The man everyone loves to hate is back and a sniper is waiting to take him out. Even though that statement isn't quite the way it sounds, every word of it is true.
The main event serves as the only true high profile match on the card, but what would you expect from a TUF Finale? It does carry the weight of helping to shape out the title picture at middleweight within the next year so at least it has more going for it in that sense than Big Nog vs. Big Country did. Throw in the fact that there seems to be hate between the two and it has more going for it than most Finale headliners.
There has been no animosity between the coaches or any of the finalists (the fact they were all teammates on a nationally themed edition helps to spell out why), so there isn't nearly as much interest in them as there has been in recent seasons (remember how everyone thought Uriah Hall was going to send Kelvin Gastelum's head orbiting with Adam Cella's?). None of those fights promise fireworks either with grinding possibilities very high. Still, the prospects seem to have good if not great ceilings and any Patrick Cote fight has potential for a KO.
The opener? How many of you enjoy seeing a rabbit (in honor of the time of year) being fed to a bear? That's what its equivalent to.
This fight has been building up for a very long time with a massive war of words between the Brit and the US Army Ranger. Whether the animosity is real between these two, its hard not to get excited for this fight.
Bisping has been a mainstay in the UFC since 2006 when he was one of the TUF season 3 winners. Ever since he transitioned to middleweight he has been considered one of the divisions top contenders. But a title shot has eluded him his career due to his propensity to fall short whenever placed in a #1 contenders match. An eye injury has had him on the shelf for while, thus why he hasn't fought in a year. It will be interesting to see how it affects him.
Kennedy isn't the most comfortable person in the spotlight (unlike Bisping), but that doesn't mean he doesn't show up to fight when the lights are bright despite falling short at his attempts at the Strikeforce middleweight title twice. He may not be the brash speaker Bisping is, but certainly got his attention over Twitter which scored him this fight. He has never been knocked out or submitted (his lone TKO loss was due to a cut) and last lost a non-title fight over 6 years ago.
One thing pundits always point out with Bisping is his lack of KO power. I'd say it really doesn't matter all that much as Bisping is one of the highest volume strikers in the UFC. Despite is supposed lack of power, his opponents end up being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of strikes he throws at them and he has 14 wins via KO/TKO as a result. He better fills the boxing end of the kickboxing background he comes from. His hands are very fast and he throws together excellent combinations when he isn't darting in and out with his efficient jab. Kicks aren't a big part of his package, but they come out every now and then. His movement makes him fairly difficult to tag and though his chin has been cracked, both times its happened were shots that would have put down an orca.
The book on Kennedy has repeatedly stated that he is a similar striker to Bisping with regards to the amount of power he possess (as well as his in-and-out style), but he but his doubters to shame when he blasted Rafael Natal in his last bout to pick up his first KO/TKO win in 6 years. His boxing has no wasted movement and the improvement he has made in it over the years was evident in his KO of Natal. Its worth noting he is good in the clinch and has a seemingly endless gas tank... but both of those could be said about Bisping too. Its very difficult to say who will have the advantage. I'll say that Kennedy has little more power, but he is also more hittable (Dan Henderson be damned!).
Kennedy will seemingly have a decisive advantage in the grappling department, but I'd say its closer than many will give it credit for. Kennedy is a black belt in BJJ and 8 of his wins have come by submission (as opposed to 4 for Bisping), including a victory by north-south choke over current UFC fighter Zak Cummings. Its actually hard to truly identify what it is that Kennedy does so well to make him such a threat, but I'd say its his fearlessness. Who voluntarily goes to the ground with a Gracie? And wins the fight! He is very methodical in passing the guard and peppering his opponent with light GNP in the process; it isn't heavy and won't end the fight, but it will annoy his opponent and even open up a submission.
The thing always mentioned with Bisping is how excellent his sprawl is. Only one opponent at middleweight has been able to get him down with any consistency and Chael Sonnen was able to get Anderson Silva down much easier than he did Bisping. Because he is British, many automatically assume that Bisping is a poor wrestler, which isn't true. He isn't great, but he knows how to get to his feet from the mat and has displayed intelligence on when to go for the takedown (see the Brian Stann fight). Considering Kennedy will look to go to the ground, don't expect Bisping to go for a takedown unless its at the end of the round.
