Well, TUF Nations is now a thing that has happened. Gone and past, the UFC now has a gaggle of new Canadian fighters to wrangle into the lightweight, welterweight, and middleweight divisions. Plus, one of the Aussies made it. AUSSIE, AUSSIE, AUS... No, we're not doing that? Fine. As for fight picks, I did okay. Not great, but okay. Most of the winners won for forseeable reasons, and the losses were almost all without issue. No flukes, no ridiculousness, just straight forward fights.
Disclaimer Time (now with 30% more flavor): As ever, I will be light on actual gambling tips and big on I-told-you-sos. I don't spend my money gambling so I can't give you a lot of info about parlays, line movement, or the best way to keep from getting three of your fingers broken by a loan shark. This is here so that the next time you want to pick a fight, you have a little reminder of what that fighter looked like last time out. I'll be using BestFightOdds for the odds and taking the mode for each fighter.
- Gorman is just too basic a fighter at this point. He's a solid athlete and looks bullishly strong, but his striking is wild and his takedowns are simple. Once he couldn't bully Gagnon he didn't have much to work with. Hopefully this can spur him to develop.
- Gagnon should be viewed as a legit upper tier bantamweight at this point. Maybe not top 15 quite yet, but somewhere near the top 20. He's not just beating the lesser fighters in his division, he's dominating them.
- Gagnon's visa issues are beginning to be a talking point. He says they should be sorted, but his reluctance to talk about why they exist in the first place (he hinted that it's related to criminal activity) could pose a problem in the future. As we've seen recently, this kind of news usually comes to light one way or another and depending on it's nature it could do a lot of damage to his career.
Hindsight: Chris Indich (+190) vs. Richard Walsh (-240) (I picked Walsh, I was right)
- This was not a truly competitive fight. Credit to Indich's toughness, but he got battered badly for three rounds. It really serves to show what a poor team Australia fielded for this season of TUF.
- Walsh looked good against a fighter he was supposed to look good against. He showed power and, more importantly, patience in picking his shots and battering Indich without ever gassing himself out or slowing down. It was exactly the fight he should have had against a tough fighter with fewer athletic gifts.
- I was a little concerned at how often Walsh let himself get caught in near submissions. Indich didn't have the strength or technique to finish them, but there were several instances where he was able to throw up a guillotine or armbar or triangle choke and almost make something happen. Against better fighters that's a real concern for Walsh.
Hindsight: Vic Grujic (+200) vs. Nordine Taleb (-240) (I picked Taleb, I was right)
- I was a little troubled by Taleb's performance. It was solid enough on it's own, but I'd hoped to see him looking much more dominant in all areas, not just on the ground.
- Taleb is one of those fighters who strikes with more confidence than they earn. He seems very relaxed and unphased while standing, but tends to sit right in front of fighters with his head up and on line. He also waits a bit after he throws a punch, just asking to be countered. He does move in and out of range well, which helps a lot, but it doesn't inspire a tone of confidence.
- Australia seems to have become the new UK when it comes to wrestling chops. Some obvious deficiencies going on there.
Hindsight: Mark Bocek (-700) vs. Mike de la Torre (+500) (I picked Bocek, I was right)
- Mike de la Torre looked great in this fight and Bocek looked... not so great. I'd mostly chalk that up to the layoff as Bocek is neither terribly old nor terribly worn in terms of cage time. He looked slow and unsure of himself up until the 3rd round, but deserved the win.
- De la Torre lost for more or less the reasons he was expected to lose and that was a lack of ability to keep Bocek off him for 15 minutes. Granted he was great early when he had a lot of energy, but he flagged badly late and his TDD went out the window. All said, I'd probably give him the edge in a fight with a full camp at this point, just because he's much faster and more diverse. But, short notice kept him from making a big splash in his debut.
- More than anything, this fight should probably be forcing us to ask some questions of Bocek and his development as a fighter. He's never been competitive with the top end of his division, but this suggests that he might not be keeping up so well with the rank and file either. I'll be watching his next fight with interest to see if he looks as flat as he did in this one.
