Inside Fights Roundtable: The Ultimate Finale

Welcome to Inside Fights’ first-ever roundtable, where our writers offer their predictions on MMA’s biggest and most important cards. This week, we take on the Ultimate Fighter 5 finale, headlined by the long-awaited rematch between lightweight superstars BJ Penn and Jens Pulver.

Our panelists are:
Reverend Sick: Inside Fights editor, guru, and lover of a good fight.

Trent Pusey: Inside Fights editor and boxing pundit.

Kevin Wong: Inside Fights contributor, Ultimate Fighter 5 recapper, and jack-of-all-trades here at Inside Pulse.

Shawn Smith: Inside Fights contributor and other jack-of-all-trades here at Inside Pulse.

Mike Nichols: UFC reviewer and FNG at Inside Fights.

“Little Evil” Jens Pulver vs. “The Prodigy” BJ Penn

Mike:
If you haven’t read my breakdown of the fight…well, shame on you. Here’s the gist: Jens will fight his heart out, but a motivated and in-shape BJ is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on Earth. Even in a year with some outrageous upsets, I don’t see Jens being able to pull this off. Penn, submission R2

Trent:
I’m going to assume that Penn makes weight for this fight despite his huge f*cking head. I respect his flexibility, especially given his pudginess, but I think Pulver is the pick again. Pulver doesn’t have a great chin but Penn isn’t the guy to exploit that weakness. I still find it tough to pick against Miletich guys too. Pulver, decision

Wong:
From a win-loss perspective, both guys need to win this fight. Pulver lost to Joe Lauzon, while BJ lost to GSP and Matt Hughes. But I think BJ needs this more, because he was winning both fights before gassing/losing interest/succumbing to bad poi/whatever. He’s got tons of talent, and if he hates Jens as much as he says he does, then this should be more than enough motivation to win this fight. On Pulver’s end, we know the guy will be ready, but I see him as being overly aggressive and ending up in Penn’s world. This will be a “smart” (read: boring) fight from BJ, and he’ll grind his way to a win. Penn, decision

Sick:
Penn wants this fight so bad he can taste it: just look at the psycho look on his face during the ping-pong game. The dude wants nothing more than to humiliate and defeat Pulver. Pulver always looks like a nervous wreck, but he’s gonna be freaking out going into this fight. Penn, decision

Shawn:
This is not as easy as I would like, as both men need this win desperately or they will be out of title contention for the foreseeable future. Penn is my favorite fighter in the world and I made my way to his gym in Hilo, HI in February because a) he’s my favorite fighter in the world and b) it just so happened that he lived and trained on the other side of the only island I have ever driven not prefaced with “Long” or named Manhattan. Pulver is too intense coming into the fight, and even though he respects BJ’s BJJ, he’s bound to screw up eventually. Penn, submission R1

Manny Gamburyan vs. Nate Diaz

Wong:
Finally, there’s an reality show cast member that Armenian-Americans can be proud of. Then again, the only other Armenian-American reality show contestants I know of were Mirna and Schmirna, so really, it’s not much of a contest. Unless you count Andre Agassi’s cameo in the forgettable The Casino that is. But I digress.

Manny has surprised many with his trip to the finals, defeating Noah Thomas with ease, and winning decisions over Matt Wiman and Joe Lauzon. He’s a strong grappler, pushes the pace, is hard to throw off if he’s on top and he’s difficult to submit because according to Lauzon, he’s got no neck. Nate, meanwhile, has a distinct height and reach advantage, as well as stronger submission skills, but that could be negated if Manny takes him down. He won all his preliminary fights via submission in basically the same style – constantly working for submissions, tiring his opponent out and taking advantage when they leave an opening. Gray Maynard was probably the best conditioned fighter on the show, and Nate wore him out.

