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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
The first season of The Ultimate Fighter on FX comes to a close Friday night in Las Vegas, with Team Faber lightweights Michael Chiesa and Al Iaquinta squaring off to become the latest "Ultimate Fighter" winner. In addition to that bout, a big welterweight fight between contenders Jake Ellenberger and Martin Kampmann headlines the FX card, with three more fights rounding out the night's televised broadcast. Here's what's on tap for the card:
Jake Ellenberger vs. Martin Kampmann (Welterweight)
Ellenberger's name has been creeping into the top end of the UFC's welterweight division for some time. After a split decision loss to Carlos Condit in his UFC debut, he rattled off four straight wins before getting his first headlining slot.
He made the most of that opportunity, knocking out Jake Shields in the first round. He followed that up with a win over Diego Sanchez in a headlining fight in February, bringing him to this event and this fight with Kampmann.
Kampmann's been erratic in his UFC run, winning several fights but losing several as well. In fact, his last two losses came against the men Ellenberger defeated in his last two fights. But Kampmann has bounced back with consecutive wins, defeating Rick Story and Thiago Alves in consecutive fights.
The Danish fighter has tried to pass himself off as a kickboxer, though his submission game may be more potent. Ellenberger, meanwhile, has a good wrestling game and a blitzing striking game, making for one of the more well-rounded fighters in the division.
This particular matchup is intriguing, because Ellenberger's submission defense hasn't been tested much in his UFC career. If the fight goes to the ground, Kampmann will be attacking, and we'll see what type of work Ellenberger can do on top. However, it's got to get their first.
In a striking matchup, the edge goes to Ellenberger despite Kampmann's history of wins on the feet. Ellenberger hits harder and is much faster than Kampmann. Additionally, his wrestling game is quite good, and I think we'll see him avoid getting into too much trouble in this one. Ellenberger by TKO in the second round
Michael Chiesa vs. Al Iaquinta ("TUF: Live" Lightweight Finals)
Chiesa's had a rough road through the Ultimate Fighter experience. He lost his father the weekend after fighting his way into the house, and it's something that's been on his mind as he's been in away from friends and family for 12 weeks after being flown home for the funeral. He had tough fights all the way through, defeating Jeremy Larsen by decision, then besting an exhausted Justin Lawrence in the quarterfinals in a third round, and doing the same to a tired out James Vick in the semis after losing rounds in both fights.
Iaquinta, meanwhile, has gotten himself to the spot he was expected to be in. The first pick of Team Faber, Iaquinta defeated the favored Myles Jury by decision in his opening round bout, then knocked out teammate Andy Ogle before taking a decision over Vinc Pichel last week. With the live nature of the show, Friday's bout will be his third fight in three weeks.
It's really hard to say whose going to show up on Friday night. Both fighters have had to fight very recently, and Iaquinta coming in on his third fight in three weeks may have some cardio issues. Still, Iaquinta was the better fighter through the season, and what he needs to avoid is tiring out and allowing Chiesa to work on the ground. Chiesa's only hope is to get this fight to the ground and snatch a submission. It may happen, but I'm going with Iaquinta via decision
Jonathan Brookins vs. Charles Oliveira (Featherweight)
Brookins looked very impressive in February when he knocked out Vagner Rocha from guard, a bounce back win after a loss to Erik Koch in his return to featherweight. The Ultimate Fighter 12 winner is primarily a wrestler, but he's got some good striking instincts as well.
Oliveira had been an immensely impressive lightweight until a three fight winless streak sent him to the featherweight division, and he put on a show at 145 in his debut in January. Taking on newcomer Eric Wisely, Oliveira scored the first ever calf slicer submission win in UFC history, a vicious pain submission that nearly tore Wisely's knee apart.
Brookins makes for a tough second opponent at the weight-class, however. His wrestling game is excellent and he's hard to put away. That said, Oliveira's got more size at featherweight than he did at 155 lbs., and he's been the bane of a few wrestlers in his time as well. I like Oliveira's striking game, and his submission game is immensely slick as well. It's not going to be easy, but I think Oliveira takes this by submission in the second
Max Holloway vs. Pat Schilling (Featherweight)
Holloway made his UFC debut in February as a late replacement against Dustin Poirier. He had a decent showing on the feet for a minute or so, but he was ultimately outclassed on the ground by Poirier, getting submitted in just over three minutes.
Schilling also ran up against a superior submission fighter in Daniel Pineda, getting busted up before finally being choked out in a minute and a half in January.
Both fighters are still very early in their careers, with each having just a handful of fights on their respective records. Schilling's got several submission wins thus far in his young career, and if he can get the fight to the ground he may have the advantage there. This one's a bit of a tossup, but I'll go with Schilling by submission in the second
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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