The Ultimate Fighter Season 27 draws to a close as the perfect warm-up act for the hotly anticipated UFC 226 card, live from Las Vegas, Nevada.
Sixteen fighters, split across two weight classes who have never tasted defeat in mixed martial arts have clashed across 12 episodes, under the tutelage of UFC 226 headliners Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier.
The two coaches collide on Saturday evening, with Stipe Miocic defending his heavyweight crown against the light heavyweight champion. Daniel Cormier is bidding to become only the second man to hold two belts simultaneously in two different weight classes, following in the footsteps of Conor McGregor.
Highly-rated middleweight prospect Israel Adesanya will face his toughest test yet in the main event, as he takes on perennial middleweight contender Brad Tavares in the main event.
Adesanya has a huge range of experience across combat sports; holding a 6-1 boxing record, an impressive 75-4 kickboxing record and now a 13-0 mixed martial arts record… at the tender age of just twenty-eight! His style is exciting, and the “Last Stylebender” is considered to be one of the most highly-touted prospects in the sport.
Brad Tavares is no easy hurdle, and many would argue that this match up has come too soon for Adesanya, with Tavares a seasoned octagon veteran with sixteen fights in the promotion. His recent run, with four consecutive wins has propelled the American into the #8 ranked middleweight in the world.
For the British fight fans, Jay Cucciniello will fly the flag in the featherweight finale after ending a slugfest with Tyler Diamond by brutal elbows in the third sudden death round. Cucciniello trains under the guidance of ACB light heavyweight contender Luke Barnatt at his gym in Malaga, Spain.
After being eliminated earlier in the competition, Cucciniello was given the opportunity of a lifetime after Ricky Steele was forced to withdraw from the semi-finals due to concussion. The Brit will be hoping that he can clinch the coveted Ultimate Fighter crown, alongside the “six-figure” UFC contract.
Canada’s Brad Katona lies in Cucciniello’s way, who may endear to Irish fans after making the move to Dublin to train under Conor McGregor’s coach, John Kavanagh. Katona sneaked through the opening round with a majority decision victory over Kyler Phillips, before submitting Bryce Phillips in the sudden-death third round of their semi-final.
Katona has plied his trade across the Canadian regional circuit before entering TUF, racing to a 6-0 record in just under three years. He has mainly fought as a bantamweight but has fluctuated as high as lightweight in his short career so far.
The lightweight finale sees America’s Mike Trizano and fellow compatriot Joe Giannetti bid to join the featherweight winner in the bright lights of the UFC.
Trizano fights out of New Jersey, training alongside the likes of Jimmie Rivera, Uriah Hall and Shane Burgos. The twenty-six-year-old has an impressive record, after building on a 6-0 amateur career with a current 6-0 professional record to match.
Trizano most recently competed under the Bellator banner towards the end of 2017, submitting his opponent in the second round. After knocking out Thailand Clark in the opening round of TUF, he outpointed John Gunther in the semi-final to secure his place in the finale.
Standing across the cage will be the most impressive of fighters of the series in Joe Giannetti. “Skeletor” has picked up five of his six professional victories by way of submission and has carried that form into the competition, submitting both of his opponents in the opening round.
At twenty-three, Giannetti has emerged as a huge prospect, especially with his aggressive submission game that nobody has been able to stop so far. It makes for an interesting match up!
The card features some remaining competitors from the series with a sprinkling of UFC talent on top!
Stay tuned to The Sportsman on Instagram and Facebook as we’ll be bringing you all the action from Las Vegas!
Full Fight Card
Main Card (3AM on BT Sport)
Middleweight: Brad Tavares vs. Israel Adesanya; Lightweight TUF Finale: Mike Trizano vs. Joe Giannetti; Featherweight TUF Finale: Jay Cucciniello vs. Brad Katona; Featherweight: Alex Caceres vs. Martin Bravo; Women’s Flyweight: Roxanne Modafferi vs. Barb Honchak; Middleweight: Julian Marquez vs. Alessio Di Chirico Prelims (1AM on BT Sport)
Women’s Flyweight: Rachael Ostovich vs. Montana De La Rosa; Lightweight: Luis Pena vs. Richie Smullen; Lightweight: John Gunther vs. Allan Zuniga; Early Prelims (Midnight on UFC Fight Pass); Featherweight: Matt Bessette vs. Steven Peterson; Middleweight: Oskar Piechota vs. Gerald Meerschaert; Featherweight: Tyler Diamond vs. Bryce Mitchell