Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back with another midweek offering, this time split between its Fight Pass digital platform and the FOX Sports 1 network. That should give you a pretty good indication of what kind of match-ups you can expect on tomorrow night's fight card.
This event ties a ribbon around The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Nations" and judging by the ratings, it wasn't exactly must-see TV. That's not me being a TUF hater, rather an indication that sometimes the brand is not enough. You need stars, too, which is why BJ Penn is back for TUF 19, which not coincidentally, airs right after the event.
The flip side to that coin is that fans get free mixed martial arts (MMA) with some decent names, like Dustin Poirier, and a headliner starring everyone's favorite Brit, Michael Bisping. If the future stars from TUF: "Nations" can shine under the bright lights in Quebec City, we could have a great night of fights.
185 lbs.: Michael "The Count" Bisping (24-5) vs. Tim Kennedy (17-4)
Nostradumbass predicts: Michael Bisping is just two months shy of his eight-year anniversary with the promotion, which is pretty incredible if you think about what the roster looked like back in summer of 2006. To save you the trouble of looking it up, "The Count" made his debut a month before Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski fought for the UFC heavyweight title.
Why is he still hanging around?
Because he's a good fighter with a winning record and let's face it, fans (and sometimes other fighters) love to hate him. He doesn't get the respect he should because in eight years, he's failed to secure a title shot, coming up lame in a couple of big spots.
But he usually beats the middle of the pack.
That includes guys like Tim Kennedy, who for all his talent, might be the American version of Bisping. Good at everything, great at nothing. While he's coming off an emphatic knockout over Raphael Natal, his strength is in his wrestling and ground work.
That could be a problem against a middleweight the size of Bisping, who Chael Sonnen admitted after their UFC on FOX 2 affair, is a lot stronger than you think he is, something Kennedy is going to find out when he tries to bully him in the clinch.
Is it a lock?
Hardly. I have some real concerns about the Brit's layoff. Not because I think cage rust will be a factor, but rather his surgically-repaired eye could go into business for itself once he dines on a knuckle sandwich. If not, and he can get through the first couple of rounds with his vision intact, I expect him to land more punches and stay on his bicycle for most of the fight.
Strap in folks, we're going all five rounds.
Final prediction: Bisping def. Kennedy via split decision
170 lbs.: Patrick "The Predator" Cote (19-8) vs. Kyle "KO" Noke (20-6)
Nostradumbass predicts: This could be the worst coaches fight in TUF history. And I don't mean that as omg these guys suck, because they don't, but neither of them have seen the inside of the Octagon for over a year, are completely irrelevant in the 170-pound title chase, and couldn't even muster up any kind of conflict while in the TUF house.
What is there to care about in this fight?
When I was a kid, I used to root for the NY Yankees and my friend argued that I was a Yankees fan, not a baseball fan, because a baseball fan can turn on any game from any division and be interested. While I never fully subscribed to that theory, it's not without merit.
Same can be said here.
Both Cote and Noke are competent strikers with solid beards and assuming their cardio holds up, we should have a fairly entertaining scrap on our hands. "The Predator" has looked a little wobbly in recent fights and "KO" may try to exploit the Canadian's ground game, especially in the latter part of the fight.
I'm thinking a late takedown seals the deal.
Cote is heralded as a heavy-hitter, but has only one knockout finish (due to strikes) in the last six years, and that was against a Brazilian journeyman on the international circuit. Noke will enjoy a size and reach advantage and somewhere in the final frame, will drag his fellow coach to the floor to make it official.
Final prediction: Noke def. Cote via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Elias "The Spartan" Theodorou (8-0) vs. Sheldon Westcott (8-1-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: Like their welterweight counterparts, the middleweight final between Elias Theodorou and Sheldon Westcott should prove to be a competitive bout. While neither fighter will be accused of being Floyd Mayweather on the feet, they both have stifling ground games.
But whose is better?
Westcott has enjoyed some Ronda Rousey-ish finishes in his career, often times ending the fight in under a minute (five times, to be exact). I was weary of his injury-prone run on TUF and I also worry that a guy who can make the welterweight limit is facing a huge middleweight in the form of Theodorou.
This could come down to conditioning.
Westcott is too tough to be put away in a three-round fight and I like his craftiness on the ground. That said, I have a feeling he's going to be dumped and humped en route to a loss on the scorecards, because the stakes are high and "The Spartan" is going for the "W" instead of the finish.
Final prediction: Theodorou def. Westcott via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Olivier Aubin-Mercier (4-0) vs. Chad Laprise (7-0)
Nostradumbass predicts: Chad Laprise gained instant notoriety for destroying Kajan Johnson's jaw in the semifinals, but to be fair, he was just as dangerous before that bone-crunching blow. His first four wins on the regional circuit were by way of technical knockout and he's remained undefeated through his TUF stint.
His opponent has done likewise by keeping it on the ground.
Olivier Aubin-Mercier only had four pro fights before making his FOX Sports 1 debut, but all four were wins by way of submission (rear-naked choke). Jake Mathews took him the distance in a losing effort, but he got back to his finishing ways in the semifinals against Richard Walsh.
Who brings home the Canadian bacon?
I think this fight is going to find its way south sooner, rather than later. Laprise has a pretty good chance of ending it on the feet, but I'm not convinced Aubin-Mercier affords him enough time to do it. Expect heavy clinch work and wall-and-stall, until the fight his the floor and ends by way of tap, nap, or snap.
Final prediction: Aubin-Mercier def. Laprise via submission
145 lbs.: Dustin "The Diamond" Poirier (15-3) vs. Hamid "Akira" Corassani (12-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: I've never been particularly impressed with Hamid Corassani, and I'm trying to figure out if it's residual grief from his phantom tap -- among other things -- as a contestant on TUF 14, or just the fact that he hasn't looked all that great inside the Octagon.
It's hard to bag on a guy who is 3-0 since making his official debut, but two of those wins were close decisions and his most recent victory came by way of disqualification. In addition, over half his wins go the scorecards and he's been finished in all three defeats.
I need a little more than that if I'm going to pick him against Dustin Poirier.
"The Diamond" was able to shine for the first half of his pro career, which is noteworthy because it was spent training in Tim Credeur's tool shed. Now that he's with a high-level fight camp and able to train with world-class athletes -- instead of pushing around the local talent -- I expect great things.
He's suffered a couple of setbacks in his UFC stint, losing to Chan Sung Jung and Cub Swanson, but the difference between Poirier and Corassani is the level of competition. In addition, the former is just 25 years old to the latter's 31, and has finished 12 of 15 wins. He's more well rounded, fought better guys and for my money, the winner on Wednesday night.
Final prediction: Poirier def. Corassani via submission
That's a wrap.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire TUF: "Nations" Finale card tomorrow night (Weds., April 16, 2014), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. ET, right on through the main card action on FOX Sports 1, which is slated to begin at 7 p.m. ET.
There ya' have it.
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.