This is a play-by-play article for the full TUF Nations Finale card, headlined by a middleweight tilt between top 10 fighters Michael Bisping and Tim Kennedy. Both fighters have made it clear that there is bad blood behind the scenes, and they will have the chance to battle it out inside the Octagon.
Bisping is coming into the fight off a year-long layoff after suffering a detached retina and subsequently having surgery on the near-career-ending injury. The Brit has won 6 of his last 8, with both of his losses having controversy behind them; the Sonnen loss being a highly-disputed decision, and the Belfort loss coming after Vitor was awarded a TUE. He faces an opponent who has won his last three, and his only two losses since 2007 – against ‘Jacare’ Souza and Luke Rockhold – being for the Strikeforce middleweight title. Kennedy is 2-0 in the UFC, ranked #8 in the middleweight division and poses a tough test for ‘The Count’.
In the co-feature, Patrick Côté and Kyle Noke fight in the omnipresent coaches battle, the former representing Team Canada and the latter Team Australia. Also on the card are the TUF Nations finales themselves, with all four fighters representing Team Canada. Middleweights Sheldon Westcott and Elias Theodorou square off for the 185lbs crown, while welterweights Chad Laprise and Olivier Aubin-Mercier fight in the finale. Featherweights Dustin Poirier and Akira Corassani will start the main card, which kicks off at 7pm ET/4pm PT on FOX Sports 1.
Michael Bisping vs. Tim Kennedy
I think Bisping has this one, but the layoff and wrestling pedigree of Kennedy both throw spanners in the works. This fight pits the #5 ranked middleweight with the #8, and the winner will be right up there in the mix at 185lbs. They both, obviously, have bad blood and clearly do not like each other, so expect a fun stare-down and the winner to rub it in like you’ve never seen before. They touched gloves, what on earth?!
Round 1 – Kennedy with the single takedown attempt early in the round but Bisping does a good job of stopping it and controlling Tim. Kennedy then gets the takedown after struggling, but Bisping is on his knees trying to wall walk. Kennedy controlling the Brit so far and is in the half guard of The Count. Good start by the American here. Kennedy almost has the mount, but good job by Bisping to regain half guard with the butterfly. The cage is stopping Kennedy from advancing. Bisping bucks him off and is trying to get back to his feet but Kennedy not letting him do so. Good job from the American at keeping on top, even though he’s not unloading much offence. He has the back in the clinch and knees Bisping’s legs. Kennedy spins him around and winds up in half guard, he could get the mount here it seems. This is a dominant round so far for Kennedy. Full mount. Bisping is in trouble here. He’s trying his hardest to get him off but Kennedy does a great job of keeping the position, he’s postured up and landing blows. Bisping gives up his back and Kennedy has both hooks in, now regaining top control with Bisping doing a good job of surviving. Kennedy in half guard and landing some heavy blows on Bisping. Big round for Kennedy, close to a 10-8.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Kennedy.
Round 2 – Bisping pushing forward with a low stance and opening up a little more in the second. The jab of the Brit is a solid weapon and he’s trying to utilise that. He counters Kennedy with it while he’s pushing forward. Crisp and technical work from The Count. A huge right from Kennedy there though. A body kick from Kennedy checked. Bisping pushing Kennedy against the cage and opening up, having far more success in round 2 so far. A nice combination from the Brit, but Kennedy is still dangerous. A nice level change from Kennedy, Bisping trying to shake him off and does so. Kennedy is diligent and attempting the trip from the clinch against the fence, but Bisping’s takedown defence was brilliant there. They separate and that was much better from Bisping. A flying knee to the body from the Brit, but that didn’t land too cleanly. A nice counter right by The Count, Kennedy leaving himself open to that. He hits the same punch again. Kennedy on the back foot for this whole round. Nice combinations from Bisping in this round, he’s far more comfortable now. A lovely combo against the cage, using lefts and rights accurately. Body kick from Kennedy checked. Bisping has shaken off that cage rust now, it seems, and he is taking over. Some lovely combination work from the Brit in this round, he’s opening up with a lot more comfort.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Bisping (19-19).
Round 3 – A nice right from Kennedy there, he’s pushing forward to start this round. Bisping utilising a lot of movement, the cardio is his best tool. Nice jabs from the Brit, and a huge left and right with Kennedy countering, but Kennedy lands a nice takedown and gets in half guard. Florian states Bisping got caught in that exchange but I feel he landed the heavier blows there. Kennedy in side control and seems to be working for an arm triangle. Bisping does a good job of getting his right knee in place and regains half guard. Kennedy mixing up his attacks from the ground to the body and head of the Brit. Kimura attempt by Bisping, but nothing to it. Side control once again, but good regain briefly after. Bisping doing a good job of taking little punishment from the bottom, but this is a dominant round for Kennedy after he had little success in the second. Mount with 1:40 remaining in this round! This is big! A huge elbow from Kennedy, and hammer fists. Well done by Bisping to regain half guard. But Kennedy working to mount again, and Bisping is leaving the arm triangle right there for him. Bisping trying to work a sweep but Kennedy too strong for him. He’s in side control now, Bisping trying to push off the fence and get to his feet but Kennedy sticking to him. Similar round to the first.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Kennedy (29-28 Kennedy).
Round 4 – Bisping needs to keep it standing after losing on the ground once again in the third. Kennedy is winging his punches and Bisping needs to look to counter when he does so. A takedown attempt from Kennedy, Bisping does well to stuff it but Kennedy up against the cage diligently trying to get the fight to the mat. Bisping is doing well so far, but persistency is the key. He escapes, and Kennedy expended a lot of energy there. Huge right by Bisping there. He’s taking over this round, he’s certainly the fresher of the two and is backing Kennedy up so far. A big right by Kennedy there though. A caught kick countered by Bisping. Kennedy landed while Bisping was coming in and Kennedy follows that up with another takedown attempt. Bisping does well to get out but takes a knee in the process. Bisping more methodical in this round but Kennedy landing the odd big shot. Nice 1-2 by Bisping. A huge right by Kennedy staggers Bisping who is on wobbly legs! Kennedy gets the clinch but they separate. A big leaping left by Kennedy. Both landed huge punches there. This is anyone’s fight! Big 1-2 on Kennedy, then a head kick from Bisping. Big right from Kennedy. Man they are both hitting huge blows! Hard one to judge, but Kennedy got in the biggest shots I say. Nice uppercut to end the round from Bisping.
