Ranger up! It's time for some mixed martial arts (MMA) violence.
After the war of words that traditionally accompanies his bouts, Michael Bisping will return to the cage this Wednesday (April 16, 2014), taking on former Army Ranger Tim Kennedy in The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Nations" Finale main event from Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.
In addition to the main event, the season's two coaches -- Aussie leader Kyle Noke and Canadian head honcho Patrick Cote -- will do battle in a Welterweight co-main event. The TUF: "Nations" tournament finals for both the 170- and 185-pound brackets will also take place.
But first, we've got eight "Prelims" under card matches to sift through; therefore, let's not waste more time.
155 lbs.: Mark Bocek vs. Mike de la Torre
Following a thorough hiding courtesy of Ben Henderson, Mark Bocek (11-5) reeled off two straight wins, defeating Nik Lentz and John Alessio via decision. Unable to impose his grappling, however, he succumbed to the striking and newfound wrestling prowess of Rafael dos Anjos.
Bocek has not competed since Dec. 2012, pulling out of a fight with Brazilian grinder Michel Prazeres at UFC 165.
Owner of a three-fight finishing streak, Mike de la (12-3) Torre takes this bout on short notice because Evan Dunham had to pull out one week prior to the bout. De la Torre -- who fights out of the MMA Lab alongside the aforementioned Henderson -- has scored finishes in 11 of his victories, split almost evenly between knockout and submission.
He stands three inches taller than Bocek.
On the feet, de la Torre looks like he can handle himself pretty well. He’s not quite as adept at staying there, though, and has a tendency to give up his back in scrambles.
Against a grappler of Bocek’s caliber? On a week’s notice? Not gonna cut it.
Though Mark is nothing special on the feet, he still packs one of the division’s best top games and the wrestling to get there against all but the elite. Unless de la Torre cracks him early, Bocek’s gonna get to stranglin’ right quick.
I’m thinking the latter. de la Torre does some good work in the brief time they spend on the feet before Bocek wrangles him down and squeezes the life out of him.
Prediction: Bocek by first-round submission
185 lbs.: Nordine Taleb vs. Vik Grujic
A five-fight win streak -- four via knockout -- earned Nordine Taleb (8-2) a spot in Bellator, after which two wins got him a spot in its Welterweight tournament. After falling in the quarterfinals to Marius Zaromskis, Taleb competed as a Middleweight on TUF: "Nations," where he lost to Tyler Mawanaroa in the opening round.
Taleb was also a member of TUF 19 cast, but the logistics of that are confusing.
Vik Grujic (6-2) -- a member of Team Australia -- scored one of the season’s nastier finishes, pulverizing Luke Harris in short order with elbows from side control. Despite the dominance of his win, he did not manage to get past the semifinals, losing to Canada’s Sheldon Westcott via submission.
This will be his first fight outside his home country.
I’m not entirely sold on Taleb as a middleweight; a big part of his success at welterweight was his physicality and the fact that he’s fighting on this card probably doesn’t bode well for his stint on TUF 19.
Still, he’s a powerful man with a good clinch and decent pop in his hands. Plus, he’s been in there with much stiffer competition than Grujic.
I don’t see Vik having too much success getting Taleb to the mat nor exposing Nordine’s shaky chin on the feet. Taleb’s superior experience and striking should carry the day as he wears Grujic down with knees to the body before polishing him off sometime in the second.
Prediction: Taleb via second-round technical knockout
170 lbs.: Richard Walsh vs. Chris Indich
Richard Walsh (7-1) became the sole Australian Welterweight to reach the semifinals with a decision win over Matthew Desroches, using effective striking and the constant threat of takedowns. He was unable to stay on his feet against Canadian rear-naked choke artist Olivier Aubin-Mercier, losing in self-explanatory fashion.
He has knocked out four of his last five professional opponents.
Chris Indich (5-1) got the unenviable task of facing Canadian knockout artist Chad Laprise in the opening round. Despite taking a large quantity of heavy punches, Indich earned the respect of his castmates by never ceasing his forward advance.
He will give up two inches of height to Walsh.
Indich may indeed have heart, but it’s the same kind of "heart" that Diego Sanchez has: The intersection of good chin, good cardio and striking incompetence. Walsh seems to have some good power and decent counter-striking, making Indich’s strategy of "head butt his fists into submission" a bad idea.
Maybe Indich has some hidden depths to his game, but I’m not seeing it. Walsh uses aggressive takedown attempts to keep Indich off-balance before landing a big counter late in the first.
Prediction: Walsh via first-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Mitch Gagnon vs. Tim Gorman
Though he fell in his Octagon debut to Bryan Caraway, Mitch Gagnon (10-2) nevertheless gave a good account of himself, doing his share of damage and earning Fight of the Night honors. He has since earned two impressive first-round submissions, his guillotine of Dustin Kimura last time out earning him Submission of the Night.
He was scheduled to fight Alex Caceres in Melbourne last December before Visa issues on his part forced the fight’s cancellation.
Though he scored a knockout in the elimination round of TUF 18, Tim Gorman (8-2) was unable to compete in the house proper because of a torn hamstring. That’s not to say he didn’t make some kind of impression, though, challenging Bryan Caraway for the right to have Miesha Tate as a girlfriend (which is not at all creepy and sexist).
Outside the house, Gorman has scored seven wins via punches, six (technical) knockouts and one submission due to them.
Though Gorman’s record is gaudy, I consider Gagnon a dark horse in the division. He’s got a great grappling attack, effective aggression and can throw a mean body shot. Holding his own against Caraway is more impressive in my book than anything Gorman’s done.
It will be interesting to see how their grappling matches up; this has the potential to be great while it lasts. I expect some nice scrambles before Gagnon, who should be the one pressing forward, locks up that nasty guillotine of his.
Prediction: Gagnon via first-round submission
Four more TUF: "Nations" Finale "Prelims" fights to preview and predict, three of them featuring Canadians.
Stop by tomorrow for more breakdowns, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire TUF: "Nations" Finale fight card this Wednesday (April 16, 2014) right here, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" at 3:15 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1 main card bouts at 7 p.m. ET.