- I should have listened to the lines, I should have listened to my head. Breaking this down, I knew that Kimura was exactly the kind of fighter Roop tends to beat up, but my heart told me not to trust Roop's mercurial nature. Well, consider me fooled. Roop just does not lose to grapplers. He knows how to use his long lanky frame against smaller fighters to stuff bad takedowns and stay in his wheelhouse.
- I was a little surprised at how badly Roop seemed to want to take the fight down as it wore on. He's fairly effective with GNP given his long arms and liberal use of elbows, but he seemed to be doing a lot more to finish when the fight was on the feet. Kimura was dead tired too... Maybe Roop just felt it was the safer path to victory, not generally his MO, but I'm all for fighting smart.
- This sort of wrote the book on Kimura for me, especially coupled with his Gagnon loss. He's a fun grappler, but not an exceptionally technical one and he can very easily be bullied by more physically dominant fighters. His striking hasn't developed yet, but he's young so he has time to add that tool. For the foreseeable future though, if he's not the stronger man in the ring, I'm picking him to lose.
Hindsight: Ryan Jimmo (-700) vs. Sean O'Connell (+450) (I picked Jimmo, I was right)
- For an easy win, Jimmo sure made this fight hard on himself. His static posture and general willingness to wait on his opponents let O'Connell flurry on him several times. He took a lot of shots from a sloppy brawler to get an ultimately simple win... That's not a good thing.
- Yep, O'Connell is still bad. Rushing in throwing both hands with your chin high and your head on line is pretty much a recipe to getting knocked out and it just took a little while for Jimmo to realize what ingredients he was working with (to push a metaphor to its breaking point).
- Man, that post fight speech was something else. I can see why Jimmo isn't maybe the most popular fighter in the Great White North.
- I'm glad that Smith took the opportunity to get into the UFC, she's a fun fighter in a division that needs every set of hands it can get. But, this fight did nothing to raise her stock. A beating on short notice is still a beating and Smith looked far less competitive than the last time she faced off against Kaufman.
- I need to back off my talk that Kaufman might be slumping. Perhaps the instability of moving from Strikeforce to the UFC via Invicta threw off her mojo for a bit, but she looked like she was right back in the swing of things for this fight. Dominant on the feet, dominant in the clinch, dominant in top position, classic Sarah Kaufman performance.
- Finally, because I know people are going to get mad at me for not bringing it up, training camps are real, y'all. Smith and de la Torre both appeared to suffer from coming in on very short notice. If the change comes less than a month before a fight, it's a pretty good chance that that fighter wont be at 100%.
- I'm not going to go all "glue factory" here and say that the writing is on the wall for Sam Stout. But, his first KO loss, and a clean one at that, shouldn't be overlooked. If I were him, I'd consider taking a little time off to heal up and branch out a little. He's had over 50 pro fights between MMA and kickboxing and if he stepped away for two whole years right now he'd still only be 31. Maybe that'd be a good idea.
- Noons looks like he built nicely off his win over George Sotiropoulos last year. In Strikeforce he seemed to be the action fighter that just couldn't quite put it all together, his fight against Donald Cerrone reinforced that somewhat. But, this may be a chance for him to rejuvenate his career a bit and make another run to the top of the lightweight division. He has a lot to prove in terms of consistency and effectiveness, but I look forward to seeing if he can do it.
- For Stout, the further he gets into his career, the more it seems that his striking has devolved. I'm not sure if that's because the competition has gotten better around him, or if he's just slowed down due to wear and time. Either way, I'm putting less and less faith in his hands and feet every time he steps in the cage.
- The lines on this fight were rediculous. Poirier is good, but he's not champion and there's a reason for that (and the answer isn't time). The eventual result backed the betting, but the fight itself told a much different story.
- Poireir continues to have the flaws he's always had, but at this point they're pretty intrinsic to his style. He's able to hurt opponents by walking through their strikes and delivering hard shots when they're vulnerable (while throwing). I'm not sure that he could really change and be as effective as he is. It may cost him against the best, but he almost made it work against Cub Swanson, so I can't see him abandoning it.
- Corassani is fragile. Which is too bad, because he's also pretty talented. He's a solid boxer with a good sprawl and brawl game and he gave Poirier everything he could handle for a solid round. And then he got hit hard and folded like a lawn chair. Considering how often he's been injured, and the ways he's lost in the past, this is more than just coincidence. Against powerful, polished fighters he's always going to be in danger of breaking down.