Cooper scores round 4 10-9 Kennedy (39-37 Kennedy).
Round 5 – Bisping needs a stoppage in my opinion, but he could have got the fourth. If anyone will get the stoppage, you imagine it will be Kennedy. He’s landed the heavier blows so far. A nice right from Kennedy followed by a body lock takedown. That could be crucial. Bisping trying to work his way up and he does so, but Kennedy drags him to the ground straight after and gets half guard. He has full mount now. But Bisping goes out the back door. Kennedy does well to stay on him, but Bisping is constantly working. Kennedy in half guard now. 3 minutes remaining and Bisping needs to do something here. Yves Lavigne steps in and gets them standing after little action on the ground. Bisping will love Lavigne for that. 2 minutes left. Bisping opening up on the feet, just what he needs to do. Kennedy has certainly showed he is a worthy opponent. Bisping with a head kick and a left jab but nothing significant there. 1 minute left and Bisping needs to unload now. He’s losing this round and this fight. Kennedy with a big right. Bisping the more energetic and he’ll need to muster up something big. 30 seconds remain. A big left from Bisping there. A nice combination, but it’s too little too late I imagine.
Cooper scores round 5 10-9 Kennedy (49-46 Kennedy).
Result: Kennedy via unanimous decision (49-46 x2, 50-45).
Big win for Kennedy, but I certainly disagree with that 50-45. They embrace each other and compliment, what a surprise. Typical fight promotion from both. Kennedy is furious with his performance and states he should have got the finish, he landed his best shots and compliments Bisping’s ability to absorb punishment. That was the biggest win of Kennedy’s career, and he’ll receive a higher ranking for that. Jacare rematch next?
Back to the drawing board for Bisping, and it’s tough to envisage him ever working his way to a title shot now. A fight with the Romero-Tavares winner on Saturday makes sense to me.
Patrick Côté vs. Kyle Noke
Noke is the underdog, Côté has the home support.
Round 1 – Low blow to start the action, but they quickly resume. A nice front kick from Noke, that could’ve been deadly. His kick game has been strong for the first minute of this round. Côté with a lovely body-head combination which staggers Noke. Noke gets a nice punch and knee in of his own, then gets the clinch against the cage. A nice short elbow by Côté as they get back to the centre. Noke has a slight cut on his left side. A good takedown by Côté who advances to half guard. Noke trying to crank on the neck but Côté gets out and has top control, unloading with a flurry to the body of Noke. A nice big elbow from the Canadian, who has to be careful of the attacks from Noke. Noke went for an armbar momentarily but nothing came of it, and Côté landed some nice elbows shortly after. The atmosphere here is great for such a small crowd. Elbows from the bottom by Noke, but the elbows from Côté have been the dangerous blows this round. One minute remains. The Predator in full control from the top position, posturing up and landing some big blows. Noke is still threatening with attacks, but a failed attempt to control from the triangle by the Aussie. Côté pouring it on at the end of this round and that was a great display from Patrick.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Côté.
Round 2 – Hesitant start to round 2. Noke slips, but Côté doesn’t follow up. Just faints and fillers for the first minute or so. Noke trying to utilise front and side kicks. A huge body knee from Noke! Côté is hurt! Some ground and pound by Noke! He’s still hurt after pursuing the takedown! He was covering up but countered with a hook of his own and they’re back to the middle of the cage! Big success from Noke there, his first real flurry of the fight. Them kicks from Noke have been working a treat. A nice teep from Noke, who is mixing it up nicely and looking comfortable in round 2. Côté needs to be careful, Noke is dangerous on the feet. He’s cut on the hairline too. He goes in for the takedown and gets it, Noke getting full guard. That was big from Côté after getting outstruck on the feet. He does a good job of mixing up his attacks to the body and head of Noke, but none too significant to the Aussie. A huge elbow from Côté, and a couple more. Surprised that Noke isn’t opened up as they looked horrific. Noke does a great job of crawling to the cage and getting to his feet with a minute left in the round. A big knee to the body from Côté and Noke looks hurt. But Noke gets back to his feet and seems unfazed. A nice body kick from the Aussie, who has been the more successful on the feet. A better round for Noke, and I think he won that one with the early exchanges.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Noke (19-19).
Round 3 – This is the deciding round for me, though I could see Côté getting the second. I think Noke did enough in the early going to grab the second, but knows after one judge gave OAM the victory. The kicks from Noke have been the biggest weapon, he’s mixing up the techniques nicely in that department. Côté looks hesitant on the feet, and has no real answer to the kicking game of the Aussie. Noke is mixing up his kicks to the body and legs of Côté, keeping him guessing with teeps, side kicks and elliptical kicks as well as the more traditional techniques. Côté rushes forward with a 1-2 then goes for the takedown attempt but Noke stuffs and they’re up against the cage. Noke separates and lands a nice body kick. Half way through the third. A big left from Noke, followed by a solid leg kick and a front kick to the thigh. Lovely teeps to the body from Noke. Côté going for the high crotch takedown and finally gets it! That could be big with just 1:45 remaining in the third! Noke was having more success, but Côté with a sensible move and showing his more well rounded game. He’s in half guard and trying to attack with some short elbows. Noke regains guard and is trying to somehow get to his feet. Less than a minute left in this pivotal round. Nice elbows from Côté, and Noke is opened up from that last one. Noke trying to scramble back to his feet, up against the fence but Côté persistently trying to keep it down on the mat. Noke back to his feet but Côté still has the clinch and is going for another takedown attempt. Knees from Côté in this position. The round ends, and that was a fun one which is tough to judge. Côté won the last half, Noke won the first. Could go either way, could be a draw.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Côté (29-28 Côté).
