The MMAReport’s preview of The Ultimate Fighter: Nations continues with a look at Team Canada’s middleweights.
Luke Harris (10-2, 1 NC)
At 36 years old, Luke Harris will be one of the veterans as well as one of the top judo players on Patrick Cote’s squad.
Before making the jump to mixed martial arts, Harris had much success in the sport of judo. The black belt rose to the pinnacle of his sport by competing on the Canadian national judo team and traveling across the world to hone his craft. Seeing Brazilian jiu jitsu as a valuable martial art to learn in his pursuit of judo championships, Harris went on to attain a black belt under Robert Drysdale.
His preparation has blossomed into a fantastic start for his MMA career. Since his debut in 2009, Harris has only tasted defeat once, and in all ten of his victories, he’s submitted his opponent in the first round.
Harris gained some steam amongst the MMA community with a 2-1 stint in the MFC that saw him submit TUF alumnus Edwin Dewees and Jason Zentgraf. His lone loss in the organization was to Joseph Henle, who knocked Harris out with a combination after distracting him with a leg kick.
If Harris wins the six-figure contract, it’ll be by utilizing the clinch and his stout 6 foot 2 inch frame to toss his opponents to the ground and by employing his submission game. If he loses, it’ll be due to his lack of head movement and defensive woes in his stand-up or if he is taken down and controlled by a superior wrestler.
Having founded the Hayabuse Training Center in Alberta, Canada, Harris has already made a career out of mixed martial arts, but only time will tell if that career continues in the UFC.
Nordine Taleb (8-2)
The name Nordine Taleb may ring a bell because he last competed in the season seven Bellator welterweight tournament. In a close striking contest, Taleb ended up losing in the opening round against Marius Zaromskis. Prior to the loss, he earned a slot in the tournament by handedly defeating Matt Secor and Matt MacGrath.
Taleb is one of the several Team Canada members who trains at the highly respected Tristar Gym. The Quebec native has finished five of his fights by TKO with his biggest name victory coming against UFC veteran Pete Sell.
What the Canadian brings to the table is an above average stand-up repertoire that is highlighted by his ability to effectively pop in out and of range. He uses a variety of kicks to set up his straight punch combinations. The worst possible match-up for Taleb would be against a sizable wrestler that could take him down at will and eliminate his stand-up attack.
Taleb doesn’t stand out to me as a favorite to win the show, but he does represent solid depth to a surprisingly deep pool of fighters on the cast.
Elias Theodorou (8-0)
Successful outings in Bellator and the Score Fighting Series have propelled Elias Theodorou up the Canadian prospect rankings. He’s a young, promising middleweight that has a colorful personality, which could potentially turn him into a star if he finds success on the show.
His lone Bellator fight was on the undercard of Bellator 64 against Rich Lictawa. Theodorou’s third round TKO victory over Lictawa was created through his tenacity inside the clinch where he thrived with elbows and knees. He went on to defeat Simon Marini and Ali Mokdad in Score Fighting Series tilts and then submit a scrappy opponent in Mike Kent.
Theodorou is well rounded in every aspect of mixed martial arts, but he’s really impressed me with his clinch. He uses that position to unload a ferocious striking attack that’s highlighted by dirty boxing, elbows, and knees. Opponents that use the clinch strictly to attain a superior position will end up being outworked and beat down by Theodorou.
Theodorou doesn’t have as many quality wins as some of the other fighters on the cast, so there is the question on whether his resume is a byproduct of his talent or the talent of his opponents. Fortunately, that question will be answered on the upcoming season of TUF: Nations.
Sheldon Westcott (8-1-1)
As a relative unknown 4-1 fighter, Sheldon Westcott gained some notoriety as a fighter to watch with a pair of exciting, back-and-forth clashes with Thomas Denny in 2011. Since beating Denny at MFC 30, Westcott submitted Jay Jensen, beat TUF alumnus Nic-Herron Webb via decision, and knocked out Aaron Shymr in thirteen seconds.
The 29 year-old is a usual customer at welterweight, but he’s big enough to where the move up to middleweight shouldn’t drastically affect his fight performance. The jump in weight classes is still worth nothing because he does rely on his strength to overpower his opponents with wrestling.
With a few boxing bouts under his belt and proven power in his punches, Westcott is no slouch on the feet, but he has made a name for himself with his wrestling and positional. Westcott has an explosive shot that has led to a relatively high success rate in takedown attempts. He’s another fighter who fights with an absurd pace that can tend to tire out both his opponent and himself.
What Westcott will have to watch out for when he utilizes his wrestling game is his opponent’s submissions. In his fights with Denny, Westcott had a few mental lapses that allowed Denny to attempt a few close guillotines.
Wescott’s foundation as a strong wrestler and his track record of fights against veterans makes him one of the tougher outs in the cast.