In theory, Nate should keep this fight standing up, but Manny is relentless, so this will likely be a three round ground war. I’m hoping for a minor scuffle between Karo and Nick Diaz as well, just because. Gamburyan, split decision

Trent:
I like guys that push the action like Manny. It shows a desire to win and certainly impresses the judges. Diaz, on the other hand, fights patiently and takes advantage of his opponent’s aggressiveness to slap him into a submission. Manny will give it a Rudy-like effort but Diaz will catch him in some kind of submission because that’s what he does. Diaz, submission R2

Shawn:
It appears as though very few people are picking Gamburyan to take this thing. To be honest, with a few months off (they were taping the show in February, which is why I didn’t meet BJ Penn at his gym, damn it) I think Manny really took the time to strengthen his throws and grapple defense. Diaz needs a mistake out of Manny to win, and I am quite sure that Diaz gets knocked out in a stunning fashion. Gamburyan, KO R1

Sick:
You know they were setting up the finals to be Diaz vs. Lauzon. I don’t think anyone will be disappointed with this fight though. Diaz had a hard time dealing with Corey Hill’s strength, and it had nothing to do with a height advantage. I don’t see him being able to handle Manny’s power. I like both of these guys, so I’ll be happy for whoever wins, but I have to stick with the dark horse. Gamburyan, TKO R2

Mike:
Manny’s style isn’t aesthetically pleasing, but it’s proven to be ridiculously effective, as he obliterated Noah Thomas and then smothered Matt Wiman and Joe Lauzon. Unfortunately, he’s now gotta face the comeback kid in Nate Diaz, who was manhandled early on by Corey Hill and Gray Maynard only to choke out both. Diaz could pull off a fourth straight TUF submission win, but he’ll need a little space to slap on one of those chokes or joint locks, and Manny’s just not going to give him any. It probably won’t be the most exciting fight, but as Andy Wang helpfully showed us, it’s much better to fight effectively and win the freaking contract than to hold yourself up to any weird and somewhat inexplicable standards. Gamburyan, decision

Roger “El Matador” Huerta vs. Doug Evans

Trent:
Who the balls is Doug Evans? Roger Huerta wins by knockout in the first round over some guy that I don’t know.

Sick:
I’ve never heard of Doug Evans, so I looked him up and there’s two that are lightweights. It must be the 5-0 Doug Evans from Alaska and not the 3-10 Doug Evans from California. If it’s the latter, I’ll have a good laugh at his expense when Huerta gives him another digit in the “L” column. Seriously, whoever Doug Evans is, he’s going to have a really hard fight ahead of him. Yes, I really like Huerta. Huerta, TKO R1

Wong:
Doug Evans has fought exclusively in Alaska and sports a 5-0 record. Now I don’t want to underestimate the guy, but it seems that he’s been brought in specifically to help showcase Sports Illustrated cover boy Huerta on cable. Still, this is a great opportunity for Evans – Huerta’s last opponent put on a good show and was rewarded with a three-fight contract, so a good outing would put Evans on Joe Silva’s radar. Huerta, TKO R2

Mike:
None of Roger Huerta’s UFC fights have been even remotely boring: between his fast-paced battle with Jason Dent at UFC 63, his 15-second demolition of John Halvorson at UFC 67, and his fight-of-the-year brawl with Leonard Garcia at UFC 69, he’s turning into one of the promotion’s golden boys, and rightfully so. Doug Evans, for his part, is a veteran of Alaskan MMA competitions, and while I’m sure that there are some seriously tough guys up in the Great White North, I don’t think that any of them are Huerta’s equal in the octagon. Huerta, TKO R1

Shawn:
The SI cover boy versus a 5-0 fighter who works mainly in Alaska? Huerta became the face of UFC without meaning to, so we have to hope that he can pull this off. If he doesn’t, this looks as bad as Cro Cop getting knocked out against Gabriel Gonzaga. Huerta HAS to deliver right now and I am sure that he knows that. Huerta, submission R2

Floyd Sword vs. Thales Leites

Sick:
Who the f*ck is Floyd Sword, and is that his real name? I know Leites, and he’s pretty good. Ol’ Floyd might have a little ring rust since he hasn’t competed in a year. I can’t believe this is on the main card. Leites, submission R2

Trent:
Now who the shit is this Floyd Sword guy? I think this is the only fight that isn’t going to be fought at lightweight. Middleweights getting it on and I only know one of them. Easy enough here. Leites wins by TKO and I’d rather see any other fight on the card.

