A breakdown of the fights on the main card of Friday’s “The Ultimate Fighter” 27 Finale card at Palms, with picks from the Review-Journal’s Adam Hill and Heidi Fang:
Brad Tavares (18-5) vs. Israel Adesanya (13-0)
Line: Adesanya -140
Storyline: Adesanya entered the UFC earlier this year with impeccable kickboxing credentials and has done little to dampen the enthusiasm around him in his two octagon appearances. His two UFC victories have improved his overall mixed martial arts record to 13-0 to go with a handful of boxing wins and 75 more victories in kickboxing. Adesanya has the skill set and personality to be a superstar. This should be a good test. Tavares is strong in the clinch and is capable of taking Adesanya down should he choose to do so. He also has enough confidence in his striking to test himself in that area. Tavares, a Las Vegan, is excited for his first headlining spot. He is putting his four-fight winning streak on the line and hopes a top-five opponent is on deck with a win.
Hill’s Pick: Tavares by decision
Fang’s Pick: Tavares by decision
Michael Trizano (7-0) vs. Joe Giannetti (7-0)
Class: For the Season 27 lightweight title
Line: Giannetti -170
Storyline: Giannetti is tall for the division and uses that length incredibly well as he’s able to gain leverage for his wide array of chokes. His time on the show appeared to do wonders for his confidence, particularly in his striking. Giannetti’s standup skills opened up his second-round opponent and cleared the way for what would eventually become another submission win. Trizano should still have the edge on the feet. The top pick of the lightweights lived up to his lofty selection spot with his impressive wins in the house. He’s likely to try to keep it standing for as long as he can.
Hill’s Pick: Giannetti by second-round submission
Fang’s Pick: Trizano by third-round knockout
Jay Cucciniello (9-0) vs. Brad Katona (7-0)
Class: For the Season 27 featherweight title
Line: Katona -245
Storyline: Cucciniello is the rare fighter who employs a very aggressive style, but has the cardio to keep the pace for three full rounds. His conditioning will be put to the test against Katona, whose stamina was a key weapon in helping him advance through the tournament. Katona battled his way through the bracket unfazed. Cucciniello took a more circuitous route as he was given a second chance following an early loss. That resilience could serve him well as he tries to claim the season title. He proved more than capable of working the body during his time in the house and should probably look to do that again to slow takedowns and try to wear Katona down if possible. Both fighters are capable of controlling the action regardless of where the fight goes, but Katona would probably prefer getting it to the mat at some point.
Hill’s Pick: Katona by third-round submission
Fang’s Pick: Cucciniello by decision
Alex Caceres (13-11, 1 No Contest) vs. Martin Bravo (12-1)
Line: Caceres -135
Storyline: Caceres remains an intriguing fighter in the division despite three losses in his last four fights largely because most of his fights prove fun to watch. Caceres has added quite a bit of discipline to a style that was largely reckless early in his career. He had been slated to fight Artem Lobov in April before Lobov was removed from the card for his involvement in the Conor McGregor bus incident. That gave Caceres and extra few months to stew over a disappointing split-decision loss to Wang Guan in November. Bravo extended his professional record to 11-0 with a knockout of Claudio Puelles in 2016 before suffering his first loss when he was knocked out in the first minute by Humberto Bandenay last August. Now he gets his shot at redemption nearly a year later. He has proven equally adept at knockouts and submissions, allowing just two fights to go the distance in his career.
Hill’s Pick: Caceres by decision
Fang’s Pick: Bravo by second-round submission
Roxanne Modafferi (21-15) vs. Barb Honchak (10-4)
Class: Women’s flyweight
Line: Honchak -175
Storyline: Modafferi, a Las Vegan, has been seeking a rematch with Honchak since losing to her on the regional circuit in 2011. She’s a completely different fighter now. That submission loss came during a six-game losing streak when Modafferi was still just having fun competing in the sport she loves. Her move to Las Vegas represented a massive turning point in her career. Modafferi made a great run during her second appearance on “TUF” last season and fell just short of becoming the organization’s inaugural women’s flyweight champion. Now she has a chance for redemption against one of her idols in the sport. Honchak had won nine straight fights when she took a hiatus from the sport in 2014. She returned for “TUF” last season and lost a narrow split decision on the Finale card. She will seek her first win since 2014 when she tries to once again knock off Modafferi.
Hill’s Pick: Honchak by decision
Fang’s Pick: Honchak by decision
Alessio Di Chirico (11-1) vs. Julian Marquez (7-1)
Line: Marquez -160
Storyline: Marquez, a Las Vegan, earned his way into the organization through Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series last year and then made a successful official UFC debut by submission with a guillotine choke in December. His return hasn’t gone as well so far as Marquez missed weight by four pounds on Thursday. He will have to step on the scales at less than 110 pounds on Friday for the fight to continue and Di Chirico will get 30 percent of his purse. It’s the kind of distraction Marquez probably didn’t need going into a tough fight against Di Chirico, who has alternated wins and losses in four fights since signing with the UFC in 2016. He is coming off his best performance when he knocked out Oluwale Bamgbose in December. Marquez has proven adept at getting out of tough situations, a skill that may get put to the test in this one.
Hill’s Pick: Marquez by decision
Fang’s Pick: Marquez by second-round knockout