Welcome to the dog days of every Ultimate Fighter season, when the fights are three rounds and a match that goes the distance all but kills any chance of anything else interesting happening in the episode. We’re long past the days where having a fresh fight every week was enough of an incentive to tune in, so while it makes sense for the semi-final matches to be regulation length it also makes for some dreadfully dull television. Then again, maybe an episode like this is what we needed after the brutal end to last week’s program.
Once again showing what a class act he is, Vik Grujic continues to be vocal about how Kajan Johnson’s team didn’t do their job when it came time to support their fighter. The other Australians agree that Johnson should have had more support, with Brendan O’Reilly going as far as to say that he would have cornered Johnson if he had been asked. Johnson and O’Reilly are not friends by any measure, so that tells you a lot about how dire the situation must have been. They also discuss the possibility that Fábio Holanda was negligent as Johnson’s lone corner man because he didn’t like the Canadian’s know-it-all attitude in training. If that’s the case, then it makes Holanda look incredibly unprofessional.
I viewed Chad Laprise harshly after his win, not only because of the coaching discrepancy but because of how he was a little too excited after knocking his friend’s lights out. That was an unfair judgment since Laprise was going through a torrent of emotions at the time in addition to the adrenaline rush that he was just coming down from. With the moment having passed, we get to see a more subdued Laprise and how Johnson’s injury has affected him. He mentions that the two of them probably sparred around hundred rounds at Tristar. Having to fight with so much on the line has got to be a mind f**k to say the least.
Regardless of whether they got along with Johnson or not, everybody in the house is waiting for him to come back from the hospital with good news. It turns out his jaw was broken in two places. The swelling has scarcely gone down from when we last saw him. Imagine being Laprise and having to look at that every day. Imagine being Johnson and having to sit at the table and break bread with someone who not only smashed your face but crushed your dreams.
No hard feelings.
The narrative for the Elias Theodorou-Tyler Manawaroa match revolves around their polar opposite mindsets when it comes to game planning. For Theodorou, strategy is everything; for Manawaroa, it is non-existent. The young Aussie is a classic wild child, right down to the piercings (that Israel Martinez can’t stand) and the array of tattoos. We get a quick rundown of them, including a large owl on his chest. Seeing Manawaroa decorate himself with an animal so strongly associated with wisdom is funny to me.
Manawaroa: I got an owl. I just got it ‘cause it looks cool.
If that’s not enough, they also show Manawaroa chowing down prior to the day of the weigh-in and going so hard in practice that he accidentally kicks Adrian Pang in the dick.
Tyler auditioning for the 2014 All Balls Brawl.
In contrast to the laissez faire attitude of Manawaroa, Theodorou has been focused on being a professional fighter since he graduated from high school. He’s particularly pumped that the fights are now three rounds since that favours his style which is based on constant pressure.
Former UFC Middleweight champion Murilo Bustamante makes an appearance and Patrick Côté bigs him up by saying that Bustamante never actually lost the belt. According to Matt Janacek, that didn’t happen until Bustamante dropped a split decision to Dan Henderson in the 2005 PRIDE Welterweight Grand Prix Final. Bustamante is well prepared and understands exactly what Theodorou’s strengths are.
At the weigh-in, Theodorou can’t help himself. He breaks out the Spartan headgear and yells out "This is Sparta!" I love 300, I love Theodorou, but this was as corny as it sounds. Grujic (also called "Spartan" due to his resemblance to King Leonidas) says that the scene was more like something from Meet The Spartans.
Any wardrobe decision that covers up that hair is the wrong one.
In terms of actual damage, there wasn’t much to talk about here though I found it to be a somewhat entertaining grappling affair. Theodorou wasn’t kidding when he said he gets a game plan and sticks to it. If the two men were on the feet for any extended period of time, Theodorou was doing everything in his power to draw Manawaroa in so he could get a body lock. He threw kicks fearlessly, knowing that Manawaroa would have to close the distance and when he did he fell right into the trap.
Manawaroa showed great balance in resisting slams, though the few times he got careless lead to Theodorou powering up and tossing him to the mat. I was also impressed by Manawaroa’s ability to avoid damage on the ground and get back to the feet, but he was never able to find a rhythm. Kyle Noke made the post-fight observation that Manawaroa seemed to be waiting on Theodorou instead of pushing the action. It was the opposite of how Manawaroa handled Nordine Taleb. A more aggressive approach would likely have made him an easier target for takedowns, but he was fighting an Elias Theodorou fight the whole time, not a Tyler Manawaroa fight.
Theodorou wins by unanimous decision. After seeing how he’s performed on the show, I doubt he will be one of Dana White’s favourites. He’s got the looks and the personality, which would normally make him a shoo-in for stardom; conversely, he has fought intelligently and safely and that is usually construed as boring. The UFC can’t sell intelligent and safe.
Sheldon Westcott is already thinking about how he would do better against Theodorou. I’m always rooting for my fellow Canadians, but I wouldn’t be heartbroken if Grujic was able to get past him and set up the much anticipated Spartan vs. Spartan match.
Meanwhile, Manawaroa is as disappointed as you’d expect. He walks out barefoot and bare-chested into the cold Québec air to process his feelings. It’s his first loss in MMA. There was no stoppage controversy, he didn’t get caught by a flash KO or submission, he was simply outworked for fifteen minutes. Despite the controversy that erupted from his Instagram album that resulted in White saying he wouldn’t be fighting for the UFC after the show, I hope that he’s able to grow up and find his way back to the Octagon. There’s a long road ahead for this young man.
The winning fighter has only one concern:
Theodorou: How’s the hair doing?
Côté: Solid. Solid.
Next week: Olivier Aubin-Mercier v. Richard Walsh. Also, we all agree to never mention Meet The Spartans again.