Believe it or not, but history will be made in Ottawa. It won't be a title changing hands, and I'm not referring to the UFC's first appearance in Ottawa either. For the first time a women's flyweight bout will be taking place inside the confines of the UFC's Octagon. While the inception of a new weight class hasn't been announced, it is groundbreaking nonetheless and gives a good indication of where the UFC is likely to go next if it decides to add a new weight class in the near future.
Aside from that, there aren't any fights with high stakes as far as making divisional waves go within the first part of the main card. It's even possible to argue the fights on the preliminary cards were more impactful upon divisional standings -- unless the UFC does decide to implement the aforementioned weight class of course.
Then again, we all know of Uncle Dana's favoritism toward brawls and two of the three have a strong likelihood of breaking down that way. As for the other match up, it features one of Canada's favorite fighting sons and it would be borderline sacrilege to not give him a prominent place upon the card. Come to think of it, all the fights feature favorite Canadian sons or daughters.
The main card kicks off at 10:30 ET/7:30 PT
Steve Bosse (11-2) vs. Sean O'Connell (17-7), Light Heavyweight
It seems highly unlikely either Bosse or O'Connell will be anything more than mid-tier action fighters at 205. Just because there isn't a lot of importance to their bout doesn't mean that it won't be fun!
Bosse has been on opposite extremes in his brief UFC career. His debut lasted all of 29 seconds before being KO'd by a brutal head kick from Thiago Santos only to rebound by delivering a highlight KO 52 seconds into his sophomore effort with a right cross on recently retired James Te Huna. With a grand total of 81 seconds of UFC cage time, the former hockey enforcer will be making his third appearance in the Octagon.
O'Connell is a much more proven commodity which also means that his limits are better known. A former collegiate football player, O'Connell has been one of the more entertaining light heavyweights on the roster since joining the UFC just over two years ago as a short notice injury replacement ironically enough for Bosse. He too is coming off of a pair of fights ended within the first minute by KO, the most recent one being a loss.
What makes this a fight worth anticipating is that both at heart are brawlers who prefer to stand in the pocket and trade punches until one or the other goes out cold, thus explaining why each of their last two fights haven't lasted very long. Neither's chin is unbreakable either which is what makes this fight so hard to predict, though I would say that Bosse has better movement on account of being a slightly better athlete as well as more power with nine of his eleven wins coming by KO/TKO stoppage.
If the fight lasts more than a few minutes it's likely that the fight will travel to more areas than just the pocket. In that case I'd favor O'Connell as he often uses his forward pressure to push his opponent against the fence where he is very active at mixing together short strikes. Bosse isn't exactly a big 205er and doesn't have much of a wrestling or grappling background. If he does end up on the ground, all he looks to do is sweep and/or create a scramble in order to get back to his feet. This scenario seems pretty unlikely though as O'Connell has yet to land a single takedown in the UFC while Bosse hasn't even attempted one.
Though I hate picking fights like this that can go either way, I'll admit that I have this one as a sleeper for FOTN. I'm picking O'Connell as I see more avenues to victory for him. While I see Bosse being more likely to pull out a KO if the fight ends that way, O'Connell's gas tanks is far more proven, he has shown some grappling and submission acumen, and can still pull out a KO himself. O'Connell via TKO of the second round
Olivier Aubin-Mercier (7-2) vs. Thibault Gouti (11-1), Lightweight
Let's not sugar coat this: the UFC wants to get Canadian prospect Aubin-Mercier back on track and is feeding him the Frenchman Gouti who UFC debut was a loss that lasted all of 24 seconds.
Gouti isn't as bad as I'm making him out to be with that last statemen despite this being a massive underdog. His UFC debut was his first official loss and he owns a recent win over UFC veteran Anton Kuivanen which gives him some degree of legitimacy. Other than that though he has largely beat up on cans in the European circuit.
Aubin-Mercier is one of the better blue chip prospects in Canada. He still has a lot of untapped potential despite having five fights within the Octagon as he had only four professional fights before entering the UFC via the TUF Nations tournament. He's received unfair comparisons to GSP and while that is exceptionally unlikely he'll ever find success on the level of his idol, he should still be able to carve out a memorable UFC career.
Despite being about as green of a striker as fighters in the UFC get, Aubin-Mercier still owns a winning record in the UFC at 3-2 which should be a good indication of how physically gifted he is in addition to a testament to his grappling abilities. A black belt in judo, Aubin-Mercier knows how to use his low center of gravity very nicely and gets his opponents to the ground with relative ease. It isn't just his judo skills either as he is a relentless and powerful wrestler with a habit of finding his way to his opponent's back with five of his seven victories come by way of RNC.
