Getting to Know Your TUF 19 Middleweights

N Winski PhotoSeason 19 of The Ultimate Fighter features “The Prodigy” BJ Penn and “The Answer” Frankie Edgar as coaches for eight middleweights and eight light heavyweights competing for a chance at earning the title of Ultimate Fighter and a six figure UFC contract. The show airs Wednesday nights at 10pm on FOX Sports 1. Here is an introduction of the 185-pounders in the tournament… 1) Cathal Pendred (13-2-1) gave up his Cage Warriors welterweight title for a shot at becoming a UFC fighter. Like several other “middleweights” in the TUF 19 house, Pendred is really a welterweight. He holds notable career victories over Brunco Carvalho, Che Mills, and Nico Musoke, which in my opinion proves he belongs in the UFC’s welterweight division. The Irishman is a well-rounded fighter with solid boxing and wrestling. He was lucky enough to make his way into the TUF house without fighting anyone, because his opponent was rumored to have backed out of the fight, which is a first in TUF history. However, once inside the house, Pendred was selected by BJ Penn to be on his team as his third pick, and also the first to fight. Penn paired him up with Team Edgar’s Hector Urbina, with whom Pendred had an exciting brawl that went into the ‘sudden death’ round. It was Urbina who took the first round, badly hurting Pendred and nearly finishing him. The Irishman hung in there and his cardio proved to be the difference in the second, as Urbina had gassed himself out trying to finish the fight. Pendred won the second, and when the fighters were called out for a third ‘sudden death’ round, he did more of the same to secure that round and the victory, ultimately moving on to the semi-finals. 2) Dhiego Lima (9-1) is another natural welterweight who is competing at 185 pounds for a chance at a UFC contract. He is the younger brother of Douglas Lima, who recently captured the Bellator welterweight title with a second round TKO of Rick Hawn. Lima is a talented Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner who has an incredible striking game. He is dangerous both on the feet and on the mat, and is a definite finisher, owning seven of his nine victories by way of finish; four by T/KO and three by submission. Lima is a talented fighter who I see competing in the UFC’s welterweight division, I’m just not sure he will be able to string wins together against top level competition. He is only 25 years old and constantly improving, so I am not ruling anything past him. Lima earned his spot in the TUF 19 house with a two-round unanimous decision victory over Adam Stroup. He was selected to be on Team Edgar as Frankie Edgar’s second middleweight selection. Regardless of whether he makes it to the finale or not, I look forward to seeing this Brazilian compete inside the Octagon. 3) Ian Stephens (2-0) is a former wrestler with only a couple of professional mixed martial arts bouts under his belt. I am assuming the UFC abandoned their rule of only accepting fighters who have had at least three professional fights. He earned his spot in the TUF 19 house with a two-round unanimous decision victory over former Bellator welterweight champion Lyman Good, which was quite a big feat for the up and coming prospect. Unofficially, that was Stephens’ third pro fight, and also the third he won by decision. He has yet to show that he has the ability to finish fights, but perhaps that will change come time for his quarter final match-up. Stephens was the first fighter selected on Team Edgar, and I think this 25 year old has a ton of potential. He is a talented wrestler, and I believe he has a future in the UFC’s welterweight division. 4) Hector Urbina (16-8-1) is a natural 185 pounder who earned his spot in the TUF 19 house with a guillotine submission victory over Adrian Miles, after using his superior wrestling to control the fight. He is a skilled wrestler with heavy hands and a relentless ground and pound attack. Urbina was the fourth and final middleweight to be selected by Frankie Edgar to be on Team Edgar, and he was the first to be paired up in a fight when BJ Penn selected him to oppose Cathal Pendred. After dominating Pendred and nearly finishing him in the first frame, he was gassed out in the second and ‘sudden death’ third, and ultimately unable to put up a fight, allowing the superior conditioned Irishman to get the better of him en route to a 29-28 unanimous decision victory. While the 26 year old Mexican has solid wrestling and a ton of heart, he is not well-versed in every facet of the sport. He has a lot of growing to do, and lucky for him he’s still young enough to do it. I would not bet on him having a long, fruitful career with the UFC, but I could see them giving him a couple of fights, mostly because they are in need of Mexican talent for the promotions’ upcoming trips south of the border. 