In a match of incredibly similar fighters (both of them even turn 35 this year!), it comes down to splitting hairs with these two. The things that stand out is that Kennedy will try to take the fight to the ground and he is more hittable. With both being difficult to stop, I think Bisping stuffs the majority of the takedowns and lands more shots, thus winning over the judges. Bisping by Decision
The coaches of TUF: Nations face off... in a match that not too many people care about. What do you expect when two nice guys get along during the course of the show and generate no heat?
Cote is on his third term in the UFC and has been floating around for a while. To give you an idea how long he's been around, he made his UFC debut before the first season of TUF... against Tito Ortiz. His drop to 170 only came last year as he was a fixture at middleweight for a long time, even getting a title shot against Anderson Silva during the lean times in the division. Its still up in the air how well the drop in weight helps out his career.
Noke is another who recently dropped to welterweight with only one fight at that class (just like Cote). The Australian won his first three fights in the UFC (all finishes) after coming up through the 11th season of TUF only to lose two in a row, prompting his drop in weight. The former bodyguard for the Crocodile Hunter won his 170 debut against Charlie Brenneman with ease, but still has a lot to answer in regards to long-term success in the division. His UFC record (4-2) may be superior to Cote's (6-8), but he hasn't faced nearly the same level of competition.
Everyone knows that Cote's plan is to throw leather. He has tremendous boxing and consistently puts combinations together. Those who remember his debut should recall that he was able to drop Ortiz with a punch. Even though it has been 6 years since he scored a KO/TKO in the UFC, I'd say he still has the power to finish his opponents. He doesn't mind getting into a brawl and I'm prone to believe that he'll be more willing to press against the fence and grinds it out with dirty boxing now that he has dropped weight. He has also mixed more leg kicks in than he did earlier in his career and he is a black belt in Muay Thai. His chin has been known impossible to break, but there have been signs of it weakening in his last two fights.
Noke has some pop in his punches, but I don't think that he'll have enough to crack Cote's weakening chin. He may have beat Brenneman via TKO, but it was a controversial stoppage and relies more on high volume striking rather than a single haymaker. He can look awkward at times and overpursue on his punches, but is usually sound technically has had solid success for the most part. His best strike is his jab, which isn't as bad a thing as most might think. His southpaw stance makes his jab that much more effective. His dirty boxing is underrated and does a good job getting underhooks to Noke has had problems with stamina and I don't see how further dehydrating himself from the drop in weight will help him here.
Its a good thing that Noke has a good top game. He isn't a very good wrestler overall and can be dominated by a solid wrestler (Cote is not that), but he has a alright single or double-leg takedown and does a pretty good job of staying active from the top and good guard passing technique. Most of his victories have come by submission (8) and chokes are by far his favorite way to tap an opponent and he most often gets there by utilizing GNP to work his way past his opponents guard. From there his transitions from mount to the back are very smooth. He could be more active from his back, but he will look for the occasional sub from there. His sprawl has been solid too.
I wouldn't go so far as to label Cote's grappling a liability, but there are certainly more deficiencies there than there are in his striking. He has been submitted by some crafty vets (Joe Doerksen, Travis Lutter, and Alan Belcher) and I would say the Noke falls under that category. To Cote's credit, his grappling has improved since the last time he was submitted and he was even active in looking for submission off of his back against Bobby Voelker. But I think he would be better served actively trying to get to his feet than looking for subs. I wouldn't look for him to attempt any takedowns against Noke (not that they are effective anyway). Cote may be improving on the ground, but he isn't stupid and knows that Noke will have the advantage there.
This is really about as even as it comes. Both have their advantages, but aren't completely dominant in one or the other. I'll advise ya to flip a coin rather than listening to me... especially since that is what I'm gonna do. Heads Cote, tails Noke. And... Cote by Decision
Am I the only one that thought these two looked a lot alike? Are we sure that they aren't brothers? Its an all Canada affair here.
Theodorou is a model and actor in addition to being an MMA fighter and claims to have the best hair in MMA. Regardless of whether that is true or not, he is undefeated since turning pro 3 years ago. At 25, he could end up being someone to watch in the future. He defeated Zein Saliba and Tyler Manawaroa to earn his ticket to the finals.