Result: Côté via unanimous decision (29-28 x2, 30-27).
Crazy that someone gave Côté all three rounds, and no one scored it 29-28 Noke. I had it for Côté but I’m still surprised. That was a good fight however, and there were several twists and turns in that one. Now for the big one.
Sheldon Westcott vs. Elias Theodorou
Theodorou is the favourite, but many feel Westcott should be. I’m torn between the two.
Round 1 - Westcott with an early takedown attempt but Theodorou does a good job off stuffing. Westcott with some nice knees from the clinch and successful takes Elias down. Elias does a good job of getting the hook of Westcott away, but is then lazy in trying to get up. Westcott doing a great job of sticking to him. Elias is standing with Westcott on his back, both hooks are in for the underdog. Nothing much happening from this position but this must be tiring Theodorou. Elias does a great job of shaking him off and lands some huge ground and pound! Great job there. A huge knee to the body, and a knee to the jaw, brutal by Theodorou. He’s making Westcott pay when he gets a bit of distance. Westcott with another takedown attempt but Elias doing a good job of preventing in. Some nice short elbows from Elias, once again making Westcott pay. He seems a little bloodied from them elbows. Westcott seems to have slowed. A good counter from Theodorou, who then lands a big hook followed by an axe kick. They’re back to their feet. Westcott pushing forward but nothing landing cleanly. Theodorou has such a significant advantage on the feet, he’s so comfortable compared to Westcott. Some nice kicks from the favourite. A beautiful leg kick to high kick combination! That was lovely, he went left low-right high. Great finish from Theodorou.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Theodorou.
Round 2 - Elias doing a great job when he has space. He lands some heavy shots at the start of the round, and he’s mixing it up with punches, knees and kicks, staying unpredictable. Elias gets the clinch, and is working on a takedown. He slams Westcott down, and gets his back! He’s really taking over now. Another slam from Theodorou. Westcott seems to have faded. Elias now in the clinch, Westcott attempting to get the fight to the ground. He’s successful, but they’re back to the feet. Westcott has a lazy guillotine attempt and Theodorou ends up on top reigning down strikes. They separate and get back to their feet. Elias establishing the jab, doing a good job of keeping Westcott on the end of it. Some nice knees and a takedown by Elias! He’s really outworking Westcott here and doing a great job of mixing things up. Some nice ground and pound on Westcott, who looks like he has nothing left. He has the back of Sheldon, then gets side control and lands some huge elbows! They were deadly. Now the mount, and Westcott gives up his back. Elias has one hook, now two. He’s landing shots and trying to set up the choke. Back in half guard, good job by Westcott. One minute remaining, Theodorou should go for the finish now. Some lovely short elbows and hammer fists. Referee, for whatever reason, telling them to stay active. What else does he want him to do? Theodorou landing HEAVY blows! And the referee steps in! Big performance from Theodorou after a good start from Westcott. Now 10-0 and the TUF Nations middleweight winner.
Result: Theodorou via TKO (punches & elbows) at 4:41 in second round to become TUF Nations Middleweight champion.
Chad Laprise vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier
This is the first of the TUF Nations finales, with Laprise and Aubin-Mercier battling it out for the welterweight crown. Laprise is the underdog, and he announced he will drop to 155lbs win or lose. Expect me to be lazy and refer to Aubin-Mercier as OAM throughout.
Round 1 - OAM opening up with some nice kicks in the early going. Laprise more hesitant, with a lot of faints so far. He’s very wary of OAM’s grappling skills and it’s clear he wants to avoid the ground wherever possible. A well stuffed takedown, OAM then went for a trip which Laprise also stuffed. A cut underneath the left eye of Chad, and OAM is doing a good job on the feet so far with some evasive strikes. A big right from Laprise, but didn’t land cleanly. A nice right from OAM who is stalking down his opponent. Laprise seems to be struggling dealing with the range here, a cut to 155lbs might be sensible. A big counter from him though, and that’s where he is effective. A short shot as OAM comes in for the takedown, great work from Laprise there. He seems to have more confidence now, and he’s been doing a good job of countering OAM. Laprise utilised his movement very well this round, and stuffed a couple of takedown attempts too. Good round from the underdog.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Laprise.
Round 2 - A nice combination from Laprise, but OAM then gets a nice right in. They both land heavy! A head kick exchange there. Great countered takedown attempt there by Laprise, but OAM then goes for the lift, fails with that attempt, then finally gets a takedown on his fifth attempt. OAM smothering him, this is where the size advantage will be most significant. He goes for the guillotine! But Laprise then gets side control and gets out of it! Then a big body shot from Laprise on the feet. Great exchange there. OAM slips. Laprise has a clear advantage on the feet and he’s doing a good job of keeping the fight just there. OAM just seems a little miffed when standing, and Laprise is utilising superior skills. A huge right hook by Chad, but OAM stays standing. He needs to change things up in the third if he has any chance of salvaging this fight, Laprise is clearly winning. OAM is landing some strikes here and there, but nothing with ill intent unlike Laprise. OAM needs the finish.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Laprise (20-18 Laprise).