Gouti will do everything in his power to avoid going to the ground with the Canadian as he is on the opposite end of the spectrum as a much better striker with a raw grappling game. He isn't a large lightweight which should make it pretty easy for the muscular Aubin-Mercier to wrest him to the ground with minimal effort as Gouti's success at stopping takedowns has come against much less skilled wrestlers. Gouti's striking is technically sound with above average hand speed highlighted by a relatively basic one-two combination. He doesn't have a lot of power in his fists and has significant holes in his defense. While Aubin-Mercier has been steadily improving his striking and has a lot of natural power, it would still be a surprise to see him make Gouti pay for a defensive lapse on the feet. If anything, the opposite is more likely to occur as Gouti has shown great counter skills.
I hate even mentioning the "puncher's chance" argument as it is overstated, but that really feels like the best case to make for Gouti. His lack of punching power makes it seem unlikely, though the same was also said about Michael Bisping and we all saw how that turned out. Aubin-Mercier should be able to take Gouti down whenever he wants and either find a submission or tie Gouti into various knots for the course of the 15 minute limit. Aubin-Mercier via submission of the second round
Valerie Letourneau (8-4) vs. Joanne Calderwood (10-1), Women's Flyweight
History will be made as the first official women's flyweight bout in UFC history will take place between Letourneau and Calderwood. Is this a sign of things to come in the near future? The potential future of a division could be riding on this fight.
Despite owning one of the weakest resumes of anyone to earn a title shot in recent memory, Letourneau earned the respect of even her harshest critics when she went toe-to-toe with the champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk without going down while dealing out more punishment to the former Muay Thai champion than anyone else had done by a wide margin as she just wouldn't go away.
Calderwood's 2-1 UFC record is respectable enough, but her stint in the organization has a stench of disappointment to it nonetheless as she has been expected to dominate each opponent she has faced thus far in the UFC. She has struggled to come out of the gate strong as witnessed by her loss coming just 90 seconds into the fight and looks nothing like the world-beater many projected her to be. The cut down to 115 hasn't been easy for her and the change in weight may be just what she needs to revitalize her career... if the UFC decides to do more with this experiment.
It isn't like the lesser weight cut won't benefit Letourneau either. In fact, it will probably benefit her more than Calderwood as Letourneau's cut to 115 may have been the biggest out of anyone on the roster. She even recently admitted that she could feel her body shutting down the cut was so great. Her added bulk would have been a bigger advantage had she placed a greater emphasis on wrestling and grappling. Alas, she a striker by trade and an exciting one to boot. She had no qualms standing in the pocket and trading with Jedrzejczyk, trusting that her chin would hold up. It did, but she took a lot of damage from there as she doesn't have the movement and quickness to avoid most of the punishment that comes her way.
That could be a problem for her against Calderwood. A much more dynamic striker than the meat and potatoes style Letourneau brings to the table, throwing a wide variety of kicks to all areas of the body from the outside. No surprise given her kickboxing background. She'll need to be careful with those kicks as most of Letourneau's takedowns come off of catching kicks. She doesn't have a lot of confidence in her fists as there have been time where she continues to throw kicks even when her opponent is teeing off on her with punches in the pocket. A jab is her best punch which she largely uses to help gauge and establish distance. The clinch is where Calderwood is most dangerous as she wears down her opposition with killer knees and landing whatever short strike her position will allow her to land.
There is a lot similarities in their takedowns and grappling attacks. Trips in the clinch are their preferred takedown method while ground strikes characterize their offensive attack on the ground. Despite both showing holes in their grappling defense, don't expect a submission finish as they own a total of one between their 18 combined victories -- an armlock for Letourneau. Valerie would probably own the overall advantage being the bigger and stronger fighter.
This is a fabulously matched contest between two strikers. They aren't mirror images by any means (despite their grappling similarities) while their differences aren't vast enough to separate them from one another by a great margin. I favor Letourneau here as I expect the lesser weight cut will benefit her more than Calderwood. Letourneau via decision
Odds (by Odds Shark)
Steve Bosse (-160) / Sean O'Connell (+120)
Olivier Aubin-Mercier (-315) / Thibault Gouti (+235)
Valerie Letourneau (-170) / Joanne Calderwood (+130)