TUF Finale fight card preview
"The Ultimate Fighter" winner will finally be crowned on Saturday night as 12 weeks boil down to one night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
Team Sonnen's second and last pick will collide for a six-figure UFC contract at "The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale," which is headlined by a bantamweight showdown pitting former WEC champion Urijah Faber against former UFC title challenger Scott Jorgensen.
Competing for a six-figure UFC contract, one of the best prospects in "TUF" history Uriah Hall battles Mexican-American finalist Kelvin Gastelum.
The coaches will also be finalized for the 18th installment of the reality series with the winner of a clash between Miesha Tate and Cat Zingano earning a slot opposite UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.
Here's a closer look at Saturday's "TUF 17 Finale" emanating from the fight capital of the world:
Main Card (FX):
Urijah Faber (27-6) vs. Scott Jorgensen (14-6)
No stranger to headlining fights, the former WEC featherweight champion Faber seeks his second win in just two months when he battles his good friend and top contender Jorgensen.
Faber, 33, submitted Ivan Menjivar with an impressive standing rear-naked choke at UFC 157 in February.
Since joining the UFC, Faber has been outpointed in title fights with Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao, while defeating Menjivar, Brian Bowles and Eddie Wineland.
As one of the poster boys for the now-defunct World Extreme Cagefighting, "The California Kid" earned wins over Cruz, Jens Pulver, Raphael Assuncao and Takeya Mizugaki.
A former NCAA Division I wrestler with a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Faber is a highly effective grappler with strong finishing instincts. As the captain at Team Alpha Male, Faber serves as a mentor to teammates such as Joseph Benavidez and Chad Mendes, while honing his skills under Master Thong, Fabio Prado and Duane Ludwig.
Jorgensen, 30, earned double bonuses in his most recent outing, taking home "Submission of the Night" and "Fight of the Night" honors following his first-round submission win over John Albert this past December.
The Utah native rebounded from a two-fight losing skid against Wineland and Barao, the two men fighting for the interim belt this June in Winnipeg.
Jorgensen's WEC campaign saw him notch wins over Mizugaki, Curran, Antonio Banuelos and Brad Pickett.
Like Faber, Jorgensen comes from an NCAA Division I wrestling background and he's also taken well to the submission arts, earning a BJJ purple belt.
In a clash of similar styles, Faber should possess the decisive edge. A powerhouse at 135 pounds, Faber's takedowns, suffocating pressure and killer instinct are a handful for anyone in the division. He's struggled against elite strikers and stronger wrestlers, but he should find himself at an advantage against Jorgensen.
Faber will push the pace and score critical takedowns, earning a hard-fought decision on judges' scorecards.
Verdict: Faber via Decision
Uriah Hall (7-2) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (4-0) - TUF 17 Final
Arguably the most highly touted prospect in "TUF" history, Hall carries his momentum into the Octagon against teammate Gastelum as a UFC contract hangs in the balance.
Referring to Hall's 4-0 run this season as impressive is an understatement. The 28-year-old Ring of Combat middleweight champion has thoroughly decimated his competition, including thunderous knockouts of Adam Cella, Robert "Bubba" McDaniel and Dylan Andrews.
Born in Jamaica, Hall now resides in New York, where he trains out of the Team Tiger Schulmann camp. He's lost only two fights in his career against UFC middleweight title contenders Costa Philippou and Chris Weidman.
Chael Sonnen is convinced Hall is a future champion himself, but we'll still need to see how he copes with pressure from superior wrestlers.
The 21-year-old Gastelum is still perfect in amateur and professional competition. The San Jose native stopped McDaniel, Collin Hart and Josh Samman to earn his spot in the final.
A BJJ purple belt based at Arizona Athletic Club, Gastelum is a heavy-handed puncher with an exceptional ground game.
Standing and trading with Hall could be a fatal proposition, so Gastelum will need to close the distance and force the fight to the canvas.
Hall's takedown defense has been impressive thus far, but Gastelum could be the best wrestler he's fought since Weidman.
Still, Hall is simply too dynamic. He should anticipate Gastelum's shots, while utilizing his range effectively to land combinations. After three rounds, Hall's output and damage should be the deciding factors.
Verdict: Hall via Decision¿
Miesha Tate (13-3) vs. Cat Zingano (7-0)
Still eyeing a rematch with UFC queen Ronda Rousey, Tate will make her promotional debut against the undefeated Zingano.
Tate, 26, a product of Team Alpha Male, is a strong wrestler and a savvy submission stylist.
The former Strikeforce champion owns key wins over Julie Kedzie, Marloes Coenen, Hitomi Akano and Zoila Gurgel.
Zingano, 30, is still perfect in the sport. She's coming off stoppages of Raquel Pennington, Takayo Hashi and recent UFC signee Carina Damm.¿
Anchored at Black House, the Colorado native is married to BJJ black belt Mauricio Zingano, so she's no stranger to the intricacies of grappling.
Tate has relied primarily on her takedowns throughout her career, but Zingano will be well-equipped to defend her offensive onslaught.
Zingano should scramble well, landing superior strikes and controlling key positions over the course of 15 minutes.
Verdict: Zingano via Decision
Travis Browne (13-1) vs. Gabriel Gonzaga (14-6)
In an explosive heavyweight special attraction, the Hawaiian banger Browne meets the 4th degree BJJ black belt Gonzaga.
Browne, 30, is coming off his first and only loss against Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva this past October.
After battling Cheick Kongo to a draw in his October 2010 UFC debut, Browne rattled off a hat trick of wins over Stefan Struve, Rob Broughton and Chad Griggs.
Standing 6-foot-7, the Jackson's MMA product is an enormous heavyweight with tremendous athleticism and devastating power.
Gonzaga, 33, has returned to his winning ways since re-joining the UFC in January 2012. The Brazilian Team Link representative erased the memory of losses to Brendan Schaub, Junior dos Santos, Shane Carwin, Fabricio Werdum and Randy Couture as he recorded back-to-back submissions over Ben Rothwell and Ednaldo Oliveira.
Gonzaga has shown glimpses of his improved striking, including a memorable 2007 head kick knockout of Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, but submissions remain his bread and butter.
If Gonzaga is unsuccessful in his attempts to take Browne down, he'll be eating some heavy leather all night long. The Brazilian will likely turtle under the pressure as a furious flurry from Browne leads to the referee's intervention.
Verdict: Browne via KO, Round 1¿
Bubba McDaniel (20-6) vs. Gilbert Smith (5-1)
Two of the most disappointing cast members from this past season of "The Ultimate Fighter" seek redemption as Team Jones representatives "Bubba" and Smith face off.
McDaniel, 29, was his own worst enemy throughout the season. After a submission setback against finalist Kelvin Gastelum, "Bubba" earned the wild card slot with a victory over Kevin Casey. He mentally broke down ahead of his next fight, ultimately succumbing to a first-round knockout against Uriah Hall.
McDaniel is experienced and well-rounded, but his mental state has always been a question mark.
Smith, 30, was actually criticized by "Bubba" ahead of his knockout loss to Luke Barnatt. Smith would like nothing more than to get some revenge against McDaniel for questioning his conditioning and preparation.
With a powerful build and a strong wrestling base, Smith's limited striking was exposed in his loss to Barnatt.
Although McDaniel could fall apart at any point, he should dictate the pace with his strikes. Conditioning is also a major concern with Smith, so McDaniel should break his will if he can take him into deep waters.
Verdict: McDaniel via TKO, Round 3