Round 3 - A big takedown attempt from OAM but Laprise does a great job of stuffing it. OAM looks demoralised by that, and eats a big left from Laprise. OAM with a nice body kick there, and a head kick. A big takedown from OAM! This is big! But Laprise does a great job of pushing him off with his feet and gets up, only to be met by Laprise in the clinch. They separate and Laprise is pushing forward. OAM needs to get this to the ground. Them body kicks from OAM are beautiful, he should utilise that more often. Southpaw to orthodox is always effective. Laprise slips, gets up and eats a hook from OAM. Aubien-Marcier is having a lot more success on the feet in this round, but not enough. Great combination by Laprise, and OAM instinctfully tries for a takedown which is stuffed again. OAM slips but Laprise decides not to follow him onto the ground. A solid uppercut from OAM. Huge right from Laprise blocked. This is a much closer round, but OAM needs a finish. He’s relying too much on the body kick which makes it too predictable. Huge combination from Laprise! Followed by a spinning back kick. He’s looking very comfortable now. And another. And another! Laprise finishes with a huge combination, and steals this round also. Great performance from the slight underdog, Chad Laprise. He’s a prospect at 155lbs, for sure.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Laprise (30-27 Laprise).
Result: Laprise via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27) to become the TUF Nations Welterweight champion.
Laprise simply had too much in his arsenal for OAM, utilised great takedown defence, solid standup and controlled the clinch battles. A great performance from the TUF Nations Welterweight champion. I have no idea how someone scored that in OAM’s favour, SHEESH.
Dustin Poirier vs. Akira Corassani
A fun featherweight fight to kick off the main card. Corassani unranked, Poirier ranked #6. A win would be big for Akira, while The Diamond is one of the most dangerous at 145lbs. They had an intense staredown.
Round 1 - Corassani with a looping right hand to start the round. He’s throwing recklessly. Poirier stalking him down. He looks the faster of the two so far, but Akira has done well to avoid the attacks hitherto. Poirier doing a good job of mixing things up and evading. A trip attempt from Poirier but good counter from Corassani, who has Dustin against the cage. Poirier gets out and continues to push forward. The jab from The Diamond is beautiful. A nice body combination from Akira. Poirier got dropped momentarily! It’s that big right of Akira! He’s hurt! Akira landed again and he’s pushing forward! Poirier on wobbly legs! A spinning attempt from Corassani but it only hits Poirier’s arm. DP needs to be more cautious, even though Akira’s attacks are telegraphed they are powerful. He seems a little more aware now. A big jab by Poirier there which staggered Akira! They’re exchanging some heavy blows. A huge combination and they both land some big blows! Huge right from Corassani! Damn they are landing heavy! Poirier going for the d’arce choke, his go-to move. He’s flattened Corassani out. Poirier going for a Peruvian neck tie! Wow this is crazy! It’s deep! 15 seconds left. But Corassani escapes! He’s bloodied though! WHAT A ROUND! I have that a 10-10, both had success, Corassani dropped Poirier, who had a deep choke. I love the versatility of Poirier, but Corassani had him rocked. I think Akira earned a lot of respect in that round.
Cooper scores round 1 10-10.
Round 2 - Corassani utilising some nice footwork to start the round, and he got a nice combination in there. Some nice jabs by Akira. A huge uppercut from Poirier! He’s hurt him! He follows it up and Miragliotta steps in! Wow that was a big uppercut and them follow-up punches had Corassani turtled up! Third win in a row for Poirier, who landed one of the most brutal punches you’re going to see in this division.
Result: Poirier via knockout (punch) at 0:42 in second round.
That was the shoe-in for Fight of the Night. Corassani impressed against a top featherweight and will be back, but Poirier bounced back from adversity, had a deep choke and landed a brutal uppercut. Great fight.
Preliminary Card (FOX Sports 1)
Sam Stout vs. KJ Noons
This is now a welterweight bout (odd, I know). Stout is 3-3 in his last six, while Noons is 2-5 in his last seven. A win is pivotal for both fighters.
Round 1 - Both exchange kicks early, KJ moving forward. A huge right by Noons! That was massive! He follows up with some big ground and pound and that is it! Philippe Chartier steps in, and Stout tries grappling with him after he was knocked clean out. That was brutal. Stout stumbled back and fell over after the knockout too. Huge, huge knockout win for Noons.
Result: Noons via knockout (punch) at 0:30 in first round.
Stout even tried a guillotine on Chartier there!! That was hilarious, let’s hope Zombie Prophet GIFs that. But Noons with a big win, his second in a row after a rough curve. The first knockout loss of Stout’s 30 fight career! Stout and Noons have a lot of respect for each other, they hugged and shared a laugh after the fight. Stout is okay, which is relieving after that massive punch.
Credit to Derek Brunson for the screenshot of the Stout-Chartier incident.
Sarah Kaufman vs. Leslie Smith
This is a rematch from an entertaining war at Invicta 5. Smith stepping in on short notice after two of Kaufman’s opponents (Baszler and Nunes) pulled out. This should be another fun one. Kaufman won the first one but it was close and controversial. 376 days later, they compete in the UFC. People believe this isn’t close, Smith coming in on a week’s notice, but she had a lot of success in the first fight.
Round 1 - Smith looks really happy to be fighting in the UFC, H/T for taking this fight on such short notice. She moves up to 135 once again. They start this fight in the same way they finished the second and my fingers simply can’t type quick enough! Lots of action from the start, both landing some big blows early. Smith with a nice head kick. A big leg kick drops Smith! Kaufman with a well timed shot there. They’re both exchanging some big punches. Kaufman tag Smith but she just fires back! Kaufman had her wobbled momentarily. Good start from the Canadian. Kaufman has her against the fence, but Smith reverses and they both land knees to the body. Smith being busy in the clinch, and they break. Nice front kick by Smith. This is basically the third round of Sanchez-Melendez! They’re both biting down on their mouth pieces and swinging! Not the most technical, but fun to watch. Kaufman has been the more technical out of the two and has also landed the bigger blows thus far. Nice short elbows in the clinch by the Canadian. She wobbled Smith with that one! She’s having a lot of success from the inside but Smith isn’t fazed by any of it! Big knees to the body by Kaufman. SK just ragdolls Smith, then lands some more knees to the body. Smith is still active, attempting a number of kicks. Big round by the Canadian, however.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Kaufman.
