It's time for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to invade the Great White North this upcoming Wednesday (April 16, 2014) for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Nations" Finale between Team Canada and Team Australia.
The main event features one of UFC's most popular fighters, Michael Bisping, against former Strikeforce veteran Tim Kennedy. In a scrap fueled by trash talk and unfortunate name-calling, this five-round battle edges the winner closer to title contention.
Despite Patrick Cote guiding four Canadians to the middleweight and welterweight finals, he still has to take care of Kyle Noke in the co-main event to secure the clean sweep of Australia. Both "The Predator" and "KO" are coming off long layoffs and a coaching stint on opposite sides of Team Canada and Team Australia, respectively.
With the majority of this card's excitement focused on these two contests, let us look into the near future and map out what a victory on Wednesday night might mean for these four athletes.
Here we go:
Call him a loudmouth at your own discretion, because Bisping is one of the most accomplished fighters in the entire middleweight division. He's had a lengthy run thus far in UFC, since winning TUF 3 back in 2006.
Despite his 14-5 record inside the Octagon, the Brit has never challenged for the title and it's going to get harder alongside fellow veterans like Vitor Belfort, Ronaldo Souza, Lyoto Machida and Luke Rockhold champing at the bit.
Bisping can edge closer to the gold by disposing of Kennedy, since he'll have one less foe to worry about in line. With that being said, it still might not warrant him a title shot against the winner of Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida at UFC 175. He's probably going to have to take yet another fight against two of those Strikeforce veterans previously mentioned.
It has got to be frustrating for the Englishman, but he can't expect a crack at the gold right away. He's usually successful when entering the fight as the favorite, and it should be no different in this situation. What is troublesome in his case is that he loses big fights -- primarily those that would find him on the cusp of a title shot if he had won.
Expect another stiff challenge for the Manchester-based fighter after his bout if he walks out of Quebec victorious. Then you can start photoshopping him side-by-side against the champion on future event posters.
If Bisping isn't getting a title shot with a win, there's no way in hell Kennedy is earning himself a middleweight title bout if he beats his adversary.
For the United States Army veteran, it's about cementing his place among the toughest wolves in the pack at 185 pounds.
He's certainly no slouch; Kennedy has wins over Robbie Lawler, Melvin Manhoef, and most recently, Rafael Natal, but like his British counterpart, he's failed to win the big ones -- specifically two championship fights in Strikeforce against Souza and Rockhold.
If the California-born fighter gets past Bisping this midweek, you could say the eagle has landed. It would undoubtedly be the most grandiose victory of his fighting career, because toppling a consistent contender such as Bisping and weeding him out of the championship picture would speak volumes.
A huge win for Kennedy would set up a rematch against his former Strikeforce roster mates or those two Brazilians, but that's still something the American can look forward to in order to see himself front and center on those UFC posters, too.
Besides winning the coaching battle and obtaining the clean sweep of Australia, this fight is fairly important for the Team Canada coach.
Since rebirthing himself at welterweight, Cote is perfect at 1-0, although this is where the new chapter must start.
As a middleweight, "The Predator" fought Anderson Silva for the title and continued to duke it out while possessing a record of 4-7 in the promotion.
It's a third stint back for the French-Canadian, who is currently 2-1 since stepping up on short notice to face Cung Le at UFC 148 and this is where it needs to count for the Rimouski-born slugger. He's hasn't had a good run against the likes of Silva, Tito Ortiz, Chris Leben, and Alan Belcher, yet it proved he could always be matched up against solid foes because of his entertaining and merciless fighting style.
Although, slugfests can only get you so far, and if you're not winning them, it's going to make you a fan favorite but not a legitimate threat to the upper echelon of the division.
If 170 pounds is a charm, Cote needs to prove it.
It has been a year and a half since we've seen Noke inside the cage, since his technical knockout win over Charlie Brenneman snapped a two-fight losing skid. This is by far the biggest fight of the Australian's career after suffering a long injury layoff, with his country's fighting pride hanging in the balance.
His UFC record of 4-2 is decent, yet Noke hasn't really won over the fans in a sense where nobody is running over each other to see him perform. He's a tough, durable mid-card talent, and if he wants to gain some notoriety, his co-main event slot is the perfect place to do so.
A victory for "KO" increases his chances of being ranked by the promotion, but more importantly, it should increase his popularity levels. Beating a familiar name like Cote can help that happen, but the 34-year-old slugger needs to keep the ball rolling afterwards, since he's not getting any younger.
It's a fight with minimal success to gain, but it still is detrimental to his fighting future if he loses badly.
Check out our TUF: "Nations" Finale preview stream right here.