The UFC crowns a new champ, “Lil’ Heathen” steps back in to display his heavy hands, and feuds are finally put to bed as the Ultimate Fighter 20 season finally concludes. UFC lightweight champion, Anthony Pettis, led a crew of women who dominated the show, but one woman led by Gilbert Melendez steamrolled through her competition, leading to a true disciple vs. disciple fight for the new belt. Carla Esparza, fighting under Anthony Pettis, and Rose Namajunas, fighting under Gilbert Melendez, will be the first women to compete for the women’s UFC strawweight title. It is only suiting that a champion in Pettis, would train another champion in Carla Esparza, make no mistake about it though, Rose Namajunas is just as justified to hold that title around her waist as well. Prelims hit Fight Pass at 6 pm EST, switching over to FOX Sports 1 at 7 pm EST, with the main card starting at 9 pm EST. A new UFC women’s champion will be crowned Friday night, do not miss it!
Carla Esparza (10-2) vs. Rose Namajunas (3-1) Women’s Strawweight Title Bout – “The Cookie Monster” Carla Esparza has the experience, knows what it takes to be champion, and has gone the distance. All those factors alone should make her the favorite right? Not so fast. Esparza was the former strawweight champ for Invicta FC before the UFC stripped the talent in that division, and has fought the who’s who in the division, but has yet to fight someone as tenacious as Namajunas. During the Ultimate Fighter Season 20, Rose wreaked havoc on her opponents, finishing all comers by submission. Her aggressive finishing style almost immediately makes her a must watch fighter on the rise, and possible UFC champion Friday night. Esparza is a very well-rounded opponent, takes calculated risks, with the knack of sealing rounds with take downs. The pick here is Rose Namajunas though, it is hard to side against a ferocious finisher like she is, in which could be the second coming of Ronda Rousey. Such a bold statement, but watch the woman fight and see for yourself. Rose Namajunas via Submission.
#10 Jeremy Stephens (23-10) vs. #14 Charles Oliveira (18-4) Featherweight Bout – The road back to featherweight contention starts here for the “Lil’ Heathen” Stephens as he faces the very bi polar arsenal of Charles Oliveira. Bi polar may have been harsh, but his UFC career thus far has been nothing short of inconsistent. Time and time again, “do Bronx” has had an opportunity to make his mark and defeat someone of name in the division, then falling hard to defeat. Stephens “hold no punches” style may be too much for a fighter who relies on using his reach, and tries like heck to dictate his own pace in doing so. Oliveira is a monster on the ground, so look for Stephens to avoid the ground and look to bang, and if the fight stays that way, Oliveira may not be standing long. Jeremy Stephens via Technical Knockout.
KJ Noons (12-6) vs. Daron Cruickshank (16-5) Lightweight Bout – KJ Noons is quietly starting to find his groove in the UFC, stringing together a two fight win streak, while emphatically knocking out Sam Stout in his last bout. Cruickshank was labeled a prospect in the making, but faltered losing to Jorge Masvidal after having two impressive showings of his own. Opponent’s should know what exactly they are going to get from Noons, a boxer whom is technically sound but very limited elsewhere, Cruickshank would be smart to exploit Noons limitations. With a well executed mixture of wrestling sprinkled into Cruickshank’s game plan, he should be able to take the decision. Daron Cruickshank via Unanimous Decision.
Joe Proctor (10-2) vs. Yancy Medeiros (10-2) Lightweight Bout – His first win since 2010, it must have been a breath of fresh air for Yancy Medeiros after submitting Damon Jackson. A reverse bulldog choke none the less, “The Kid” is looking to get things back on the right path after going through a rough patch to begin his UFC career. Proctor on the other hand has three wins to one loss since entering the famed octagon, and boasts a knockout victory in his last outing over Justin Salas. Both fighters are very active on the feet and could produce some fireworks if the fists start flying. Yancy Medeiros gets the slight nod here, in his last fight it seemed as if his game had finally turned the corner, if so he could become very dangerous in a talent filled division. Yancy Medeiros via Unanimous Decision.
Jessica Penne (11-3) vs. Randa Markos (4-2) Women’s Strawweight Bout – There was no love lost on the show for Randa Markos, as she seemed to have pushed the buttons of most on the Ultimate Fighter 20. Both Penne and Markos were a win away from meeting each other in the finals though, and this could be a fight that helps determine the new rankings in the near future. Penne has brilliant Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and length that if she used it better, could become a huge advantage in her striking game. Penne finds herself inside the pocket more than not, Esparza took advantage of it, and out struck Penne to move on. Markos may use the same game plan, as she thrives on the inside, while mixing up her wrestling. Randa Markos could become a little over aggressive though, and allow Penne an opportunity to sub her later on in the fight. Markos showed that she can be vulnerable on the ground, and Penne could easily take advantage of it. Jessica Penne via Submission.
In other notable fights on the card; Felice Herrig gets back in there versus Lisa Ellis and Bec Rawlings settles a grudge with Heather Jo Clark on the prelims. For coverage and full results make sure to tune into the MMA Spotlight for the UFC Ultimate Fighter Finale 20.
Commentary by Justin Huffman
Follow Justin’s coverage in the MMA Spotlight section
Guardian Liberty Voice sports writer leading the coverage in MMA