TUF Nations preview: A look back at the first eight episodes
MAR 10, 2014 9:00p ET
The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia has officially reached the midway point with the first round of fights coming to a close and the semifinal matchups about to be made.
The newest episode of TUF Nations will feature highlights of the past eight episodes including the fights and the most exciting action inside the training room and the Ultimate Fighter house as well.
Since stepping foot onto Canadian soil, the Australians have had to learn to adapt and this happened in rapid fashion when just days after a grueling flight across the world ended, the first fighter was asked to step on the scales, make weight and then compete the very next day. Team Canada won the coin flip to start the season so coach Patrick Cote opted to go with his most veteran fighter Kajan Johnson matched up against Aussie Brendan O'Reilly.
It didn't take long for Johnson to knock off more than two years of ring rust because he made short work of O'Reilly, tapping him out via rear naked choke in the first round.
The Canadians remained in control and it didn't take Cote long to matchup another of his strongest fighters, Elias Theodorou, in a middleweight bout against Australian grappler Zein Saliba. While the Aussie didn't take it easy on the man touted for having the best hair in all of Canada, ultimately Theodorou came out on top via unanimous decision.
The next fight went much the same way with Canadian heavy hitter Chad Laprise busting up tough guy Chris Indich over the first 10 minutes of their fight to also pull off a unanimous decision win.
At this stage in the season, Australia is down 3-0 and the light at the end of the tunnel is starting to look more and more like a train coming straight towards them to finish the carnage the Canadians already started. It's then and there that Australia turned to 19-year old wild child Tyler Manawaroa, who had been engaged in a war of words all season long with Nordine Taleb, who was considered to be Canada's other top middleweight on the show.
Taleb was like a bull stomping around the house just waiting to get his hands on Manawaroa in the cage, but once the fight started it was a much different affair. The young Aussie didn't back down from his more veteran opponent and as he fired off shot after shot, Taleb had no choice but to respect Manawaroa's power throughout the fight. Following a back and forth first two rounds, the two competitors were forced into a third and final sudden victory round.
Manawaroa and Taleb left nothing in the cage when the final horn sounded, but the Australian did just enough to get the nod on the judges' scorecards and he walked out the winner. When it was over, a season full of trash talk faded away because Taleb and Manawaroa had punched respect into each other, even during a shared trip to the hospital.
With the Australians finally in control, they were able to pick up another much needed win with Richard Walsh defeating Matthew Desroches by unanimous decision after a stifling clinch attack, powering the Canadian around the cage at will until the fight was over.
This set up four time Olympian Dan Kelly to keep the ball rolling for the Australians against the oft injured Sheldon Westcott, who was dealing with a knee injury going into the fight. Kelly had been an inspiration to the entire team from Australia given his Olympic pedigree and fight experience. Kyle Noke was the coach of the Australian team, but Kelly was certainly a big brother to all of the young fighters hoping to make their way to the UFC.
Unfortunately, his fight was nothing short of heartbreaking after he was stung by an early punch, taken down and Westcott wrapped up an arm triangle submission just seconds into the fight. Following the win, the Canadians celebrated quite loudly with Kajan Johnson most notably screaming towards Kelly following his disappointing performance. The Australians took note and it appears Johnson remains public enemy No. 1 on their list as the fighters continue on in the season.
The Canadians wrapped up another win the next fight with Olivier Aubin-Mercier using superior wrestling to out work 19 year old fighter Jake Matthews. This set up the final fight between Canadian judo specialist Luke Harris and a very angry and agitated Vik Grujic, who waited all season long to fight and was still fuming after Kelly was humiliated by the Canadians following his loss.
Coach Kyle Noke used a life line to call in his teammate and training partner, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, to come in and help inspire his team while also adding some extra training to their daily routine. It paid off come fight night because Grujic took a page right from Jones' playbook when he slammed Harris to the mat and opened up a barrage of short elbow strikes that absolutely decimated the Canadian.
The win for Grujic ended the Canadian's run and put the final tally for the season at 3-5 overall for the Australian team.
Five wins for the Canadians looks good, but that means that two of their welterweight competitors will be forced to face off in the next round of the tournament and that's going to force some tough decisions between teammates.
Before the semifinals, let's take a look at how the season's fights broke down so far and some very unofficial mid-season awards.
Kajan Johnson def. Brendan O'Reilly by submission (rear naked choke) R1
Elias Theodorou def. Zein Saliba by unanimous decision
Chad Laprise def. Chris Indich by unanimous decision
Tyler Manawaroa def. Nordine Taleb by unanimous decision (three rounds)
Sheldon Westcott def. Dan Kelly by submission (arm triangle choke)
Olivier Aubin-Mercier def. Jake Matthews by unanimous decision
Vik Grujic def. Luke Harris by knockout (elbow strikes on the ground)
TUF Nations highly unofficial mid-season awards:
Best Fight of the Year (so far): Tyler Manawaroa vs. Nordine Taleb
Best KO of the Year (so far): Vik Grujic bludgeoning Luke Harris with elbows
Best Submission of the Year (so far): Sheldon Westcott's shocking arm triangle win over Dan Kelly
Best Hair: Elias Theodorou following his win over Zein Saliba, he had to check the status of his perfectly quaffed hair.
Best part of Australia brought to Canada: The didgeridoo
Best part of Canada brought to Canada: Snow and a moose head
Best rivalry: Patrick Cote and strength coach Jonathan Chaimberg. When a Canadian defects to Team Australia to help them out, needless to say Coach Cote was not amused.
There you have it - eight episodes into The Ultimate Fighter Nations and we've still got plenty more to go. Next week's episode will break down the semifinal fights as the competitors all look head to get the pick for who they want to face most, and the next round begins in the competition between Team Canada and Team Australia.