In UFC President Dana White’s own words, season 19 of The Ultimate Fighter was proclaimed the worst season ever. He said the fighters were among the least motivated group he’d ever seen. For four of those fighters, now is the time to find that motivation. At The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale, two light heavyweight fighters and two middleweight combatants have the opportunity to secure long-term UFC deals and the distinction of being TUF champions. Then, they get to watch their TUF coaches fight.

When the UFC hits the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Sunday, July 6, TUF light heavyweight finalists Corey Anderson and Matt Van Buren and TUF middleweight finalists Eddie Gordon and Dhiego Lima vie for the two season-19 TUF crowns. Then, in the main event, B.J. Penn returns, this time as a featherweight, to seek revenge on Frankie Edgar, who defeated “The Prodigy” twice in lightweight title tilts.

The action will be spread across UFC Fight Pass and Fox Sports 1. The preliminary card kicks off with two fights on UFC Fight Pass at 6 p.m. ET, then moves to Fox Sports 1 at 7 p.m. ET for the remainder of the preliminary card, followed by the main card, also on Fox Sports 1, at 9 p.m. ET.

The MMA Corner’s Corey Adams, RJ Gardner and Bryan Henderson provide their picks and predictions for the entire card in this edition of the Round Table.

FlyW: Dustin Ortiz (13-3) vs. Justin Scoggins (9-0)

Gardner: In a weight class in serious need of new contenders, Justin Scoggins and Dustin Ortiz represent two of the best young talents the flyweight division has to offer. The winner of this bout will be positioned for a potential No. 1 contender bout.

Ortiz has a very well-rounded attack and can compete wherever the fight takes place, but against Scoggins he is going to need to get this fight to the mat. Scoggins is as skilled as they come on the feet, so Ortiz will not want to engage him there. As a former amateur kickboxing champion and a black belt in Kempo karate, Scoggins is the real deal in the stand-up game.

Through nine professional fights, Scoggins has yet to taste defeat and he has finished seven of his nine opponents. Ortiz is very talented, but if he can’t get this fight to the mat he is going to be in serious trouble. Scoggins wins this one handily via unanimous decision.

Adams: Two young flyweights from the South square off while locked in a cage. This should be a fun encounter between Ortiz and Scoggins.

Tennessee’s Ortiz lost his last fight against Ray Borg in not only my eyes, but in the eyes of many other fans as well. Ortiz holds his own in the striking department while receiving advice from Duke Roufus, so even though he may not have the credentials of his opponent, he won’t back down from a brawl on the feet.

Scoggins is one of the top prospects in not just the flyweight division, but the entire UFC. The South Carolina native has excellent knockout power for a guy at 125 pounds, which is a dangerous trait to have in the division. Scoggins has used many strikes to finish opponents in the past, so look for the undefeated fighter to throw in high kicks and knees to keep Ortiz guessing.

I’m going to side with Scoggins ever so slightly. Unless Ortiz manages to turn this into a wrestling match, he’ll get outpointed on the feet. Scoggins wins by unanimous decision.

Henderson: Scoggins is a talented fighter in the stand-up department, but he’s really proven to be a tough challenge for any opponent regardless of where the fight takes place. It’s his relentless, pressuring approach that carries him to victory, and he’s just as likely to use his kicks and punches to set up a takedown and some ground-and-pound as he is to keep the fight standing and pick apart his opponent. Scoggins demonstrated this dual threat in his Octagon debut against Richie Vaculik, and he reaffirmed it with his sophomore performance against Will Campuzano.

Ortiz’s style plays right into Scoggins’ hands. The Roufusport product has been a borderline top-10 flyweight for some time now, and he tends to win even when he shouldn’t (see: UFC on Fox 11 and Ray Borg). His striking is adequate, but he’ll relinquish the upper hand in that department to the American Top Team product, Scoggins. Ortiz has the wrestling edge, but he isn’t an overwhelming takedown artist, and Scoggins’ pressure approach might allow the 22-year-old to beat Ortiz to the punch, no pun intended, when it comes to shooting in for the takedown.

Ortiz is good, but Scoggins has real potential to establish himself as a top flyweight in this contest. His pressuring attack will keep Ortiz on the defensive in all realms of the game. Ortiz isn’t an easy out, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Scoggins hand him his first knockout loss. However, I won’t be that bold in my prediction. Instead, I will join my fellow panelists in predicting that Scoggins outworks Ortiz en route to the decision win.