Westcott is a bit older at 29 and comes from a track background. His only loss came in his debut and was able to capture a victory to avenge his draw on his record. He was never at full health for either of his fights. Westcott wasted no time in taking out Dan Kelly and Vik Grujic as each match lasted less than a minute.
Theodorou's style is to "grapple hump" his opponent as Kyle Noke would say. I would have used different words myself, but it is a pretty accurate description of his style. He wants to take his opponent down and won't stop going as his cardio is excellent. He used a combination of single and double-legs to get his opponents down and used a number of slams too. I admit he wasn't the best in keeping them down on the ground, but he would just put them back on the mat. Despite all of the time on the ground though, I don't recall seeing a submission attempt out of him. As a result I very much doubt he has a competent submission game.
Westcott has a hell of a submission game as both of his house victories came that way, including a modified Von Flue choke. He came out on fire and threw Kelly around like a ragdoll and was able to stifle Grujic to prevent him from taking him down. Westcott is a natural welterweight though and I can't help but think that Theodorou's size and wrestling advantage will be too much for Westcott to overcome. Then again, he did what he did in the house while injured... what will he be able to do if he is healthy?
I don't expect this fight to involve much standing and trading. Both fighters are aggressive and close the distance in a hurry. Westcott has shown some solid jabs and uppercuts, but largely uses his punches to set up his takedown. I'm very curious how his work against the fence is considering that was Theodorou's favorite place to be when standing. He looks to be very strong and while I don't expect him to be bullied, I expect Theodorou to have the advantage. Theodorou throws a lot of knees up against the fence and leg kicks from a distance. For some reason, neither seem to like working from a distance.
As I've stated Theodorou has a very deep gas tank. Westcott has come with no thoughts of preserving his energy and that could be the X-factor. If Westcott gets dragged into the later rounds he could end up gassing. But another point worth noting: Theodorou has been fighting to score points whereas Westcott has been trying to end fights.
This is a very close match and I expect both could develop into roster mainstays (not contenders). I've gotta go with Theodorou here due to his size and strength advantage and his deep gas tank. If there is a finish I expect Westcott to provide it... but Theodorou's shown to be tough. So... Theodorou by Decision
Another all Team Canada affair as a battle of unbeatens square off for the welterweight TUF crown. How much you want to bet they both drop to lightweight after the fight?
Aubin-Mercier is a judo expert and is thought to be the best prospect coming out of the province of Quebec. You can tell that he models himself after Georges St. Pierre (and has been a training partner as well) as he carries himself with much of the same type of "aw shucks" attitude that GSP has. He beat Jake Matthews and Richard Walsh to find himself here in the finals.
Laprise is a very technically sound striker who showed just how much power he possess when he broke respected veteran Kajan Johnson's jaw in their semi-final fight. He's the more experienced of the two and even has some fights under the Bellator flag. He put a beatdown on Chris Indich in his other fight on the show.
The dynamic to this fight is clear: Laprise will want to strike and Aubin-Mercier will want to take it to the ground. Owning a black belt in judo and brown belt in BJJ, Aubin-Mercier has both the ability to get the fight down and to do something about it once he is there. His top control is quite stifling as he didn't let Matthews do much once he got him on the ground and the only times Matthews got up is because Aubin-Mercier let him up. He's also incredibly strong, so even though his wrestling is behind the rest of his grappling, he's been able to use brute strength in place of technique. Its clear though that his favorite position is taking his opponents back.
Laprise showed very little of his ground game in his stay in the house. In his match against former Olympic wrestler Ainsley Robinson in Bellator, he showed a very good sprawl and even took down Robinson at one point with a body-lock takedown. I have no doubt that Aubin-Mercier is gonna be unlike any other fighter that Laprise has seen up to this point, but there is so little footage on Laprise on the ground that I'd be lying with anything else I add.
