UFC Ultimate Fighter (TUF): 'Nations' Finale preview: Five burning questions heading into 'Bisping vs Kennedy' in Quebec City

Mark Kolbe

Before every fight card, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans toggle between possible scenarios and what to expect days before it all unfolds in front of their eyes. Probable outcomes, distinguishable facts and head-scratching theories are all part of the mystique that surrounds the fights on any given night. We ask ourselves the same questions … and try to uncover different answers.

It's time to pack up and jump ship to the "Great White North" for some Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) mid-week action.

The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Nations" Finale takes place this upcoming Wednesday (April 16, 2014) at Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, featuring a handful of noteworthy fights to discuss.

The unlikely main event for this particular setting will feature two of the sport's loudest talkers, as England's own Michael Bisping looks to make an impact into title contention as he goes up against the United States army veteran Tim Kennedy. Bisping will look to make it two straight victories inside the Octagon, while his opponent looks to increase his three-fight win streak.

Also on the card, TUF: "Nations" Finale coaches will collide when Team Canada's leader Patrick Cote aims for a clean sweep, battling Team Australia's Kyle Noke. "The Predator" already toppled Noke in the competition, as four of his fighters went on to the finale.

Noke can find some sort of consolation if he wins against the crowd favorite.

Speaking of those tournament hopefuls, the middleweight final is set, as Sheldon Westcott goes up against the undefeated Elias Theodorou. The Welterweight throne will also be up for grabs when Chad Laprise -- who knocked out Kajan Johnson in brutal fashion on the program -- faces Olivier Aubin-Mercier.

Check out our "Five Burning Questions" heading into these fights in Quebec City:

5. Will Sara Kaufman vs. Leslie Smith 2 look anything like their Invicta FC 5 barnburner?

The Canadian veteran was going through a bit of a tilt-a-whirl just days ahead of her bout in Quebec City on Wednesday night.

She was expected to take on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 contestant Shayna Baszler on the undercard, although an injury forced the South Dakota-born fighter to bow out of their anticipated rematch. Then, Amanda Nunes stepped up to the plate, but just days later, she was forced off the card after suffering an injury of her own.

That's when Leslie Smith walked through the door on less than a week's notice, challenging Kaufman again for a second time after their Invicta FC 5 war for the ages exactly one year ago. It was a cheeky decision for Kaufman to take home, since the back-and-forth scrap could have gone to "The Peacemaker" quite easily.

The Cesar Gracie fight team product has the chance to make her presence felt in UFC, since toppling Kaufman would be an impressive feat on a much larger scale.

Let's hope it's as good as their first encounter, because that could very well go down as one of the best women's bantamweight fights ever.

4. Will the long layoffs affect either Patrick Cote or Kyle Noke?

Finding a new home at welterweight, former UFC middleweight title contender Patrick Cote has not fought since his narrow unanimous decision win over Bobby Voelker at UFC 158.

It was over a year ago.

To make matters worse for his opponent, Kyle Noke's last Octagon bout was back at UFC 152 in September 2012, knocking out Charlie Brenneman in the process and rehabbing an injury shortly after pulling out of a UFC on FX 6 bout.

You could say it's been a while for both.

It remains to be seen if the long breaks have any implications in their battle, after coaching stints on opposite sides of TUF: "Nations" teams, Canada and Australia. This fight could take a while to develop into an enthralling contest, yet knowing these two aggressors, we can be in for a treat rather quickly.

3. Could any TUF: "Nations" winner make some serious impact any time soon?

Not to be mean, but nobody outside of Canada or Australia truly cared one bit about this past season of TUF: "Nations."

With the focus shifting toward the upcoming TUF 19 and 20 seasons, the fandom didn't get to witness the action leading up to an all-Canadian finale, as four competitors from Team Canada have earned the right to compete for six-figure welterweight and middleweight contracts, respectively.

But, can any of these duelists make an impact once they win the tournament and force anyone to care about them?

Elias Theodorou is the only contestant who did not finish his opponent en route to the finale, as his undefeated compatriots Chad Laprise and Olivier Aubin-Mercier scored impressive victories to challenge for the tournament title.

Along with the gritty Sheldon Westcott, these four athletes are well known on the Canadian independent circuit, but can they appeal to Americans -- and beyond -- once they earn a place inside the Octagon?

2. Can Tim Kennedy live up to his words?

Arguably the king of social media pestering, Kennedy picks fights -- plain and simple.

The United States military veteran got what he wanted by fixing up a bout agreement to go up against the Brit, but can Kennedy notch his most impressive victory yet since losing the Strikeforce middleweight championship in mid 2012?

After a three-fight winning streak, including a brutal knockout over Rafael Natal at UFC: "Fight for the Troops 3" last November, a win over Bisping doesn't necessarily transform into a title shot once he's done polishing off his opponent.

Although, it's not like he would be too far off.

The Jackson's Submission Fighting combatant has to be feeling the pressure, since a loss would lead to middleweight work outside of the ranking system. He's been in the main event before, which is a bonus, however this fight is his most important clash to date.

At least he's showing indications that he's prepared for the war.

1. Could Michael Bisping finally secure a title shot if he wins?

Realistically, the odds are still stacked up against him.

TUF 3's light heavyweight winner hasn't been able to earn himself a title shot in UFC, despite being under contract since 2006. He's lost title eliminator bouts against the likes of Chael Sonnen and Dan Henderson (even though "Hendo" jumped ship to Strikeforce to challenge Jake Shields for his middleweight title), but he's had a lot of time to muster up chances time and time again.

Bisping is currently 2-2, and even if he finishes his American counterpart, he still has to wait for the entire Vitor Belfort situation to play out after watching what goes down at UFC 175 featuring Chris Weidman against Lyoto Machida.

Don't forget Ronaldo Souza, patiently waiting for a lifeline on the sidelines, too.

If there's one thing we know about the Manchester mercenary, it's that he performs well when his buttons are pushed to an intolerable limit (ask Jorge Rivera and Jason Miller).

It's not a question about feeling sympathy for Bisping, because when Anderson Silva was the champion, it was highly unlikely for the Englishman to be awarded a title bout against the Brazilian. He just needs to keep on winning fights impressively, and when title eliminator bouts arise, or fights like the one he lost against Vitor Belfort at UFC on FX 7, it's there where he should blow his opponent out of the water.


Check out the finalized card, including televised bout order for TUF: "Nations" Finale, right here.

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