The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia premiered on Fox Sports 1 on Wednesday. The show pits aspiring welterweights and middleweights from Canada and Australia against each other in a tournament format with a UFC contract awaiting the winner.
Olivier Aubin-Mercier, Matthew Desroches, Kajan Johnson, and Chad Laprise make up Team Canada’s 170-pound fighters, while Luke Harris, Nordine Taleb, Elias Theodorou, and Sheldon Westcott make up the middleweight portion of the team.
Team Australia’s welterweights include Chris Indich, Jake Matthews, Brendan O’Reilly, and Richard Walsh. Vik Grujic, Daniel Kelly, Tyler Manawaroa, and Zein Saliba round out the Australian middleweights.
“When you go on The Ultimate Fighter, your goal is to win, period; no matter what country you’re from,” said UFC president Dana White. “But when you are representing your country like Australia and Canada are here, you want to win the thing, but you want to represent. I think that’s going to put a lot of pressure on guys.”
The Coin Toss and First Fight Announcement
Before moving into a sprawling log cabin in Quebec, Canada, the fighters were taken to the UFC gym where the training and fights will take place. Coach Cote produced the coin that will determine which team gets to select the first match-up. Coach Noke flipped the coin into the air and it landed on Team Canada’s side.
“It’s a huge advantage to have control of the first fight pick,” said Team Canada coach Patrick Cote.
The fighters were gathered in the UFC gym with White on a big screen television, and the first fight was announced. Team Canada selected Kajan Johnson to face Team Australia’s Brendan O’Reilly.
The Fight: Kajan Johnson vs. Brendan O’Reilly
Johnson hadn’t competed in two years leading up to the show. He’s the most experienced fighter in the house, but was concerned with a previous eye injury that kept him sidelined.
O’Reilly pressed forward and quickly looked to get the fight to the ground. Johnson clinched and delivered a knee that opened up a cut over O’Reilly’s right eye. O’Reilly secured the takedown, but Johnson rolled for a leg and applied a heel hook. The Australian defended the submission attempt, but Johnson was able to take his back during a scramble.
The two separated and O’Reilly worked for a takedown. Johnson took his back again and locked on a rear naked choke. O’Reilly was forced to tap out. Johnson earned a $5,000 finishing bonus and kept matchmaking control with Team Canada.
“The guy was tough,” said Johnson following the fight. “That inside heel hook that I had, I don’t understand how his knee didn’t tear apart. I was trying to break it off, and it didn’t break off. He didn’t tap.”
“I’m just going to grow from this experience and learn when I have to take my foot off the pedal,” said O’Reilly in defeat. “I’m just happy that I brought it and showed that Australians are going to bring it every time.”
TUF Nations Bonuses
Any fight that ends in a finish this season, the winner gets a $5,000 bonus. At the end of the season, there will be Best Fight, Best Knockout, and Best Submission awards, with the winners of those each scoring a $25,000 bonus.
First Middleweight Fight Announcement
Team Canada retained matchmaking control and decided to pit Elias Theodorou against Team Australia’s Zein Saliba.