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The Ultimate Fighter season 17 Finale card has a stacked 7-stacked prelim fights. You’ll see several non-finalists compete against eachother for a chance to remain in the UFC. Set to headline the prelims is predicted finalist Josh Samman as he faces Kevin Casey. There are 6 other great fights scheduled, so educate yourself by reading this match up analysis!

Sam Sicilia vs. Maximo Blanco

This is a very exciting featherweight bout between a fellow Ultimate Fighter competitor and an entertaining Venezuelan who has spent nearly his whole career fighting overseas. Sam Sicilia is an explosive fighter with a lot of KO power, a very rare perk at only 145 lbs. A former lightweight competitor, Sicilia racked up a record of 10-1 before entering season 15 of The Ultimate Fighter. After losing to Chris Saunders, Sicilia performed impressively in the finale earning a second KO over Cristiano Marcello. Now, after losing in his 145 debut to Rony Bezerra, he’ll be looking to take on Maximo Blanco to make it 2-1 in the UFC.

Blanco is labeled as a freestyle wrestler, but has won several times using his hands and feet. He has racked up grappling credentials, so he’s a threat on the ground, and 7 wins by knockout out of 8 total wins shows that he’s a dangerous fighter.

When you have two guys that are good on their feet, it’s going to come down to adversity. Sicilia is a strong guy, but has lost on the ground before. Expect these guys to go toe-to-toe in the beginning, but eventually it’s going to come down to well-roundedness, and that will favor Blanco. I’m picking Blanco to use his grappling to control Sicilia and dominate him on the ground, picking up a TKO victory as he pounds him out late in the fight.

Maximo Blanco via 3rd Rd TKO

Justin Lawrence vs. Daniel Pineda

Justin Lawrence returns back to the Octagon after a disappointing loss to Max Holloway last August. Lawrence, only 22 years old, is known for his headkick KO over John Cofer as well as his success in season 15 of The Ultimate Fighter; making it to the quarter-finals before he was TKO’d by the season winner, Michael Chiesa. Across the cage will be Daniel Pineda. Pineda is a representative of the well-known gym, The Pit, and is looking to get back in the win column after dropping 2 straight after winning 2 straight. Pineda is known for his likelihood to submit. Pineda has never won a fight by decision, but as compiled 11 submissions victories and 6 stoppages by strikes.

This should be a very exciting match up and should be one that really takes place all over; meaning a bit of stand up, a bit of wrestling, and a bit of submission work, etc. I’m definitely favoring Justin Lawrence on the feet, as he has had lots of kickboxing experience and has shown his striking technique to be superior; however, Pineda is aggressive and is a finisher if he gets the fight to the ground. This fight will come down to whether Lawrence can keep the fight off of his back. If he can, look for Lawrence to pick Pineda apart and cruise to a decision or perhaps score a stoppage; if he can’t, then look for Pineda to work him on the ground and score his infamous rear-naked choke finish.

I’m going to pick Justin Lawrence in this match up. I think it’s a very evenly matched fight, but every fight starts standing it’ll be up to Pineda to get the takedowns. I just don’t see Pineda outmoving Lawrence to get in position; look for Lawrence to pick Pineda apart for three rounds.

Justin Lawrence via Unanimous Decision.

Cole Miller vs. Bart Palaszewski

Palaszewski and Miller will be the third straight featherweight bout to top off the prelims on Facebook before the prelims jump to Fuel TV. Miller has been o of action for a while, not having fought since last year where he had a disappointing 0-2 year. He’ll be looking to get his first win in almost two years when he faces Bart Palaszewski, who is also on a 2-fight skid.

It’ll be a much needed win for both of these guys, so expect this one to be a war. Miller is a long and lanky fighter who has lots of heart, likes to fight, but is exceptionally good on the ground. Palaszewski on the other hand is a very talented stand up fighter who likes to box opponents, but is also well-rounded in the wrestling department and when the fight hits the mat.

On the feet, I’m giving the edge to Palaszewski. Given that this will be a fast-paced fight, I’m expecting Palaszewski to be able to close the distance and stay on the inside where he should be able to out box Miller. Don’t expect Miller to back down though, as he can throwdown on the feet as well. For Miller to get an advantage, he’ll need to get this fight to the ground. Given that he’s a longer and lankier fighter, that’ll be difficult for him. I think Palaszewski is the stronger, more muscular fighter so he should be able to stay sharp and aware of any takedown attempts.

