'The Ultimate Fighter 16' Semifinals Preview & Predictions
Ariel Shnerer / December 2, 2012 - 4:42pm
After two weeks of quarterfinal bouts, one round remains before we determine who will face off in the final of the 16th season of "The Ultimate Fighter."
The previous round of competition ended with some intriguing eliminations and a few breakout performances.
Interestingly, there has also been a significant coaching breakthrough with Roy Nelson actually emerging as a serviceable cornerman, shouting out valuable advice that often gets his fighters out of precarious positions.
With "The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale" on Dec. 15 fast approaching, Shane Carwin's third pick Mike Ricci has emerged as a bona fide standout and a likely candidate to win the show, all while competing as a natural lightweight at 170 pounds.
But the Canadian Tristar Gym product must first overcome a viable test in the form of teammate Neil Magny, while the other semifinal bout features a clash between Team Nelson members Jon Manley and Colton Smith.
Here's a closer look at the semifinal pairings:
Jon Manley (Team Nelson; 10th Overall Pick; 7-1 Pro Record) vs. Colton Smith (Team Nelson; 8th Overall Pick; 3-1 Pro Record)
The 26-year-old Manley pulled off an impressive upset to earn his spot in the "TUF" house, besting Strikeforce veteran Ricky Legere Jr. by decision.
In his next two appearances, Manley submitted James Chaney and utilized effective takedowns to outpoint teammate Joey Rivera.
A former Airborne Ranger in the U.S. Army, the 24-year-old Smith has followed a similar path, earning decisions over Jesse Barrett, Eddy Ellis and Igor Araujo.
Despite a vast gap in experience, Smith turned in his best performance against Araujo in the quarterfinals, smothering the Brazilian with suffocating top control in a largely one-sided pounding.
However, Manley has overcome a more difficult path to the semifinals and his stock was instantly raised with victories over Legere Jr. and Rivera, who eliminated early favorite and first-overall pick Sam Alvey.
It should end up on the ground quickly, though Manley could benefit from keeping the fight standing and landing some combinations. It will be a test of strength and willpower, but Manley's effective scrambles and takedowns should earn him the nod.
Neil Magny (Team Carwin; 7th Overall Pick; 7-1 Pro Record) vs. Mike Ricci (Team Carwin; 5th Overall Pick; 7-2 Pro Record)
The 24-year-old Magny, a standout high school athlete with strong wrestling skills, outworked experienced veteran Bristol Marunde to earn his spot in the semifinals.
Magny has yet to finish a fight this season, having earned decisions over Frank Camacho and Cameron Diffley, but his grappling-based offense has been highly effective.
A product of Montreal's acclaimed Tristar Gym under coach Firas Zahabi, the 26-year-old Ricci knocked out previously undefeated prospect Jason South before rattling off decisions over Dom Waters and compatriot Michael Hill.
Ricci has maintained his focus throughout the season, displaying more maturity than some of his housemates. We've also seen a boost of confidence as his wins have piled up.
Ricci has spent the better part of his career competing at 155 pounds, but the former Bellator tournament prospect is falling back on his athleticism and technique to excel as a welterweight.
The Montreal native will face a stern test against Magny, who will look to close the distance and utilize his size and strength advantage. It was the same strategy successfully employed by Waters in his quarterfinal bout with Ricci, but it wasn't enough to come away with the win.
Meanwhile, Ricci should do what he does best, picking his shots from a distance and breaking his opponent down. Ricci also does well on top, but he will likely elect to keep the fight standing.
Ricci may need to be more aggressive than some of his previous performances and he'll need to demonstrate improved takedown defense. Magny will push a feverish pace and relentlessly pursue takedowns, but Ricci will emerge triumphant if he can put all his tools together.