TUF Nations Finale: Bisping vs Kennedy- Prelim Predictions
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**Sam Stout vs KJ Noons will be included in the PODCAST
135lbs- Sarah Kaufman (16-2-0 1NC) vs Leslie Smith (6-4-1)
In the Women’s Bantamweight division, former Strikeforce Champion Sarah Kaufman gets a blanks slate in the UFC when she squares off for the second time with late injury replacement Leslie Smith. Kaufman’s controversial debut decision defeat against Jessica Eye was overturned to a No Contest, while Smith is coming off of a decision loss for the Invicta Flyweight title.
Smith and Kaufman fought just over a year ago in Kaufman’s Invicta debut. Kaufman took a decision, but was knocked down by a head kick in the second round.
In their first meeting Kaufman carried the majority of the action, landing hard and accurate combinations and mixing in few uncharacteristic takedowns. Smith had her most success with her kicks, including the one that sent Sarah tumbling to the mat, but she could mat the volume.
The first time they squared off, Kaufman was making her return to action after almost a year and debuting in new organization. This time, it will be Smith making her debut and doing it on just over a week’s notice.
Smith is a scrappy competitor and willingly traded with Kaufman, but outside of the knock down she didn’t do enough to win. Kaufman might look to incorporate more takedowns to take away the kicking game, but rematches often ended early, so my prediction is Sarah Kaufman to defeat Leslie Smith by TKO.
205lbs- Ryan Jimmo (18-3-0) vs Sean O’Connell (15-4-0)
In the Light Heavyweight division, Ryan Jimmo heads home to battle late injury replacement Sean O’Connell. Jimmo is coming off an injury TKO loss to Jimi Manuwa, dropping his Octagon record to 2-2. O’Connell has won 6 in a row including a 2012 decision win over notable Marvin Eastman.
Jimmo was originally pencilled in to face Steve Bosse, who has unfortunately retired after pulling out of the fight. O’Connell will be stepping in on very short notice, with his last fight coming back in mid-January. He was prepping for a fight in May under the MFC banner.
The Canadian comes from a Karate background and it can be seen in his stance and movement. He throws a variety of kicks along with decent combinations and has 7 wins coming by way of knockout. Despite his earth shattering debut, Jimmo has built a reputation on being a point fighter.
O’Connell does have 7 wins by knockout which suggest he has some power, but in the limit footage that does exist he doesn’t appear to do anything overly flashy. In fact, he appears more focussed on throwing a quick combo and then pushing forward to tie his opponent up. He does have 3 submission wins, with his most recent coming back in early 2010.
While he is taking this fight on short notice, the American should be in shape considering he was preparing for a bout in just a few weeks. That being said, he is still preparing to fight in the biggest organization in the world against the toughest opponent of his career. This can have a significant impact on a fighters performance. Additionally, Jimmo’s style can present a unique and difficult front to attack which will give O’Connell fits. The UFC newcomer has been knocked out twice and Jimmo does have power so my prediction is Ryan Jimmo to defeat Sean O’Connell by knockout.
135lbs- George Roop (14-11-1) vs Dustin Kimura (12-1-0)
In the Bantamweight division, George Roop battles prospect on the rise- Dustin Kimura. Roop has won 2 of his last 3 since cutting to 135 pounds, but is coming off of a knockout against Francisco Rivera. Kimura picked up a win in his last outing, after suffering the first defeat of his young career.
Physically, as is almost always the case with Roop at 135, George will have a length advantage. He will stand 6” taller and have a 4” reach advantage.
Kimura has won 8 of his 11 victories by submission, including his debut against Chico Camus. He also has 2 knockout wins, giving him a 91% finishing rate. Conversely, Roop has been stopped in 7 of his 10 career defeats- 3 knockouts and 4 submissions. He also has an even split of subs and knockouts totalling 8 wins highlighted by the upset knockout of Brian Bowles.
Kimura is a good grappler, with mediocre wrestling. In 3 UFC appearances, he has unsuccessfully attempted 1 takedown, while getting put on his back once in each fight. Despite these disproportionate numbers, he has 2 UFC subs on the books.
Roop is no slouch on the mat, but all of his submission wins came early in his career. He also hasn’t been submitted since his 2009 loss to George Sotiropoulos while fighting at Lightweight. George has a solid top game when he elects to use his, highlight most recently by his ground and pound.
On the feet, Kimura is still working to round out his striking game. While Dustin has shown signs of serviceable striking, Roop should have the advantage here. George’s skill set is far undervalued. He builds his combinations off of a stiff jab, throws a variety of kicks, and has more power than many give him credit for. Augmenting his skill, is the previously mentioned length advantage.