Ultimately, I’m taking Palaszewski to win a much needed decision in a fast-paced and exciting three round fight. He should be able to tag Miller on the feet, defend tie-up attempts, and even get some takedowns of his own to take home the victory.

Bart Palaszewski via Unanimous Decision.

Clint Hester vs. Bristol Marunde

TUF 17 fan-favorite Clint Hester will be making his appearance on this card to take on TUF 16 competitor Bristol Marunde who has yet to fight in the UFC. Marunde was defeated in the quarter-finals, but won his first match over Julian Lane. Marunde is a talented grappler and has nearly 20 fights of experience. Hester became a fan-favorite in TUF 17 with his laid-back personality and his talented boxing skills. Hester appeared to be one of the better strikers of the season, despite being defeated and not being picked for the wild-card spot.

This fight will really come down to weather Marunde can avoid getting hit with Hester’s bombs, and whether he can take Hester down. Hester is very athletic, and has displayed some decent takedown defense. The big question about Hester will be whether he can control the distance. Marunde can be aggressive and can also pull of submissions at the blink of an eye.

For this fight, I’m going to side with the striker, Clint Hester. He won me over on the show with his personality and his boxing skills. I think he’ll be able to defend an early takedown attempt from Marunde, and blast him with his power to get a first round stoppage.

Clint Hester via 1st Rd TKO

Dylan Andrews vs. Jimmy Quinlan

New Zealand representative and TUF 17 semi-finalist Dylan Andrews will be taking on TUF 17 quarter-finalist Jimmy Quinlan, who upset Clint Hester to move on before being defeated by Josh Samman. I’m exciting to see Dylan Andrews perform and I like his style and I like how he’s not scared to get in a fight. Although, he proved to be a tad inconsistent when he fought Uriah Hall in the semi-finals, as it seemed like out of nearly two rounds of fighting; he threw maybe 10 punches.

For Quinlan to win this fight, he’s going to need to bring constant pressure to Dylan Andrews and not allow him to find his range and establish momentum. Quinlan is at a disadvantage in experience, and stand up skills; he’ll want to be sure to tie Andrews up early and make him fight his fight on the ground. Unfortunately for him, Andrews can handle himself in the grappling department and can fend off takedowns. Look for the more athletic fighter in Andrews to get off first, and continue getting off the whole night as he out-boxes Quinlans, and defends himself in the clinch for three rounds.

Dylan Andrews via Unanimous Decision

Luke Barnatt vs. Collin Hart

Luke Barnatt, the “skyscraper” of the season will be facing hard-nosed grappler Collin Hart. Barnatt, Team Sonnen’s initial pick, has displayed a tough chin and a willingness to fight when he knocked out Gilbert Smith Jr., and went into the quarter-finals before being defeated in an all-out war against Dylan Andrews. This is an interesting fight because Collin Hart seems like the perfect fighter to beat Barnatt. However, Barnatt is a guy can that can surprise you because of his strong heart and fighter-spirited style.

A big key to this fight is going to come down to aggressiveness. For those who witnessed it, Hart was caught being overly aggressive when he was KO’d by Kelvin Gastelum. While that may seem like a bad thing to be known for, I think it’ll help Hart out in this fight. When facing a tall and lanky fighter, you need to be aggressive and quick to close the space. Hart has that style and can close the gap before letting Barnatt fire off his long shots; including his infamous flying knee that he used to KO Gilbert Smith. If Hart can stay aggressive, keep pressure, and continue driving Barnatt backwards, he’ll be able to secure takedowns and dominate the fight from the top position. This is exactly what I think will happen, Hart by decision in a mediocre upset.

Collin Hart via Unanimous Decision

Josh Samman vs. Kevin Casey

Highly-touted Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Kevin Casey, will be put to the test against the predicted finalist Josh Samman. This match-up raises my suspicion as why they would have a guy who didn’t even make it into the quarter-finals, against a guy who made it to the semi-finals and was predicted to be in there until the end. Nevertheless, this is a fairly easy fight to predict. Unfortunately for Kevin Casey, his “black belt” will not stop Josh Samman from fighting his fight. Samman is a guy who has a lot of power, is very athletic, and is extremely well-rounded in all areas. On the other hand, Kevin Casey is a fairly one-dimensional grappler who has had cardio issues and is prone to being out-muscled. I’m predicting Samman to come out aggressive and storm Kevin Casey in the opening minute; landing big punches and using his explosiveness to earn himself an impressive KO.

Josh Samman via 1st Rd KO

This is all for the prelims, stay tuned for the main card which will be up Friday! Thanks for reading.