The UFC's TUF up to the north comes to a conclusion Wednesday as The Ultimate Fighter: Nations Finale is settled in Quebec City, Canada. In the co-main event, the coaches of the show in Australia's Kyle Noke and Canada's Patrick Cote square off in a welterweight contest, while in the main event, bitter rivals Tim Kennedy and Michael Bisping look to move up the middleweight ladder.
Will Kennedy be able to silence Bisping en route to a dominating performance? Does Bisping have what it takes to do the same? I answer these questions with my predictions for Wednesday night.
What: The Ultimate Fighter: Nations Finale
Where: Colisée Pepsi, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
When: Wednesday, the four-fight Fight Pass card starts at 3:15 p.m. ET, the four-fight Fox Sports 1 card starts at 5 p.m. and the five-fight main card starts Fox Sports 1 on at 7 p.m.
These two have relatively similar styles in that they're jacks of all trades, masters of none. Kennedy is a bit more grappling centric while Bisping is more of a volume striker, but both are adept enough in any of the game's departments. How the bout looks and where it takes place will tell you a lot about who is winning.
I firmly believe Kennedy has the power and striking repertoire to put Bisping's lights out, especially in a five-round fight. I just don't find that outcome particularly likely. Bisping's takedown defense has historically been very impressive. The Brit is also very proactive on the feet with his jab.
It may not be the prettiest of fights in the end, but I'll give the nod to Bisping to do what he normally does when he wins.
Noke is probably the more well-rounded fighter of the two and skills are supposed to win fights, but I'm a bit uneasy about his ability to take punishment. Cote is probably the more fearsome puncher of the two, if nothing else. Then again, Cote hasn't stopped anyone with strikes at the UFC level since 2008 (that wasn't a DQ). Noke was blasted by Scott Smith, but has gone toe-to-toe with Hector Lombard. Cote can end this one, but if he doesn't, it's Noke's to lose.
Sheldon Wescott vs. Elias Theodorou
Normally I'd not pick the guy with two quick submissions, but I'll make an exception here. Wescott had a pretty easy run to the finals, which isn't the best indicator of his talent. The key for more, though, is that he's a much more physical athlete between he and Theodorou. Wescott gets right to work and while he's much more potent early than late, he's shown in his career the ability to go the distance if need be. Theodorou, if he engages in any sort of grappling or clinching exchange, is likely going to find himself on the bottom and in trouble fast. Wescott should be able to maintain the pressure long enough to capture two of three rounds or the outright stoppage.
It's always a bit of a tougher call when both fighters are generally inexperienced. Aubin-Mercier loves the clinch, especially for takedowns where he has an assortment of unorthodox techniques. He doesn't have much for anyone on the feet, but knows it and tries to work around it. Laprise is a vastly superior striker, but I don't know if he's going to be able to stop Aubin-Mercier in the clinch. Laprise wasn't really tested much in that regard on the show.
Dustin Poirier vs. Akira Corassani
It's a weird fight for Poirier. MMA is carnage and hard to predict, but I'm not sure if there's anything Corassani does better than Poirier. I expect the American to absolutely cruise here.
From the preliminary card:
Sam Stout def. K.J. Noons
Sarah Kaufman def. Leslie Smith
Ryan Jimmo def. Sean O'Connell
Dustin Kimura def. George Roop
Mark Boeck def. Mike De La Torre
Nordine Taleb def. Vik Grujic
Richard Walsh def. Chris Indich
Mitch Gagnon def. Tim Gorman