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Everything You NEED to Know About UFC TUF Nations Finale Fight Pass Prelims

Maybe a few of you are wondering why I bother to do these previews before every UFC event. I sure as hell am not getting paid to put this stuff up here and it does take a fair amount of time. First of all, I fully admit that I am a nerd. I get a large amount of satisfaction out of doing this, its fun for me. I don't believe that I am the best at writing previews... but I do believe I have progressed as I have done this.

Second of all, fantasy MMA has been growing little by little and if you want to truly be able to do well in it, you gotta know a little bit about everyone... including the guys that open up the card that barely anyone shows up to see where the event is being held live. I'm not going to predict that fantasy MMA is going to overtake other sports by any means... but the massive sports boom of the last decade or so (sports have always been popular for the last half century if not longer... but did they always get the amount of coverage they receive now?) has also coincided with the boom of fantasy sports. Its true that fantasy sports really only attracts those who are already invested in the sport... but how invested are they? The investment grows with the fantasy participation.

If I can help the sport of MMA grow by helping others with their understanding of the sport or in this case the fighters, I can say that I have helped to contribute to the community. And that is what I want to do, even if it is in just a small way. I don't want to be a hipster that gets upset that my cool sport that few other people know about gets big and because it isn't my secret anymore, it sucks. I want everyone to enjoy it! And the more everyone understands about it the more they can enjoy it!

I love MMA. It is the purest competition at this point as there is one person against another person in the confines of a cage or ring. You don't have teammates assigned to you, you pick them yourself. And even then all they can do is help you prepare for the fight, nothing past that. I could keep going on... but I think you get the point and you probably feel the same way I do if you're reading this, so I'll shut up now.

Here's the breakdown:

Mike de la Torre (12-3) vs. Mark Bocek (11-5), Lightweight

In a fight that was originally set to have Bocek face Evan Dunham, we now have a potentially lopsided match of newcomer against established veteran. It could get ugly

Thanks to the fact that the card was attacked hard and heavy by injuries with little more than a week remaining, de la Torre gets a chance to show the UFC what he's got in replacing Dunham on short notice. Hailing out of the MMA Lab in Arizona, he isn't exactly a blue-chip prospect and makes for a better featherweight too. But hey, you take whatever chance you can get to get to the UFC, right? The biggest win on his ledger would be former Strikeforce and current Bellator vet James Terry.

Bocek hasn't been seen in about 17 months and many have forgotten about him as a result. Its clear he won't ever be amongst the elite, but he has never been an easy opponent for anyone and has scored 4 submission victories in the world's premier MMA organization. He is coming off of a loss, but if this is a must win-situation for him it would likely be more due to his layoff than than his last fight.

de la Torre has an energetic standup which he will need to utilize against a grinding veteran like Bocek. He flips out a fluid jab largely to keep distance, but it also has some snap if he wants it to connect. I recall one kick that I've seen from the footage that I've seen of him, showing a lack of diversity in his strikes. But he has some good (not great) movement, nice boxing combinations, and has some good power behind his punches that can send his opponent to the mat. When he has been rocked, he shows excellent recovery time, as he was able to finish Terry less than a minute after being floored.

Bocek is a step slower than most lightweights and it shows in his striking. Thus, Bocek tries to close the distance and fight from the clinch with dirty boxing to negate his lack of speed. He shows good strength and can score his takedowns from there too. He isn't good in space, but does own a '75 reach which he can and has used (but really doesn't use it like he should) to help close space. He is also a black belt in karate, but doesn't show his kicks very often.

What will be key for Bocek is the takedowns. He uses a lot of body lock and underhook takedowns from the clinch to get into his opponents guard so that he can utilize his extensive BJJ game. He was able to control Nik Lentz a few years ago, indicating that he is a much better wrestler than advertised as Lentz is a very good wrestler himself. His submission defense is very solid too, but like I said, the takedowns will be key as he has surprisingly poor defense. When his opponents have wanted to take him down, they've been able to. Don't look for that to happen here though.

de la Torre isn't helpless on the ground. He is very resilient on the ground and is active throwing short punches and elbows whether from the top or bottom position. But I have seen very little ability from him to stop takedowns and shows poor positioning too often making it easy to reverse him. I'll admit that his activity makes him difficult to keep on the ground... but Bocek seems like too much for the youngster here. If de la Torre is looking for takedown points, he has shown good trips. I don't know if he has a judo background, but I think he does.