Round 2 - Smith busier in this second round! Nice punches from her. But Kaufman tags her on a couple of occasions, she’s being careless in covering up. Kaufman is simply getting the better of these exchanges. Smith is looking tired, and it’s no wonder why. Very short notice and some big body blows from Kaufman has taken its toll. Smith swinging wildly, but the heart from the former Invicta contender is incredible. Kaufman with big shots from the inside, mixing it up with knees to the body from the clinch too. For every one Smith lands, Kaufman gets three big shots in. Nice uppercuts from the clinch. Good work from Kaufman. Smith having little success with her offence and although she’s taken all Kaufman has to give, she’s clearly being outworked. Kaufman landing often and the quicker in these exchanges. Smith left flat footed and is now relying on one shot rather than combinations like earlier in the fight. Kaufman is also controlling these clinch exchanges. Takedown attempt by Smith, but Kaufman does well to stuff and threatens with the guillotine, now using the clinch and landing short shots on Smith. A nice combination by Kaufman, but Smith finishes the round with a nice short elbow. Big from Kaufman again.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Kaufman (20-18 Kaufman).
Round 3 - Kaufman lands a nice right, then they get back in the clinch. Kaufman the more powerful of the two. Kaufman is having great success on the feet, she’s landing almost everything she throws in this third round. Nice work from the inside by the Canadian, but Smith is still threatening. A lot less activity in this round, and a lot more clinch work, but pure dominance from Kaufman, she’s really making a statement in this performance. Credit to Smith for taking this, but it is clear that Kaufman is the more prepared of the two. Smith is still game and landing in the clinch, but nothing significant enough to harm Kaufman. Mid-point of the third, Kaufman taking full control. Smith is on the end of all of Kaufman’s jabs. Kaufman has her against the fence and lands a nice knee. A stiff jab followed by another hard leg kick from SK. Smith’s chin is proving solid so far, but Kaufman is simply having her way with her. Kaufman with a solid trip and takes side control straight away. Smith attempting to get to her feet but gives up the back and Kaufman pins the arm. Smith gets her arm free but in a bad position here. She’s back to her feet but 10 seconds remaining. Lovely combination by Kaufman. A great exchange at the end there. Great performance by Kaufman, but hats off to Smith.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Kaufman (30-27 Kaufman).
Result: Kaufman via unanimous decision (30-27).
A well rounded, vintage Kaufman performance and she makes a statement after the overturned loss to Eye. She deserves a top 5 fighter next. Sara McMann, maybe? Smith does enough to stick around, and she put in a great performance considering the short notice.
Ryan Jimmo vs. Sean O’Connell
Jimmo looked like a real prospect after defeating Anthony Perosh, but he’s had little success in the LHW division. He’s 2-2 in the UFC, and a loss here will be his third in four. He faces Sean O’Connell, who makes his promotional debut on short notice. ‘The Real OC’ is 15-4 and has a win over UFC vet Marvin Eastman.
Round 1 - A big head kick early by Jimmo but he slips. They’re back up and O’Connell has the clinch, landing some nice body shots. Jimmo with some nice knees to the body. He turns it around and has OC against the cage, controlling him well. A big right by Jimmo, followed by a kick. He eats a big right by OC after cockily bobbing up and down without his guard. They’re in the clinch again. OC is doing well from this position so far. This is a gruelling fight. Mostly contested in the clinch for the first three minutes. Jimmo gets caught in the groin, and has a small cut above his right eye. They resume, and Jimmo gets a lovely takedown but OC does a great job of springing back up. He’s got Jimmo against the cage once again. It might not be pretty, but OC is winning this round so far. He’s beating Jimmo at his own game. A separation. A huge right by Jimmo! Damn that was brutal! He followed it up with some big ground and pound and O’Connell is out! That was big after he was losing that round with 30-or-so seconds remaining! Jimmo back in the win column in style.
Result: Jimmo via knockout (punches) at 4:27 in first round.
The robot comes out again. Great knockout by Jimmo after getting outworked by O’Connell.
George Roop vs. Dustin Kimura
Roop was knocked out for the third time in his UFC career in his last fight, while Kimura rebounded from the first loss of his career with a decision win in January. Roop has a big edge in experience, but Kimura is a prospect at 135lbs.
Round 1 - Roop takes the centre and is throwing out lots of faints from the start. A nice jab by Roop. Big body kick by Roop, but countered by a nice right from Kimura. Another nice counter from the Hawaiian. Nice stuffed takedown from Roop, who once again attempt to hit the body but Kimura does a good job of catching it, throwing a couple of shots then gets the fight to the ground. Roop gets back up, but then Kimura drags it to the ground once again. Big right to the grounded Roop, but Roop capitalises and gets back to the feet. He’s working a takedown, but Kimura doing a good job of controlling Roop in this position. Roop with a veteran move in the clinch, and a nice drag to the ground by him. Kimura trying to work from the bottom, and does a good job of getting to the cage, but Roop staying busy with nice lefts and rights. Kimura actively working for a kimura (ironic), but Roop sees it and does a good job of keeping his posture. The experience advantage is clear so far, Roop avoiding all of Kimura’s attacks. Some big punches and elbows from Roop, he’s putting it on Kimura towards the end of this round. Big elbows after posturing up. Good round by the veteran.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Roop.
Round 2 - Roop active on the feet and doing a good job with his movement. Kimura looks a tad out of his depth so far, but Roop is a little KO prone. Nice body attack by Kimura, but he’s having trouble with the rangier opponent. Roop takes a hard body knee but gets the clinch and has Kimura against the cage, another veteran move from Roop. Nice stiff jab from Roop as Kimura came in. Kimura lands a nice leaping left hook, that’s his only chance of success. Roop doing a great job of getting out of the way of the attacks. Good takedown from Kimura! That’s more like it. Two minutes remain and he’s on top. But Roop does a great job of getting up. Kimura sticks on him and tries another takedown. He gets it. Now he has the back! Both hooks in, then Roop reverses and Kimura has half guard. He’s got the back again! This is big from the Hawaiian. He needs to try and attack from this position though. Both hooks in for Kimura. He has the body triangle too. Great escape from Roop! And a big body kick followed by some hooks! That’s the experience of Roop. That was a big opportunity blown for Kimura. I think he did enough to seal this round though.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Kimura (19-19).