Wong:
Floyd Sword. Why hasn’t anyone used that as a porn name yet? His record shows losses to Bobby Southworth and Marvin Eastman, so presumably he was fighting at 205 before making a comeback in 2006 as a middleweight. His last two fights were victories in the smaller confines of King of the Cage, so he should be comfortable in the Octagon. Leites is 1-1 since joining the UFC, losing a decision to Martin Kampmann and winning a decision over Pete Sell. The BJJ fighter is probably not going to get submitted by Sword, but his two UFC fights don’t inspire confidence in me to say he’s going to win. Sword, TKO R2

Shawn:
Floyd Sword is the greatest name ever. Don’t listen to those among us who want people to call it a “porn name,” the dude not only embraces the name, he probably pulls down tons of poon as a result. Do YOU mess with dudes named Sword? I don’t, but Thales Leites is not terribly fun to watch. If his boring decision over Pete Sell is any indication, this will be my bathroom break fight…at the beginning of the card. Floyd Sword, TKO R1

Mike:
I am, unfortunately, woefully ignorant when it comes to both of these guys: all I know about Leites is that Dana White brought him into the UFC on BJ Penn’s recommendation; of course, Dana probably also brought Cabbage Correira into the UFC on BJ’s recommendation, so maybe his eye for talent isn’t quite as good as his jiu-jitsu. Sword’s fought in some larger regional promotions with mixed results, but following Internet Logic (which clearly states that even on the worst day of his life, any obscure Brazilian fighter can destroy any obscure American fighter), he doesn’t really have a chance here. Leites, submission R2

Brandon Melendez vs. Joe Lauzon

Shawn:
I don’t really see Melendez’ weight cut affecting him on Saturday. In fact, I think that he’s focused the last few months and is definitely prepared to take on Lauzon. It is too bad that Lauzon is going to tear his face off; Brandon seemed like a cool cat.

Mike:
You know, I could swear that Joe was going to be fighting for that contract on this card; in my eyes, he was easily the most polished fighter on the show. In any case, he gets his second UFC fight against the deceptively tough Melendez, who took that gift-wrapped ticket to the quarters that Wang gave him, thank you very much, and then gave Gray Maynard more trouble than just about anyone would have guessed. I like Melendez: I’m sure that he’s been drilling takedown and ground defense non-stop with Jeremy Horn, and his bigger frame would probably be more of an advantage if he were more of a ground guy. He’s a brawler, though, and with enough effort, Joe should be able to get him to the ground, put him on his back, and finish the fight. Lauzon, submission R1

Wong:
Now here’s an interesting fight. Melendez is coming down from 170lb to fight, while Joe is a 145lb fighter who moved up in weight to be on the show. Brandon’s 7-5 record (including 4 straight losses) isn’t exactly stellar, and cutting weight is going to put him at a disadvantage over yet another relentless fighter (this seems to describe almost all the lightweights not named Sherk) in Lauzon. Obviously, we know that Joe’s got surprising power, and he should be able to use that to overwhelm Brandon at some point. Melendez will be the next person to find out that Joe is, indeed, not a bitch. Lauzon, submission R1

Sick:
I like Joe Lauzon. I was impressed with him right off the bat in his UFC debut against Jens Pulver. I think most people, Dana White included, were banking on him being in the finals. Personally I’d rather see him against a stronger opponent on this card. Not to take anything away from Melendez, but I don’t think too many people would tune in to see him fight…which probably explains why this bout is on the undercard. Lauzon, submission R1

Trent:
Lauzon was the golden boy on TUF 5 and shouldn’t have too much trouble with Melendez. I wasn’t all that impressed with Melendez on the show as he beat an uninspired Andy Wang. Plus I’m not going to be that guy that picks crazy stuff for the sake of picking crazy stuff. Lauzon, submission R3

