Quite a few late changes happened for the TUF 26 Finale main card. Here are Cageside Press’ picks for tonight’s event.
|Staff Writer||Soto vs. Johns||Bennett vs. Fabian||Spicely vs. Meerschaert||Honchak vs. Murphy||O'Malley vs. Ware||Modafferi vs. Montano|
|Jason Payne (50-27)|
|Danny Doherty (82-54)|
|Mike Straus (19-14)|
|Paarth Pande (71-53)|
|Mike McClory (70-46)|
|Jay Anderson (75-61)|
|Gabriel Gonzalez (32-28)|
|Eddie Law (66-64)|
After finalist Sijara Eubanks was hospitalized due to weight cut difficulties, Roxanne Modaferri will now participate in the TUF 26 Finale main event with a chance to become the inaugural flyweight champion. She’ll be battling the impressive Nicco Montano.
Roxanne Modafferi was the number one seed of the tournament in this season of The Ultimate Fighter, and reached the semi-finals with a pair of first-round TKO victories. Her run was ended by the woman she is replacing, Sijara Eubanks. Nicco Montano was only 3-2 heading into the show, but wins over Barb Honchak and Lauren Murphy on the show have proved her worth. Despite her inexperience, it’s an even split according to Cageside Press, with both fighters receiving four picks.
Sean O’Malley makes his highly-anticipated UFC debut in the co-main event. The undefeated bantamweight came from the Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series and is 8-0 with four consecutive knockouts. Terrion Ware is 17-5 and is coming off a loss in his UFC debut. All but two writers sided with O’Malley.
A scheduling shake-up led to Lauren Murphy and Barb Honchak matching up. Honchak’s opponent was supposed to be Modafferi, but she was pulled from the bout, and Murphy’s opponent could not make it to the TUF 26 Finale due to visa issues. Honchak is a flyweight legend who seemingly retired in 2014 with the Invicta FC title and a nine-fight win streak. She went 2-1 on the show with a TKO victory, losing to eventual finalist Nicco Montano. Lauren Murphy was eliminated in the first round and had so many issues with coach Eddie Alvarez that she switched to Justin Gaethje’s team in the middle of the season. Murphy was 1-3 in the UFC bantamweight division. All but one writer went with Honchak.
Eric Spicely and Gerald Meerschaert have both had solid UFC runs. Meerschaert is 2-1 with a pair of submissions, and Spicely is 2-2 with a pair of submissions including a stunner against Thiago Santos. Six of eight writers sided with Spicely for this bout.
DeAnna Bennett and Melinda Fabian square off on the main card as well. Bennett was 1-1 on TUF 26 with a TKO, and won her first four fights with Invicta FC before losing her next three. Fabian is 4-3-1 in her career with all wins coming via submission. Fabian was eliminated in the first round of the tournament. With that in mind, only three writers picked Fabian.
Opening up the main card is Joe Soto vs. Brett Johns. The former Bellator champion Soto has found his stride after losing his first three UFC bouts, as he’s now on a three-fight win streak with a pair of submissions. Johns is a former Titan FC champion with an undefeated 14-0 record, two of which have come in the Octagon. Only two writers sided with the undefeated prospect.