Round 3 - We’re all tied coming into the third. Big combination by Roop followed by a big takedown up against the fence. Kimura trying to use the fence to attack from the guard, but another veteran move from Roop to stop that offence. Kimura doing a good job with his guard however, and he’s restricting the offence of Roop. Kimura trying to get up but Roop stops him and lands some big blows from the top. Nice short elbows from Roop now! He’s turning it on in this third round. Kimura attacking with the kimura but Roop realises it, stops him and lands some more blows. Some huge elbows from Roop! He’s hurting Kimura with these shots. Kimura still actively looking for a submission but Roop having some big success in this third round. Roop simply having his way with him and stuffing any attempts to get the fight standing. Kimura is very active but Roop notices every single move and stops them. He’s in the half guard now and stops another attempt from Kimura at getting to his feet. Big elbows once again from Roop. This is a big round from him. 15 seconds remaining, Kimura looking for an omoplata but no success. Roop finishes the round where he started it, on top landing blows.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Roop (29-28 Roop).
Result: Roop via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-26).
29-26, erm what? Another decision, five in a row now. That was a pretty fun fight though, and Roop’s experience took over in the third round and that’s a big win for him. Kimura was active until the very end though, credit where credit’s due.
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass)
Mark Bocek vs. Mark de la Torre
Bocek a big favourite, de la Torre coming in on short notice replacing Evan Dunham.
Round 1 - They’re throwing heavy leather early, de la Torre looks confident. They exchange jabs, but Bocek lands a big right! de la Torre was staggered there! He gets his wits back but Bocek gets a brief takedown. He’s now in the clinch, with full control, and another brief takedown. He now has de la Torre’s back momentarily, but once again MDLA does a great job of escaping. Bocek showing his experience here, keeping on de la Torre and trying to wear him out. A beautiful throw by de la Torre who is now landing some nice quick shots on Bocek. Bocek gets back to his feet and they exchange some nice shots, both getting in some nice hooks. This is a good battle so far. De la Torre certainly looks comfortable, and has Bocek against the cage, but the Canadian is landing some nice knees from this position. A big right by Bocek once again. De la Torre has done well so far but he’s doing bad defensively. Nice jabs by MDLA. Bocek lands though and is backing de la Torre up. Bocek then goes in for the takedown but great job by de la Torre at stuffing it. Nice short knees by the underdog too. A kimura attempt by Bocek but de la Torre reverses the position. However MDLA seems to have slowed here, he is coming in on short notice. They both land clean shots at the end of the round. Fun round, could go either way.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Bocek.
Round 2 - de la Torre is in this fight, but he may have slowed towards the end of the last round. He looks okay coming out for the second. Bocek with the takedown attempt, a deep double and a good job, but de la Torre once again to his feet quickly. Bocek once again drags it to the ground, but great hips by MDLA to get up. A big winging punch by Bocek is countered by a short shot from de la Torre. Bocek diligent in the clinch, he’s being more sensible in this round. Body shots by Bocek, sensible tactic. A nice uppercut by de la Torre, and another! But Bocek goes in for a big double takedown, and great job from de la Torre to stuff it. Bocek holding him against the cage, but they separate. De la Torre is landing the bigger blows in the second and Bocek is trying to avoid the feet whenever possible. Bocek is bloodied, and de la Torre is very comfortable, landing nice uppercuts and jabs now. He is simply the more technical on the feet and has a speed advantage. MDLA’s cornerman John Crouch doing a great job encouraging him. Big uppercut by de la Torre, and a right. He’s a little sloppier towards the end of this round but a strong finish nonetheless. 30 seconds left. Both are tired, but de la Torre has landed the more significant shots. He gets Bocek against the cage and lands some nice short shots. Takedown attempt by Bocek at the end.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 de la Torre (19-19).
Round 3 - Neither fighter should cruise in this third round, and nice to see desperation from both fighters. De la Torre with some nice shots at the start of the round, but Bocek gets a big takedown. Once again MDLA does a great job of getting to his feet just seconds after the takedown, and that’s very taxing on Bocek’s gas tank. Bocek has a mask on blood while MDLA doesn’t have a scratch on him. Stuffed takedown, Bocek now holding MDLA against the cage and a good reversal by de la Torre. A big knee while Bocek goes in for another takedown, but the Canadian pushes forward. Bocek clearly trying to get the fight to the ground but having little success at doing so. Half way through a pivotal round. Bocek has clearly slowed in the third, his strikes are sloppy and he’s open to counters. Nice body attack by de la Torre from the inside, this is nice work from the American. Another shot for the takedown and MDLA once against stuffs it, but gives up his back in the clinch position. Great reversal, but Bocek persistent in takedown attempts. Now MDLA controlling the clinch, and another reversal. They separate and Bocek lands a big right! He then goes in for a deep takedown attempt and now has the back. He has both hooks in, and has the back from the standing position! De la Torre is trying to buck him off but it’s too late to do so. Bocek may have just won this round, and fight, based on that last 20 seconds alone. G
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Bocek (29-28 Bocek).
Result: Bocek via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27).
Great performance by de la Torre considering the short notice, but veteran move by Bocek at the end there. Now on to the FOX Sports 1 prelim portion.
