Matt Riddle is extremely new to professional MMA and really just trying to get his foot in the door of the sport. Even though he’s had no real professional experience, his training as a wrestler and in BJJ will definitely help in his ground game. As a fan of ground and pound, Riddle will likely try to keep the fight off his feet and will try to dominate his buddy Rivera with grappling.
Dante Rivera, on the other hand, has some decent experience in MMA under his belt. Having earned his brown belt in BJJ under Renzo Gracie, this will by far be his biggest strength. Though he fared very well on this season of TUF, he felt like he could’ve done better. And he should have. This fight with Riddle will help him to redeem himself. Expect this fight to be almost entirely on the ground, and expect Rivera’s experience to overcome Riddle’s attempts at ground and pound.
Prediction: Rivera via submission round one
The heavy-handed Fisher is coming off a tough loss to Frankie Edgar late last year. Though he’s won 3 of his last 5 fights in the UFC, he still feels the need to prove himself. Because Fisher is a banger and is known for his fantastic stand up, Stephens will more than likely underestimate his ground game and try to take him down. Unfortunately for Stephens, this may backfire, as Fisher is fully capable of submitting him (as evidenced by his 7 wins by submission). But, Fisher is definitely far more comfortable on his feet and this is where he will try to dominate Stephens. Obviously Fisher is going to go for the knockout and will try to get it done quickly.
Even though Stephens is known for his heavy hands and is a pretty well-rounded fighter, he will probably try keeping this fight on the mat, knowing how much Fisher prefers to stand up. Being well-trained in jiu-jitsu and muay thai, Stephens’ best chance of winning is to get Fisher on his back and keep him there (as Fisher has never been submitted). If Stephens wants to win, he better go all 3 rounds and look good for the decision. But in reality, Fisher will almost certainly not let that happen.
Prediction: Fisher via TKO round two
A favorite of the UFC, this is a huge fight for Diego Sanchez. A win for him would likely earn him a title shot — and that is Sanchez’s chief motivation. From 2002 to 2006, Sanchez had a 17 fight win streak which was broken by Josh Koscheck. In this streak, almost half of the wins were by submission. A black belt in Gaidojutsu with phenomenal grappling skills, Sanchez wants this fight on the ground. This by far where he is at his strongest. Even though lately his fights have been going to decision, he is going to want to finish Fioravanti off before it goes to the judges.
The fairly inexperienced Fioravanti is a popular fighter appearance on UFC undercards. With most of his wins coming via TKOs, he is a solid striker with good takedown defense. This is a good match for Sanchez in that respect. As much as Sanchez is going to try to get Fioravanti on his back, he’s not going to just lie down and make it easy for him. Expect Fioravanti to keep on his feet and try to throw down. With 7 TKOs under his belt, he’ll try to make Sanchez number 8. But considering experience, Sanchez just has too much of it for Fioravanti.
Prediction: Sanchez via submission round one
The fight we’ve all been waiting for. Amir Sadollah has been the extreme underdog since day one of TUF Season 7. With no professional fight experience prior to the show, that has forced him to work that much harder to prove himself worthy. And since he didn’t wrestle or box like most MMA fighters, he’s literally had to start from scratch in his training. But with the unbelievable heart he has demonstrated and the training he’s received on the show, he should absolutely not be counted out. He’s proven himself over and over on the show, from his win over Matt Brown to his first win over C.B. (both wins via submission). Sadollah has become a very well-rounded fighter with a solid chin and great cardio. Sadollah will be able handle whatever C.B. dishes out, and will be able dish out damage of his own.
C.B. Dollaway has been the show favorite from day one. With a professional record of 6-0 prior to the show, he obviously has some solid experience behind him. An All-American wrestler, Dollaway’s strength is definitely on the mat. This is where he will try to dominate Sadollah. However, his stand up should not be underestimated. He has a substantial chin and has polished striking skills. Four of his professional wins came via TKO, so he obviously does have good stand up.
This fight is huge for both fighters. For Sadollah, this is the chance of a lifetime — the chance to prove that his training and success thus far on the show was not a fluke. It is his opportunity to showcase his skills and advance what should be a very promising career in MMA. For Dollaway, this is what he’s worked long and hard for. This is the opportunity for him to do what he loves and to do it professionally. Both have a lot riding on this fight. However, the pressure may get to Sadollah, leaving him vulnerable to Dollaway’s experience. If that happens, Dollaway will have him on his back and in a weak spot.
Prediction: Dollaway via submission round three
This fight will be the battle between experience and youth. Evan Tanner is a 10+ year veteran to MMA with over 40 fights to his credit. A former UFC Middleweight champion, Tanner is clearly looking to regain his footing in the ranks of UFC greats. Coming off of a rough loss to Yushin Okami, he is taking this fight against Grove seriously to redeem himself. Though he holds no belts or ranks, he is a highly skilled and well-trained fighter that is a submission specialist. This is where he will try to impose himself on Grove. He will try to get Grove on his back and either pound the hell out of him or get him to submit.
As the middleweight winner of TUF Season 3, Grove needs to prove that his win on the show was not a fluke. Though he has youth on his side, with it comes a serious lack of experience in comparison to Tanner. With only 13 total fights under his belt, the last 2 of which were losses, his mental status probably isn’t very confident. However, he is pretty well-rounded as a fighter. Grove says he prefers to stand and brawl, while 6 of his wins are via submission. As far as fighting against Tanner, he will likely try to keep the match standing up. Knowing how easily Tanner submits his opponents, Grove will not want to end up on his back. Look for Grove to try to dominate Tanner with his fists.
With both fighters on the decline, both need the win in order to stay in the UFC. Both are desperate to prove themselves worthy of a continued career. All their heart aside, one fighter must lose, and in this case, experience will win out. Tanner just has too much in his arsenal for Grove to handle. Grove will just have to prove himself elsewhere.
Prediction: Tanner via TKO round two