I don't blame de la Torre for answering the UFC when they call, but he is way over his head here in his debut. Bocek is a strong lightweight and de la Torre is better suited for featherweight. Here is hoping that is at least able to make it competitive. Bocek by Submission 1st Round

Vik Grujic (6-2) vs. Nordine Taleb (8-2), Middleweight

Tyler Manawaroa's unwise comments on Facebook cost him what would have likely been an appearance on the Finale and it looks as though Taleb is the beneficiary. This should be violent.

The Leonidas lookalike Grujic is making his UFC debut at the ripe age of 37, but only made his MMA debut less than 5 years ago. As a result, he should still be relatively fresh despite his advanced age. One thing that has plagued the Australian fighters has been a lack of quality opponents, but Grujic fought some of the better ones from down under. He beat down Luke Harris before being stopped by Shelden Westcott.

Taleb was the respected veteran (alongside Kajan Johnson) for Team Canada and has faced some noted competition such as UFC vet Pete Sell, Matt Secor from TUF 16, and former Dream champion Marius Zaromskis. Though he usually fights at welterweight, I don't expect him to be at much of a physical disadvantage (if at all) to Grujic as Taleb is a massive welterweight. He lost a hell of a match to Manawaroa in the first round.

Grujic is a flat-out brute. He absolutely made hamburger out of Harris' face when he got top position and started raining down elbows with brutal intent. That isn't the first time he has used those elbows to that effect. He prefers to use his strength to get the fight to the ground, but doesn't use a hell of a lot of technique to get the fight to the ground. He'll find out he can't just outmuscle his opponents the higher up the ladder he climbs. Half of his wins have come by way of submission and only one of those are by a RNC or guillotine, showing he does in fact know some BJJ.

Its clear that Taleb would much rather prefer not to have the fight on the mat. It isn't that he doesn't know how to get the fight to the mat as showed he can do against Secor... then again Secor wanted it on the ground. I haven't ever seen him go for any type of submission, but his GNP is busy and smart as he mixes up shots to the body and head. Much like Grujic, he largely muscles his opponents to the ground without much technique.

There is very good reason why Taleb doesn't go to the ground much and its because he is a very well-rounded striker. He prefers to press his opponents against the fence and send a stream of knees into their stomach and legs, but is more than capable of being effective from a distance. Its actually where he had his best success against Zaromskis. He'll even occasionally pull out the occasional spinning backfist and owns some great kicks too. He got pulled into a dogfight with Manawaroa on the show, but he usually shows more technique with good footwork and movement to avoid getting hit.

Grujic is very boxing-centric. He working in close quarters with short hooks from both fists and upper-cuts. He likes to use the Muay Thai clinch as well and introduce his opponent's face to his knees. His muscled up frame is a bit stiff in its movement though and it makes it relatively easy to catch him with shots... so expect Taleb to have a field day with Grujic considering his extensive repertoire. That isn't to say Grujic is screwed as he has a good chin and good power in his fists... but he'll have problems getting the knockout blow to connect.

In the striker vs. grappler match, the safer choice is usually the grappler. But Grujic isn't a wrestling grappler which means he'll have a hard time dictating where the match goes. Taleb has faced some damn good competition before and I don't expect Grujic to have anything Taleb hasn't seen before. Taleb by Decision

Chris Indich (5-1) vs. Richard Walsh (7-1), Welterweight

With two members from Team Australia facing off, it guarantees at least one Aussie walks out of the Finale with a victory... unless there is a tie. Lets hope not.

Indich wasn't able to walk off of the show with a single victory, but impressed everyone with his toughness as he kept coming back for more of the beatdown finalist Chad Laprise put on him. He has spent most of his career at middleweight, but is much to small for that class in the UFC. He has beat up mainly on cans and journeymen and will have a big jump to adjust to in order to find success in the UFC.

Walsh scored a victory over Matt DesRoches before falling to Olivier Aubin-Mercier in the semis. The only official loss on his ledger is to current UFC fighter Robert Whittaker. Problem is, like Indich, he hasn't faced anyone else really of note as only one other opponent owns a winning record. He has been training at Tiger Muay Thai alongside the likes of UFC fighter Brian Ebersole for this fight.

Indich really did prove that he is a tough customer as Laprise was largely able to tee off on him, but Indich was still moving forward at the end of the fight. He needs to be carful of not overextending his punches and keep his hands up more consistently. Laprise was able to counter a lot of his shots by dodging and landing after Indich threw punches. His head movement and footwork could use some polish as well. He had the most success when he was throwing out his jab and mixing in leg kicks.

