Thursday, December 9, 2021

UFC Fight Night 80 & TUF Finale 22 Preview: The Best of the Rest

If you’re reading this, you’re probably planning on watching UFC 194 this Saturday night. It’s probably the most stacked card of great fights in UFC history from top to bottom, highlighted by the two best title fights the promotion can put on right now. With such a big card, they decided to load up the whole week to build momentum, with additional fight cards both tonight and tomorrow night at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan elsewhere in Las Vegas. With three cards in an era where you can watch everything live, including the prelims, a lot of people are going to want to pick and choose the best fights on the “lesser” cards. That’s what we’re here to help with.

TONIGHT – UFC Fight Night: Namajunas vs. VanZant

The first card is a UFC Fight Pass exclusive, an event added in part so the UFC could provide bookings to athletes who were still owed fights on their contracts for 2015. While not stacked, it’s a really solid Fight Night card with a well-booked, entertaining slate of main card fights, and being on Fight Pass, the pacing should be excellent. So if you’re looking for what to watch live, that’s a fine start.

The preliminary fights make this a bit trickier. For some reason, the fight that is, at worst, the second most relevant is the fifth of eight prelims, just buried right in the middle. That’s Aljamain Sterling vs. Johnny Eduardo in a battle of top 10 bantamweights. Sterling is the division’s top young prospect, a gifted wrestle-grappler coming out of the Serra-Longo Fight Team, while Eduardo is a veteran who also serves as one of Nova Uniao’s striking coaches. This is definitely a fight to watch, but if you’re trying not to crowd your night/week with live fights, it’s not exactly positioned conveniently. So this might be one to check out tomorrow or Saturday on demand.

Kailin Curran vs. Emily Kagan is the prelim opener and a probably “loser leaves town” fight, but it has some intrigue. Curran was Paige VanZant‘s opponent in her UFC debut and was very competitive from a skills perspective, but completely worn out by the Team Alpha Male product’s pace. She was dominating her second UFC fight against Alex Chambers before Chambers pulled out a hail Mary arm bar. Kagan hasn’t fought in a year, last seen being blown out badly by Angela Hill standing…and Hill is now out of the UFC.This is an interesting fight to watch to see if Curran can finally get a UFC win or if Kagan can capitalize on her grappling deficiencies to steal it. Curran is bigger, a better athlete, and a better striker…but sometimes these things happen in MMA, as her fight with Chambers showed.

Tim Means vs. John Howard is the featured prelim and will likely prove entertaining, but there is a risk that Howard could get his grinding clinch game going. It’s unlikely, though, as Means is an excellent clinch fighter and is better/more diverse overall. When Means gets going, he’s always really entertaining, so you might as well use this to kick off fight to kick off your live viewing if you’re being picky..

The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale

The UFC website doesn’t have a bout order yet for some reason, but Fox’s mailing list for MMA media lists the main card as follows:

Frankie Edgar vs. Chad Mendes in the five round main event
Artem Lobov vs. Ryan Hall in the TUF 22 final
Edson Barboza vs. Tony Ferguson
Joe Lauzon vs. Evan Dunham
Ryan LaFlare vs. Mike Pierce
Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Jason Knight

That’s a really fun main card on paper. Kawajiri vs. Mirsad Bektic would have really put it over the top as the best TUF finale in years, but Bektic got hurt. It’s a really solid main card though, and even if Jason Knight is very much just an opponent, Kawajiri doing his thing is pretty fun. On paper, I don’t really see anything to skip on the main card, but the Friday night time slot and terrible Fox Sports 1 pacing could be motivation to watch it via DVR on Saturday.

The prelims don’t have much to offer. Julian Erosa vs. Marcin Wrzosek in the TUF third place fight could be decent, and Gabriel Gonzaga returning against Konstantin Erokhin is sort of notable, but overall the main card is what to watch here.

All this…and we still have a pay-per-view Saturday with a really strong Fox network card a week later…

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