HW: Guto Inocente (6-2) vs. Derrick Lewis (10-2)

Adams: There may not be a more dangerous second-tier heavyweight in the UFC when it comes to striking than Derrick Lewis.

“The Black Beast” will make his second appearance inside the Octagon on Saturday, looking to build off the destructive path he has paved himself. There’s no secret concerning Lewis once he steps in the cage. It’s beat you down until you are knocked out or the referee has to step in. It’s been his motive ever since coming onto the scene, and he has clocked opponents such as Jared Rosholt under the Legacy FC banner and Jack May in his first UFC bout.

Across the cage will be Guto Inocente, a 28-year-old Brazilian making his UFC debut. In fact, this will be his first appearance since 2012, when he had one fight with Strikeforce. Before then, he had not fought since 2010. So, not only does Inocente have Octagon jitters to be concerned with, but also ring rust.

Inocente trains with the Blackzilians team, though, so he’ll be well prepared. However, all signs point to Lewis winning this fight. It’s a favorable match-up for Lewis in the straight boxing aspect, so as long as he keeps the fight standing, Lewis will finish the bout before the third round comes.

Henderson: Lewis’s boxing might not be enough to out-duel Inocente on the feet. Inocente not only has Octagon jitters and ring rust to worry about, he has to overcome the faded memories of his last bout, too. He faced Virgil Zwicker, a tough brawler, in the Strikeforce cage and picked Zwicker apart with an arsenal of kicks, knees and the occasional combination. He’s actually quite capable on his feet, as he demonstrated in that victory, and he holds a second-degree black belt in kickboxing. His trophy case is full of honors from Brazilian, South American, Pan American and World W.A.K.O. competitions. If the fight stays standing, Inocente retains the best chance to win.

Although Inocente impressed against Zwicker, he did so as a light heavyweight. That’s really where he belongs. However, his UFC debut will come at heavyweight against a beast of a man. Lewis is a big guy who can bulldoze his opponents. His victory over Rosholt really looks impressive on his resume now that Rosholt is 3-0 in his UFC campaign with wins over Walt Harris and Soa Palelei. It proves that Lewis can overcome even a tough wrestler to score the win.

Between Inocente’s size disadvantage and his inconsistent fight schedule, it gets increasingly difficult to view him as a favorite in his fights. It’s amazing to consider that he’s been in this sport since 2005 and only has eight fights under his belt, but it isn’t for a lack of trying. He had a spurt of fights from 2005 through 2007, then moved on to claim a majority of those kickboxing titles between 2008 and 2010, then returned to MMA for a short time before he started battling injuries more than he battled opponents inside the cage. He’s been sidelined recently thanks to a knee injury that was further aggravated by Alistair Overeem in training—in fact, that injury is credited as a factor in Overeem’s departure from the Blackzilians camp. Combine those injury concerns with everything else and the deck seems to be even further stacked against Inocente.

The Brazilian will be the more technical striker, but that might not be enough to earn him the victory. Lewis has size and power working in his favor. He’ll look to close the distance and bully Inocente against the cage and on the ground. Lewis might be a knockout artist, but his best work comes not on the feet, but in the form of a brutal ground-and-pound attack. He’ll capitalize on takedown attempts and use his size to keep Inocente off his feet, therefore neutralizing the best parts of the Blackzilian fighter’s game. Eventually, Lewis is going to drop some thunderous bombs from the top, and Inocente is going to go to sleep. Lewis wins this fight via second-round knockout.

Gardner: This heavyweight bout just has fun written all over it, as both men like to keep things on the feet. Inocente will be making his UFC debut and has not competed in over two years, so there is some cause for concern there. However, training at a camp like the Blackzilians will have him plenty prepared for this bout.

Although Inocente has a more refined striking attack with a full arsenal of weapons, his opponent is a straight-ahead, no-nonsense boxer who looks to drag his opponents into brawls. He drags his opponents to the mat and batters them with vicious ground-and-pound. Distance will prove to be the deciding factor in this fight—if Inocente can utilize his kicks to keep Lewis on the outside, then he has a great chance to get the victory. But if Lewis gets on the inside, Inocente will be in a world of trouble.

Anytime a fighter is coming back from a long layoff, maintaining distance is a challenge. No matter how hard you spar, it can be difficult to replicate real fight scenarios, and that is what will cost Inocente in his UFC debut. Lewis will close the distance and hurt Inocente badly. Lewis wins this one via first-round TKO.

