A potential “Fight of the Year” candidate, the finals of season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter, the return of two veterans following lengthy injury layoffs, a light heavyweight bout that could result in fireworks and an intriguing battle between the losing fighters of the TUF 13 semifinal tournament bouts.

The best part of all this?  Fans will get to watch it all for free.

The Ultimate Fighter has wrapped up another season and now it’s time to crown another champion of the reality show. Despite a relatively quiet time in the house and a few too many chicken salad references from TUF coach Brock Lesnar, The Ultimate Fighter 13 has spawned a great Finale lineup, as well as an intriguing, albeit surprising, follow-up pay-per-view main event.

The 9 p.m. ET airing of the TUF 13 Finale on Spike TV this Saturday will give us a battle between exciting lightweights Anthony Pettis and Clay Guida, plus the showdown between TUF 13 finalists Ramsey Nijem and late-season villain Tony Ferguson.  Tim Credeur and Ed Herman will make their long-awaited returns to the Octagon after dealing with injuries, Fabio Maldonado will seek to follow up his TKO of James McSweeney with another convincing showing at light heavyweight when he takes on Kyle Kingsbury and TUF 13 semifinalists Chris Cope and Chuck O’Neil will square off in welterweight action.

The MMA Corner Round Table panel of Corey Adams, Bryan Henderson and Rob Tatum gathered to break down all of the main card action, and they didn’t always agree on who would emerge victorious.  Read on to find out who they see as Saturday evening’s winners, including the next TUF champion.

WW: Chris Cope (4-1) vs. Chuck O’Neil (8-3)

Adams: In a fight that pairs up two guys that fell just short of making it into the finals, Team Lesnar teammates Cope and O’Neil will battle it out on the main card. This fight is crucial for both men, and could earn them a contract with the UFC.

Cope came into the show with just a 4-1 record, and was doubted by many. He wasn’t expected to even make it past Javier Torres in his preliminary bout, but managed to move on with a decision win. From there, he was matched up with Junior dos Santos’s first pick, Shamar Bailey. He was once again the underdog, but was able to slightly pull out the victory and move on to the semifinals. There, he fought Ramsey Nijem, but lost by second-round TKO. My concern for Cope is his inability to finish fights. He was unable to finish any of his opponents on the show, which could be a disadvantage for him.

O’Neil was originally slated as an alternate on the show, but got his opportunity to compete when Myles Jury suffered a torn ACL. He eagerly stepped in, but lost his opening fight to Zach Davis by triangle choke a minute into the fight. However, Dana White enjoyed his character and decided to bring him back as a wild-card. He went on to finish Javier Torres and avenge his loss to Davis by defeating him via decision. His run came to an end however when he lost to fellow teammate Tony Ferguson by third-round TKO.

In this fight, I think O’Neil will get the win. His aggressive style will be a key factor against Cope, and will earn either a late stoppage or clear-cut decision.

Tatum: The key factor in this matchup is whether or not O’Neil can break Cope’s will early in the fight.  During the show, someone described Cope as being like herpes because he doesn’t go away.  I agree with Corey on the concerns with Cope’s finishing ability, and his lack of aggressiveness should play directly into the hands of O’Neil.

O’Neil enters the fight after suffering a tough loss to finalist Tony Ferguson.  Although he is well-rounded, his stand up could not find the holes in Ferguson’s defense.  I don’t expect the same problem against Cope.  And if the fight should find the ground, O’Neil has a lethal triangle that could doom Cope as well.

The bottom line is that I expect a bit of an ugly, scrappy fight.  O’Neil is the better fighter and should come out on top in a three-round war.

Henderson: Cope surprised me during the course of The Ultimate Fighter.  He didn’t necessarily display an outstanding skill set, but he was able to fight the right kind of fights to advance to the semifinals.  That makes this an interesting fight.

Maybe I’m just in the mood to go against the grain with my picks at this event, but I like Cope’s chances here.  He had solid takedown defense against Nijem early in their fight and was surprisingly good against Bailey as well.

Cope might have had trouble finishing opponents in the house, but two of his four pro victories have come via some form of knockout.  Cope has a kickboxing background, which should give him an advantage standing against a guy in O’Neil who has finished the majority of his opponents by submission.

Maybe I’m crazy, but I’ll say Cope’s scrappy style, his takedown defense and his heart leads him to victory.  He’ll keep this fight standing and do just enough to score a close decision win.

MW: Ed Herman (21-9) vs. Tim Credeur (12-3)

Henderson: I’ve made a habit of picking against Herman.  Since 2008, the TUF 3 finalist has managed a disappointing 1-3 mark.  He has lost to Demian Maia, Alan Belcher and Aaron Simpson, with his only win coming against David Loiseau.  Herman never has been able to live up to his potential inside the UFC.  Despite having fought in more than twice as many UFC bouts than Credeur, “Short Fuse” has just one more win than his opponent within the organization.