5) Roger Zapata (4-1) was the last middleweight to be picked, ending up with Team Penn after Frankie Edgar selected Hector Urbina as his final 185 pounder. He is a talented Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner with rudimentary striking, though he did notch a TKO over Tyler Minton to earn his spot in the TUF 19 house. Zapata is considered to be the biggest underdog to win the tournament. He works well against the cage, scores good takedowns, and is vicious with his ground and pound. I think Zapata is a good fit with Team Penn, where he will work on improving his striking, as well as get some mat time with high level grapplers. He is also a welterweight who is competing at 185 pounds for a chance at a UFC contract. He may win his quarter-final bout, depending on who he faces, but I don’t think he will get further than that. He may be lucky enough to get a fight or two with the promotion after the season wraps up, but that may be all we see of him. I don’t think he will develop the skill set to last with the best, so we’ll likely see him in Bellator somewhere down the line. 6) Tim Williams (8-1) tried out for season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter, but did not make it on to the TUF house, as he lost to eventual semi-finalist Dylan Andrews in the elimination round. He made the most of his second attempt, though, as the survivor of a brain tumor dug deep in the third ‘sudden death’ round and scored a TKO finish over his opponent Bojan Velickovic. Williams is one of the few actual middleweights competing this season, as most are natural welterweights fighting a weight class above, which I personally think should not be allowed. I think if the focus of your show is to find the best middleweight, you should only be allowing actual middleweights, not fighters looking for loopholes. Not only does this make people take the competition somewhat less seriously, but it also takes opportunities away from real 185 pounders who are chasing a hard-to-capture dream. Williams was the second middleweight selected by BJ Penn to be on his team. He has solid wrestling, great takedowns, a brutal ground and pound, and he is very good at securing submissions via chokes. He owns six of his eight professional mixed martial arts career victories by way of submission, all of them chokes. The only blemish on his record came against UFC veteran Dustin Jacoby, who in my opinion was/is not a UFC-caliber middleweight, so it makes me doubt Williams’ chances of having a long and fruitful career inside the Octagon. 7) Eddie Gordon (6-1) is a middleweight I was considering writing a ‘Prospect Watch’ article on, until reading that he was amongst the cast-members for season 19 of The Ultimate Fighter. He earned his spot in the TUF 19 house with a unanimous decision victory over Matt Gabel, and was selected as the second middleweight by Team Edgar. Gordon fights out of the Serra-Longo camp in Long Island and is a training partner of current UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman. He looked impressive in his fight to get into the house, and I consider him to be one of the favorites to win the tournament. He is a natural middleweight, and only one of four natural 185 pounders on the series, with the other four being welterweights who are fighting one weight class above. Gordon is the biggest middleweight on the show, and I assume if anyone has trouble making weight, it may be him. He has solid wrestling and heavy hands, I think he will be a tough out for anyone on the show. Whether he makes it to the finals or not, I think Gordon has a future in the UFC’s middleweight division. 8) Mike King (5-0) is a natural middleweight who earned a spot in the TUF 19 house with a hard-fought, three round unanimous decision win over Nordine Taleb, who impressed so much with his performance that he earned a spot in the house on TUF Nations. The TUF Nations series aired first, and Taleb also lost a hard-fought three-round unanimous decision on that series, but he did earn a fight on the shows finale, where he notched a unanimous decision victory over the Australian Vik Grujic. King’s victory over Taleb was impressive, and earned him the number one pick on Team Penn. He is a very tough fighter with great wrestling and a ton of heart. He’s a great athlete who has a background in football. King is explosive, works excellent takedowns, and has a solid top game. The decision over Taleb was the first of his career, as he has finished all five opponents he has faced in his professional mixed martial arts career; two of whom submitted to punches. I am interested in seeing King compete on the show; I think he may have a future in the UFC’s 185 pound division. We’ll wait and find out.

Written by Gabe Killian

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