Roop averages 3.43 SLpM, while giving up 2.41. Kimura’s first 3 UFC outings have produced an almost 2-1 negative exchange rate. Roop’s chin is an issue. He has been knocked out 3 times, but all by (as Nick Diaz would say) big hitters- Mark Hominick, Cub Swanson, and most recently Francisco Rivera. Unfortunately, Kimura has yet to show the type of power to exploit Roop’s chin.
Kimura’s lack of a competent wrestling game and still developing striking skills, combined with Roop’s size and striking game will be too much for the Hawaiian to overcome, so my prediction is George Roop to defeat Dustin Kimura by decision.
155lbs- Mark Bocek (11-5-0) vs Mike De La Torre (12-3-0)
In the Lightweight division, Mark Bocek makes his return to the cage after a long layoff and will do so against late injury replacement Mike De La Torre. Bocek hasn’t fought since late 2012 where he lost to Rafael Dos Anjos. De La Torre has won 3 in a row, including a victory over former Strikeforce talent James Terry.
De La Torre is replacing Evan Dunham on roughly a weeks notice. He had recently moved down to Featherweight, but has fought several times at 155 pounds.
The American brings a nice mix of finishing ability with 5 knockouts and 6 submissions. He is an aggressive striker, primarily relying on his hands with a limited kicking game. He will also throw in some knee strikes and close range elbows when the opportunity presents itself. He is equally as aggressive with his wrestling game and will pursue the takedown. He has secured 3 of his last 4 wins by submission and has strong back mount with 50% of his submission wins coming by rear naked choke.
All 3 of De La Torre’s defeats have come by submission, which is a major red flag when facing a ground specialist like Mark Bocek.
A Black belt in Kempo Karate, Bocek’s striking is serviceable. He would never be considered a knockout threat with just a single TKO victory coming as the result of an injury. He is durable with just one stoppage loss, at the hands of former Lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. All in all, his stand-up is centered around closing the distance and helping him to set up his ground game.
Bocek is a BJJ Black belt, with some of the best grappling in the division. He averages 3.72 takedowns at 39%, and has put up some pretty impressive numbers including a combined 13 takedowns against top grapplers like Nik Lentz, Jim Miller, and Ben Henderson. Bocek’s preferred technique is to back his opponent into the cage, change levels and look for the double leg. Once he has his hands connected his opponent is almost always going to the floor. Bocek has an excellent top game and can hang with the best of the best. He has 7 submission wins, highlight by his top mount triangle against fellow Black belt Dustin Hazelett. If he can’t get the submission he is more then capable of grinding out a top control decision as was the case in his last two wins against Lentz and John Alessio.
The Canadian’s layoff is a major red flag, at almost a year and a half there will be some ring rust. Taking the short notice and debut factors into account for De La Torre, he too will have a lot to deal with before that cage door closes. If De La Torre can keep this fight standing he should have an advantage, but he has suspect takedown defense, he has been submitted 3 times, and has never faced a grappler on this level- and this is simply too much to overlook. Bocek will need to get this fight in his realm early to keep his opponent from settling in, so my prediction is Mark Bocek to defeat Mike De La Torre by submission.
185lbs- Nordine Taleb (8-2-0 1NC) vs Vik Grujic (6-2-0)
In the Middleweight division, Nordine Taleb makes his official UFC debut when he meets fellow debutant and TUF Nations cast member Vik Grujic. Taleb had his 7 fight winning streak snapped in his last pro appearance, while Grujic was 1-2 before entering the TUF house.
Nordine was defeated in his only TUF fight by decision, while Grujic was victorious in the quarter-finals with a brutal TKO victory, but advanced no further following a submission loss in the semis.
It is worth noting that Taleb will participate in the next season of TUF as well, which will be debuting after the conclusion of this card. Prior to his TUF appearance he had not fought professionally since September 2012.
Both men are relatively young in MMA years- with Taleb holding a slight edge in total fights at 11-8. The Canuck also has a trio of fights under the Bellator banner and has faced better competition including Marius Zaromskis and Pete Sell which should give him a further experience advantage over his counterpart.
Nordine has the ability to go to the mat and can work his top game, but he is a striker first. He has good power with 5 knockouts and throws at a pretty decent rate. He mixes in a variety of techniques, relying on long straight punches, a high volume of kicks, and hard knee strikes when in close. His clinch fighting was his attack of choice in his only TUF appearance, battering his opponent with knees to the body and head.
