-225 Jordan Johnson (7-0) vs. +175 Marcel Fortuna (9-1)
Light Heavyweight (205)
Jordan Johnson: Former RFA Light Heavyweight champion Jordan Johnson pitched a shutout in his debut win over Luis Henrique at UFC on FOX 23 this past January. Johnson earned 30-27’s from all 3 judges by using his world class wrestling to control the Brazilian Kickboxer from start to finish.
The undefeated 28 year old was a 2x D1 All-American at the University of Iowa and has managed to seamlessly transfer his skills on the mat to the cage. Training since 2012 Johnson has gym hopped a few times training at The Lab, Alliance and now with Victory MMA in San Diego. It’s always exciting to see new talent at 205, but I would not be surprised to see Johnson move to 185 in the future considering he is 6’1″ and a lot of his game involves overpowering his opponents.
Marcel Fortuna: Third degree BJJ Black Belt Marcel Fortuna made his UFC and Heavyweight debut in a February victory over Anthony Hamilton. Foruna executed the perfect game plan against the much large (50 pounds to be precise) Hamilton, he circled and circled and circled and when the he found his opening uncorked a giant over hand right to Hamilton’s temple that dropped the big man and netted Fortuna an extra 50k for knockout of the night.
The Ralph Gracie student will bring a level of BJJ to the octagon that is rarely seen in MMA. Fortuna uses his heavy strikes to close the distance and get the fight to the ground where he is in his element. He has also trained under Kru Sam Phimsoutham for many years and would be smart to implement a game plan that is stand up focused in this match up.
The Fight: Johnson is a horrible stylistic match up for Fortuna, Fortuna wants the fight on the floor but Johnson is so powerful and skilled at maintaining top position that he is going to have a hard time getting up from his back. Johnson will land multiple take downs and pick up another clean sweep on the cards. Johnson Unanimous Decision
-105 Brad Tavares (14-4) vs. -125 Elias Theodorou (14-1)
Brad Tavares: TUF: season 11 semi-finalist Brad Tavares made a successful return to the cage in 2016 when he picked up a split decision win over Caio Magalhaes at UFC 203. Tavares utilized excellent footwork and hard low kicks to keep the tough Brazilian at bay and get awarded the close decision.
The long time Ray Sefo student has shown flashes of brilliance in his 6 years in the UFC, but has been inconsistent the last couple years due to inactivity. Tavares’s 2014 victory over Lorenz Larkin is evidence that he can hang with the best of the division. Now 29 if Tavares is ever going to achieve his full potential in the octagon it will have to start in this fight.
Elias Theodorou: TUF: Nations champion Elias “The Spartan” Theodorou took home his fifth UFC victory this past February in a unanimous decision over fellow TUF champion Cezar Ferriera. Theodorou used constant motion, single strikes and well timed take downs to vanquish “Mutante”.
5-1 in his UFC service the unofficial “King of Twitter” has climbed his way up the Middleweight rankings utilizing an unorthodox style where he frustrates opponents with movement before landing take downs en route to a victory on the cards. Even with the great record and great hair Elias is going to have a tough time getting marquee match ups with his point style of fighting.
The Fight: Elias is a tough nut to crack and Tavares wont have the game plan to slow down the elusive Canadian. Theodorou will stick and move forcing Tavares to chase him and shoot for the take down when his defenses drop. If his take down is stuffed wash, rinse and repeat. Theodorou Unanimous Decision
-275 Jared Cannonier (9-2) vs. +215 Nick Roehrick (7-0)
Light Heavyweight (205)
Jared Cannonier: Heavy handed Alaskan Jarred “The Killa Gorrilia” Cannonier lost a decision to Glover Teixeira in his last bout at UFC 208. Teixeira wanted no part of Cannonier on the feet and opted to take him down and grind out a decision controlling the fight on the ground.
Cannonier has displayed devastating knockout power, but he is more than a power puncher, he has three submission victories and has spent time working with John Crouch and Benson Henderson at The Lab. The 5’11” fighters move down from Heavyweight was the right one, in fact he commented that he might move down to 185 where he would have a massive strength advantage over his opponents.
Nick Roehrick: Orlando native and rising undefeated prospect Nick Roehrick will get the call to debut on a weeks notice filling in for Steve Bosse. Roehrick has been dominant in his regional fights with his most recent 2 wins coming in the late Josh Samman’s Combat Night promotion.
Roehrick has a background in D1 Wrestling and starting training to fight at Charlotte’s Dark Side MMA in 2012. He has moved out to Denver to train with Team Elevation where his main sparring partner is UFC Heavyweight prospect Curtis Blaydes. Learning to strike under Bang Ludwig will go along way in turning this 29 year old fighter into the total package.