Nordine Taleb vs. Vik Grujic
Team Canada’s Taleb meets Team Austrlia’s Grujic. Taleb is scheduled to appear on TUF 19: Penn vs. Edgar (which airs after the conclusion of this fight card). I take it he doesn’t make it far…
Round 1 - Taleb is the favourite both in the bookies and with the fans. They exchange early, both landing heavy. Taleb lands a nice body kick. He looks the more patient of the two, and is doing a good job of getting out of the way of Grujic’s attacks. Taleb pushing forward but Grujic looks dangerous when he rushes forward. A stiff jab by Taleb, that may have hurt Grujic. Taleb the cripser of the two. Grujic trying to land heavy, in sharp, short bursts. Grujic comes forward with reckless abandon and Taleb counters with a takedown. He has him against the fence and lands a nice body shot. He pulls his legs from under him and Taleb now in half guard. Grujic gets the guard, and trying to attack the left arm of Taleb but with little success. Taleb doing little in top position, and Miragliotta warning to stand them up. Big elbow by Nordine, but he’s acting like a blanket on Grujic and opting not to posture up. The Aussie tries to escape but Taleb counters and regains half guard. Good job by Taleb of keeping on top and landing short blows, but nothing too significant thus far. Grujic gets back to his feet but Taleb still takes control of the clinch. They break free. Just faints for the last 20 seconds.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Taleb.
Round 2 - Grujic with a lot of fakes and faints so far, but Taleb attacks and slams Grujic to the ground. He momentarily has side control but Grujic does a good job of gaining guard. Nordine smothering his opponent and landing short shots to the body and head of Grujic. Grujic active for the bottom and Taleb needs to be careful on that front, but he’s overpowering him so far. Grujic back to his feet, using the cage, but Taleb taking control of the clinch and landing hard knees to the body and shoulders to the head. Beautiful trip by the Canadian, and he’s doing a really good job of keeping on Grujic so far this round. Half guard here, and he’s once again landing some nice short elbows but not posturing up. Grujic simply has no answer for this type of smothering control of Taleb, and he’s having to settle for second best so far. Gruelling round once again, but effective. More of the same throughout this round, Taleb in the guard landing little shots – not anything notable, but he’s taking full control of this fight. More short, effective elbows by the Canadian, and he will be the fresher in the third round. 20 seconds left. Body shots by Taleb from the top, and Grujic needs a finish.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Taleb (20-18 Taleb).
Round 3 - Grujic landed a heavy blow at the start of the round and has more urgency here. Taleb went for the takedown and Grujic did a great job of stuffing it. He looks like a man on a mission here, pushing forward with a second wind it seems. Big leg kicks followed by some stiff jabs by Taleb; Grujic trying to swarm him but not successful. Taleb doing a good job of using the jab from the outside, and he does a great job stuffing and reversing the Grujic takedown and Nordine ends up on top. He’s in half guard, but once again against the cage which could be used against him. Taleb should go for an arm triangle here, it’s wide open. He opts to land some nice short elbows and body shots, and he’s clearly winning this fight. Taleb keeping busy from the top, and landing body-head combinations. Grujic looks deflated and I think he’s accepted his fate here. Nordine just overwhelming Grujic and lighting him up with elbows and punches, cruising to victory. A big cut right at the end to the Aussie, who is bloodied and beaten. Great job by Taleb there.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Taleb (30-27 Taleb).
Result: Taleb via unanimous decision (30-27 x3).
Three fights in. Three decisions. Three 30-27s. Three favourites winning. Come on now.
Richard Walsh vs. Chris Indich
A fight between two Team Australia members making their UFC debuts. Walsh was a semi-finalist and has a 7-1 record, while Indich is 5-1 and lost to finalist Chad Laprise in the opening round. This is a battle of the beards.
Round 1 - They come out swinging in the get-go. Walsh goes for a takedown but doesn’t finish it, and they then get into a clinch battle. A trip attempt but good job by Indich at getting up shortly after. They’re keeping busy, Walsh getting the better with a knee and a couple of punches inside. Nice leg kick exchanged by both. Takedown by Walsh completed, but Indich is doing a good job of getting up. He has a guillotine here and drops down, but Walsh counters and now has top control. Indich gets to his feet but takes a couple of shots along the way. Walsh is doing a good job in the clinch so far and doing well at dropping levels. Another takedown by Walsh, but Indich once again gets up quickly and threatens with a guillotine attempt. They’re back to their feet and exchanging strikes, but Walsh wants none of it and gets a beautiful takedown right into side control. He tries to get to the mount but is unable to. The only problem is that they’re close to the feet, and the inexperienced ref is calling for action despite such a dominant position. Indich does a great job of using the cage to push away but Walsh is once again diligently using the clinch. Indich turns it around but Walsh gets away and attempts another takedown. Wow this is a tight guillotine by Indich, in the guard. Looks like Walsh will get out though. He’s simply hanging on now, and Walsh is out. The takedowns have been the key for Walsh’s attack here. An armbar attempt by Indich, then an up kick to end the round but Walsh ends up on top to end the round.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Walsh.
Round 2 - A huge combination to start the round by Walsh. He’s turning it on here. He gets Indich in the clinch despite the success but he lands some nice dirty boxing combinations, brutal uppercuts and knees to the thighs. Nice short elbows from Walsh in the clinch but Indich gets away. Indich doing a good job on the outside, utilising a nice jab and some inside leg kicks. A big right by Walsh, but he doesn’t follow it up. He’s the much bigger guy, and it’s clear to see that. He’s stalking Indich down and landing some nice kicks, but only one shot instead of putting them together. Walsh is doing a good job of clipping Indich but not following it up! Damn! He’s doing a great job of landing big leather, but then getting into the clinch rather than continuing to land. Indich reverses the clinch position and now has Walsh against the cage, but doesn’t do anything with it. A big shot by Walsh, who lands a knee then engages in the clinch. If Walsh could land a few of these shots together, he should be able to finish Indich, but perhaps this is his game plan. He’s doing well at landing short shots inside the clinch, and he’s clearly too big for Indich. These elbows are deadly! Walsh is turning it up with 30 seconds left in this round, and Indich is bloodied. He has double undercooks and gets a takedown, with Indich turtled up taking knees to the body. A big short shot to end the round by Walsh.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Walsh (20-18 Walsh).