TUF LHW Tournament Final: Corey Anderson (3-0) vs. Matt Van Buren (6-2)

Henderson: If you had asked me at the start of season 19 of The Ultimate Fighter who would make it to the light heavyweight finals, Corey Anderson and Matt Van Buren would not have been included in my response. Needless to say, both men exceeded my expectations and emerged as the best fighters in a cast that even UFC President Dana White characterized as an uninspired group of fighters.

Anderson’s focus always centered on a path to Olympic wrestling prior to launching his MMA career. Then he met Ben Askren and things changed. Askren pointed out Anderson’s excellent footwork, which was a product of the NCAA Division III wrestler’s time spent boxing while a broken leg prevented him from competing on the wrestling mats. In the realm of college wrestling, Anderson advanced to the NCAA Division III national championship finals as a heavyweight. The 24-year-old began competing as an amateur mixed martial artist in 2010 and amassed an 8-2 mark before turning pro in 2013 and claiming three wins (some fighter databases, though, only credit him with two pro victories). The Kennel Fight Club product advanced through the TUF competition with a unanimous decision over Kelly Anundson, a majority verdict over Josh Clark and a unanimous nod over Patrick Walsh.

Van Buren has been a scrappier fighter during the reality series, scoring a first-round TKO over Daniel Vizcaya to make it into the TUF house and advancing to the finals with a majority decision over Chris Fields and a TKO finish of Daniel Spohn. The Alliance MMA fighter made his pro debut in 2010 and holds a 6-2 mark, but he hit hard times before entering the TUF competition. The 28-year-old won just one of his three official fights since the beginning of 2012. Van Buren has seen action in the Bellator cage, where he went 2-2 with a pair of finishes and a pair of first-round stoppage losses, including a 15-second knockout at the hands of Terry Davinney.

Van Buren demonstrated a better knack for finishing fights during the TUF season, but his resume in official bouts isn’t exactly the most compelling. The notable names on his resume are Brandon Saling, a middling fighter better known for his racist tattoos than his fights, and Aaron “Tex” Johnson, another fighter with a record just a few wins above the .500 mark. Anderson’s record doesn’t read much better, but he does hold a notable win over Myron Dennis, a fighter with a respectable 10-3 mark who went on to defeat Paul Buentello under the Legacy banner a few fights after losing on the scorecards to Anderson.

Anderson’s wrestling and footwork will give him an edge in this fight. Van Buren is going to seek a TKO stoppage, but, outside of TUF competition, he has only managed two wins via strikes in his eight-fight career. Anderson should be able to avoid bad positions against Van Buren while scoring takedowns of his own. The former NCAA Division III wrestling finalist will grind out the decision victory to claim the TUF 19 light heavyweight trophy and contract.

Gardner: I have to agree with Bryan here. I did not see these two making it to the end of the competition in the beginning. However, these two men have demonstrated that they have what it takes to win it all and compete in the UFC light heavyweight division.

At 6-foot-5, Van Buren is a rangy guy and his stand-up is much better that Anderson’s at this point in their respective careers. However, Anderson is a very talented wrestler and moves extremely well. He should be able to close the distance at will and take Van Buren down effectively.

Van Buren will be looking for the knockout, that much is true. But he isn’t a natural knockout artist with devastating power. Instead, he is more of a flurry finisher. Not having true knockout power will lead to Anderson closing the distance fast and grinding Van Buren out. Anderson wins this one via unanimous decision.

Adams: It’s unanimous then, as I, too, am picking the wrestler, Anderson.

I certainly wouldn’t count out Van Buren after an impressive run through the light heavyweight bracket, but with the bright lights on, “Gutter” could be too aggressive in trying to force a stoppage.

Anderson has a pair of first-round finishes in his professional career, so it’s possible that the 24-year-old could come out throwing as well. However, I do think he will play it safe and use his wrestling game to dictate the pace of the fight. Although Anderson had just one decision victory in his 10 combined fights at the pro and amatuer levels, it appears he has gone back to his wrestling roots, as evidenced by two decision victories to reach the finals.

Anderson wins the contract via unanimous decision.

TUF MW Tournament Final: Eddie Gordon (6-1) vs. Dhiego Lima (9-1)

Adams: The middleweight final stacks up to a big difference in terms of size. Dhiego Lima is a natural welterweight, whereas his opponent, Eddie Gordon, is around 190 pounds and fights at light heavyweight.

