Yahya didn’t look terrible by any means and nearly beat streaking newcomer Niinimaki as indicated by the scorecards. Still, he lost and ultimately saw a three-fight winning streak laid to waste as a result. Since his stock didn’t take a huge hit, another stand-out 145er coming off a defeat would make a lot of sense for Yahya’s next opponent. Think Clay Guida or Erik Koch. Frankly, if the UFC didn’t need bantamweight females on the roster to help bolster the division I would be calling for Modafferi to be cut. She is not athletic or explosive enough to fight under the organization’s banner. However, she has a recognizable name based on her time in the game and a fantastic personality to boot, so Modafferi is likely to get one more shot at bringing home a UFC win. Fortunately, she’s decided to dedicate her life to training in Las Vegas instead of living in Japan and approaching preparation in a part-time manner, so the 31-year old could show some serious improvement over the next year. Next up should be another sketchy 135er like Peggy Morgan or Germaine De Randamie so the UFC can trim some fat from the roster. Morgan is still pretty much a “Plain Jane” at this point but it’s understandable considering she only has three professional fights under her belt. Though she lost to Duke, the 6’1” scrapper still has some potential and will hopefully see it fulfilled with the right coaching. She has the size and strength to push most of her peers around and needs to learn how to use her frame in such a way. As mentioned before, a meeting with Roxanne Modafferi could work, as could Germaine De Randamie, Jessica Rakoczy, or pretty much any second-tier 135er. It’s interesting to consider Grant has won seven of his eight fights by way of submission but been tapped out in both of his losses. Clearly he has a good ground game but a lot of room for improvement on the mat as well even though BJJ has been the Brit’s bread and butter thus far in his career. On that note, pitting him against a striker is an intriguing prospect since it would give him a chance to shine as well as show off his stand-up (which didn’t look bad per se). Some names worth considering for his next opponent are Johnny Bedford or George Roop based on recent losses and overall ability. Rakoczy is in a tough position career-wise. On one hand, she’s arguably the best female boxer on the UFC roster and has a 31-3 pro record to back it up. On the other, she’s 36 years old and still a neophyte in MMA. She was essentially rushed into the ring based on her success with the sweet science and age but is playing “catch up” where grappling/submissions are concerned. She looked lost in Julianna Pena’s clinch during their TUF 18 tilt and didn’t know what to do when action hit the mat either. The best thing the UFC could do for Rakoczy is give her another 6-9 months to focus purely on polishing up her skill-set. Regardless, Germaine da Randamie would be an excellent opponent for Rakoczy based on similar status as an athlete who excelled in a different combat sport but is still learning on the job as far as Mixed Martial Arts goes. Maynard’s decline from divisional force to glass-jawed fighter on the cusp of being cut has been surprising. After starting his career with a 10-0-1 mark including wins over some of the top 155ers out there, Maynard has gone 1-3 in his last four fights with all three losses coming as a result of a strike-based stoppage. At 34, he only has a few years left in terms of competing at a high level, so seeing his chin start to deteriorate so rapidly is concerning. He’s too muscular to consider cutting down to 145 pounds and too small to fight as a welterweight, so the future is definitely a bit foggy for “The Bully”. If the UFC wants to play it safe, perhaps Michael Chiesa or Evan Dunham will come into play as a future foe since neither is much of a threat to knock Maynard out. If not, look for K.J. Noons or Jorge Masvidal to emerge as potential opponents.
TUF Finale is in the books, giving up-and-coming talent from the recent season an opportunity to shine on the sport’s biggest stage as well as a chance for more established veterans to prove their place on the roster is well-deserved. Ten athletes exited the Octagon last night with heads hung low after suffering a defeat, though not all of the stumbles were devastating or particularly notable for that matter. However, in the case of some of the competitors, coming up short will have a definite impact on their immediate futures… (Photos by USA Today Sports Images) Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale