TheMMAReport’s preview of the The Ultimate Fighter: Nations returns with a look at Team Australia’s welterweights.
Jake Matthews (6-0)
Jake Matthews makes up one half of the two 19 year-old prospect phenoms on Team Australia – middleweight contestant Tyler Manawaroa is the other half. Having just started training kickboxing and Brazilian jiu jitsu in 2009, Matthews has made great strides of improvement in his emerging MMA career.
Following a promising amateur run that saw him go undefeated through ten bouts, Matthews made the jump to fighting professionally a few weeks after his eighteenth birthday, and he hasn’t missed a beat. The welterweight prospect went on to finish all six of his opponents on the Australian MMA circuit.
There is no question that Matthews is more than capable as a striker, but a lot of his striking is used to bring his opponent down and make the fight a grappling match. He does a tremendous of switching levels in the middle of an exchange and picking an ankle to score the takedown.
Both Matthews’s brilliance and inexperience is displayed on the ground. He’s lethal from the top position because of his relentless ground and pound, constants attempts at position passes, and slick submissions. With that being said, his aggressive nature as a grappler does provide some concerns as he leaves himself open to the possibility of being swept or submitted, but as Matthews garners more experience, those defensive mishaps will become an afterthought.
Matthews’s absurdly fast rate of progression as a mixed martial artist has put him on the fast track to a promising UFC career.
Brendan O’Reilly (5-0, 1 NC)
With some of it’s fighters being UFC fighters like Ben Wall or up-and-comers such as Dean Purdon, the Gamebred Combat Club has quickly rosen up the ranks of MMA gyms in Australia. Brendan O’Reilly’s hard work as co-owner of the facility has helped foster the gym’s success, and now his work inside that facility has earned him an opportunity to join the UFC ranks.
Other than one of his fights ending in a no contest, O’Reilly has put together an unblemished record with three finishes – two by submission and the other via TKO. While the majority of his fights have gone down in Australia, he actually has traveled all the way to Japan to compete against Kei Takahashi, but an accidental headbutt caused the fight to conclude without a victor.
In his lone fight of 2013, O’Reilly could not have looked any better. He won the Fury MMA lightweight championship by submitting Mike Aarts in the second frame with a rear-naked choke. From the start of the fight, O’Reilly made his intentions clear that he wanted the bout to play out on the ground, and he was able to take Aarts down with little difficulty and control the rest of the fight from there.
On paper, O’Reilly’s competition leaves more to be desired. Only one of his victories has come against a fighter with a winning record. Nevertheless, O’Reilly does deserve praise for how dominant he has looked in his fights and the respectable level of talent that he trains with.
Chris Indich (5-1)
UFC has Chris Indich listed as having a record of 6-1, although I haven’t been able to find any other source to confirm that he has six professional victories. Regardless, the Australian is a solid addition to Kyle Noke’s squad, as he’s looked remarkable in all of his fights, including his loss.
Before being caught with punches in his May 2012 bout with Ben Kelleher, Indich looked like the superior fighter. He pushed the pace on the feet, scored a few takedowns, and nearly finished the fight when he attempted a rear-naked choke. But when the fighters scrambled back up to the feet, Kelleher connected with a few clean punches in a wild exchange that rocked Indich that ultimately led to the finish.
Aside from his MMA experience, Indich has also successfully dabbled in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and muay thai competition. Upon viewing some of his fights, it becomes clear that Indich is much more comfortable on the ground where he is able to control his opponents from a positional standpoint and rain down ground and pound.
It would be a real stretch to consider Indich as one of the favorites to win the welterweight field, but he’s a well-rounded fighter that’s going be a tough challenge to get past.
Richard Walsh (7-1)
A loss to current UFC fighter Robert Whittaker in 2009 sparked a five-fight run of victories for 25 year-old Richard Walsh. In those five wins, Walsh finished four of those bouts in KO/TKO fashion within the first round. One important thing to note about Walsh is that he hasn’t competed since late 2012.
What Walsh does real well is utilize his strength to bully his opponents against the cage and work his dirty boxing, elbows, and knees. He’s also a nuisance to have on top of you because of how devastating his ground and pound is, but he has shown weakness in his defensive submission game. When shooting for a takedown and working from the top position, Walsh tends to have mental lapses and leaves his head in positions to be capitalized on.
It’ll be intriguing to see the leaps Walsh has made in his game since it’s been a while since his last fight, although that lack of activity makes it hard to predict how far that he’ll get in the tournament.