TUF Nations Recap: Canada Cleans Up

While TUF Nations was the least watched iteration of the show to appear on TV in the 25 seasons since it began, fans were treated to a solid night of fights to cap off the season. The theme of the season was Canada vs. Australia, and the entire season was dominated by the Canucks. All four finalists from the show were Canadian, so there wasn’t much reason to continue the rivalry aside from the bout between coaches Patrick Cote and Kyle Noke. Even the one additional Canada/Australia bout on the card was originally scheduled to be between two members of Noke’s team. There was still a very strong contingent of Canadian fighters on the card aside from the TUF bouts, and they did remarkably well. In fact, of the seven bouts featuring Canadians against fighters from other countries, hometown fighters went 6-1. The main event – and reason most viewers outside of Canada and Australia were tuning in – was a middleweight bout between long-time contender Michael Bisping and former Strikeforce title challenger Tim Kennedy. Over the course of five rounds, Kennedy was able to do what nobody else at 185lbs has been able to, consistently take (and more importantly, hold) Bisping down. Kennedy’s top control and guard passing was phenomenal in this bout, as Bisping has long been renowned as an excellent defensive grappler and he was nullified for three complete rounds. The other two were contested on the feet, with Bisping taking one and Kennedy winning another. Most had it scored 49-46 Kennedy, and there was little doubt he would have his hand raised.

Kennedy finds himself in an interesting spot now, as the only other top middleweight without an opponent is Jacare, a fighter he was defeated by in one of his Strikeforce title attempts. The winner of Brad Tavares and Yoel Romero from this Saturday’s Fox card will deserve a step up, but it seems unfair for Kennedy to take what seems like a significant step back in competition. Bisping was coming off of an extended layoff due to a severe eye injury and related complications, but that did not seem to affect his performance. Kennedy was simply the better fighter, and it seems like the most popular Brit the sport has ever seen is bound to end his career without ever fighting for a UFC title. The fight between the coaches followed a similar pattern with takedowns and control being the deciding factor. It was, however, surprising that Patrick Cote was the fighter consistently getting the takedowns and controlling Kyle Noke on the mat. Each round featured a significant portion with Cote in top control landing fairly effective ground and pound. Noke did hurt the Quebec native with a perfectly timed knee in the second round, but Cote’s historically stout chin managed to hold up. It by far was the best performance Cote has put on since returning to the UFC. Perhaps a bout against someone who will test his wrestling a bit more, like Jason High, would be appropriate. Both TUF Nations finales proved to be decent bouts. In the middleweight final, Elias Theodorou survived an early barrage from Sheldon Westcott and dominated from the midway point of the first round until referee Philippe Chartier waved the contest off 20 seconds before the end of the second. His dominance was so complete that he even found time to spot one of the ringside cameras and say hi to his mom in the middle of beating up on his teammate from the show. Theodorou’s excellent cardio, good wrestling and improving striking could see him as a TUF winner that sticks around in the UFC for a significant period of time.

The welterweight final was decidedly more competitive. Heading in to the bout, it was a striker vs. grappler match up that would be determined by where it took place. That’s exactly how the bout played out. Chad Laprise was able to stuff seven of the nine takedowns attempted by Olivier Aubin-Mercier, and got back to his feet very quickly the two times the Quebecer was able to get him to the ground. On the feet, Aubin-Mercier was more competitive than many expected, but Laprise still had a clear edge in both volume and effectiveness of strikes landed. The skills he showed off in this fight will make him a tough out for lightweights once he settles into that division, as his striking, movement and takedown defense are a tricky combination to navigate. Opening up the main card was the obligatory action fight, and Dustin Poirier did not disappoint. Even though he closed as a massive -1050 favorite (bet $1,050 to win $100) at Several Bookmakers, Poirier always manages to make fights more competitive than they necessarily should be. Corassani did well early on, hurting the Louisianan but not following up with enough urgency to get the finish. Poirier began to pour it on towards the end of the first, and carried that momentum into the second round, evidently breaking Corassani’s nose and stopping the fight with a barrage of strikes. Even though it goes against the winner vs. winner method of matchmaking, Poirier deserves a top opponent next, and Ricardo Lamas makes the most sense. It would also quite likely be something spectacular to watch. While the undercard of the event started with five consecutive decisions, it ended up being highlighted by a pair of brutal knockouts. Ryan Jimmo, of all people, stopped the decision streak by landing a heavy right cross to Sean O’Connell in the final minute of the first round. After picking up decision victories in six of his seven bouts before coming to the UFC (the one stoppage was via cut, to boot), and generally providing some of the most dreadful MMA to watch in the past five years, Jimmo has altered his game since coming to the UFC. He now has two first round KOs, and has generally been in entertaining fights. The other big KO belonged to a man we have come to associate much more with big punching, although it was a shock to see him notch a knockout in this bout. KJ Noons was the first fighter to stop Sam Stout with strikes in his 31-fight career (and the only non-Canadian to pick up a victory over a Canadian on the card). He did it just 30 seconds into the bout with a cracking overhand right and some pinpoint follow up shots on the ground. As good as the KO was, the highlight of the fight may have been Stout so out of sorts that he tried – successfully, I might add – to guillotine the referee. TUF Nations may have not had the most interesting coming into the card, but it still produced a solid card with a few memorable moments. The UFC hopes to take that momentum into Orlando for the UFC on Fox 11 card which, at a glance, is much higher on intriguing matchups.

Written by Brad Taschuk

Leave a Reply

Surprises & Disappointments From TUF Nations Finale

UFC on Fox 11 Full Opening Betting Odds