am grand master Jizz non eater and I say that extra protien hurt Kaplin not helped him.

    Tom lawler will go down as well.

    Nover will beat effrain and Junie will jum the ring after his 30 second non ko ko of kaplin and whoop fainting feliepe

  • Grappo says:

    I agree with Joey. Vinny won’t get into a striking war with Bader. He doesn’t want to mess up that pretty face, especially when he doesn’t have to. I imagine him pulling guard like he did against Krysztof (sp? never seen so many Z’s in a name) pretty quickly and either getting smothered by Bader the entire fight, or pulling off a sub. I’m going with the sub.

    Nover is going to demolish Escudero.

    I pick McDonald over Gouveia. He is always impressive, even in defeat, and I can’t say the same for Gouveia.

    Johnson will either get his revenge, or get a replay of his last fight.

    Junie and Kaplan.. they are both unlikeable and unimpressive. With conditioning and a clear head I think Junie takes it though. He’s making me root for Kaplan, and that’s another reason for me not to like him.

  • glock says:

    I’m sooo happy to see Johnson fight again and hope he’s 100% with no lingering effects of the injury. If he’s on, it’ll be a quick fight with a dominating performance. This guy has so much going for him, reach,speed,power, AND his wrestling is way better than OK, plus he’s a great smart humble guy,that says his dad is his best role model and friend; what’s not to like? Also Burns comes off somewhat less than sincerely remorseful, or convinced of the his being undeserving of that last “W”.

    I see Bader getting subbed. Quickly, unless he refuses to close the distance and let Vinnie get a hold of him. He’d be smart to come into the ring really warm and sweaty.
    If Vinnie doesn’t get to the ground quick enough though,his chin is a big question. He should take advantage of that, and feign getting stunned in an exchange then let Bader follow him with reckless abandon to the ground (or fence), and pick some low hangin fruit……. One caveat, I too think Vinnies striking IS a lot better than we’ve seen thus far, and could actually be a big spoiler. I think he’s got a decent reach advantage as well, but I’m not sure…..

    Both Junie and Kaplan gotta show us something…. either can be impressive or wimpy (by wimpy I’m talking UFC standards) . What’s it gonna be? UFC or burger king? pretty good time to make that choice…. I don’t care, I just wanna see a good fight. If I had to pick, I’d say Kaplan showed way less than he was capable of, and is less prone to be effected by the mental ebbs and flows, Junie on the other hand comes off WAY more emotional but we have a better sense of what he can do. So I guess if Kaplan hangs tough Junie starts giving up points,but if Junie has gotten “his mind right” while back home, then I’ll give him the edge.Either can get caught.

    I gotta go with Sam and say Nover is the best fighter I’ve never heard of. Got the makings of an MMA superstar thus far. I think this fight will be better than we all are predicting but Nover will prevail.


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