Canadian fighters making huge TUF impact

BY DANIEL AUSTIN

Forget Canadian content regulations, the UFC may need to start putting quotas in place for securing enough international fighters.

Even before Canadians dominated The Ultimate Fighter: Nations tournament and secured all four places in the finale, the Quebec City card was heavy on fighters from the Great White North.

But with the Australian contingent proving to be no match for the Canucks, Saturday’s event has suddenly become a showcase for the depth of Canadian MMA talent.

All but three of the bouts feature fighters from Canada, although injuries have caused the names of the opponents to change — sometimes more than once.

Sarah Kaufman, of Victoria, B.C., was originally scheduled to fight Shayna Baszler, but was forced to adjust her preparations when Baszler pulled out with an undisclosed injury. Then, replacement opponent Amanda Nunes withdrew only days after being confirmed with a broken hand.

Now, Kaufman will take on Leslie Smith, of the Cesar Gracie Fight Team. The two previously squared off last April under the Invicta FC banner, and Kaufman earned a split decision, as well as Fight of the Night honours.

The Canadian doesn’t seem particularly concerned by the never-ending rotation of opponents.

“Baszler out. Nunes out. Leslie Smith is in!! 3rd opponent for April 16 is locked in. Feeling great and excited to put on a show 🙂 #ufc,” Kaufman tweeted this week.

But it’s the four Canadian finalists who may offer up the most intriguing match-ups. Edmonton’s Sheldon Westcott, who finished two opponents in under a minute in his TUF matches, will face off against Elias Theodorou, of Mississauga, while Windsor’s Chad Laprise takes on Montreal’s Olivier Aubin-Mercier.

Canadian coach Patrick Cote, who will step into the octagon himself for a welterweight fight against Australian coach Kyle Noke, said this week that while he’s delighted to see four young Canadians competing for a UFC contract, he’s not surprised by their success.

“On paper, we knew we had good fighters,” Cote told QMI Agency this week. “When I started the season, I was confident we could place at least one of our guys in each semifinal.”

Other Canadians fighting on the card include London’s Sam Stout, who will throw down with American KJ Noons in a 155-pound matchup, and Ryan Jimmo, of St. John, N.B., will take on Sean O’Connell, from Salt Lake City.

ROUSEY ADDED TO UFC 175

Barring injuries or other complications, UFC 175 is shaping up to be the fight card of the summer.

Already headlined by a title fight between middleweight champion Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida, the UFC added significant starpower to the card Friday night

UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, presumably having wrapped up her filming obligations for the Entourage movie, will take on Canadian star Alexis Davis.

The Niagara Falls, Ont., native is coming off three straight wins, the most recent over Jessica Eye at UFC 170 in February, and has won five of six pro fights, with her only loss coming to Kaufman while they were both fighting under the Strikeforce banner in May, 2012.

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