The Fight: Roehrick will surprise a lot of people with his striking in this match up, but it will be his grappling that gives him the edge in this short notice opportunity. Glover exposed Cannonier’s lack of Wrestling and we can expect Roehrick to pick up where Glover left off and pull off the upset. Roehrick Unanimous Decision
-260 Marc Diakiese (12-0) vs. +215 Drakkar Klose (6-0-1)
Marc Diakiese: Former BAMMA Lightweight champ Marc Diakiese kept his undefeated professional record intact when he Finished Finnish fighter Teemu Packalen with an overhand right that left Packalen out on his feet before face planting on the mat.
Diakies is one of the most explosive fighters on the roster, he has dynamic strikes, solid Wrestling (especially for an Englishmen) and cardio for days. The 24 year old Brit recently made the move to the states to train with the American Top Team at their Coconut Creek headquarters. Youth, work ethic and natural talent Diakiese has it all and all things point to this young man becoming a very successful mixed martial artist.
Drakkar Klose: Former Rage In The Cage Lightweight champion Drakkar Klose made his debut victory against Devin Powell look easy. Klose overpowered the lanky Powell in the clinch and landed hard shots when they separated. Powell’s best chance was a submission on the mat but had no way of getting Klose down.
Klose was a Wrestler at Idaho State before transitioning to MMA in 2014. Klose fights out the MMA Lab in Glendale Arizona and dominated the local circuit before getting the call to the big show. Drakkar is one of the stronger Lightweights in the division and will be well prepared for a battle anywhere the fight may go.
The Fight: This battle of undefeated youngsters will be a dark horse for fight of the night. Klose is going to want get this fight in close, while Diakiese will want to keep it at a distance. Diakiese is so quick that he should be able to avoid most clinches and land damage when they separate. Once he finds his range Diakiese will end this one dramatic fashion. Diakiese Knockout 2nd
+145 Dhiego Lima (14-5) vs. -175 Jesse Taylor (32-15)
Dhiego Lima: Former Titan FC Welterweight champion Dhiego Lima will be making his second appearance in the TUF finals. Lima defeated Hayder Hassan, Gilbert Smith and Tom Gallicchio to earn his shot at redemption.
American Top Team Atlanta’s Lima has the all around skills to be ranked in the division’s top 15. Almost all of the losses on his record have come in fights he was winning and got caught with a single shot. The BJJ Brown Belt and Muay Thai specialist is still only 27 and will have the rare second opportunity to fulfill his potential in the octagon.
Jesse Taylor: TUF: season 7 finalist Jesse “JT Money” Taylor punched his ticket back to the finals by taking out Mehdi Baghdad, Hayder Hassan and odds on favorite James Krause.
Since his unfortunate drunken exit from The Ultimate Fighter in 2007 Taylor has been traveling the world taking on all comers and winning the majority of the time. At 34 Taylor has put in the work for the last decade to prove he belongs in the UFC and now he will have the chance to right the mistakes of his past and finally become a UFC fighter.
The Fight: Taylor is a hulking, overpowering Wrestler who is very susceptible to submissions with 14 of his 15 losses coming via the sub. Lima is dangerous off his back, but the safe money is on Taylor grinding this out in a bloody ground fight. Taylor TKO 3rd
-160 #5 Michael Johnson (18-11) vs. +130 Justin Gaethje (17-0)
Michael Johnson: Long time Lightweight contender Michael “The Menace” Johnson is coming off a disappointing submission loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 205. Johnson looked good early, but as the fight progressed Nurmagomedov was relentless with his take downs and overpowered Johnson on the mat.
The long time Henri Hooft student has become one of the elite strikers in the division. Johnson’s game has been rounded out by the eclectic mix of training parteners he works with everyday. From Rashad Evans and Gilbert Burns to Rumble Johnson and Tyrone Spong, Johnson has a myriad of options to chose from at the Combat Club. A win here would set Johnson up for a high profile rematch with Tony Ferguson.
Justin Gaethje: Former World Series of Fighting Lightweight champion Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje will make his UFC debut following six title defenses of his WSOF belt. Gaethje has long been considered the best Lightweight outside of the UFC and we will now see how his skills match up against the best.
Gaethje was a D1 All- American at Northern Colorado and now trains under the guidance of striking coach extraordinaire Trevor Whitman at Denver’s Team Elevation. This 28 year old has appeared to be the total package early in his career, dominant Wrestling, creative striking and off the charts durability have made him a star outside of the octagon, now we will see if he can do it on the sport’s largest stage.
The Fight: Gaethje is going to want to put on on show which will will translate to a stand up war. Johnson will gladly stand and trade being the faster more technically sound striker. The take downs may come later in the fight for Gaethje, but Johnson will do enough in the striking realm to pick up the decision. Johnson Unanimous Decision