This week’s episode of The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia featured the first middleweight match-up of the season, and national pride divides the house.
On most seasons of The Ultimate Fighter, no one has real teammates. Only one fighter walks away with the UFC contract and they usually have to defeat a member of their team along the way to do it. When you pit country vs. country, national pride unites the members and a real team environment emerges. That’s what sets this season apart from most of the previous ones. The fighter house is segregated based on nationality.
Following Kajan Johnson’s first-round submission win over Brendan O’Reilly, Team Canada felt Team Australia was playing nice seeking information. Team Canada’s Nordine Taleb called for a private team meeting.
“I saw a situation that the Australians tried digging for information from us, who fights what style and everything,” said Taleb. “I saw this happening and asked my team for a meeting. I just wanted them to don’t give any information about the teammates and everything. I think the message was clear and everybody agreed.”
The Fight: Elias Theodorou vs. Zein Saliba
This episode's fight appeared to be a classic match-up of conflicting styles. Theodorou comes from a kickboxing background, while Saliba is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Theodorou moved forward and quickly got to the clinch position and worked to get the fight to the ground. They battled for position, exchanging knees to the body. Theodorou finally got the Aussie down three minutes into the bout. Saliba fought his way back to his feet only to be slammed back to the canvas, twice.
Theodorou quickly secured a takedown early in the second frame. He peppered Saliba’s body with short punches. The Canadian controlled most of the round with takedowns and top position. In the closing seconds, Saliba was able to take Theodorou’s back, but was unable to find a submission. All three judges scores the fight 20-18 for Theodorou.
“I had a couple of opportunities. I didn’t capitalize on them,” said Saliba after the loss. “I just didn’t, unfortunately, have the wrestling to take him down and deliver what I wanted. Definitely a little disheartened, but ready to go again.”
“I did whatever I wanted to do. And even with a black belt, I was able to be the dominant ground fighter,” said Theodorou, who seems to be his own biggest fan. “The best thing about winning a fight is not looking like you had a fight.”
Thus far, it’s been all Team Canada from the coin toss to the first two bouts. They retained matchmaking control and decided to pit welterweight Chad Laprise against Team Australia’s Chris Indich in the next fight.