After twelve consecutive weeks together on television, UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and challenger Claudia Gadelha will finally settle their heated eighteen-month rivalry with a rematch.
Cast as coaches on the twenty-third season of the UFC's reality tent pole, The Ultimate Fighter, Jedrzejczyk and Gadelha headline the show's live finale, July 8 (10 P.M. EST, FOX Sports 1) at the MGM Grand Garden arena. This will be the second bout between the two, after Jedrzejczyk took the previous contest via split decision.
Earning a title shot off of her first win against Gadelha, Jedrzejczyk (11-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) would go on to capture the UFC title in March 2015. She has defended the belt twice already, using her world-class striking to TKO Jessica Penne in June 2015 and edge Valerie Letourneau at UFC 193.
Gadelha (13-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC), a Brazilian jiu jitsu world champion, has only fought once since falling to Jedrzejczyk in December 2014, topping Jessica Aguilar at UFC 190. Known for her grappling and ground game, Gadelha nearly took the first fight with Jedrzejczyk, taking the champion down on multiple occasions. The difference in the first encounter ultimately proved to be a first-round knockdown, scored in favor of Jedrzejczyk.
A classic striker-versus-grappler matchup, this bout, which unlike the first fight is slated for five rounds, will come down to Jedrzejczyk's ability to keep the contest on the feet, coupled with Gadelha's insistence on bringing it to the ground.
During the first fight, Jedrzejczyk did display some weakness in her takedown defense, but the champion's ground game, and ability to return to her feet from her back, has improved significantly since the previous encounter. Gadelha's game has always been well rounded, although eleven months outside of competition will be a lot for the challenger to overcome. This will also be the first time Gadelha is slated to go for the full 25 minutes.
Look for this bout to start fast, with Jedrzejczyk looking for hooks and uppercuts, and Gadelha moving in close for the takedown. And much like the first bout, Gadelha will smother the champion for the majority of the first two rounds.
But as the fight progresses, look for Gadelha to slow down, on account of her weight cut and limited endurance. Jedrzejczyk take this bout by decision.
Ross Pearson vs. Will Brooks
An intriguing lightweight bout pits Pearson (19-10 1 NC MMA, 11-7 1 NC UFC), a former TUF winner, against Brooks (17-1, 0-0 UFC), Bellator's exiled champion, who is making is UFC debut.
Pearson, who is known for his Muay Thai and aggression, has had difficulty finding consistency of late. Trading wins and losses for his last eight bouts, Pearson, who last won back-to-back contests in 2013, is coming off a win at UFC Fight Night 85 in March.
Brooks, who is riding an eight-fight win streak, last competed in November 2015, before withdrawing from competition for contractual reasons. Now signed with the UFC, Brooks will look to bring his wrestling and pressure into the Octagon.
The knock on Pearson has always been his ground game. And while the Pearson does possess some heavy punching power and knockout ability, Brooks excels in the places where Pearson is deficient.
Look for Will Brooks to win a unanimous decision, taking Pearson down in every round, controlling the top position and landing ground and pound.
Doo Ho Choi vs. Thiago Tavares
Featherweight phenom Doo Ho Choi, nicknamed "The Korean Superboy," looks to move into the divisional top-15, taking on UFC veteran, and multiple time Performance of the Night winner, Thiago Tavares.
Choi (13-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) has looked impressive inside the Octagon, recording two-straight knockouts. Known for his precision, power, and angles, Choi has the goods to knock out anyone in the division.
For Tavares (20-6-1 MMA, 10-6-1 UFC), it all comes down to his Brazilian jiu jitsu and submission game. A decorated BJJ black belt, Tavares has proven an ability to catch opponents in some sneaky submissions. The problem in this bout will be moving inside Choi's striking range while avoiding damage, to set up the takedown and grappling.
And while Tavares will have no choice but the move in on Choi, the Korean will keep his distance with strikes, and eventually find his range. Look for Choi to batter Tavares with crisp punches, backing the Brazilian up against the cage.
Eventually, Choi will earn the TKO some time in the second round.
UFC newcomers Andrew Sanchez (7-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) and Amanda Cooper (1-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) will vie for the TUF 23 light heavyweight and strawweight titles, respectively. Their opponents remain unknown at the time of publishing.