-175 Valerie Letourneau (8-4) vs. +155 Joanne Calderwood (10-1)
Valérie Létourneau: Canadian strawweight Valerie Letourneau made the rounds in her homeland, going 4-3 before being invited to try out for “TUF 18”, and while Roxanne Modafferi put an end to that, Valerie continued to see success. Four consecutive victories, including a 34 second TKO of Jordan Moore earned “Trouble” a shot at UFC stawweight and tongue twisting champion, Joanna Jędrzejczyk. Though Letourneau was in control of the fight for a far larger period of time, the champion outstruck her by nearly two to one on her way to retaining the title. While she holds a purple belt in BJJ, Valerie considers herself a striker, and coming from the ATT, we can expect her to be well rounded and ready for anything.
Joanne Calderwood: Scottish fighter Joanna Calderwood has been training in Muay Thai for 16 years, holds several titles, and has a record of 19-2. She made the switch to MMA in 2012 and was picked up as a contender for season 20 of “the Ultimate Fighter”, hoping to win a shot at the UFC’s newly minted women’s strawweight division. She was submitted by Rose Namajunas in a quarterfinals exhibition match but won her bout against Korean kickboxer Seohee Ham on the prelim of the show’s final card and currently holds a record of 10-1.
The Fight: This bout should serve as a perfect opening to a main card full of knockdown, drag out fights. Both fighters are primarily strikers and have no qualms with going toe to toe. I suspect this will go the distance, and further display the grit and tenacity of both fighters. In the end though, Calderwood should be both more technically sound, and more powerful, having actually finished several of her opponents. Calderwood UD
-400 Olivier Aubin-Mercier (8-2) vs. +325 Thibault Gouti (11-1)
Olivier Aubin-Mercier: “The Quebec Kid” gained notoriety by inexplicably linking Montreal to the RNC. Seriously, look it up, the guy has had five bouts in Montreal and every single one of them he has defeated his opponent with a rear naked choke (cue the Twilight Zone theme…) After a four fight win streak, Olivier was asked to join the cast of “the Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia” and made it to the finals before losing a close decision to Chad Laprise. A black belt in judo and a brown in BJJ, the Tristar fighter has never been finished and obviously excels on the ground.
Thibault Gouti: French MMA standout Thibault Gouti has a bit of mystery surrounding him. On paper, his 11-1 record looks like a clear indication of a fighter on his way to the top, but in reality, most of his opponents have been cans and sub .500 fighters. His six submission wins would lead you to believe that he is skilled on the mat, but his UFC debut saw him submitted by Finnish grappler Teemu Packalen in less than thirty seconds. I guess this fight will depend on which Gouti shows up.
The Fight: This seems like a no-brainer, the two fighters are both primarily grapplers and one has a significantly higher pedigree. Thibault should try to keep Olivier at a distance and feed him some leather, he does after all have 3 KOs in the books. I suspect that the Quebec Kid will smother Gouti on his way to another submission victory. Even though it isn’t in Montreal. Aubin-Mercier RNC 1st
-160 Steve Bosse (11-2) vs.+140 Sean O’Connell (17-7)
Light Heavyweight (205)
Steve Bosse: Former professional goon (see hockey enforcer) Steve Bosse is the MMA embodiment of “kill or be killed”. He is 11-2 in MMA, almost exclusively winning and losing due to strikes, and has only been past the first round three times, most recently dropping the heavy handed James Te-Huna in less than a minute.
Sean O’Connell: Sean O’Connell is a bit of an anomaly in the fight game. He started his MMA career on the strength of his cardio kickboxing “training” and found early success fighting around Utah and even earned an invite to “Ultimate Fighter: Mir vs. Nogueira” but was ultimately cut before making it to the final cast list. All the while he has maintained a career as a radio host. He is a well rounded fighter whose most notable outstanding skill lies in bringing levity to the normally tense and drenched in aggression weigh-ins (Seriously, look this up. It will make your day, I promise.).
