Sarah Kaufman seeks her first UFC victory. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Bonjour, mes amis. It is time to whip out your best maple syrup and pour it all over your largest taxidermied moose head. It is time to confuse the heck out of your singulars and plurals. It is time to find your “riddum” and watch some mixed martial arts in Quebec.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship will return to former welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre’s province of origin on Wednesday, with “The Ultimate Fighter Nations” Finale at the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.
The main draw airs live on Fox Sports 1 and is highlighted by a pivotal middleweight clash between Michael Bisping and Tim Kennedy. Prior to that anticipated collision, the undercard will also air on Fox Sports 1, preceded by some early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.
Here are five reasons to catch the undercard:
Leslie Smith is in the UFC now, and that is cause for celebration.
Smith fights like an adoptive Diaz sister, but the customary scowl so often displayed by the 209’s toughest brothers is nowhere to be found in this volume striker. Instead, “The Peacemaker” smiles like a kid on her way to a birthday party when she walks to the cage, and her demeanor usually does not change, even when locked in fierce combat.
To be honest, I doubt Smith knows how to put on a boring fight, and the women’s bantamweight division should only benefit from her addition.
Smith and Sarah Kaufman certainly benefited from their first encounter -- a wild three-rounder contested one year ago under the Invicta Fighting Championships banner. Both women left it all in the cage that night, and I have no reason to expect their rematch will transpire any differently. This one is not to be missed, fight fans.
Sam Stout fighting K.J. Noons might constitute cotton candy matchmaking, but you will not see me complaining.
This is in large part because I believe Stout and Noons are tailor-made to rip each other to pieces. Aside from Smith-Kaufman, this is definitely my sleeper pick to win “Fight of the Night.”
Let us examine the evidence. Both men are most confident when standing. They own a collective 17 knockouts to their credit. In a combined 49 pro fights, exactly one of those bouts has been lost by knockout, and Noons’ KO at the hands of Charles Bennett took place more than seven years ago.
What, do you need a road map? These lightweights are going to punch giant holes in each other, probably for the entire 15 minutes. Watch it.
Dustin Kimura is a talent to keep your eye on at 135 pounds. This young man is likely not yet ready for primetime, but I think he could be in the near future.
After beginning his career a perfect 10-0, “The Diamond” suffered his first and only defeat at the hands of Mitch Gagnon at UFC 165 in September. Kimura rebounded from the setback, however, submitting John delos Reyes with a first-round armbar on Jan. 4.
The Californian possesses solid footwork and well-rounded skills, but I think he will have his hands full with a veteran like George Roop. The 32-year-old should enter the cage with an ax to grind, considering his most recent outing netted him a knockout loss at the hands of Francisco Rivera.
Can Kimura overcome Roop’s considerable experience advantage? If he can, bigger fights will no doubt await the prospect in the future.
THE GAGNON-GORMAN AFFAIR
If one is high on Kimura, as I am, it would be logical to laud Gagnon, as well.
The Canadian showed great resolve in rebounding from his loss to Bryan Caraway in his Octagon debut. Gagnon came back with a vengeance following that submission defeat, finishing Walel Watson in just 69 seconds before putting Kimura to sleep with a beautiful guillotine choke to conclude what was quite a competitive bout up until that point.
Gagnon will now lock up with Tim Gorman, an “Ultimate Fighter 18” alumnus who was forced out of that competition with a torn hamstring. Gorman’s toughness should not be underestimated. This is a man, after all, who decided to fight on a bum leg to qualify for the reality show rather than give up his spot. The Iowan enters the cage riding a three-fight winning streak and will compete in a sanctioned bout for the first time since November 2012.
Which of these bantamweights will ascend to the next rung on the 135-pound ladder and which of them will take a step backward?
The finals of “The Ultimate Fighter Nations” might take place on the main card, but four game talents from the show will also compete in preliminary matchups.
Nordine Taleb is probably the most talented of those four, but I doubt that hard-punching Aussie Vik Grujic cares about such things. Although Grujic was quickly submitted by Sheldon Westcott in the semis, we should not forget about his nasty knockout of Luke Harris in the quarterfinals, which resulted in Harris wearing some of the most ghastly post-fight bruises I have ever seen.
At welterweight, Chris Indich will square off with Team Australia compatriot Richard Walsh, who should walk into the cage with a definitive size advantage. Both of these Aussies are no doubt hungry to erase the memory of their respective exhibition defeats and score a victory in their UFC debut.
Which two of these four Octagon debutants will kick off their UFC careers on the right foot?