“Truck” is an appropriate nickname to describe Gordon. The member of the Serra-Longo fight team is very strong, which allows him to wear fighters down either in the clinch or on the mat. Both wins inside the house went three rounds, with his split decision victory over Cathal Pendred being a razor-thin verdict. Being a physical specimen is certainly helpful, but Gordon still hasn’t developed into a complete mixed martial artist.

On the other hand, Lima brings to the table an overall game of both impressive grappling and striking skills, yet he has a disadvantage in the wrestling department. In a fight before getting into the house, veteran Nathan Coy was able to control Lima for three rounds en route to a unanimous decision loss for the Brazilian. He faces a similar situation on Saturday in Gordon, but Lima is a finisher and will go for a submission at any time. He has used three different methods to submit opponents in his career, so Gordon must be cautious if he decides to take Lima down.

Although Gordon has never been finished in his career, he could leave holes open for Lima to exploit. Lima is the real deal, and he will finally get his opportunity in the UFC. Lima submits Gordon midway through the fight.

Gardner: Gordon is just a big, bruising, physical athlete. The technique is still a work in progress, but he has the natural gifts to be competitive in the UFC. Considering that he trains with current UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman on a daily basis, we have to believe that he will continue to get better with every outing.

Lima, on the other hand, has the look of a more traditional martial artist with his long limbs and lean frame. But don’t let that fool you, as he poses sneaky power. Just like his brother, Bellator welterweight champion Douglas Lima, Dhiego can put an opponent to sleep in the blink of an eye. In addition to his skills on the feet, Lima has a dangerous skill set when the fight hits the floor.

Lima is the much more refined tactician, but Gordon has a way of drawing guys into dogfights where anything can happen. If Gordon can bait Lima into that kind of fight, then Lima will be in trouble. However, Lima has all the tools to get the win here. He has faced much tougher competition over the course of his career. Lima wins this one via second-round submission.

Henderson: Unlike the light heavyweight final, where neither finalist would have been a definite pick at the start of the season, the middleweight pairing contains at least one of the early favorites, that of course being Lima. Gordon, meanwhile, made it here by edging my other pick, The MMA Corner’s very own TUF 19 blogger, Pendred.

Corey’s point about the natural weight classes of these two competitors is the one factor that really stands out in their match-up. Lima is a top prospect, but he’s done his work at 170 pounds and moved up to middleweight for his opportunity on TUF. Gordon, meanwhile, moved down from light heavyweight and actually began his career as a heavyweight, which means he should enjoy a definite size advantage over Lima. Can Lima overcome Gordon’s size and take this fight? That’s the primary question that’s up in the air as these two men prepare to engage in battle.

One shouldn’t judge Lima’s prospects in a TUF final based on his decision loss to Coy. Coy is a veteran who even gave Tyron Woodley headaches. The fact that Lima, in just his seventh pro fight, went the distance with a veteran grinder who pushed Woodley and Paul Bradley to split decisions and topped Bradley, Mike Pierce and Rick Story is testament to Lima’s talent. The 25-year-old will have his hands full against Gordon, but there’s no way he can be counted out.

Lima will find success in the UFC, but he’ll do so at welterweight after dropping the TUF 19 middleweight final to Gordon. The size differential will be too much for Lima to overcome, and Gordon will work his way to a unanimous decision.

FW: Frankie Edgar (16-4-1) vs. B.J. Penn (16-9-2)

Gardner: As the two greatest lightweight fighters in UFC history, Frankie Edgar and B.J. Penn have nothing left to prove. This fight is about pride—Penn’s pride, to be exact. Edgar defeated Penn twice at lightweight in 2010, and that just eats at Penn.

This fight won’t be taking place at lightweight, though. Instead, these two greats will be competing as featherweights. This will be Edgar’s third fight at 145 pounds, and it will be Penn’s first fight at featherweight (and his first fight in over a year). Penn has always been on the smaller side of lightweight, but with Penn checking in at age 35, you have to ask what this weight cut will do to him physically.

If there was a prototypical lighter-weight fighter, it would be Edgar. He has great footwork, excellent boxing, tremendous cardio and a high-level ground game. No matter where the fight takes place, Edgar has the skill and ability to compete and dominate.

