The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Team Canada vs. Team Australia debuted its second episode Wednesday evening, featuring a classic clash of styles inside the Octagon.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Zein Saliba represented Team Australia opposite of Elias Theodorou, an undefeated kickboxer flying the colors of Team Canada.
The bout was hyped as Type A vs. Type B, apples vs. oranges, grappling vs. striking, Scorsese vs. Kubrick (Hint: The dichotomy here is good/bad. I'll leave it to you to figure out which is which.).
The world, seeking resolution, tuned in to see which style would reign supreme.
We were all duped.
We received no resolution on the grappling versus striking front, but we did see a clear-cut victor in the matchup.
Theodorou decided to repeatedly clinch the jiu-jitsu wizard Saliba, looking for takedowns and top control instead of keeping his distance and working the striking game.
His decision to force a grappling battle against the superior ground artist was strange and ill-advised.
But it worked perfectly.
Theodorou flipped the script on the BJJ guru Saliba, and he thoroughly dominated all aspects of the fight, including positional battles against the fence and against the cage.
With his self-proclaimed "best hair in MMA" blowing gently in the Octagonal winds, Theodorou slammed, passed, clinched and (occasionally) struck his way to victory against Saliba.
Saliba looked terrible. Save for a fleeting moment in Round 2 where he took Theodorou's back but proceeded to do nothing with it, Saliba looked amateur everywhere this fight went.
Theodorou, while he clearly won the fight, did not look much better.
Both fighters looked sluggish and tired in Round 2, and neither man sported any explosive power or drive to pursue a finish or to mount any significant offense.
This bout was a total flop, but a winner had to emerge, and Theodorou was better at not being awful.
This is when things got hilarious and more than a little sad.
Immediately after the final bell, Saliba punched the canvas in a fury, realizing he had not done enough to win the fight. It may have been the most significant strike of the fight from him.
Meanwhile, Theodorou pranced around the cage and fixed his hair, fluffing and styling his locks into just the perfect winner's wave.
Where was this energy during the fight?
Saliba was not done with that one punch, however.
Once he got to the dressing room backstage, he went slightly berserk. In a fit of rage, Saliba kicked the couch (it glanced off the back, barely nipping the cushion for those wondering) and let out a howl of anger and frustration.
Suddenly, he actually seemed like he wanted to fight, but he was about 20 minutes too late.
Theodorou, for his part, seemed perfectly content with his performance.
In fairness, he dominated an area of the game in which nobody expected him to find success, so he should be proud of that accomplishment.
Still, I doubt anybody in the house is fearful of a potential showdown with Team Canada's pretty boy, and he will need to showcase better endurance and athleticism in his future outings.
For now, he's good enough to move on to the next round, but I'm not sure how much higher his ceiling rises.
Following Saliba vs. Theodorou, Team Canada head coach Patrick Cote chose next week's matchup.
The welterweights are back in action, with undefeated Team Canada member Chad Laprise (7-0) taking on Team Australia's Chris Indich (6-1).
Interestingly, Laprise spent a portion of his career at lightweight, while Indich previously fought at middleweight. Now, they meet in the middle with the weight of a nation and a potential six-figure UFC contract on their shoulders.
Who will emerge victorious?
Tune in next Wednesday at 10 p.m. EST to find out.
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