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UFC TUF Finale and Australia: Questions, answers, predictions

UFC kicks off their final stretch of 2018 with a two show weekend, highlighted by two interesting main events with younger fighters looking to take the spot of veterans.

Helping me look at some of the highlights of both shows are our MMA staff writers Ryan Frederick and Paul Fontaine

UFC TUF Finale Friday / UFC Fight Night Saturday

  • Rafael dos Anjos vs. Kamaru Usman (Friday)
  • Pedro Munhoz vs. Bryan Caraway (Friday)
  • Joseph Benavidez vs. Alex Perez (Friday)
  • Junior dos Santos vs. Tai Tuivasa (Saturday)
  • Mark Hunt vs. Justin Willis (Saturday)
  • Tyson Pedro vs. Shogun Rua (Saturday)

What are you most looking forward to?

Paul: For the weekend to be over, honestly. Between two UFC shows and two Bellator shows, it’s a full time job keeping up with everything. Seriously though, there’s some good fights all around. I’m always down to see Mark Hunt fight and Tyson Pedro could take another step toward stardom with an impressive win over former champion Shogun Rua.

Ryan: It's a super packed weekend for combat sports with two UFC events, two Bellator events, and the Wilder-Fury boxing match. For UFC, the fight I’m looking forward to the most is tonight's Dos Anjos vs. Usman fight. I have long thought that Usman is going to be the champion at 170 pounds, and this is a test he must pass to obtain that goal. I think he should be given a title shot with a win in this one, especially if he finishes Dos Anjos. It is a big fight for him.

Josh: Usman-RDA because it will answer a lot of questions (hopefully) about both guys. On paper, Usman should have already got a title shot, but we all know how that goes. RDA looked great in a dominant win over Robbie Lawler, but equally got dominated against Colby Covington after a lot of talk between the two. He needs an impressive win, but this is way more important for Usman who has pushed his chips in the middle of the table again. 

Anything being slept on?

Paul: The debut of Antonina Shevchenko kicking off the Fight Pass prelims on the TUF Finale show. The older sister of the future women’s flyweight champion Valentina looked great in her fight on the Dana White Contender Series and adds to what it fast becoming the deepest division for women in UFC.

Ryan: I don’t know if it is being slept on considering it is the main event of Saturday’s UFC event, but Dos Santos against Tuivasa is kind of flying under the radar. Tuivasa has a lot of charisma and is getting to a headline spot pretty quickly, and this is a really tough test against a former heavyweight champion. Dos Santos hasn’t finished an opponent in a long time, and his best days may be behind him...or he could just be gearing up for another title run. Either way, this is a big spot for both.

Josh: Pedro vs. Rua. 'Shogun' got crushed by Anthony Smith, but that was coming off a three fight win streak. He's 4-4 in his last eight, but is unpredictable even after all these years. After a buzzworthy stat, Pedro has lost two of his last three and got submitted in the first by Ovince Saint Preux in his last outing. Given their recent propensity to get finished, this could be a fun one. I could also add that former flyweight title contender Benavidez is essentially a ghost on this show, buried in the prelims, and can't be thrilled about it. Plus, his opponent is a very good fighter riding an eight fight win streak.

Anything not doing it for you?

Paul: The TUF matches. This has been the lowest rated season of he show in history and there is next to no buzz about any of these fighters. I’ve been watching almost since the beginning and every episode of every season….until this year. I’ve watched less than half his year and Pannie Kianzad is the only fighter I’m familiar with and that’s from seeing her fight five times in Invicta.

Ryan: I’m not really interested in the TUF finals. The women’s featherweight finals has Macy Chiasson in just her third professional fight, and the heavyweight finals has a 38-year-old in Juan Espino. The TUF concept is dead, and while it is going to continue, so they say, it doesn’t need to. The Contender Series is a much better way to find new talent.

Josh: Agreed. TUF got me into the sport and I even wrote a 10-year history piece on the show for Fight Magazine back in the day. But the Contender Series is far superior and it feels like the only reason the show exists at this point is to troll fans and media who rail against it.

What will be people talking about most after the show is done?

Paul: Not a lot, probably. The Australia shows are usually pretty fun with a lot of finishes so maybe they’ll be talking about the quality of that card. Possibly a new prime time low on FS1 for one of the UFC’s last shows on that network Friday or Saturday night….or both.

Ryan: That there was just too much MMA this weekend and that we’re glad it’s over with, that next weekend’s UFC card looks like one of the best of the year, that Kamaru Usman is definitely the welterweight champion in waiting, and so long from the UFC Mark Hunt. It has been fun.

Josh: I think it will be where Hunt goes next, even with a loss. If Usman wins, it has to be that he's next in line for the winner of Tyron Woodley-Colby Covington, assuming that fight happens as planned.

Who wins?

Rafael dos Anjos vs. Kamaru Usman

Usman: Josh, Paul, Ryan

Pedro Munhoz vs. Bryan Caraway

Caraway: Paul
Munhoz: Ryan, Josh

Joseph Benavidez vs. Alex Perez

Benavidez: Paul, Ryan
Perez: Nason

Junior dos Santos vs. Tai Tuivasa

JDS: Paul, Ryan
Tuivasa: Josh

Mark Hunt vs. Justin Willis

Hunt: Paul, Ryan
Willis: Josh

Tyson Pedro vs. Shogun Rua

Pedro: Paul, Ryan, Josh

Follow along with our coverage all weekend.