The Aussie demonstrated his power as well in his TUF victory, catching his opponent on the feet and finishing him on the mat with some brutal elbow strikes. To date, he has just a single knockout win and prefers to try and put his opponents on their back. In the limit footage of his pre-TUF career he has shown some serviceable wrestling and top position grappling skills, but the level of competition has to be brought into question.
The hometown favourite has had some trouble on the mat and could be vulnerable if Grujic can get him there, but that could be easier said then done. Taleb has a strong sprawl and is pretty effective at quickly establishing his underhooks to gain control over the position as his opponent looks to come forward.
The cardio of Taleb looked a little off on the show, especially for a guy that can work at a relatively high v0lume, but that could have been the product of tough weight-cut that comes with the jam packed TUF schedule. Look for Nordine to build off the home crowd, defend the takedowns, and outland his opponent both in quantity and quality of strikes, so my prediction is Nordine Taleb to defeat Vik Grujic by TKO.
170lbs- Richard Walsh (7-1-0) vs Chris Indich (6-1-0)
In the Welterweight division it is Richard Walsh taking on fellow Aussie and TUF teammate Chris Indich. Chris has won 3 in a row prior to entering the house and Walsh was riding a 5 fight winning streak before the UFC came calling.
Walsh was one of the few Aussies to make it out of the opening round, but was submitted in the semi-finals. Indich suffered a first round decision loss to eventual tournament finalist Chard Laprise.
As is the case with many TUF combatants, each man has limited pro experience with a combined 14 total fights mainly competing on the local circuit. Walsh’s lone defeat came at the hands of TUF smashes winner and fellow UFC roster member Robert Whittaker, which could give him a slight edge in quality of opponent faced.
Both men have finishing capabilities, especially on the feet, but the edge should lie with Walsch. He showed calculated striking in his two TUF appearances and with 5 knockouts prior to entering the house he clearly has power. He scored an impressive stoppage via knee strikes over Callan Porter in one of his final pre-TUF outings. Conversely, Indich didn’t show anything that special in his time on the show. He struggled to keep up with Chad Laprise while attacking mainly in short bursts that had limited effectiveness.
There is always the potential for fighters to make significant improvements between their time on the show and the finale, but that is an intangible that is hard to account for. Based on what has been shown, Walsh looked to be the most complete fighter from Team Australia. He seemed to be getting the better of his semi-final opponent Olivier Aubi-Mercier before a mistake lead to the submission. In the end, Walsh will be the more technical and physically strong fighter, so my prediction is Richard Walsh to defeat Chris Indich by TKO.
135lbs- Mitch Gagnon (10-2-0) vs Tim Gorman (9-2-0)
To start off the night’s festivities Canadian Bantamweight Mitch Gagnon carries his 2 fight winning streak into the cage against TUF alumni and UFC debutant Tim Gorman. Gagnon is 2-1 inside the Octagon, with 2 straight wins after coming up short in an entertaining first appearance. Timmy Gorman has won 3 in a row and 6 of his last 7 prior to making the jump to the UFC.
Gorman had a brief stint on the 18th season of the Ultimate Fighter. He won his qualifying bout and was picked by Team Tate, but was forced to withdraw from the competition with an injury. He has not competed professionally since late 2012.
Gorman has 6 knockouts, including 4 inside the first 60 seconds of the fight. He throws hard, but his best position to finish an opponent is on the mat. He can generate a lot of power with his ground and pound from top position and is hard to buck off once he establishes the position. In his TUF qualification bout he shot almost immediately and took his unsuspecting opponent down, took control of the position, and eventually finished the fight from back mount with strikes.
Albeit unsuccessful, Gorman has faced a couple of opponent with big league experience. He was submitted by LC Davis and lost a split decision to Bellator vet Jared Downing.
Gagnon is a physical powerhouse. He is incredibly muscular and generates immense power both in his striking and grappling techniques. He busted Bryan Caraway up early in their meeting with his short range striking and ground and pound. Even more impressively, he squeezed the consciousness out of formerly undefeated Dustin Kimura with a guillotine.
With 10 submissions, the Canadian is a finisher, but the big knock on him his is cardio and longevity. He has gone beyond the first round just 3 times, but only managed to win once. He gassed hard in his debut, which could have been the product of some debut jitters and/or an adrenaline dump getting the best of him, but he needs to prove otherwise before he can shake that label.
Gorman has struggled with next level competition and unless he has made massive strides in his time away from live action, he will struggle to get Gagnon in position to do damage. Gagnon has to be conscious of not overextending himself early and faltering late, but my prediction is Mitch Gagnon to defeat Tim Gorman by submission.