UFC Fight Night 39 Results: Burning Questions Heading into TUF: Nations Finale

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2014

UFC Fight Night 39 Results: Burning Questions Heading into TUF: Nations Finale

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    UFC Fight Night 39 is in the books. The results are as follows:

    Main Card

    • Roy Nelson def. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira by KO, 3:37, Rd. 1
    • Clay Guida def. Tatsuya Kawajiri by unanimous decision
    • Ryan LaFlare def. John Howard by unanimous decision
    • Ramsey Nijem def. Beneil Dariush by TKO, 4:20, Rd. 1

    Preliminary Card

    • Jared Rosholt def. Daniel Omielanczuk by unanimous decision
    • Thales Leites def. Trevor Smith by TKO, 0:45, Rd. 1
    • Jim Alers def. Alan Omer by split decision
    • Rani Yahya vs. Johnny Bedford no-contest (illegal headbutts from Bedford)

    Next up? The Ultimate Fighter: Nations Finale.

    Sure, it has the coaches' fight between Kyle Noke and Patrick Cote. And sure, it has the two TUF: Nations finals. Nothing, though, says "Canada vs. Australia" more than an American and a Brit facing off in the main event. 

    Joking aside, this is a deceptively solid card that features Top 10 talent and all the intrigue of a season of TUF. Dustin Poirier, Sarah Kaufman, Tim Kennedy and Michael Bisping all appear here...so what should you focus on?

    Find out right here!

Will Leslie Smith Become a Player in the Women's Division?

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    Sarah Kaufman has had both Shayna Baszler and Amanda Nunes withdraw from fights against her. Now, she is slated to face off with former Invicta flyweight contender Leslie Smith.

    You might be asking, "Who is Leslie Smith?" Well, she's the four-time winner of an Invicta FC Fight of the Night award. Considering the organization has only had seven events, that's darn impressive.

    She owns a 6-4-1 professional MMA record (3-0 amateur) with her biggest win coming over Jennifer Maia at Invicta FC 6. Kaufman and Smith faced off once before at Invicta FC 5, with Kaufman getting the better end of a split decision. The fight was very close and solid and showed that, despite her humble record, Smith has something going on.

    We already know how good Kaufman is with her veteran savvy and strong clinch game. We also already know where she stands in the division, with the awkward combination of being a successful-but-unknown veteran who happened to have suffered a brutal loss to the super-popular champion.

    That makes Smith the woman to talk about here. So how will she fare in the UFC? Will her second fight with Kaufman be any different from the first? Just how good is she, really?

Which Lightweight Veteran Will Secure His Job?

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    KJ Noons. Sam Stout. The two lightweight veterans who were on hard times recently got back into the win column and, I assume, want to stay there.

    Neither of them is an elite lightweight by any metric. That said, they are both striking-focused and, theoretically, will combine for a stand-and-bang affair that will be a Fight of the Night candidate and blah blah blah. I miss Jake Shields.

    While they're both "fun" fighters, the UFC is once again in a "releasing fighters" kind of mood again, and even though this isn't a "loser goes to Bellator" fight, a loss would bring either fighter to the brink. That's a spot both fighters have been in before and don't want to go back to.

    So who will be able to go home with his MMA career on an upswing? And who is going to be stocking up on ramen?

Will Dustin Poirier Not Annihilate Akira Corassani?

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    Dustin Poirier is a deceptively well-established featherweight. He is one of the few Top 10 mainstays in the division and has looked like a beast since his submission loss to Chan-Sung Jung.

    He took a handy win from Erik Koch at UFC 164 and followed it up with a first-round demolition of Diego Brandao. Now, he has something of a gimme fight against an unranked Akira Corassani. 

    Don't get me wrong: Corassani isn't bad, but Poirier is on the fringe of the featherweight elite. Bouts with Ricardo Lamas, Chad Mendes or Frankie Edgar all make perfect sense for Poirier, which means Corassani seems like he's completely overmatched.

    So will this fight end in any way other than complete domination by Poirier? We'll have to see.

Will Canadian Fans Gravitate Toward the New TUF Winners?

