UFC “ULTIMATE FIGHTER 24” PRIMER: Ecochard’s Preview & Predictions including Benavidez vs. Cejudo, Demetrious vs. Elliot, Ellenberger vs. Masvidal

By Matt Ecochard, MMATorch contributor

UFC: The Ultimate Fighter 24 Finale Primer – Matt Ecochard

Another season of the UFC’s reality show has ended and the winner Timothy Elliot will be taking on the flyweight champion and number one pound for pound fighter in the world Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. Some solid fights round out the card and it should be a fun night of fights. The following are previews and predictions for the entirety of the card.

UFC Fight Pass Prelims

Joshua Stansbury (8-3) vs. Devin Clark (6-1) – Light Heavyweight Bout

A close first UFC fight was still a victory for Joshua Stansbury and he looks to continue his winning ways against the dangerous Devin Clark. Stansbury is a grappler and will constantly apply pressure to get the fight to the ground. On TUF Stansbury went just 1-2, getting a lucky second shot, but not getting too far with it. Although never knocked out in his pro career Stansbury has been knocked out on TUF and in his amateur career multiple times. Devin Clark suffered his first career defeat by KO against Alex Nicholson in a fight he was winning pretty handily before getting caught. Clark is bred as a true mixed martial artist by the Jackson-Wink MMA camp. His grappling isn’t at the highest level but it does the job at this point in his career. Look for Clark to keep the fight standing and get his first UFC win here.

Prediction: Devin Clark via TKO Round 2

Elvis Mutapcic (15-4-1) vs. Anthony Smith (25-12) – Middleweight Bout

A bout between two middle of the pack Middleweights occurs with Elvis Mutapcic taking on Anthony Smith. Elvis Mutapcic hasn’t shown any reason to believe that he should be a UFC fighter so far with a fairly dominated loss to Francimar Barroso and a split draw to ex-UFC fighter Kevin Casey. He has a decent game overall but doesn’t excel enough in any area to really take control of his fights. Smith is 1-1 with a loss to Cezar Ferreira which was probably too much too soon. Smith should be the clear favorite coming into this bout with smart fight IQ he should be able to get the victory here, but probably won’t finish the durable Mutapcic.

Prediction: Anthony Smith via Unanimous Decision

Fox Sports 1 Prelims

Kailin Curran (4-3) vs. Jamie Moyle (3-1) – Women’s Strawweight Bout

Despite going 1-3 thus far, Kailin Curran is getting a chance to redeem herself when taking on promotional newcomer Jamie Moyle. Debuting off of a loss is a strange circumstance that doesn’t occur often but it is the case here with Jamie Moyle. It appears that the UFC is bringing someone in from Invicta that they think Curran can beat to help her keep her spot on the roster as she is a popular fighter hailing from Hawaii. Curran can do a little bit of everything, but where she falters is in her consistency in the octagon.  Moyle was on TUF a couple of seasons back and she’s grinder who was beaten when she couldn’t keep the bout on the mat. Curran is a very tough fighter and if the fight becomes a battle of attrition then Curran will certainly pull through. Moyle could very well keep the fight on the ground, but Curran should be better than that.

Prediction: Kailin Curran via Unanimous Decision

Dong Hyun Kim (13-8-3) vs. Brendan O’Reilly (6-2, 1NC) – Lightweight Bout

Dong Hyun Kim has yet to impress inside the octagon going 0-2 thus far, but is getting one last chance against Brendan O’Reilly. Kim came into the UFC winning 7 of his last 8 bouts but he hasn’t been able to put anything together to get a win yet. His overall game is pretty strong but he fades deep in the fight and has gotten finished in the third round of his last two fights. O’Reilly hasn’t had much better showings himself with his only victory coming against Vik Grujic. This fight to me is a pick ’em due to the unimpressive showings thus far and it shouldn’t be all that exciting of a fight, but Kim should be able to squeak out the victory.

Prediction: Dong Hyun Kim via Split Decision

Rob Font (12-2) vs. Matt Schnell (9-2) – Bantamweight Bout:

The Ultimate Fighter participant Matt Schnell has a great short notice opportunity to upset tough UFC fighter Rob Font in his UFC debut. Font had a very large jump in competition to take on contender John Lineker, a bout he survived but ultimately lost a decision in. His striking is sharp and he hits hard so he could be a very hard stylistic match for Matt Schnell. Schnell is a very exciting young fighter who looked impressive on his stint during the reality show. His striking is quick and his submission game is strong. Training with American Top Team, Schnell should continue to improve but this fight should be too much too soon for him. Font comes out with the win in a fun battle.

Prediction: Rob Font via Unanimous Decision

Gray Maynard (13-6-1, 1NC) vs. Ryan Hall (5-1)– Featherweight Bout

A rejuvenated Gray Maynard now competing at featherweight faces a recent TUF lightweight winner in Ryan Hall who is dropping back down to his natural weight class. Maynard looked better at featherweight and saved his UFC career after losing four in a row at lightweight. The wrestling pedigree of Maynard is what helped him get to those title fights against Edgar. The chin of Maynard had started to deteriorate since those bouts and he was knocked out three times in a row against TJ Grant, Nate Diaz and Ross Pearson. Wrestling will be put to the test against the immensely talented grappling of Ryan Hall. 16 medals are the trophies that Hall has to show for his skill set and he has only lost one professional bout, which was back in 2006. Maynard may want to keep the fight standing because if it hits the ground, Hall may be the trickiest man he has fought on the mat. Look for a career defining victory by beating the biggest name he has faced yet with an exciting submission.