At least his striking is well-established. He is a volume puncher who has very good hand speed, technique, and attacks from all angles. I'd say he's one of the more polished strikers to come out of the TUF house in quite a while. He also does a good job of mixing kicks into the mix and varying his punches as he'll through a left hook four or five times in a row at times and mix it up with combinations at another. I don't want to call his shot on Johnson a fluke because it was in just the fight spot, but I don't think his power is all that great. Who knows though, he could just as easily prove me wrong. He leaves himself open to getting hit a lot too.
Aubin-Mercier has shown a tremendous job of avoiding getting hit... but hasn't shown a whole lot outside of that. Its clear that striking is something that he is trying to implement into his arsenal to compliment his grappling, but it has a long ways to go. He'll try to close the distance on Laprise and utilize dirty boxing and knees against the cage if he is unable to get the fight to the ground. With his strength and Laprise's striking abilities from a distance, its by far his best striking strategy.
Its almost always best to go for the grappler in the classic striker vs. grappler match. I don't feel any different with this fight. It won't come as a surprise to see either one of them win, but a grappler has the advantage in dictating where the fight takes place. Get where I'm coming from? Aubin-Mercier by Decision
Am I the only that looks at this and thinks this is totally lopsided matchmaking? I'd understand if it was an injury replacement... but it isn't.
Poirier has only lost to some of the best that the division has to offer in Chan Sung Jung and Cub Swanson and has scored finishes in 4 of his last 5 victories. At the age of 25, he is far from reaching his peak. With many candidates having already been turned away by Jose Aldo, don't be surprised to see Poirier getting his shot at the featherweight king in about a year... if Aldo decides to stick around the weight class.
Corassani was a polarizing figure on the 14th season of TUF trying to play the tough guy, but proved to be a solid opponent while in the house making it to the semis of the tournament. Since making his official way into the UFC, he has yet to taste defeat in 3 tries, but hasn't really wowed anyone in victory either. His last victory was by DQ in a 25 second affair in which he was dominated. I'm not saying the DQ wasn't warranted (it was)... but Corassani did nothing to warrant a step up in competition from that showing.
Poirier is a very big featherweight that hasn't shown any sort of sign of gassing in his fights. While that alone doesn't make him dangerous, his high octane offense does. He throws efficient boxing combinations and mixes in everything else while keeping in his opponents face the whole time. He's never been KO'd before either despite having faced a number of opponents capable of putting him to sleep (Jung, Swanson, Diego Brandao, Erik Koch). About the only hole I can really pinpoint is that he leaves himself open to getting hit himself... but what do you expect when you let the leather fly as Poirier does?
Corassani may have the ability to take advantage of Poirier's open defense as he has shown good accuracy with his strikes at a good pace too. But (and this is a big but) he has an even bigger tendency of leaving himself open to get hit. Poirier's shots are pretty straightforward while Corassani has a tendency to loop. In other words, Poirier's strikes will likely land first. He hasn't shown a lot of power in his fists (he owns one KO/TKO) and with Poirier's chin, I wouldn't expect him to put out Poirier's lights. Corassani is tough himself though (his debut fight was against Dion Staring, who regularly fights at heavyweight!), and I expect him to be willing to trade.
While the Fight Metric numbers show Corassani is good at stuffing takedowns (86% success rate) keep in mind that most of those stuffs came at the hand of Andy Ogle, who may be scrappy, but is a poor wrestler. Corassani shows good top control when he gains the advantage and I like what I've seen from his GNP as well. He is only a purple belt in BJJ, but I'd say his submission abilities are above that level.
The problem for Corassani is that I don't see him being able to get Poirier down. Poirier isn't a wrestling phenom by any means, but he has a good base which he uses to keep himself upright. It would be safe to say he has the strength advantage over Corassani, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him attempt to go to the ground. His bag of submissions has proven to be deeper than first thought when he entered the UFC and I'd say his triangle armbar choke of Max Holloway was the most impressive I've seen, not to mention that he has shown good submission defense himself as Koch and Jung both had him in some precarious positions only for him to get out (though Jung did eventually seal the deal).
I really don't see any way Corassani wins this. Poirier is on the verge of breaking into the upper echelon of the division (and may already be there) while Corassani is... capable of beating Robbie Peralta. Easy pick here. Poirier by TKO 1st Round
Record for last Card: 6-1, 1 NC
Record for Year: 70-45-1, 1 NC