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    I'm a sucker for international competition. I love seeing guys wearing the red, white and blue beat somebody for America. It's why I love T.J. Oshie, it's why I love Travis Stevens, and it's the only reason I remember TUF: USA vs. UK runner-up DaMarques Johnson.

    TUF: Nations, though, hasn't afforded Canadian MMA fans the opportunity to cheer on their one final hope because the Canadians took all four spots in the finals.

    Chad Laprise and Olivier Aubin-Mercier face off to determine the welterweight winner. Elias Theodorou and Sheldon Westcott meet for top middleweight honors.

    Four Canadians. Zero Australians.

    That, frankly, is a worst-case scenario for the UFC as it struggles to build up new stars in both countries. There will be no need for Canadians to enter the arena waving flags with their painted faces because they have already won. Australians don't have to even bother watching because they know they've already lost.

    So will anybody from either country actually get excited? More pointedly, will the UFC actually get any stars for cards in Canada out of this finale?

Which TUF Also-Rans Will Stick?

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    As you gathered from the last slide, Australia kind of punted it when it came to this season of The Ultimate Fighter. The UFC, though, is hurting for star power Down Under and isn't going to let a little thing like losing stop it from getting at least one Australian out of all this.

    The preliminary card features Chris Indich vs. Richard Walsh (both from Team Australia) and Nordine Taleb vs. Vik Grujic (from Team Canada and Team Australia, respectively). The UFC really, really wants one of those fights to wind up being a barnburner and give it somebody to push to Australian fans.

    Will the UFC get its wish? Or will this season wind up being a waste for the UFC?

Did Patrick Cote or Kyle Noke Actually Have His Star Raised?

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    TUF isn't all about the fighters, of course. It's about the coaches, too.

    So did Kyle Noke and Patrick Cote gain any ground with fans? Frankly, I have no idea, but the early outlook seems bleak.

    The two coaches didn't have much of a feud throughout the season, which doesn't help. Neither does the fact that the bout wasn't strong enough to warrant being the main event to the finale. Keep in mind, Roy Nelson vs. Shane Carwin and Ross Pearson vs. Georges Sotiropoulos were both deemed main event-worthy fights. The fact that this one isn't says something.

    So, was the Patrick Cote vs. Kyle Noke coaching battle a misfire? Only time will tell for sure, but man...nothing seems to have gone right for the UFC for this season.

Will Michael Bisping Start Climbing Back to Title Contention?

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    Back in January, I wrote a piece discussing who the UFC is secretly rooting for when it comes to its championships. Among middleweights, with the exception of Vitor Belfort, there is nobody that the UFC wants to be champion more than Michael Bisping. 

    You can't blame the promotion, of course. The dude is one of the most famous and infamous fighters to ever come out of The Ultimate Fighter, and he could single-handedly carry the British market. His ability to get into a war of words with any opponent, from a middling veteran like Jorge Rivera to a legitimate title contender like Chael Sonnen, means that every fight is one fans can get excited for.

    The UFC wants Bisping to succeed, and any kind of winning streak will be met with a title shot at this point. He beat Alan Belcher almost 12 months ago. If he can beat Kennedy in convincing fashion, he is almost certainly only a fight away from challenging somebody for the belt.

    So can he pull it off?

Is Tim Kennedy for Real?

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    If you're not a filthy communist, Tim Kennedy punching out Rafael Natal in front of a raucous crowd of the United States military was one of your top moments of 2013. The fact that he entered the fight with a serious leg injury just made the story even sweeter. 

    That said, while he is undeniably one of the better fighters in the middleweight division and clearly a Top 10 guy, it's still unknown whether or not he has the makings of a real title contender.

    Kennedy has plenty of skills but hasn't yet beaten a current Top 10 middleweight of today, coming up short against both Luke Rockhold and Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza for the Strikeforce belt. While wins over Melvin Manhoef and Robbie Lawler aren't things to scoff at, they also aren't indicative of a championship-caliber fighter. 

    A win over Michael Bisping is worth a lot, though, and since Kennedy is already riding a three-fight winning streak, it's hard to imagine that he wouldn't be on the short list of potential middleweight contenders with a solid win.

    The opportunity is there for Kennedy to jump into the thick of title contention. Will he be able to grab hold of it?