Prediction: Ryan Hall via Submission Round 1

Fox Sports 1 Main Card

(#12) Brandon Moreno (12-3) vs. Ryan Benoit (9-4) – Flyweight Bout

Brandon Moreno pulled off quite the shocking first round upset of the ranked Louis Smolka. Ryan Benoit will look to slow down the momentum of 22 year old Moreno. The BJJ skills of Moreno are slick and he can pull of a strong guillotine, rear-naked choke or armbar very quickly. Benoit has had a mixed career so far in the UFC with his biggest win being a come from behind TKO of Sergio Pettis in a fight he was losing. Benoit’s skills are his sharp boxing combinations and solid power. If Moreno gets the fight down, he will most certainly pull of the submission. Benoit needs to keep the fight standing, but he has shown a weakness to rear-naked chokes specifically and that is really Moreno’s bread and butter.

Prediction: Brandon Moreno via Submission Round 1

(#7) Sara McMann (9-3) vs. Alexis Davis (16-6) – Women’s Bantamweight Bout

Olympic wrestler turned MMA fighter Sara McMann is trying to work her way back to a title fight and needs to get past Alexis Davis to get there. Sara McMann is still working on the rest of her game trying to catch up to her wrestling. The ground and pound she can put out allows her to have a fairly brutal ground game, but has shown holes in her game. Alexis Davis hasn’t been the most active fighter and it has kept her out of the rankings. She has looked really strong against any opponent not named Ronda Rousey. Dealing with a wrestler as strong as Sara McMann is not something Davis has prepared for however and barring a submission upset, McMann should be able to grind out a decision.

Prediction: Sara McMann via Unanimous Decision

Ion Cutelaba (12-2) vs. Jared Cannonier (8-1) – Light Heavyweight Bout

Two 1-1 fighters will look to break their even record and come out with a positive one when Ion Cutelaba takes on the former heavyweight Jared Cannonier. Both fighters are happiest when standing and trading. Cutelaba is a European Sambo champion with a nice mixed background with judo and wrestling that helps him have a very strong all around game. At only 22 years old Cutelaba has plenty more to gain in mixed martial arts and he will continue to grow already being in the UFC at this age. Cannonier is going to be a very large light heavyweight. He dominated Cyril Asker when they met and hopefully will look even better at 205 lbs. It’s hard to tell what will happen with his first trip down a weight class, but if Cannonier carries his skill set down he could look like a strong fighter. Potential upset alert her with Cannonier getting a impressive victory.

Prediction: Jared Cannonier via KO Round 2

(#15) Jake Ellenberger (31-11) vs. Jorge Masvidal (30-11) – Welterweight Bout

Jake Ellenberger came out looking like the 2011 version of himself when he viciously beat down Matt Brown. Ellenberger has some very good striking with monster power, great wrestling and takedown defense. The problem Ellenberger has had is not being aggressive enough when he is already losing the bout. Jorge Masvidal is a really good challenge for Ellenberger here with his equally impressive record and veteran experience. Masvidal has the better overall MMA game for sure, but will he be able to take down Ellenberger? Masvidal will most likely be the favorite, but let’s go with Ellenberger to continue to look like a beast with his back against the wall, because another loss here and he will still likely be on the chopping block. Ellenberger will be the second man to finish Masvidal by strikes.

Prediction: Ellenberger via TKO Round 1

(#1) Joseph Benavidez (24-4) vs. (#2) Henry Cejudo (10-1) – Flyweight Bout

The coaches from TUF 24 will do battle as the top two contenders Joseph Benavidez and Henry Cejudo square off. Benavidez is a slight favorite, but these two could fight ten times and the result could be different every single time. Benavidez is one of the best all around fighters in the entire UFC. His wrestling, boxing, BJJ and overall aggressive yet tactical style has kept him in the run for a title shot. With two losses against the champion Demetrious Johnson it’ll be hard to get a third crack at him, but he doesn’t have any viable contenders and a win over Cejudo will most likely get him that shot. Cejudo is an Olympic wrestler with great boxing. His last fight was a disappointing loss to Demetrious Johnson but with a win over Benavidez he might get a second chance to prove it may have been a bad night for him. Cejudo will obviously try to get the fight to the ground, but Benavidez should be able to do enough throughout three round to get the nod.

Prediction: Joseph Benavidez via Unanimous Decision

(Champion) Demetrious Johnson (24-2-1) vs. Timothy Elliot (13-6-1) – Flyweight Championship Main Event (5 Rounds):

A very unique TUF season allowed for a unique finish with the winner of the season getting a title shot against the pound for pound best fight in the world. Tim Elliot was previously in the UFC but was let go after some rough performances, now Elliot is a revitalized fighter and is looking to get another shot in the UFC and winning this fight against Johnson would be by far the biggest of his career and really cap off an amazing story for him. The problem is that he is taking on a constantly improving fighter in the champion and has a tall order in front of him.

Demetrious Johnson has a base in wrestling and Muay Thai but he is so much more than that as a fighter. The footwork, agility, power and technical prowess of the champion is second to none. He has been clipped in the past, but he can also recover like very few can. Every time that Johnson goes out to fight he just looks better than the last time. His submission skills are improving as well as he has been finishing bout more often than he previously has. Look for a very dangerous version of Demetrious Johnson to come out Saturday night.

Tim Elliot has as much chance as anyone to beat Johnson, which isn’t saying much. After losing three in a row to be cut by the UFC, Elliot moved on to Titan FC and won the flyweight championship there and defending it twice afterwards. Elliot is best on the ground, but has some solid striking and the one factor that could help is his height and reach advantage. Elliot will try to do his best, but in all areas he will likely be outclassed. Look for another dominant win by a terrifying champion.

Prediction: Demetrious Johnson via Submission Round 2

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