This Wednesday night (April 16, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweights Chad Laprise and Olivier Aubin-Mercier will square off in the 170-pound finals at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Nations" Finale, airing live at 7 p.m. EST on FOX Sports 1 from Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.
Undefeated Canadian Laprise won his first bout on the show with a unanimous decision over Chris Indich, but he truly made a statement in the semi-finals. Knocking out Kajan Johnson with a jaw-shattering right hand, Laprise staked a claim at one of the best mixed martial arts (MMA) knockouts of the young year.
He'll face a fellow undefeated countryman in Aubin-Mercier, who won a decision over Jake Matthews in the elimination round before submitting Richard Walsh to earn his spot in the finals.
With the inaugural TUF: "Nations" welterweight contract on the line, stakes will be high in Quebec City. Let's tale a look at the keys to victory for Laprise vs. Aubin-Mercier:
Record: 7-0 overall, 0-0 UFC
Key Wins: Kajan Johnson (TUF: "Nations" semi-finals), Josh Taveirne (Bellator 64), Ainsley Robinson (Bellator 76)
Key Losses: None
Record: 4-0 overall, 0-0 UFC
Key Wins: Richard Walsh (TUF: "Nations" semi-finals)
Key Losses: None
Two-time Bellator competitor Laprise largely prefers to let his thunderous striking do his talking, owning four of his seven total wins by knockout. He's already made a name for himself with his huge knockout of Johnson. He can build on that momentum by using his dangerous stand-up skills to win the inaugural TUF: "Nations" 170-pound contract.
It won't be easy, however, as talented grappler Aubin-Mercier has submitted each and every one of his foes with a first round rear-naked choke. He has a strong judo base that has been unstoppable thus far, but we don't exactly have a huge sample size to draw from.
Laprise doesn't have terrible mat skills, but there's no sense in diving headfirst into a ground war with a fighter like Aubin-Mercier. Laprise will look to avoid takedowns and score another big finish with an early flurry.
He can't get too overanxious while looking for the knockout; that could leave him susceptible to a takedown. If Aubin-Mercier can neutralize Laprise's rush and drag him into deep water, the bout could quickly turn in his favor.
Just don't count on it, as Laprise appears to have a lethal stand-up game working right now.
Both Laprise and Aubin-Mercier have the confidence that an undefeated record brings; yet they are largely untested on the grand stage. The nine finishes in 11 total bouts between them makes me think that this affair could be a wild one.
Obviously a kickboxing match massively favors Laprise, and his legitimate power is nothing to mess with. Aubin-Mercier has shown a stifling ground game that gives opponents fits, so the contract will go to whomever implements their gameplan best.
Aubin-Mercier is no joke and should find a home in UFC regardless of Wednesday night's result, but I think that Laprise's striking power and experience edge from having fought in Bellator will give him the slight advantage.
Final Prediction: Laprise def. Aubin-Mercier via technical knockout