TUF 18 Finale: Julianna Pena vs. Jessica Rakoczy Preview

It’s odd to think that the first pick of this season would be a prohibitive underdog in all both her wins in the house but that’s what Julianna Pena has been. A genuine head scratcher who has two impressive scalps on her resume from her time in the house and could potentially finish one of the most improbable runs in TUF history with one more win tonight. Standing in her way was last pick Jessica Rakoczy, a world champion boxer who got into MMA at the point when most fighters have retired (or are close to it).

Fight Breakdown – Both fighters have earned reputations as hard nosed sluggers this season and that’s interesting because Pena didn’t have that reputation coming in. She’s got a fairly slick ground game but her time in the house has been substantial in establishing her as a hard nosed brawler.

If she fights like she did on the show this could be a showcase for Rakoczy’s boxing prowess. Pena shouldn’t win if she wants to turn this into a wild, sloppy brawl (like she did this season) but this has been a really bizarre season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” Ideally she’d get Rakoczy to the ground any way possible and go for the submission; her wild brawling style could’ve just been a product of being in the house.

That’s the wild card as far as I’m concerned; if Pena fights how she did before the show this will be a test of Rakoczy’s takedown defense. If she wants to play rock ’em sock ’em with the Team Rousey member then this could be something wild for as long as it lasts.

Rakoczy wins by keeping this standing, where she has eight world titles and a pronounced edge in the boxing department. She easily had the best hands of anyone in that house and this is where she’ll have an edge. Her MMA career has been really erratic, mainly being a time filler between boxing fights, and she enters the cage with a record that reflects a boxer who dabbled in MMA for the most part. On the show she looked more complete as a fighter and it’ll be curious to see how her game has changed since the show.

Why it matters – A guaranteed spot in the UFC is on the line, pure and simple, and the promotion has more patience with TUF winners than TUF Finalists earlier in their career.

The UFC might not discuss who they want to win but Pena is the one Zuffa would really like to get their promotional muscle behind if they said those types of things aloud. Rakoczy is on the wrong side of 30 and Pena has all the requisite physical attributes Zuffa looks for in their female fighters. Pena has more promotional upside and my guess is Zuffa looks at her like she could be their female Forrest Griffin.

Prediction – Pena

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