Andy Wang vs. Cole Miller

Wong:
If what we heard on the show is true, Andy should be able to take down Cole and wipe the mat with him using his jiu-jitsu. But what we know about Andy is that he doesn’t listen to people and doesn’t do that. I think he’s got the second worst win-loss record ever of a TUF cast member, but I suppose that to his credit none of those losses have been via “silly submission” or KO. Cole has a huge height advantage over Wang and like Nate Diaz should use that to his advantage in the standup game, but he doesn’t have knockout power so unless Wang becomes a typical stubborn Chinese man, this is going to the ground. And I have absolutely no basis for this pick other than the fact that I have to root for my fellow juk sing. Wang, submission R2

Sick:
Kevin must be high picking Wang for this fight. Is this an Asian thing? The guy is 5-6, for f*ck’s sake. Ol’ Cotton Mouth just doesn’t have the skills to match up to the 11-2 Miller…no more how effeminate the guy is when he’s drunk. Miller, submission R1

Mike:
Miller almost literally stretched Joe Lauzon to the breaking point in their fight, but at least he’ll get a crack at another ground guy in Wang. With any luck, we may actually get to witness some of Wang’s vaunted (but never displayed) jiu-jitsu skills. Still, Miller’s got above-average standup and great stamina, and if both fighters’ ground skills end up canceling each other out, that’s going to get him the decision. Miller, decision

Trent:
Cole made a strong showing for himself on TUF 5 in a losing effort, whereas Wang came off like a turd and then cried. I’m sure Wang will be a little more focused this time because he won’t be back in the UFC again if he’s not. Still, I have no good things to say about Mr. Wang, so I’m siding with Miller, submission R2

Shawn:
Andy Wang doesn’t listen to his coaches during a fight, that much we know. Cole Miller can take a shot to the back of his head without dying, so I really think that Andy Wang must find a way to connect with such a blow without the referee noticing. This time, Wang will get the win, but they will build to the Wang-Berube fight that everyone (read: no one) wants to see. Wang, TKO R2

Rob Emerson vs. Gray Maynard

Trent:
Put this on the live card and axe the Leites/Sword shit. TUF 5 made me into a Gray Maynard fan if only for his ability to stay out of all the bullshit that went on in the house. When Manny went on his tirade after the ‘Suck It’ tagging, he gave Gray some love akin to the scene from Half Baked: “Fuck you, f*ck you, you’re cool, f*ck you, I’m out.” How can you not pick this guy? Maynard, decision

Mike:
I feel kinda sorry for Emerson here, but to be honest, I’d feel sorry for whomever has to get in there with Maynard following his semifinal loss to Diaz. Emerson had a Come to Jesus moment after the show finished shooting where he realized that partying hard on a daily basis might actually be hurting his career as a professional fighter. You think so, Rob? In any case, Maynard’s takedowns and ground game are better than Emerson’s sprawl-and-brawl skills, and, as with Emerson’s fight with Diaz, I think it’ll only be a matter of time before Maynard gets him to the ground and has his way with him. Maynard, TKO R3

Shawn:
Wait, this isn’t on the main card? Floyd effin’ Sword makes the show and Gray Maynard (a semi-finalist on the show) and Rob Emerson don’t get on TV. Hopefully, I am totally wrong about all of this and they do show this stuff because I think it might be the fight that gets me some lovin’. My girl loves Gray’s body and Rob’s face. If for only 10 minutes, she will be able to pretend I am a little of both. Maynard, submission (rear naked choke) R2

Wong:
Colour me thoroughly unimpressed with Emerson. He didn’t show enough skill against Diaz and then showed even less against Corey Hill. Maynard, meanwhile, is part of Randy Couture’s camp, and showed varied skill in beating Wayne “Butters” Weems and Brandon Melendez. Like Hill, Gray shows a ton of promise and I wouldn’t be surprised if he pops up in WEC. Maynard, submission R1

