TUF Nations Finale Results: The Real Winners and Losers from Bisping vs. Kennedy
UFC fans got some extra hump-day love Wednesday with the finale of The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia, which mostly aired for free on Fox Sports 1.
In the venerable French-Canadian bastion of Quebec City, the four finalists from the reality show's latest season battled for the vaunted six-figure UFC contracts that awaited the winners in the show's middleweight and welterweight brackets.
But just to make sure it had your attention, the UFC brain trust topped the card with fast-talking middleweights Tim Kennedy and Michael Bisping, who did their best to generate some heat around the main event.
Did the main event deliver? Who took home the glass plaques? And what about the bout between the TUF coaches, Canadian Patrick Cote and Australian Kyle Noke?
All answers are contained herein, as well as information that simply cannot be conveyed in a conventional box score. These are the real winners and losers from the TUF Nations finale.
Winner: Tim Kennedy
It wasn't the most exciting thing. Even Tim Kennedy wasn't happy.
"I'm furious...I finish fights, but I didn't finish the fight tonight," he told broadcaster Jon Anik in the cage after the fight. "He took my best shots."
Nevertheless, Kennedy got the win over a higher-ranked fighter in Michael Bisping and is 3-0 in the UFC Octagon.
The U.S. Army sniper got it done with a smart strategy, countering over the top every time Bisping fired his signature jab. The tactic made the Brit more tentative than normal and added a lot of "move" to Bisping's stick-and-move formula.
Takedowns and ground strikes won the first round for Kennedy. He lost a bit of his wind down the stretch, but a takedown early in the fifth was essentially the bout's final offense.
No, it wasn't a thrill per second. But it was convincing, and Kennedy deserves a tip of the cap for beating one of the middleweight division's most famous fighters.
Loser: Michael Bisping
To use a timely sports analogy, Michael Bisping and Tim Kennedy were two NBA teams that were resting a couple of starters. They were both assured playoff spots and were jockeying late in the regular season to see who could take control of the sixth postseason spot.
It was a decent enough fight between two decent enough fighters, but neither man did enough to establish himself as a challenger to the Luke Rockholds and Vitor Belforts of the world. That goes double for Bisping, whose vaunted takedown defense and high-energy kickboxing melted away under the power wrestling and smart counterstriking of Kennedy.
Bisping's deep gas tank also was not in strong evidence Wednesday night. At age 35 and coming off a yearlong layoff from an eye injury, maybe all of this is to be expected. He surely has fights left in him. But this was not an impressive performance, and his next contest might be the one that determines whether he has a future at the top of the division or is now destined for the novelty circuit.
Winner: Patrick Cote
Don't look so surprised. You were awesome, man!
It had to feel good for Patrick Cote to get his third straight UFC win and second in a row since dropping to welterweight—and before his fellow Quebecers, no less.
In this battle of the TUF coaches, Cote got off to a blazing start, punishing Noke on the feet and with ground-and-pound. Cote faded as the fight wore on but still took a convincing decision over Noke, who fought well and almost pulled off a couple of submissions but was beaten to the proverbial punch throughout.
This is another good step for the 34-year-old Cote, who many fans still remember as the guy who shredded his knee (without being touched) during a 2008 title fight with Anderson Silva. He missed 18 months after that and then lost his first two fights after returning. As a result, he was subsequently cut from the UFC's roster.
After a year in the MMA hinterlands, he came back and promptly lost. But the UFC gave him another shot, and now the popular French-Canadian is rewarding those who stuck with him.
Winner: Dustin Poirier
Dustin Poirier is all the way back.
"The Diamond" entered the UFC young—20 years old, to be exact. Four straight wins, built on a complete game and a smooth but sharp attack well beyond his years, had him in the express elevator to the main event.
But the bloom is back on now. I don't know how that's botanically possible, but there it is.
Poirier took care of business against an overmatched Akira Corassani, starting slowly but nearly finishing his opponent with a Peruvian necktie at the end of the first and turning Corassani's head a fantastic shade of purple in the process. He quickly finished the job in the second, pasting Corassani with a right uppercut and overwhelming him for the stoppage.
Still only 25, Poirier now has a three-fight win streak and has presumably earned a real contender's fight his next time out.
"I'll say it until I'm blue in the face," Poirier told broadcaster Jon Anik in the cage after the fight. "When they tell me who to fight, I lace up my gloves and go to work. I'm a fighter, man. I got a lot of fights ahead of me, and my better fights are still ahead of me. I'm getting better and I'm having a blast, man."
That's almost as scary as it is true.
Loser: The Judges
Another MMA fight card, another judging head-scratcher.