When it comes to natural skill and ability, though, few fighters are on Penn’s level. When Penn is motivated, he is one of the most dangerous fighters in the world. I expect him to be very motivated for this one, and training at Nova Uniao will only help his cause. Penn wins this fight via second-round TKO and becomes the first man to stop Edgar.

Henderson: Perhaps I’ve just become jaded with Penn over the years. There’s no denying his abilities, but he’s so inconsistent at putting everything together and staying motivated. His last significant wins came at lightweight in 2009, and he has bounced around from welterweight to lightweight to welterweight and, now, featherweight. On a positive note, his losses, even in recent years, have come against top-tier fighters. He fell to Edgar twice, fought to a draw with Jon Fitch and suffered losses to Nick Diaz and Rory MacDonald on the scorecards. There’s no shame to be found there, but can he be trusted to show up in shape and motivated? That’s where I have my doubts.

Edgar scored a huge upset when he topped Penn in their first encounter and claimed the UFC’s lightweight crown. He performed even better in the rematch, when everyone thought Penn would be extremely motivated. Now, Penn has been working with the famed Nova Uniao camp and is again, supposedly, motivated. Sorry, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Edgar formed an excellent strategy to defeat Penn in their first meeting, and he perfected it in the rematch. I don’t see any reason why that trend won’t continue in the third go-around. Penn has to make 145 pounds, which is a challenge in itself for a man who could have dominated lightweight for years but chose to fight frequently at 170 pounds instead. Then, he has to overcome a fighter whose speed and movement caused him headaches for 10 rounds of action. I just don’t see it happening.

This one will follow the pattern of its predecessors: Edgar via unanimous decision.

Adams: I’m forced to settle the score on this one, given my fellow panelists’ differents views.

I’m always excited to see Penn back inside the Octagon, because there is still potential for us to witness “The Prodigy” of old. However, that type of fighter hasn’t been seen since 2010. Penn, as Bryan pointed out, states before every fight that he is highly motivated and in the best shape of his life, but that hasn’t been the case since his 21-second destruction of Matt Hughes. I’m not sold on it happening Sunday, either.

Edgar is going to be in top form, as always. “The Answer” is never in bad shape, which has been the biggest reason behind him capturing the lightweight title from Penn and successfully defending it three times. A third clinic could be coming for Edgar, as he certainly knows Penn very well. There will be a frustrated Hawaiian standing opposite of Edgar on Sunday.

If Penn can’t find his distance early in the fight to deliver combinations, it could be another long night for him. Look for Edgar to constantly use his speed and footwork to claim a clear-cut unanimous decision victory.

Preliminary Card
LHW: Keith Berish (5-0) vs. Robert Drysdale (6-0)

Henderson: Given all the previous aborted UFC debuts for Robert Drysdale, it’ll be victory enough if he just manages to cross the threshold into the eight-sided cage at the TUF 19 Finale to square off with Keith Berish. Drysdale, an elite grappler, has six wins on his spotless record, but only one of those fights came after the end of 2012. His opponent, Berish, took more than two years before he had amassed two pro fights on his record, but he’s scored three wins since that start of 2013. Unfortunately for the Black & Blue MMA product, he’s going to be outmatched. Berish holds a brown belt in Muay Thai, teaches jiu-jitsu classes and wrestled in high school. Drysdale has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and claimed gold medals at the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships and the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships. Unless Berish manages to surprise Drysdale with an effective Muay Thai attack, there’s only one way this fight ends: a convincing submission finish in favor of Drysdale.

Adams: Let me sum up what Bryan said: this fight is one-sided. Even though Drysdale has only one more win than Berish, the dial on the talent meter shifts to Drysdale. All six of his wins have come via submission in the first round, proving that even though he may appear to be a “one-trick pony,” that one trick is effective. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Drysdale rush forward with a takedown attempt very early in the first round, then look to force Berish to tap for the first time in his career. Drysdale will slap on some form of hold to finally get his first win inside the Octagon.

Gardner: Drysdale is one of the best pure grapplers, and there is a reason so many elite MMA fighters look to train with him to prepare for their fights. Drysdale’s UFC debut is long overdue, and I expect him to make the most of it. Berish just doesn’t have anything to really challenge him. Drysdale wins this one via first-round submission.

Women’s BW: Alexis Dufresne (5-0) vs. Sarah Moras (3-1)

Gardner: For the women’s offering of the night, former The Ultimate Fighter competitor Sarah Moras takes on undefeated Team Quest prospect Alexis Dufresne. Moras gained some very valuable experience while on the show, but she is still very raw. Dufresne is raw as well, but she is further along in her development. Dufresne wins this one via second-round submission.