Neither fighter has fought since 2009, so both will shake off the ring rust when they enter the cage on Saturday.  Perhaps Herman will return with renewed focus and motivation, but count me as a continuing doubter.  I’ll say Credeur’s heart and scrappy fighting style will earn him a win here, and extend Herman’s run of disappointments.

Adams: This fight intrigues me in how both men are coming off severe injuries, and are lucky to be fighting again. Credeur had to cancel fight after fight, and later found out he had an abnormality on his brain that could have caused him to have cancer. Herman, on the other hand, had a far different injury. In his fight with Simpson, he collapsed due to a knee injury. It will certainly be a comeback for either victor in this fight.

As far as breaking the contest down, I agree with Bryan about taking Credeur. Ever since his time on The Ultimate Fighter 7, he has shown how much heart he has, as well as his will to finish fights. For Herman, what stands out about his record is that he has been defeated by submission four times in his career. I think this fight will make its way to the ground where “Crazy” Credeur locks up a submission and gets the win.

Tatum: Hard to argue with the points Bryan and Corey made on this matchup.  While I’m happy to see both fighters make their way back from their extended injuries, I really don’t think Herman has the tools to defeat Credeur.  Taking the fight to the mat with his wrestling will only spell doom for Herman against Credeur’s slick submission game.  I expect a bit of a sloppy fight, with neither fighter able to finish the other, but Credeur will walk out of the cage with a decision.

LHW: Kyle Kingsbury (10-2) vs. Fabio Maldonado (18-3)

Adams: In the only fight above 185 pounds on the card, The Ultimate Fighter season 8 contestant Kingsbury will be put up against the Brazilian, Maldonado. Both men are on a roll lately, and are looking to make a run in the light heavyweight division.

Kingsbury’s time on The Ultimate Fighter did not end well, as he did not win any fights on the show, as well as the finale. But Dana White and the UFC decided to sign him, and are glad they did. He has racked up three straight victories, including a knockout of Ricardo Romero in just 48 seconds.

Maldonado made his mark in the UFC with his late stoppage of James McSweeney at UFC 120. He also has competed as a boxer, where he held an undefeated record of 22-0. While boxing is his main strength, he also trains with the Nogueira brothers, which should give some Jiu-Jitsu skills as well.

This is a difficult fight for me to predict. I would give the striking advantage to Maldonado, the wrestling advantage to Kingsbury, but the grappling area is a toss-up. In the end, I’m going to go out on a limb and say Maldonado by early stoppage.

Tatum: Having witnessed Kingsbury’s improved striking in person at UFC 126 and UFN 22, I know this fight will be fireworks.  The question is whether or not the American Kickboxing Academy trained fighter can hang with the Brazilian Maldonado on the feet?

My gut says no.

Maldonado is a wrecking machine on the feet.  Combine his boxing and MMA records and you’ll see that he has finished 33 of his 43 opponents by knockout, while never being knocked out himself.  Based on this, the question for Maldonado is whether he can add Kingsbury to his list of KO victims?

My gut says yes.

Henderson: Maldonado has not lost since 2007, and prior to that loss one has to journey all the way back to 2001 to find another blotch on his record. I don’t think Kingsbury is the man to end Maldonado’s run of success.

My fellow panelists have summed up the reasons quite well.  Maldonado’s boxing background gives him the clear advantage in the striking department.  While two of the Team Nogueira fighter’s three losses have come via submission, I don’t see Kingsbury’s wrestling and submission skills as a true threat to the Brazilian.

I’m with Corey and Rob on this one: Maldonado adds to his list of knockout victims.

LW: Anthony Pettis (13-1) vs. Clay Guida (28-11)

Henderson: The UFC could not have picked a matchup of more exciting fighters.  Both of these men deliver when they step into the Octagon, and putting both in the cage at the same time is sure to up the chances of a “Fight of the Year” candidate.

Clay Guida (Credit: Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

While Guida is fun to watch, and has put together a nice little 6-2 record over his last eight outings, he almost always stumbles against the highest level foes he fights.  His recent losses have come against Diego Sanchez and Kenny Florian, and he barely squeaked past Nate Diaz.  His win against Takanori Gomi was impressive, but it would hold a lot more weight had he defeated Gomi in the Japanese star’s Pride years.

Pettis is a rising star with a dynamic game and moves that normally don’t work outside of video games.  His one disadvantage here comes in the experience department – Guida has more fights under his belt and has faced some of the best 155-pounders out there.  Guida’s experience will keep him in this fight, but I don’t see him having the tools to defeat or control Pettis.  If Pettis doesn’t score a knockout, he’ll dominate on his way to a decision…either way, “Showtime” comes out of this one with his hand raised.