The Fight: This should be another in what is probably a night full of striking battles and may well be the shortest. Look for the goon to come out swinging and “the Real OC” to do the same. Bosse looks for the power shots and has questionable cardio, while O’Connell is a fan of swarming punches. If he can weather an early storm from Steve Bosse, O’Connell can easily catch him gassed with his hands down and get the win. Unfortunately, I see him rushing in and eating the Canadian’s powerful fists. Bosse KO 1st
-160 Donald Cerrone (29-7) vs.+140 Patrick Côté (24-9)
Donald Cerrone: With a record of 29-7 (1) in MMA and 28-0-1 in kickboxing, Donald Cerrone is no stranger to fights. Winning 16 performance bonuses between the UFC and the WEC, “Cowboy” is known for putting it all on the line. He has fought a veritable who’s who of fighters at 155 pounds, including losses to Rafeal dos Anjos, Benson Henderson, and an outright war with Nate Diaz; and holds victories over the likes of Eddie Alvarez, Benson Henderson, and Jim Miller
With all his credentials and skills in striking, it is easy to overlook Donald’s ground game. 16 of his wins have come by way of submission, three times as many as by KO. He is truly a world class fighter in every aspect and has the intensity to match.
Patrick Cote: Canadian fighting machine Patrick Cote sprang into the UFC after accepting a fight with the legendary Tito Ortiz on only four day’s notice. Cote lost that fight, and had intermittent success for the next few years, even losing in the finale of “the Ultimate Fighter: the Comeback” to BJJ standout Travis Lutter. His next bout started a five fight win streak followed by a three fight losing streak which caused his release from the UFC. After winning four consecutive fights, the UFC welcomed him back and he has once again seen intermittent success, albeit against much stiffer competition.
Cote is a dyed in the wool brawler, but that isn’t to say that he lacks proper technique, only that he is unafraid of wading into the deep end. His granite chin has allowed him to trade with notable stikers such as Alessio Sakara, Cung Le, and the legendary Anderson Silva.
The Fight: This fight spells fireworks and one of these two men has a blaze of glory with his name scrawled across it. Neither one of these fighters has quit in him, and the bout could headline its own Fight Night card.
While Cerrone’s grappling is slick, I doubt that it is slick enough to catch the veteran Cote, and much bigger and more proficient strikers have been unable to stop Patrick with strikes. “Cowboy” has shown weakness to body shots in the past, and he is in deep waters at welterweight against a man who has fought, and beaten fighters as far up as light heavyweight. We should have a barn-burner on our hands with this one, expect Donald to try to take and keep the fight on the ground and Cote to have none of it, grinding his way to a victory. Cote TKO 2nd
-115 Stephen Thompson (18-3) vs. -105 Rory MacDonald (12-1)
Rory MacDonald: Since breaking in to the professional fight game in 2005, at the tender age of 16, Rory Macdonald has made a name for himself as a buzzsaw of a fighter. He’s defeated everyone in his path not named “Carols Condit” or “Robbie Lawler”, amassing an 18-3 record, with 13 finishes almost evenly split between strikes and subs.
To put it lightly, there is nothing “the Red King” can’t do, and do well. He excels at both absorbing damage, and dishing it out and can do so from his feet or on the ground. His second fight against Robbie Lawler was one of the most brutal, grinding, and spectacular fights in history.
Stephen Thompson: Undefeated at 57-0 in the world of kickboxing, Stephen Thompson continued that run for his first six fights when he made the switch to the cage. After dropping a decision to Matt Brown at UFC 145, “Wonderboy” once again has amassed a six fight win streak, including a victory over the always tough Patrick Cote, and a first round slaughter of former UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks.
Thompson likes to fight in a very unorthodox, karate-like stance, and he uses it extremely well. Darting in and out of range and timing his strikes for their highest efficacy are the hallmarks of his style. His striking pedigree is unquestionable, but we have yet to see much of his wrestling or grappling ability.
The Fight: In a world where a single mistake or misstep can end a fight in seconds, both fighters have been mostly unaffected by circumstance (except perhaps MacDonald’s loss to Carlos Condit). These two men know the game and where they fit into it very well. I expect to see both playing to their strengths and both being successful.
Thompson tends to extend his lead leg and seems glad to absorb kicks to it rather than checking them, and I think this habit will be foolhardy against Rory. While MacDonald takes his fair share of strikes (perhaps several people’s shares), they rarely affect him. He fell victim to pinpoint strikes from the outside in his loss to Condit, but had never before or since. We have also seen “Wonderboy’s” plans go haywire when his is pressured and pressured he will be when Rory catches his kicks and delivers punches and elbows. We have also yet to see how Stephen fares in the championship rounds, but I suspect this will not be an issue. In the end, I think “the Red King” will take the fight after a long hard slugfest, and after eating plenty of Thompson’s signature sniper strikes. Macdonald UD