Round 3 - Now or never for Chris Indich, this will be a brilliant performance by Richard Walsh if he can get a finish. Walsh looking the fresher and more active fighter in the third, landing leg kicks and taking the centre of the cage. He unloads on Indich but opts to get up against the cage again. A grinding performance by Walsh so far, but this could simply be experience and game planning more than anything. A lovely uchi mata by Walsh, who gets half guard and lands some short shots. Indich tries to get to his feet using the cage, but gives up his back. Walsh does nothing with it and Indich gets back to his feet. They’re against the cage again, with Walsh taking control and landing some short shots once again. Big body knees by Walsh, but Indich absorbing them with ease. Indich tries to get a takedown but Walsh is too big and strong and ends up on top. Walsh gets the back with one hook in and lands some short punches. He’s not too bothered about keeping the position and Indich easily gets to his feet. More clinch work, with Walsh just unloading with attacks to the legs and body of Indich. A drop to 155lbs is certainly needed for Indich, as Jon Anik suggested. 20 seconds left, Walsh taking control in the clinch and landing some short combinations. A dominant performance by Richard Walsh, very methodical and tactical fight from the Aussie.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Walsh (30-27 Walsh).
Result: Walsh via unanimous decision (30-27 x3).
A solid performance by Walsh, but I would have like to see more desperation to get a finish. Indich needs to drop down, the size advantage was obvious throughout.
Mitch Gagnon vs. Tim Gorman
Gagnon is considered the favourite coming into this one, with a 2 fight winning streak and all 10 of his wins coming by way of submission. Gorman competed on the TUF 18 season and will be hoping to pick up a victory in his UFC debut.
Round 1 - Look for Gorman to avoid the ground like the plague in this one. Gorman staggered Gagnon with a counter, with the Canadian landing a body kick of his own. Gagnon seems the more technical on the feet, while Gorman is more careless in his attacks. A guillotine attack by Gagnon, in half guard. They stand and Gagnon has head and arm control. He’s trying to crank on a guillotine and dropping to the guard but that leg of Gorman is saving him. He needs full guard to have any hope of finishing this. Gorman is doing a good job of keeping out of danger so far but Gagnon has a big edge in the grappling exchanges. Gorman trying to power out and get top position but having little luck. 2 minutes left in the round, hard round to score so far. Gorman escapes and gets to his feet. Some nice body combinations by Gagnon so far. Gagnon is doing a good job landing from the outside. These body shots will really slow Gorman down in the later rounds, if it goes that far. Gorman with a single leg, he gets the takedown and has back control from the clinch. Not much action and Miragliotta separates the pair. They exchange on the feet to end the round. Tough one to judge, slight edge to Gagnon for the choke attempt but not much to that round.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Gagnon.
Round 2 - Have to think the close rounds will favour the Canadians in their home country. Gagnon catches Gorman with some heavy attacks, but the TUF vet responds with a takedown attempt. Gagnon doing a good job of stuffing the takedown, but Gorman is diligent in this position. Gagnon landing some nice short elbows from the clinch. He goes for another guillotine and drops down but can’t get the full guard once again. Good escape by Gorman, who goes for another takedown attempt. Gagnon responds with some elbows to the body and goes for another guillotine. Escape by Gorman but Gagnon gets top position, this is where the fight is dangerous for the American. Half way through the round and Gagnon is inside Gorman’s guard landing some nice hammer fists. He postures up, Gorman escapes however and they get in the clinch. Nice knees and punches inside from both fighters. A beautiful knee by Gagnon but Gorman eats it and marches forward with a takedown attempt. Gruelling round so far. Gorman’s gas tank must be impacted by these body attacks by Gagnon, who is constantly trying to land to the body while in the clinch. Little action and the ref steps in to break them up. Lazy takedown attempt by Gorman is reversed by another choke attempt by Gagnon, who gains guard but Gorman escapes. Gagnon went for an armlock but Gorman reversed to get into half guard. He’s on top with 20 seconds remaining and this could be enough to seal the round, it is hard to tell. Another tough round to judge, with failed guillotine attempts by Gagnon, some failed takedown attempts by Gorman and little action to note on the feet. I have to give it to the Canadian, however.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Gagnon (20-18 Gagnon).
Round 3 - This has been one of them gruelling fights where neither fighter looks too good. Gagnon gets the takedown early in the round – he looks the fresher of the two. He’s in guard and this could be big if he can work some ground and pound. Gorman does a great job to escape and engages in the clinch, attempting a single leg. Gagnon with some short elbows and does a good job to stuff it. Gorman has had little success in getting the takedowns but he hasn’t gave up the whole fight. Some would give him these rounds for being the aggressor, or Gagnon for doing a good job of defending. They go to the feet and swing at one another, but little lands. Gagnon has head and arm control once again, but nothing significant and they get back to their feet. Gagnon having the better on the feet in this round, landing to body and head. Gorman once again attempts a takedown, and once again just holds Gagnon against the cage. Quick separation by Miragliotta. Gagnon gets the takedown once again, looked much easier for him. He’s trying to posture up, but Gorman is the aggressor from the bottom. Neither landing any attacks from the bottom, Gorman trying to attempt a triangle but doesn’t do anything with it. Gagnon is merely trying to stall in this position, while Gorman is really going for the finish here. This should be Gagnon’s first non-submission win, though Gorman could – perhaps, but unlikely – get the first two. Who knows.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Gagnon (30-27 Gagnon).
Result: Gagnon via unanimous decision (30-27 x3).
Not the greatest fight you’re going to see, and Gagnon certainly didn’t seem desperate to get the finish at any point.