Tatum: While some may consider Pettis’ situation unfortunate after he was promised a title shot following his WEC 53 win, I believe this fight against Guida is actually beneficial to his career.  Sure, headlining a PPV against Frankie Edgar or Gray Maynard may seem more enticing, but as Bryan mentioned, facing Clay Guida in what could be the “Fight of the Year” free on Spike TV can’t hurt his stock, win or lose.

Casual fans will undoubtedly back Guida in this fight, and it’s hard to deny “The Carpenter’s” relentless pace and unwavering heart.  And while Guida has a solid wrestling base that has helped him control opponents in the past, it is his chin that has kept him in most fights.  Guida’s biggest claim to fame is having never been knocked out in nearly forty fights.  The Greg Jackson trained fighter always puts on a show and I expect nothing less from him in this fight.

Pettis enters as one of the unconventional and exciting fighters in the lightweight division.  Nearly six months after defeating Ben Henderson at the final WEC event, his now infamous kick off the cage is still referenced regularly within the sport.  His tae kwon do based striking has evolved under the tutelage of Duke Roufus into something that is extremely hard to predict and plan for entering a fight.  It’s this fact alone that leans me toward the Wisconsin-based fighter.

I see Pettis taking home a close split decision victory in an exciting fight.

Adams: Great points made by both Bryan and Rob. I agree with basically everything they said. Many UFC fans have seen Guida in action, mainly because of the hair, but also the way he fights. He is an animal , but as Bryan mentioned, he has struggled against the more skilled lightweights he has faced.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he pulls out a win, however, Pettis is eager to get his long-awaited title shot. I’m going to agree with Rob and take “Showtime” Pettis by a close split decision.

WW (TUF Final): Tony Ferguson (10-2) vs. Ramsey Nijem (4-1)

Tatum: In what was a bit of a quiet season of The Ultimate Fighter, it is no surprise that the two fighters that the show highlighted the most are in the final.  Both fighters come in with a wrestling base, but have shown the willingness to stand and trade while on the show.  Nijem will represent Team Dos Santos and Ferguson will represent Team Lesnar.

Ramsey Nijem (Credit: SpikeTV)

“Stripper” Ramsey has had some exciting performances, choking out Clay Harvison and finishing Chris Cope en route to the final, but I do wonder if he is better suited for the lightweight division.  His advantage going into this fight will be his speed and athleticism.  His weakness will be his stand up skills which need more time to develop.

Ferguson was quickly heralded by Brock Lesnar after the opening fights as the best fighter on his team.  Despite alienating himself from his team with his drunken anger issues, Ferguson let his fighting do the talking on his way to the final, finishing all three opponents on the feet.  While his stand up is a little slow and methodical, he has shown grit and power that could give him the edge.  Also on his side is the fact that he has more than double the fights of his opponent.

While all the signs are telling me to pick Ferguson heading into this fight, something about Nijem’s pace and ground game push me to select him as the next Ultimate Fighter.  Nijem by second-round rear-naked choke.

Henderson: Nijem’s painted toenails make me think of the legendary Chuck Liddell.  While Nijem might not have the same characteristics to his fight game as the “Iceman,” he was able to impress throughout this season of the UFC’s reality show with an aggressive approach inside the cage.

I’m really intrigued by this TUF final.  Some seasons have had fights that seemed very easy to predict, but not this one.  I could easily see this fight going either way.

As Rob pointed out, Ferguson is a methodical striker.  He comes from a boxing background and can pick an opponent apart on the feet.  “El Cucuy” has finished six of his foes via some form of knockout, so he has enough power to finish fights.

Nijem might be less experienced, but to me he has been the more impressive fighter inside the TUF cage.  His aggressive fighting style could lead him straight into a knockout blow from Ferguson, but his wrestling, submission skills and haymakers should combine to give him more ways to win this fight.

Tony Ferguson (Credit: SpikeTV)

I see Ferguson trying to dictate the pace and working a slow boxing style for the win, but Nijem’s aggressiveness will push Ferguson out of his comfort zone.  Nijem might eat some punches, but he’ll get this fight to the ground and control Ferguson until he finds a way to submit the least popular fighter in the TUF 13 house.

Adams: I agree that in this contest for a UFC contract, it is difficult to determine a clear-cut winner.This may not be the greatest season of The Ultimate Fighter, but don’t overlook this fight.

For Ferguson, he has showed his heavy hands on the show with the late stoppage of Chuck O’Neil. But the thing about him that concerns me is his slow pace. He keeps his chin low, which isn’t a bad thing, but doesn’t use much quickness in his technique.

For Nijem, I agree with the other panelists that there is something about him that makes me want to predict success for him in this fight. He may be an outgoing guy outside of the cage, but when it comes to fighting, he is focused on earning his way into the UFC. An advantage for Nijem is he gets the chance to train with a former winner of the show, Court McGee. I think that he will push the pace against Ferguson and win the six-figure contract by second-round stoppage.

Top Photo: Anthony Pettis (Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog)