The UFC train rumbles on again this week, with The Ultimate Fighter Nations Finale. The card features some intriguing matchups, as well as the customary TUF finals, but what people are really tuning in for tonight is the main event.
Michael Bisping and Tim Kennedy have been at each other’s throats for as long as I can remember, with each man getting in his verbal jabs whenever he can. Now that they can settle it in the Octagon, neither man will want to take a step back.
Now, let’s get on with the preview.
(#5) Michael Bisping vs. (#8) Tim Kennedy – 185lbs.
Michael Bisping will be stepping in to the Octagon for the first time in nearly a year when he takes on Tim Kennedy tonight, having last competed at UFC 159 in April 2013, where he claimed a technical decision victory over Alan Belcher after an accidental eye poke from Bisping ended their contest. Bisping has tended to fall just short when in the hunt for a title shot, but with an impressive showing against Kennedy and the name value he carries, it’s not unlikely to think that he could find himself up against the champ sooner than we think.
Tim Kennedy has really impressed me since transitioning over to the UFC from Strikeforce. A well-rounded fighter with developing knockout power, Kennedy has so far remained undefeated in the UFC, with wins coming over Roger Gracie and most recently, Rafael Natal. While Kennedy has looked at home in an Octagon, make no mistake about it, this will be his sternest test to date.
For me, I struggle to see how Bisping loses this. Bisping has the superior striking, an advantage in speed and has proven time and time again that if you can take him down, good luck trying to keep him there. Kennedy will likely have his moments, as he is no slouch himself, but look for Bisping sticking and moving his way to victory.
Prediction – Bisping via decision
Kyle Noke vs. Patrick Côté – 170lbs.
It was Noke and Côté’s turn to take charge of team each as coaches of the inaugural TUF Nations series, and with both men behaving themselves at all time, there is no bad blood whatsoever between the two. What both do share though is rustiness, with Côté returning to action for the first time since a win over Bobby Voelker back in March of 2013, and Noke back competing for the first time since beating Charlie Brenneman at UFC 152 back in September of 2012.
Côté is the more accomplished striker, and I expect him to get the better of these exchanges, but Noke has more tools to his game to hurt Côté with, and I imagine we’ll get to see the full repertoire.
Prediction – Noke via decision
Sheldon Westcott vs. Elias Theodorou – 185lbs.
Now, we move on to the first of two TUF finals on the card, as Sheldon Westcott and Elias Theodorou battle to become this season’s middleweight tournament winner. Theodorou took two decisions en route to the final, while Westcott secured two submission finishes.
Both men will look to take this one to the ground to work their game, with Theodorou looking to overpower his opponent, with Westcott hunting submissions. I’m going to plump for Westcott here, but this one could go either way.
Prediction – Westcott via submission
Chad Laprise vs. Oliver Aubin-Mercier – 170lbs.
And here, we have the TUF Nations welterweight final. Both Laprise and Aubin-Mercier hail from Canada and both entered the competition with perfect records. During their time in the TUF house, Aubin-Mercier would use his judo background to comprehensively outgrapple his opponents, while Laprise scored a jaw-breaking knockout victory to make it to this stage.
Laprise should be able to control the stand-up, but how long it stays that way is completely up to Aubin-Mercier, a product of the famed Tristar Gym. I expect Aubin-Mercier to dictate the location and tempo of this fight, controlling the action from start to finish.
Prediction – Aubin-Mercier via decision
(#6) Dustin Poirier vs. Akira Corassani – 145lbs.
This one should be a fun scrap. Poirier heads in to this one on the back of a two-fight win streak, where he claimed the names of Erik Koch and Diego Brandao, while Corassani is unbeaten in his last three having defeated Andy Ogle, Robbie Peralta and Maximo Blanco.
Corassani has decent enough hands, but Poirier has better. If this one hits the mat, then Poirier will also hold all the aces.
Prediction – Poirier via submission