Last week, Team Canada improved its record to 3-0 when Chad Laprise earned a unanimous decision victory over Chris Indich. Tonight, Canadian representative Nordine Taleb will lock horns with Tyler Manawaroa from Team Australia.
Following Indich’s defeat, the Aussies instigate another “we can hear you dudes talking s--- about us in the other room” conversation with the Canadians. Laprise makes sure to reiterate the toughness of his team to Taleb, who apparently told his Canadian teammates that they would go undefeated in the opening round. Taleb freely admits to this and doesn’t see the problem with picking his team to win every fight.
Back at the fighter house, Laprise celebrates his win with some cheesecake. In a classy move, the Canadian cuts the first piece and hands it to Indich, who gleefully accepts the delicious gift. The men talk shop after they devour their desserts and discuss the ebb and flow of the hard-fought bout. Though Laprise used a speed advantage to consistently beat the Aussie to the punch, everyone seems to agree that Indich has earned a great deal of respect from his fellow cast mates and the coaches alike.
Manawaroa, who has never before seen snow, jumps outside for an impromptu snowball fight and brings some powder back in the house for a friendly assault on Laprise. Later, the unbeaten 19-year-old hits the gym to start training for his upcoming bout. Teammate Vic Grujic calls him a “wild man” and explains that Manawaroa’s young age is not indicative of his talent level -- a sentiment with which coach Kyle Noke agrees.
Meanwhile, Taleb begins his preparation for the bout. The Bellator veteran believes he has a superior coaching staff and stable of training partners. Coach Patrick Cote reminds viewers that neither fighter is fond of the other and predicts the fight will result in a bloody battle.
Both men are cleared to fight at the weigh-ins, with Taleb tipping the scales at an even 185 pounds and Manawaroa checking in slightly heavier at 185.5. The middleweights make their final pre-fight preparations, and it is now time for combat.
Taleb takes center cage to start and snaps off a trio of low kicks. Clearly the wilder of the fighters, Manawaroa takes advantage of the Canadian’s tendency to keep his chin high and counters the next low kick with a stiff overhand right. The men exchange knees from the clinch before separating, and Manawaroa stings Taleb with a heavy jab that lands right on the money. The Aussie closes the gap and looks for a knee-tap takedown, but Taleb defends it well and lands several sharp knees from the clinch. Manawaroa falls backwards as they come apart and does a backward roll before springing to his feet. Taleb is taking control now. He’s making Manawaroa miss and catching him with some sharp counters. Manawaroa bulls forward, and the men once again trade knees from the clinch to end the round.
Manawaroa moves aggressively to start round two, slipping a right straight and ripping the 32-year-old with a left hook and an uppercut. The Aussie then lunges forward and misses with a power shot, which Taleb counters with a knee to the cup. Referee Yves Lavigne calls for time, and the 19-year-old recovers quickly. The action resumes, and the middleweights immediately trade hard jabs and knees to the ribs. Manawaroa is now bleeding from the nose, and Taleb is cut over his left eye. Suddenly, Noke’s fighter floors his foe with another stiff jab, but Taleb pops back to his feet and delivers two hard knees on the inside. Taleb connects with more knees from the clinch and then catches his overextended opponent with a right hand counter after they break. Manawaroa is exhausted, but he fires back with a nice left hook and then stuns his man with a spinning elbow to the temple near the end of round two.
The cageside judges score the fight a draw after 10 minutes, meaning a third frame will be required to decide a winner. Manawaroa lands an uppercut and a low kick, but Taleb retaliates with a right cross and rips a left to the body before ducking under a spinning back fist from the Aussie. The Canadian then connects with a nice jab but eats a knee to the face on the exit. With about 90 seconds to go, the veteran lands a crisp right cross that puts Manawaroa into the cage and follows the blow with another right over the top. The Aussie circles out and lands three uppercuts to the body, but Taleb responds with the first takedown of the bout -- often a death blow by current judging protocol.
Taleb mashes with elbows and short punches from half-guard, but out of nowhere the Australian hits a sweep and passes to mount, raining down punches and finishing the frenetic fight with a rear-naked choke attempt. That has to be the early favorite for “Fight of the Season.”
Manawaroa is awarded a unanimous decision, the first victory for Team Australia. The young gun stomps around in celebration. Taleb, meanwhile, slumps to his stool and covers his face. After the fight, it is revealed that Taleb likely broke his right foot in the first round. He is comforted by his teammates in the locker room, but this is no doubt a difficult defeat to swallow, given the grueling nature of the contest. Taleb and Manawaroa, who hurt his right thumb, both visit the emergency room and have a laugh about how they kicked the hell out of each other.
Coach Noke now has control of the fight pick, and he selects Richard Walsh to meet Team Canada’s Matt DesRoches in a welterweight showdown next week.