Season welterweight finalist Chad Laprise almost had to choke down a nasty plate of home cooking. After he took what should have been a clear decision over a game but outclassed Olivier Aubin-Mercier, one judge scored the bout 29-28 for Aubin-Mercier, who happens to hail from Quebec, which happens to be where the fight was taking place.
Chad Laprise wins the TUF Nations WW finale, defeating Olivier Aubin-Mercier via split decision (29-28, 30-27, 28-29).— Mike Chiappetta MMA (@MikeChiappetta) April 16, 2014
Hometown bias? Swayed by the fans? I don't know. Maybe we'll never know. Luckily, the other two judges made the correct call, and Laprise got the win and six-figure contract. But still, it shouldn't have been that close.
Winner: K.J. Noons
This one was expected to deliver fireworks, and it did. It might have happened too fast for the liking of the guys in the Fox Sports 1 production truck who had to kill time until the 10 p.m. ET preview of the new season of The Ultimate Fighter, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.
Or the chin bone, in this case. Noons ducked under a left hook from Sam Stout and then fired a thunderous right that landed flush on Stout's jawline. Doneski.
It was the ninth knockout of Noons' career, and maybe one of two or three biggest. He is now 2-1 in the UFC. He's exciting. He's a veteran of the sport. He has terrific hair. Give the man a prize.
Loser: The City of Quebec City
Is there an echo in here?
I don't know, but this is apparently what happens in Canada when you go up against the Stanley Cup playoffs:
That is an unofficial number, of course, and the official figure had not yet been announced at publication time. But anyone watching at home could both see and hear how sparse the crowd was. The spectators were vocal and supportive; there just weren't very many of them.
The Montreal Canadiens weren't playing at home, but they were playing at the same time. That surely affected the actual gate, even though tickets for this obviously went on sale before the hockey playoff schedule was set. Regardless, it was still a subpar card that happened on a Wednesday. There's your real problem.
Because of those obstacles, reading too much into this is probably a fool's errand. But it seems Quebec City isn't exactly crawling with diehard fight fans, and I'm not sure they'll have another chance anytime soon.
Loser: The Grind
According to the previews, if Elias Theodorou were to win the middleweight half of TUF Nations, he would it with the grind. After all, Sheldon Westcott had won each of his fights on the show in less than a minute, earning submissions in both. Meanwhile, Theodorou had clinched and stalled his way to two clear, if uninspiring, unanimous-decision wins.
At first, it looked like Westcott would dictate the pace, scoring a takedown and almost immediately taking the back and staying there even as Theodorou got to his feet.
But Theodorou eventually shook it off, and that's when something interesting happened: He didn't follow the game plan. Some big knees rocked Westcott and paved the way for a wide-open second round that saw Theodorou control the action in each phase. Near the end of the round, ground strikes were finding their mark and taking their toll, and the referee called it off for the TKO.
Looks like the grind was not embraced, at least not in this bout, which turned out to be one of the most entertaining of the evening. Mike Goldberg would be so disappointed.
Winner: Ryan Jimmo
Another blow struck for the grind.
The first five bouts of the evening didn't exactly light the sky on fire: relatively anonymous guys, plodding (if any) action, five consecutive decisions.
And when fans looked at the slate and saw Ryan Jimmo was up next, everything got just a little darker.
Jimmo, a nice guy and solid fighter, is on the perpetual short list for the company's most boring competitors. Outside of a seven-second knockout in his UFC debut, it's been kind of a long march for him.
So fans were pleasantly surprised when he beat tomato-can opponent Sean O'Connell to the punch with a big right cross that put the likely UFC one-and-doner down. A few follow-up ground strikes put him out.
It was a needed wake-up call for viewers and the sparse late-afternoon crowd in Quebec, and it came from a source as unlikely as it was welcome.
Full Card Recap
Tim Kennedy def. Michael Bisping by unanimous decision
Patrick Cote def. Kyle Noke by unanimous decision
Elias Theodorou def. Sheldon Westcott by TKO, 4:41, Rd. 2
Chad Laprise def. Olivier Aubin-Mercier by split decision
Dustin Poirier def. Akira Corassani by TKO, 0:42, Rd. 2
K.J. Noons def. Sam Stout by KO, 0:30, Rd. 1
Sarah Kaufman def. Leslie Smith by unanimous decision
Ryan Jimmo def. Sean O'Connell by KO, 4:27, Rd. 1
George Roop def. Dustin Kimura by unanimous decision
Mark Bocek def. Mike De La Torre by split decision
Nordine Taleb def. Vik Grujic by unanimous decision
Richard Walsh def. Chris Indich by unanimous decision
Mitch Gagnon def. Tim Gorman by unanimous decision
Scott Harris writes about MMA and other things for Bleacher Report and other places. He tries to talk intelligently and make jokes about MMA on Twitter, and sometimes it works. Follow Scott there if that's just too tempting to resist.