“The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia” welterweight Jake Matthews (@JakeBJJMMA) will blog for Sherdog.com all season long, giving his thoughts, reactions and behind-the-scenes insights on the show. “The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia” (#TUFNations) airs each Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1 in North America, and Thursdays on FX at 4:30 p.m. AEDT (with a second airing at 10:30 p.m. AEDT) in Australia.
The semifinals are under way, and the matchups should make for some interesting fights. The welterweight matches were the exact opposite of what we predicted. We were all so certain that Richard Walsh would be fighting either Kajan Johnson or Chad Laprise because of the way they consistently poked and prodded “Filthy Rich.”
The first semifinal pits Chad against Kajan. There was an obvious separation between Kajan and the rest of Team Canada. I also noticed that Chad was beginning to become friendly with the Aussies, and it was obvious why: He wants to have everyone cheering him on. Why wouldn’t he? Every inch counts in a fight. This annoyed me some; we were trying to chat and have some laughs with Chad through the entire season, and he wanted none of it. Because of that, I’m backing Kajan in the fight. He has not put on a front or pretended to be our mate. He’s the same Kajan we first met. Love him or hate him, what you see is what you get.
The weigh-in went like it normally does, though it did feel a little weird not having an Aussie on the scales. It was obvious that Chad and Kajan, being friends, felt uncomfortable with the stare down, but Chad seemed to be taking it more seriously, as had been the case throughout the season.
Then it is fight day, and although I’ll be gunning for Kajan, I honestly cannot pick a winner in this fight. Despite my initial take on him, Kajan has turned out to be a good bloke and I would like to see him take the win as the underdog. Once the ref says fight, I get a feeling of instant surprise. Kajan was hanging with Chad in the standup -- an area in which we all thought Chad would have the upper hand. I also knew if Kajan could take the fight to the ground he’d have a huge advantage.
The first round went mostly punch for punch. Chad may have landed a few more significant strikes and defended a few takedowns, but it was close: 10-9 for Chad. It was the same story in the second round. We were screaming for Kajan to go for a takedown to at least rack up some points. Chad was looking confident, but in the later minutes of round two ... boom. Can you say knockout of the season? The cracking sound from that punch was sickening, and considering the circumstances, you can understand why no one was cheering.
Kajan was very emotional after the fight, as was everyone else, Canadians and Aussies alike. It’s hard enough to see two friends have to fight each other, but to have it end the way it did made it that much harder. Kajan was heartbroken over the loss afterwards. Plus, it would have been just as upsetting to feel like you were on your own. If I was aware of the position Kajan was in, I would have offered to corner him myself. I do feel bad for him.
Congratulations to Chad. He will next fight the winner of the semifinal between Richard and Olivier Aubin-Mercier. First, however, we have the grudge match between Tyler Manawaroa and Elias Theodorou. My prediction: Tyler will crack Elias and knock him out.
One down, three to go. Stay tuned for the remaining semifinals to see who will progress to “The Ultimate Fighter Nations” Finale. As always, there will be hard training, good Aussie humor and plenty of laughs.