Hindsight: Olivier Aubin-Mericer (-160) vs. Chad Laprise (+145) (I picked Aubin-Mercier, I was wrong)
- After the fight I know that Nate gave me some lip for this pick, saying that "Aubin-Mercier isn't strong enough for welterweight." Considering he was fighting another natural lightweight, I'm going to say that strength wasn't the problem. This fight was all about experience and polish, Aubin-Mercier doesn't have the experience to using his grappling effectively. He tried to just toss Laprise around without using any patience or technique, and as such was never able to control the grappling aspect of the fight.
- Laprise did a great job of sticking to his style of movement on the outside. Against a striker as basic as Aubin Mercier, he didn't need to do much beyond staying on his horse and throwing with volume. The fact that he still almost lost a split decision (which would have been really stupid) says that he continues to not be as effective as he should with striking, but he did enough here.
- I still feel that Aubin-Mercier is the fighter with more long term potential, as his biggest missing piece is cage time, but he needs to work a lot on striking fundamentals and showing patience in the clinch and on the ground.
- I hope Theodorou isn't dropping to welterweight now that the show is over. He definitely looked a division bigger than Westcott (even at the same height) and I think 185 is the best place for him.
- Westcott's striking is bad bad bad bad. Maybe not that bad, but it's not good. And unfortunately for him, his grappling is not nearly as fundamentally strong as it looked against over-matched competition on the Ultimate Fighter. He has a lot of work to do if he's going to stick around in the UFC, otherwise I could see a quick trip back to the regionals in his future.
- Theodorou's striking is interesting. I know he spent some time at Phuket Top Team for this fight and he definitely looked really comfortable at range. But, he throws a lot of unorthodox stuff that may not serve him well at all against better fighters. I'll be interested to see who he gets next and how his skills match up with more established UFC competition.
- If I'm being honest, I'm not totally sure Cote should have won that fight. He got hit hard and often in the first half of the second, and Noke's kicking game in the first half of the third accounted for a lot more offense than Cote's lay-n-pray over the last 2.5 minutes. If I were a judge I would have given that fight to Noke. But, it was close and meaningless, so I'm not terribly broken up about it.
- What's happened to Patrick Cote over the years? What used to be a fairly effective power puncher has now become a guy who seems really desperate to get the fight to the ground as quickly as possible. Maybe that's always been the way and I just have a warped image of Cote in my mind, but he looked pretty outmatched for most of the time this fight was on it's feet.
- Noke looked rusty, there's no two ways about that. He'd been on the sidelines for quite a while and it didn't look like the time off had done him any good. I'm still interested in seeing him fight, and I wonder if he isn't capable of more than this, but this was not a great showing. It also put a nice capper on a general lack of Aussie wrestling.
- Talking about ring rust... Like this card showed with fight camps, ring rust is a real thing. Bisping looked rusty. At some point, time away from the sport starts to become harder and harder to recoup. When fighters are young a year here or there doesn't cost them much, but after 30 fights in the cage and years of kickboxing before it, Bisping may not have been able to afford to take his foot off the gas. That's probably reading too much into it, but this was a very poor performance.
- It's time to stop sleeping on Tim Kennedy. He's KO'd Rafael Natal, out-grappled Roger Gracie, and now firmly out-worked Michael Bisping. He's a legit top ten middleweight and considering he didn't start fighting in earnest until 2006, this may be the peak of his career.
- I know Kennedy called out Munoz, but that fight makes almost no sense at all. Frankly Kennedy needs to take on one of his former Strikeforce losses, either Rockhold or Jacare, to see if he can get over a top fighter currently in their competitive prime. A win over Munoz right now just wouldn't prove that... Actually, I'd love to see Kennedy vs. Belfort. That would be awesome.
That's all there was to say about a fairly long, but not incredibly deep TUF Nations card. A lot to learn, much of which seems pretty obvious, but that's the benefit of hindsight. I'll be back for a quick turnaround to once again point out what everyone already knows on Monday. There, you're sure to find me building up Travis Browne for his upcoming title shot, and talking about why Liz Carmouche still can't compete with top women bantamweights.