Take off to the Great White North.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is heading back to Canada this Wednesday night (April 16, 2014) for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Nations" Finale, bringing with it a Middleweight grudge match to light up Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.
In the main event of the evening, outspoken Englishman Michael Bisping will face United States Army Ranger Tim Kennedy, while TUF: "Nations" coaches Kyle Noke and Patrick Cote battle it out in the co-main featured fight of the night. The FOX Sports 1-televised event will also feature the conclusions of both the welterweight and middleweight season tournaments, with all four Canadian (not Australian) finalists fighting on their home soil.
We previewed and predicted the first four TUF: "Nations" Finale "Prelims" under card matches planned for Fight Pass last night right here. Let's take a look at the remaining top four below that will lead into the main card action.
155 lbs.: Sam Stout vs. K.J. Noons
After suffering his first submission loss in almost seven years at the hands of James Krause, Sam Stout (20-9-1) rebounded by taking a decision over Cody McKenzie back in Dec. 2013. The win marked his ninth in the Octagon during his 17-fight tenure.
"Hands of Stone" has alternated wins and losses since 2012 (3-3).
It’s been a rough ride for K.J. Noons (12-7), who entered his 2010 rematch with Nick Diaz on a six-fight win streak. Since then, he is just 2-5, most recently ending a three-fight skid by beating Aussie grappler George Sotiropoulos.
"King" will have a two-inch height advantage over Stout.
To be frank, I’m pretty sure both of these guys are done as top contenders. Stout hasn’t looked impressive since the Yves Edwards knockout and Noons just looks awful. Between them, though, I think Noons has degraded more. It seems like all he does nowadays is plod forward flinging left hooks (it’s generally not a good sign when a striker struggles on the feet against the likes of Sotiropoulos).
Even though he’s probably worse overall than he was a few years ago, Stout has added some solid wrestling to his arsenal to go along with the brawling. I figure he’ll outwork Noons on the feet while sprinkling in enough takedowns to overcome any shaky moments.
In the end, Stout pleases his adoring hometown crowd with yet another decision win.
Prediction: Stout via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Sarah Kaufman vs. Leslie Smith
After a 6-2 run in Strikeforce and a brief stint in Invicta FC, Sarah Kaufman (16-2) made her Octagon debut in Oct. 2013, dropping a split decision to Jessica Eye that was later overturned to a "No Contest" because of "Evil" marijuana. She was scheduled to make her sophomore appearance against Shayna Baszler, then against Amanda Nunes, only for injuries to bring in Smith on one-week notice.
Kaufman owns wins over Alexis Davis, Miesha Tate and Liz Carmouche, among others.
Leslie Smith (6-4-1) faced Kaufman once before, losing a debated split decision in Invicta FC despite dropping her in the second stanza with a powerful head kick. The Cesar Gracie-trained fighter rebounded by beating Jennifer Maia, but lost her Invicta title bid to reigning champ Barb Honchak.
Smith owns a four-inch height advantage over Kaufman.
The last time these two fought, they put on the fight of the night. I don’t expect things to be any different here. While Kaufman has Stout Syndrome (immediately ceasing to score knockouts as soon as she reached the big stage), she’s an entertaining bruiser and Smith shares her teammates’ willingness to throw hands.
The first fight was debatable -- Kaufman’s willingness to take and land shots at a roughly equivalent rate make that something of a constant for her. Smith shares that mindset, so expect another razor-close slugfest. I’ll take the one who actually had prep time.
Prediction: Kaufman via split decision
205 lbs.: Ryan Jimmo vs. Sean O’Connell
Entering UFC on the heels of a highly questionable decision win over Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Ryan Jimmo (18-3) made a major impression in his Octagon debut, wiping out Anthony Perosh in just seven seconds. He is 1-2 since then, a decision over Igor Pokrajac sandwiched between losses to James Te Huna and Jimmy Manuwa.
Jimmo owns a decision win over Bellator champion Emanuel Newton and has scored seven knockouts.
Like Jimmo, Sean O’Connell (15-4) was a hopeful on TUF 8, losing to Shane Primm by submission in the elimination round. On the professional circuit, he has won eight of his last nine, losing only to TUF 11 competitor Joe Henle.
O'Connell replaces the now-retired Steve Bosse on one month’s notice.
Jimmo, while cripplingly boring, is still a solid striker with decent offensive and defensive wrestling, making him one of the rare fighters versatile enough to put viewers to sleep from any position. O’Connell is a decent grappler, but he’s been fighting some awful opposition lately and hasn’t shown an area in which he can overwhelm Jimmo.
Jimmo figures to be the superior stand up fighter and should be the one dictating position. If he knuckles down and shows some aggression, he can probably polish off O’Connell without too much trouble. Of course, this is Jimmo we’re talking about, so odds are he’ll just do his thing and win a painfully slow-paced striking battle by decision.
Prediction: Jimmo via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: George Roop vs. Dustin Kimura
After a 1-3 stretch from 2011 to 2012, the 6’1" George Roop (14-10-1) elected to drop to Bantamweight, where he had competed once before in a loss to Eddie Wineland. After defeating Rueben Duran and Brian Bowles, Roop succumbed to the ridiculous power of Francisco Rivera in the second round of their fight in Dec. 2013.
Roop stands seven inches taller than Dustin Kimura (11-1).
Following his late submission win over Chico Camus in his UFC debut, Kimura suffered the first defeat of his career in a one-round barnburner with Canadian standout Mitch Gagnon. Despite the setback, Kimura started 2014 off well, surviving an early knockdown to submit Jon delos Reyes in Singapore. Just one of his fights has gone the distance, eight wins coming by submission.
Ah, George Roop. Like Cole Miller, he’s one guy whose fights I just can’t pick correctly. Half the time, he’s piecing guys up from a distance with his freaky giraffe limbs and the other half he’s letting guys half his height play the bongos on his face.
There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it.
I’m picking Kimura, for what it’s worth. He’s got some legitimate grappling chops and Roop’s takedown defense is as inconsistent as the size of his personal space. I say he takes the Whacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man down and locks something up late in the first.
Prediction: Kimura via first-round submission
What better way to celebrate getting over the hump than with gratuitous violence?
See you there, 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.
Current UFC "Prelims" Prediction Record 2014: 41-23 (1 NC)