Sick:
I love Gray Maynard. He’s like a young Couture, hairline and all. He’s not 100% there yet as a true mixed martial artist, but he’s getting there. “The Bully” might only be 2-0, but the guy has unlimited potential. Rob Emerson is a douchenozzle with a 6-6 record. He does have the advantage in experience, but he also has an intimate knowledge of being totally f*cking average. Maynard, decision

Allen Berube vs. Leonard Garcia

Wong:
Garcia’s UFC debut was an exciting decision loss to Roger Huerta, and it earned him a three-fight contract. Now this is his chance to prove that he belongs here, and he’s getting fed a can of lobstah to show what he can do. I like Berube, and I’ll probably go visit his restaurant if I ever go to Tampa, but he’s still pretty inexperienced and I think he’s SOL as far as getting a win bonus is concerned. Garcia, submission R2

Trent:
I’m pretty sure Berube sucks. Let him fight Weems just so he has a shot at a W. Garcia apparently had a wild one with Huerta, but I don’t care. I’m picking Garcia because Berube blows. Garcia, submission R1

Shawn:
I think the real question here is whether or not “Lobstah” comes to the ring in a crustacean costume. The fight is an afterthought as Garcia impressed in a loss to Huerta that earned him a 3 fight deal. In this match, he gets the submission win. Garcia, submission R1

Sick:
Garcia had a great debut against Huerta at UFC 69. It’s one of the best lightweight fights I’ve seen since they brought the division back. Berube is totally unexperienced and really has no chance in this fight. It’s bad enough Dana kicked him out of the house, now he has to get his ass kicked in front of several thousand screaming fans. Garcia, submission R1

Mike:
Unlike about 99.9% of the viewing population, I actually like Berube (for reasons even I’m not too sure of), so I’m a little surprised that the UFC would essentially throw him to the lions like this. I mean, yes, the fact that a quarter of the show’s original cast got booted out of the house did thin the prospective opponents’ pool a little, but do you really see him having any chance whatsoever against the guy who was the other half of Huerta’s fight of the year? Garcia’s fighting style is very similar to Cole Miller’s, and we all know what happened when Berube and Miller threw down in this season’s very first fight. As much as I like the “Monstah,” expect a similar outcome. Garcia, submission R1

Brian Geraghty vs. “Handsome” Matt Wiman

Sick:
I was kind of pulling for Wiman this season, just because he was the first one to have the balls to call out Ruediger for being the piece of shit that he is. Geraghty is just too goofy to be likeable. He’s a pasty-faced mick with a down syndrome haircut. Likeable or not, Geraghty does have a lot more experience than Wiman and I think that will be a big advantage for him. I’m going out on a limb with this one. Geraghty, decision

Trent:
These two produced two of my favorite quotes during TUF 5: Geraghty in calling out Weems for his fight, and Wiman pondering if he’s a champion street fighter after beating Sims. Too bad it’s not a debate. Geraghty didn’t get much time to show his skills due to drawing Lauzon in the first round of TUF 5. That’s enough for me to give Wiman, decision

Wong:
Brian had the misfortune of facing Joe Lauzon in the first round of the tourney, while Wiman had the misfortune of meeting Spencer Fisher’s flying knee in his UFC debut. Interestingly, another loss of Wiman’s was to Roger Huerta by decision. Brian certainly has more fights, but the win percentage is about the same, and I think that the previous experience of being on a live UFC show will be to Matt’s advantage. Wiman, decision

Mike:
Both guys have something to prove here: like Noah Thomas, Geraghty’s a very good fighter who just had the bad luck to draw the other team’s steamroller in the first round of fights. Wiman, conversely, destroyed Marlon Sims but clearly underestimated Manny Gamburyan, which ended up costing him big-time. Again, Geraghty’s definitely a gamer, but I think that Wiman’s going to come in on a mission and drag a win out of the octagon with him. Wiman, decision

Shawn
Matt Wiman has the advantage of having already performed on a UFC event, so I think that the first fight jitters shouldn’t be a disadvantage for him. Geraghty didn’t really show me that much, but Wiman looked terrified of Manny through their match. Has he regained his killer instinct? I doubt it. Geraghty, TKO R2

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