The UFC is back after only a few days removed from UFC Abu Dhabi, as we head to Quebec, Canada for The Ultimate Fighter Nations Finale. Headlined by Michael Bisping and Tim Kennedy, the pair have made sure to give the event a much-needed boost in interest thanks to their ongoing war of words.
Elsewhere on the card is a welterweight matchup featuring Kyle Noke and Patrick Côté, coaches for this particular instalment of the TUF franchise, as well as the respective middleweight and welterweight finales for the show. Finishing off the main card is a clash of featherweights, as Dustin Poirier takes on Akira Corassani.
Now, on to the prelims.
Sam Stout vs. KJ Noons – 155lbs.
Sam Stout has been in the UFC for like, forever. Although for a man with such longevity (Stout debuted in 2005), Stout’s UFC record, 9-8, is less than stellar, but I guess a company is more likely to keep you around if you have had the occasional barnburner like Stout has. Stout got back on the winning track in his most recent bout, besting Cody McKenzie over three rounds to take home the judges’ decision back in December.
Like Stout, KJ Noons also found himself back in the win column with his most recent performance. Having debuted in the UFC with a unanimous decision defeat to Donald Cerrone, Noons dug deep back at UFC 166 to gut out a decision victory over George Sotiropolous, taking his career record to 12-7.
Both men are comfortable on the feet, and have shown in the past to have the kind of power in their hands that can turn a fight on its head. Noons is the more polished striker of the two, but Stout will carry a grappling advantage, particularly if he continues demonstrate growth in that aspect of his game. Stout edges this.
Editor’s note: Stout/Noons will be contested at welterweight per a request from both fighters pre-fight
Prediction – Stout via decision
Sarah Kaufman vs. Leslie Smith – 135lbs.
Sarah Kaufman will be making just the second appearance of her UFC career when she takes on Leslie Smith, with the controversial bout with Jessica Eye from UFC 166 her sole outing. A former Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Champion, Kaufman originally dropped a controversial split decision, then had the result overturned to a No Contest once it had been revealed that Eye had failed her post-fight drug test.
Leslie Smith is the third opponent that has been scheduled to fight Kaufman on this card, with both Shayna Baszler Amanda Nunes dropping out through injury. Smith will be making her promotional debut here, having spent the majority of her career at Invicta FC, where she had previously lost to Kaufman via a split decision.
Their first encounter was razor close, with many feeling that Smith had got the better of Kaufman, and while Smith is capable of matching Kaufman’s striking capabilities and output, I feel that Kaufman carries a huge advantage in a full training camp and Octagon experience.
Prediction – Kaufman via decision
Ryan Jimmo vs. Sean O’Connell – 205lbs.
This will be the first time that Jimmo has competed since his leg completely gave way against Jimi Manuwa back in October. That bizarre defeat took Jimmo’s UFC record to 2-2, and a defeat here to the unheralded O’Connell will likely spell curtains.
O’Connell will be making his UFC debut when he takes on Jimmo this Wednesday, having spent his career fighting on the regional circuits. An accomplished grappler, O’Connell will be looking to extend his current win streak to seven with victory here.
O’Connell will hold a grappling advantage, but Jimmo is a stifling fighter and will likely prove too savvy for his opponent, and more refined on the feet.
Prediction – Jimmo via KO/TKO
George Roop vs. Dustin Kimura – 135lbs.
Roop’s mini career renaissance was curtailed somewhat with his most recent defeat to Francisco Rivera back in November breaking a two-fight win streak that the rangy bantamweight had put together since returning to the 135lbs division.
Kimura bounced back from his first career loss, with a submission finish over Jon Delos Reyes back in January, and no it was not by kimura, but an armbar. Dustin Kimura has disappointingly never won via a kimura. Sort it out, mate.
As long as the fight stays standing, Roop will be in a position to utilise his superior range and striking to take this one.
Prediction – Roop via decision
Tags: George Roop, KJ Noons, Michael Bisping, Mixed Martial Arts, Ryan Jimmo, Sam Stout, Sarah Kaufman, tim kennedy