Emotion can be a help or a hindrance when it comes to mixed martial arts, but three episodes into the new season of The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Team Canada vs. Team Australia, all of the good vibes are residing with the team from the great white north after going up 3-0 following Chad Laprise's victory over Chris Indich last week.
Laprise was an early favorite going into the show so he was going to be tough to beat no matter who he faced, but Indich gave him everything he could handle and more through the ten minutes of their fight. When it was over, Laprise got the win, while Indich was hopeful to score the $25,000 'Fight of the Season' bonus once the show was completely over.
With the Canadians maintaining control, coach Patrick Cote gave the next fight to middleweight standout Nordine Taleb, who has been itching to step into the Octagon ever since the show started, and he will take on 19-year old wild child Tyler Manawaroa in the next showdown between Canada and Australia.
The emotions in this fight are already at a fever pitch because Taleb has been gunning for Manawaroa ever since they got into the house, and that intensity only ratcheted up last week when the Australian decided to serenade his friends from Canada with a little didgeridoo playing. Taleb was fiery in his response to the loud bellows from the wind instrument while speaking in his native French, promising to take Manawaroa out violently when they finally meet in the cage.
Through three weeks of the show, all of the emotions have been running high. For the Australians, losing the first trio of fights isn't the way this group of fighters envisioned the show going, but their inexperience is showing in the competition thus far. Assistant coach Izzy Martinez isn't sugarcoating their performances either, and maybe his growl can finally light a fire under the team still trying to find footing on the show.
Meanwhile, the momentum is all on the Canadians side, but that kind of confidence can also backfire if it swells up too much and becomes a cocky demeanor when training or heading into a fight. It's doubtful that the swagger displayed by the Canadians will spill over into Nordine Taleb's preparation given his desire to tear Manawaroa apart, limb from limb, but his overcharged anger could also be his undoing.
Heading into the show, Taleb (8-2) was a favorite to go far in the competition, especially given his experience against top talent. While he did lose to former DREAM champion Marius Zaromskis in his last fight before the show, Taleb does hold a TKO win over former Ultimate Fighter and UFC standout Pete Sell from 2011. At 32 years of age, Taleb also carries with him veteran experience and maturity that can't be taught inside the cage and that's a major advantage he'll carry over his opponent in this fight. Taleb is a nasty striker with knockout power stemming from both hands and a developing head kick that he's used to finish off at least one opponent in the past.
On the other side of the cage stands 19-year-old Tyler “Wild Thing” Manawaroa, who definitely earns his nickname with a little bit of ink and a couple of piercings that certainly caught the attention of his housemates when he entered the show. Manawaroa, despite his age, is actually one of the more experienced fighters from the Australian team, currently holding a 10-0 record and having fought for most of his career as a middleweight unlike Taleb, who was a welterweight before coming onto the show.
Manawaroa is a very well-rounded fighter who says he wants to stand and bang with Taleb, but that could all be a masterful strategy at work because of his 10 career wins, six of them have come by submission. Manawaroa has a varied ground attack as well, pulling off rear naked chokes, armbars and arm triangle chokes to finish opponents in the past. If Taleb approaches this fight believing that he can just force Manawaroa into a striking battle, he may find himself on the ground searching for air real quick.
Given Taleb's background and experience, he should be the odds on favorite in this fight, but his emotional state has to come into question. He's been so fired up throughout the course of the show, there's a chance the wave of emotion could cause an adrenaline dump if he doesn't land an early knockout and by the end of the first round he might be zapped for energy. Manawaroa on the other hand has been a cool customer throughout despite giving up 13 years to his opponent.
Manawaroa might just be the Australian's best hope to stop the losing skid and put the control back into coach Kyle Noke's hands. Expect Manawaroa to strike early before mixing in a takedown attempt or two as the first round wears on to see if Taleb is really ready for a true mixed martial arts battle or if he's just trying to swing for the fences looking for the knockout.
It's time for the Australians to stop the bleeding and Manawaroa might be their only hope.