Adams: Even though fans may know more about Moras from TUF, you better become familiar with Dufresne. The undefeated fighter is a five-time International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion and four-time Pan American champion. Not only is she dangerous in the grappling department, but she has also won her last two fights via TKO in the first round. This won’t be an easy night for Moras. Dufresne locks up a submission hold in round one, forcing a tap.

Henderson: When the combined record of your opponents stands at 7-20 and the most notable name on your MMA resume is Kim Couture, you still have a lot to prove. That’s not to say that Dufresne shouldn’t receive the nod that my fellow panelists have given her in this contest, but it does speak to the level of competition she has faced in securing a spotless five-fight record full of seemingly impressive finishes. Her jiu-jitsu credentials to go a long way, but Moras has been a tough fighter who has gone the distance in a losing effort against Raquel Pennington and defeated Juliana Pena prior to their time on TUF. Moras also ended the TUF dreams of Tara LaRosa and Peggy Morgan before falling to Pena in their rematch in the TUF semifinal round. I still see Dufresne winning the contest, but Moras is going to challenge her abilities more than my colleagues suspect. Dufresne gets the tapout in round two.

LW: Adriano Martins (25-7) vs. Juan Manuel Puig (11-2)

Adams: A lightweight tilt between Adriano Martins and Juan Manuel Puig sounds more like a pitcher vs. batter match-up in Major League Baseball, but it appears to be a bout with high expectations. Martins will clearly have the advantage of being in the spotlight after two UFC fights. His meeting with Donald Cerrone in January was a fight he should have never been in, despite an impressive finish in his previous bout, and he will now slowly work his way up the ladder. But even though we’ve never seen his opponent, Puig, fight inside the Octagon, it spells trouble for Martins, judging from his resume. Puig has won six fights in a row, and he is a guy with more to gain than lose. The opposite can be said of Martins. I’m tempted to go with the underdog, but I’ll play it safe. Martins survives with a decision win.

Henderson: My colleague made the right decision in the end. Martins’ resume contains one key point that works in his favor against Puig: the Brazilian has never been submitted. But that’s not where his grappling credentials end. Martins has captured bronze at the Worlds as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, and he also holds the rank of brown belt in judo. Puig tends to defeat opponents who are seriously deficient in the takedown defense department. The Mexican fighter has been able to control opponents and eventually snag a submission. That’s not going to happen against Martins, who should be able to stay off his back and thwart Puig’s attempts to control position. Martins not only has the benefit of previous UFC and Strikeforce experience, but also a long list of tough competition like Ronys Torres, Francisco Trinaldo, Keita Nakamura and Gleison Tibau. He hasn’t always won those fights, but it counts as valuable experience when fighting a 25-year-old prospect who has seen a lot of subpar competition throughout his career. Martins will indeed take this fight, but he won’t involve the judges. Martins via first-round TKO.

Gardner: Saying that Martins should have never been in the cage with Cerrone is a huge understatement. The Brazilian got a rude awakening as to just how deep the lightweight waters are. However, Martins is a quality fighter and Puig has been given a hell of a UFC debut match-up here. Puig simply doesn’t have the arsenal of weapons to put the longtime veteran in bad situations. Martins is a better all-around grappler, and his striking is more advanced. Martins wins this one via second-round submission.

BW: Leandro Issa (11-4) vs. Jumabieke Tuerxun (14-1)

Henderson: The problem with the UFC’s surge into China is that it requires the promotion to pit China’s best against more polished and experienced talent from around the world. Jumabieke Tuerxun’s record might seem more impressive at first glance than the mark held by his opponent, Leandro Issa, but that’s misleading. Tuerxun has notched all of his wins against Chinese opponents, and he suffered his lone loss when he ventured to the Octagon for his UFC debut. Issa, meanwhile, has had his ups and downs, but he’s experienced that rocky road while competing against the likes of Soo-Chul Kim, Masakazu Imanari and Yusup Saadulaev under the ONE FC banner and Russell Doane inside the Octagon—and he won against Imanari and Saadulaev in ONE FC and split a pair of meetings with Kim. Based on merit alone, the Evolve MMA product should defeat his counterpart. However, Tuerxun has a strong wrestling base and Issa, a submission specialist, has had trouble scoring takedowns. The flaw in each fighter’s game could even this match-up out to some degree, but Issa’s resume and past wins still provide enough confirmation that he has what it takes to overcome a fighter like Tuerxun. Issa waits for Tuerxun to tire, then scores the takedown and works toward a submission finish.

