Hmm...what to do for an introduction this week? If only there had been some controversy surrounding one of the contestants. That would make my job so much easier. Alas, this cast has been drama free up to this point and I highly doubt...
Race remains one of the touchiest subjects in our society, as it should. The cultural makeup of North America is ever changing, usually at a quicker pace than people can adapt to. It’s not uncommon for there to be a clumsy adjustment period as we combat old prejudices while integrating new, unfamiliar customs. I mention this not only to try and understand Tyler Manawaroa’s mistake, but also the UFC’s severe response.
I’m not sure what Manawaroa was thinking. The picture he posted could certainly be construed as satirical in the right context. It’s the hateful words that accompanied it that were so disturbing. Being a person of colour, he might have his own interpretation of what those words mean and he genuinely might have meant no offence, but there’s one important rule I learned a long time ago: we don’t get to choose what is and isn’t offensive for other people. That rule can have some grey area. There isn’t much grey area when we’re talking about words with almost a century of vile misuse.
People make mistakes. Young people like Manawaroa make lots of stupid mistakes. What I find particularly troubling is that according to his manager, it was "a joke to share with his friends that have grown up with him and know how he’s been treated".
Okay. Why the HELL would you spread it over social media?
Confession: When I’m in the privacy of close friends and family, there are lots of inappropriate jokes tossed around. Really heinous, inexcusable stuff. And I’m not saying that’s a good thing. I’m fully aware that this kind of humour, even unheard, can colour one’s perception of and interactions with other races and cultures. I’m working on it. We all should be. But we have the good sense to keep these stupid comments to ourselves.
I want to forgive. I choose to believe that the incident stems from insensitivity and ignorance, not hatred. That is a small consolation when people are hurt by these actions, and those three motivations often overlap, but I’m going to err on the side of caution when it comes to judging someone who is so young and shows so much potential in a sport that I enjoy watching. So call me biased or naive or hopeful. Regardless, I’m rooting for the kid to learn from this, to better himself. Because the alternative would truly be a waste.
In the wake of Nordine Taleb’s loss, the mood has completely swung for both teams. Team Canada can’t believe that their number one guy won’t be advancing past the opening round. Team Australia is ecstatic. It falls on Matt Desroches to take back the hammer this week, but first we see the Canadians engage in some alternative methods of retribution.
A celebratory Aussie snowball fight is interrupted by Elias Theodorou. Nobody shows up to support him, so he ends up taking on the Aussies commando. I mean "commando" as in he’s taking on a solo mission, not that he isn’t wearing underwear. Though he might not be wearing underwear. It’s unclear. Regardless, he does well for himself despite being outnumbered. He credits his success to eight years of baseball. Is there anything this man can’t do?!?
As for Taleb, he is both older and more French than Manawaroa. That means there’s only one proper way to get back at him: drinking competition. Shots, shots...shots, shots, shots!
Tyler, taking his amputation in stride.
Desroches and opponent Richard Walsh can’t match the fiery dynamic of Taleb and Manawaroa, which is either disappointing or refreshing depending on how you look at it. I think it’s cool that Desroches is unlike previous contestants in that he is thrilled with the peaceful seclusion. He’s a young cat, only 21 years old, so it’s understandable that he doesn’t have the common longing of missing a wife or a child. He’s free to enjoy the wild, the meditation and the slippery roads (a concern expressed by Sheldon Westcott).
Walsh got the "Filthy Rich" nickname from a t-shirt one of his training partners was wearing.
Also, all of that stinking hair.
Like Desroches, he takes a laid back approach to the competition. His expectations are modest (not once does he indicate any desire to be a world champion or even a contender in the UFC). He’s strictly fighting for his love of the sport. He’s losing me until he mentions the entrance music for his first pro fight: Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins.
On Team Australia, Coach Martinez continues to be far more vocal than Kyle Noke. This could be a choice of the show’s producers as he has a distinct and loud voice while Noke is for the most part monotone. Some guys just aren’t interested in being on TV.
On Team Canada, Taleb’s injury has essentially turned him into another assistant coach. I joked about his stuffiness before, but seeing him hop around the gym on one leg is endearing. I haven’t seen gimpy coaching like this since Nate Quarry.
Literally a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest.
Bad mojo continues to plague the home team, as Westcott aggravates a knee injury while working with Theodorou. He’s a grappling specialist who requires maximum mobility to be able to get takedowns and work his ground game, so this is a serious roadblock. They plan to save him for the last fight, making a Desroches victory even more important. Kajan Johnson is worried that Walsh will look to win by lay-and-pray, even if it means enraging Dana White. This is the most pessimistic the Canadians have been since the start of the competition.
Wanting to do his part from the bleachers, Brendan O’Reilly finds the time to work on some arts and crafts. As the first one eliminated, it falls on him to do some dumb s**t. Dan Kelly is not amused.
"Jake. Chuck me a knife."
"I’m makin’ a fog horn to shout at Richie."
"This is great. It’s gonna bring me so much joy."
I was stunned by how badly Team Canada seems to have misevaluated Walsh. While he did focus on pressuring Desroches, he showed a lot more patience and intelligence than they were expecting. In fact, it was Desroches who ended up losing composure. His corner implored him to focus on boxing, but as he fell further behind on the scorecard he couldn’t stop looking for the one shot kill. All of the combinations and footwork we saw in his training segments are nowhere to be found.
It’s no coincidence that Walsh really started to take control when he started following instructions. This was apparent in the second round when he finally switched to a double leg takedown grip after his corner had been yelling at him to do so whenever they were pressed against the cage. He ended up getting the takedown and sealing the round.
Post-fight, Desroches admitted that he got nervous and frustrated. Most of his power punches hit nothing but air and Walsh did solid job of countering. One jab even scored a knockdown, which disrupted whatever was left of Desroches’s game plan.
Another win for Team Australia, another week of Kahili...
Next week: Team Canada’s Sheldon Westcott v. Team Australia’s Dan Kelly. On Kelly’s insistence on battling through a litany of injuries, Noke had this to say: Dan’s just chomping at the bit to get in there, you know. If we don’t pick Dan, we’re scared he’s going to attack us and start ripping our heads off.
How do you feel about this match-up, Mr. Kelly?