Grinder was the word that came to my mind as I watched Walsh fight. He spent a lot of time against the fence throwing knees and short punches to DesRochers and had most of his success there. I don't think he'll be able to do that in the UFC though as he should be fighting at lightweight. Like Indich, his best punch in space was the jab and did show some power with his right hook, but still has some tightening up to do with his punches. He didn't throw many, but his kicks looked lazy and I could see Indich being able to easily counter them... especially when one remembers Indich was able to catch some of Laprise's kicks.

Walsh needs a lot of work on his grappling. His single and double-legs have little power behind them and he doesn't set up his trips at all as he telegraphs them to his opponent. The fact that he is undersized for the weight class doesn't help him either. Aubin-Mercier was able to ragdoll him once he got his back and easily locked in the RNC. His loss to Whittaker was by RNC as well. Hmm... His GNP is the best part of his ground game, but I feel he'll get there by his opponent pulling guard more so than by a takedown.

Indich has some good BJJ from the little of it that I've seen... but he can be sloppy with it. His one career loss he had all wrapped up as he had a body lock triangle and was working on the RNC. Problem is he didn't tighten the body lock and allowed his opponent to reverse into top position and it was all downhill from there. I doubt he ever makes a mistake like that again. His GNP isn't bad either, but he would much rather get the sub. He relies on double and single legs to get the fight to the floor... but I haven't seen how he does with takedown defense.

This is a hard fight to pick. Walsh has the advantage with striking and Indich with grappling. Indich showed a good chin though and Walsh has had issues with being submitted, so I gotta play it based off of history and say Indich. Indich by Submission 2nd Round

Mitch Gagnon (10-2) vs. Tim Gorman (8-2), Bantamweight

Gorman was promised to get a shot in the UFC after injury hit him during the TUF 18 season, which forced him out of the tournament. Can he make the most of it?

Gagnon seems to be an underrated fixture in the bantamweight division. He was won his last two appearances and earned the Submission of the Night in his last appearance... but most fans still don't know who this guy is. Throw in the fact that his fights have been entertaining affairs and its somewhat of a mystery as of to why this guy doesn't have a small bandwagon.

Gorman's appearance on TUF was short lived due to a torn hamstring. He showed his gameness (and possibly insanity) by asking to be allowed to continue, but the UFC wasn't having it. He made further headlines by calling out Bryan Caraway stating that the winner would get Caraway's girlfriend, Miesha Tate, as the prize. If nothing else, Gorman is making himself memorable, even if it isn't for kicking ass in the Octagon.

Gagnon is known as a submission specialist and considering that all of his victories have come by way of submission, it may be well deserved. But he has used his striking very effectively to in those victories, showing good boxing against Dustin Kimura by mixing combinations to the body and head. He also scored a beautiful left hook to floor Walel Watson to set up the RNC. If the fight gets against the fence (I say very likely), he possess good clinch work and dirty boxing. There are negatives though. His movement isn't the most fluid, seems to gas more than the average 135er as the fight goes, and might want to consider not throwing everything into every punch. But at the current level he is fighting... he'll be fine.

Gorman is very much a mystery in his standup as there is very little video of him and the video that does exist shows him doing what he does best: get the takedown and start grounding and pounding on his opponent. I was unable to find video of him landing even one punch standing. His record indicates that he has a couple of one-punch KO's which says that he has some good power... but neither guy has another fight on their record, much less a loss.

Gorman's wrestling on the other hand is fairly established. A wrestler since 5 years old from the hotbed of Iowa, its something he has known his whole life. His lone strategy is... well I already stated it, but here it is again: get opponent to ground followed by GNP. He has shown to be top heavy, but it will be interesting to see how that translates to the UFC. He does stay busy as he tries to maneuver into mount and peppering punches all the while and does have heavy punches from the top. I've only seen double-legs from him, but I'd imagine a single-leg isn't a foreign concept to him at all.

Gagnon has shown to be very strong and difficult to control. He held his own against Bryan Caraway, no slouch on the ground himself (could be his stamina), before getting caught in the final round. His GNP most definitely has the ability to end fights... if he doesn't catch the submission. Outside of a slam, all of his subs have come by way of RNC or guillotine, so Gorman will want to be wary of leaving his neck exposed in any way... even standing. As for his takedown defense (kind of key here), it is serviceable. But he'll know whats coming from Gorman so I expect it'll be sharp.

Gorman seems like he is a tough bastard. But I don't think that he has a well-rounded enough game to have any long-term success in the UFC. Gagnon hasn't exactly beat world beaters himself, but he has at least shown diversity in his game. Gagnon by Submission 2nd Round

Record for last Card: 6-1, 1 NC

Record for Year: 70-45-1, 1 NC



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