Gardner: I have to echo Bryan here, the UFC’s move into the Chinese market is great but depth of talent just is not there yet. That said Tuerxun has the potential to be elite but he hasn’t had an opportunity to face the level of talent the UFC has to offer. If Tuerxun can keep this fight on the feet he will have the advantage but if this fight hits the ground it will only be a matter of time before Issa catches him with something. I think Tuerxun will keep the fight on the feet and he will get his first career UFC win via unanimous decision.

Adams: I’m siding with Issa in the bantamweight fight, due in large part to the quality of opponents the two have faced. I haven’t seen enough of Tuerxun to judge whether or not he has potential, so it’s a safe bet to go with the Brazilian here. Although Issa was submitted in his previous fight, I don’t see lightning striking twice in a row. Issa should look to drag his opponent to the ground early on and eventually hand “The Wild Wolf” his second straight loss.

LW: Kevin Lee (7-1) vs. Jesse Ronson (13-4)

Adams: Kevin Lee and Jesse Ronson had great success on the regional circuit before getting the call to join the UFC. But, after three combined bouts, they are heading towards their UFC releases. Ronson has been unfortunate as of late, with back-to-back split decision losses. He can’t afford to be on the wrong end against Lee if he wants to stay with the promotion. Meanwhile, the promising 21-year-old Lee still has a bright future ahead. His loss to Al Iaquinta in February should serve as a learning experience, and he will rebound with a unanimous decision victory on Saturday.

Gardner: Ronson and Lee are both in dire need of a win here if they want to keep fighting in the world’s biggest promotion. I, too, believe that Lee has a bright future ahead of him, but he needs a win in a bad way. Look for him to dictate the pace of the fight and control Ronson on the ground. Lee wins this via unanimous decision.

Henderson: Lee performed well in his loss to Iaquinta. In fact, he put together a stellar second round, where he controlled the UFC vet on the ground and threatened to end the fight with a submission. I can’t disagree with my fellow panelists when it comes to the 21-year-old’s potential—this kid has a chance to evolve into a UFC contender if he can develop his wrestling and striking games to complement his grappling abilities. Ronson has been a tough fight for everyone he has faced in the UFC. He came within one judge of defeating Michel Prazeres, then did the same against Francisco Trinaldo. Ronson keeps fights close, and that’s a problem that could rear its head again here. Expect a competitive fight and another close decision that goes against Ronson.

LHW: Daniel Spohn (8-3) vs Patrick Walsh (4-1)

Gardner: Patrick Walsh is a thick and powerful grappler who took first place in the blue belt super heavyweight division of the 2013 World Jiu-Jitsu Championships. He is no Roger Gracie, but to win at that level says a lot about a fighter’s ability. Daniel Spohn has more experience against better competition, but he generally came up short in those fights. Walsh wins this via unanimous decision.

Henderson: Spohn did come up short in three consecutive outings, but let’s put those fights into a little more context. He won his Bellator debut with a nine-second knockout victory, then lost two fights in a row via split decision. One of those split verdicts came against Attila Vegh, who went on to win the Bellator light heavyweight belt and who twice took current champ Emanuel Newton the distance in split decision outcomes. Spohn then lost to Josh Stansbury, a fighter he also defeated earlier in his career. Spohn isn’t consistent, but he’s a capable fighter who can win fights at this very lowest level of the UFC. Walsh saw more cage time during his TUF run than he had seen in his previous five pro fights, where he suffered an 18-second submission loss, had one fight go the distance and picked up his other three wins in fights lasting 32 seconds, 51 seconds and 116 seconds. Spohn’s grinding approach might allow him to force another close decision, but Walsh’s knack for finishing fights will come into play in this contest. Spohn might be capable of winning fights at this level, but it’s Walsh who will emerge with the victory in this contest. Walsh via second-round submission.

Adams: I’m going to go against my fellow panelists, because when I look at Spohn, who knows one more loss means he’s likely out, I still see a guy who can get the job done. His record can be deceiving, considering he went 1-4 in Bellator, but if anything, fighting in a bigger promotion than Walsh should prepare him for Sunday. Spohn submits Walsh in the first round after rocking him early with strikes.

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