Former Green Beret Tim Kennedy outmuscled English middleweight Michael Bisping en route to a unanimous decision win in the main event of the UFC's Ultimate Fighter Nations finale card Wednesday night.
The judges scored it 49-46, 49-46, 50-45 for Kennedy.
Wrestling proved to be the difference with Kennedy taking Bisping down in the first, third and fifth rounds and keeping him there. The crowd at the Colisee Pepsi didn't like it and neither did Bisping, whose game is built on movement and technical striking.
It was the 20th UFC fight for the 35-year-old Bisping but his first since April 2013 because of a detached retina that required several surgeries. The 34-year-old Kennedy had won his two previous UFC fights after coming over from Strikeforce.
Bisping (25-6) came into the fight ranked fifth among middleweight contenders while Kennedy (18-4) was No. 8.
"I dominated Michael Bisping," said Kennedy. "A guy that's been in the top five for ever."
Still Kennedy, who said he may have broken his hand, was unhappy he had not finished Bisping.
There were harsh words from both fighters in the buildup, but it was hard to tell whether it was anything more than gamesmanship. Bisping can't pass a pot without stirring it. But the two did touch gloves before the fight.
And they said they respected each other after the fight.
Kennedy, a Texan who still serves in the Army National Guard, walked out to "Rooster" by Alice in Chains. Bisping followed to his trademark "Song 2" by Blur.
Kennedy went straight for the takedown and spent much of the first round grappling on top of Bisping. He got briefly into mount but could not take advantage.
Bisping caught a right hand and an uppercut in the second but fought off a takedown. As the round wore on, Kennedy seemed to move less — allowing Bisping to find his striking range.
Some wild swinging by Bisping led to another prolonged Kennedy takedown in the third. The Brit is known for getting back to his feet when taken down, but those skills deserted him here.
Kennedy outmuscled Bisping early in the fourth before the two began trading punches. Kennedy, an ungainly striker, was cut during one exchange. In the fifth, Kennedy landed another takedown one minute in. The referee stood them up with two minutes remaining but Bisping was unable to take advantage.
The card also crowned the first Canadian winners of the UFC's Ultimate Fighter reality TV show.
There was little drama in that other than which Canadian would carry home a trophy. The welterweight and middleweight finals of The Ultimate Fighter Nations, a show which pitted Canada against Australia, were all-Canadian affairs after the Aussies were eliminated earlier.
Chad (The Disciple) Laprise, a native of Windsor who fights out of London, Ont., won a split decision over Montreal's Olivier Aubin-Mercier to take the welterweight crown before Toronto's Elias (The Spartan) Theodorou stopped Edmonton's Sheldon Westcott via second-round TKO in the middleweight final.
In the co-main event, Montreal's Patrick (The Predator) Cote won a 29-28, 29-28, 30-27 decision over Australian Kyle Noke in an entertaining, back-and-forth matchup of TUF Nations coaches.
After Noke (20-7-1) came out to Men at Work's "Down Under," Cote came out to wild cheers and the Beastie Boys' "No Sleep Till Brooklyn." The chant of "Cote, Cote" started before the action did, followed by "Ole, Ole, Ole" within the first minute of the first round.
Cote (21-8) caught a kick and took Noke down, landing some elbows and cutting the Australian as the crowd chanted "Let's Go Cote."
Noke caught Cote with a big knee in the second, stunning him. Cote somehow hung on, a bloody mark by his eye, but he had been damaged. The 34-year-old Canadian was also favouring his left leg, but he still managed to take Noke down later in the round.
A Cote takedown in the third got the crowd back into it and may have convinced the judges.
"He hurt me with that knee," said Cote, who actually ducked into it as he looked to grab Noke. "I didn't see it coming, but I think I did the most damage overall."
There was a frantic opening to the TUF Nations middleweight final as Westcott (9-2-1) looked to take the fight to the ground quickly, hoping to bring his submission game into play. But the bigger Theodorou (10-0) fought him off and started punishing him with knees.
Theodorou's size and wrestling skills took their toll. He dumped Westcott midway through the second round and hammered him. The referee eventually stepped in to stop the beating at 4:41.
"This proves I kick ass," said the 25-year-old Theodorou, whose resume includes modelling for Harlequin romance covers.
The welterweight final was much closer. The judges scored it 28-29, 29-28, 30-27 for Laprise, who finished strongly.
Aubin-Mercier stalked Laprise, looking for openings to get the fight to the ground. But Laprise resisted the takedown and countered effectively from the outside.
Laprise (9-0) got on his knees in the middle of the cage after the fight. Aubin-Mercier (5-1), seemingly favouring his right foot, hung on to his cornermen.
It started as a sparse crowd but it grew as the night wore on. It was a long day, after all. The first bout of the 13-fight card started at 3:15 p.m., with the main card running from 7 to 10 p.m.
Dustin (The Diamond) Poirier, ranked sixth among featherweight contenders, scored a second-round TKO over Akira Corassani (14-5) for his eighth UFC win at 145 pounds. The American-based Swede, who exited with a broken nose, started well but succumbed to a flurry of blows from Poirier (16-3) after 42 seconds of the round.
Poirier and Carassani got US$50,000 each for fight of the night.
Canadians went 5-1 on the undercard led by light-heavyweight Ryan (The Big Deal) Jimmo, who knocked out UFC newcomer Sean (The Real OC) O'Connell in the first round. Jimmo (19-3) felled O'Connell (15-5) with a crunching counter straight right and then added three blows for good measure before the referee stepped in at 4:27.
A native of Saint John, N.B., who fights out of Edmonton, Jimmo opened his UFC account in 2012 with a seven-second KO of Anthony (The Hippo) Perosh. He is now 2-2 in the UFC and has nine first-round finishes in his career.
Former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman of Victoria registered her first UFC win, earning a unanimous 30-27 decision over Leslie (The Peacemaker) Smith in a high-octane slugfest that saw the Canadian land 202 significant strikes to 79 for Smith, according to FightMetric.
Kaufman (17-2 with one no contest), ranked No. 5 among UFC bantamweight contenders, won a split decision when the two met in April 2013 on an Invicta FC card.
Smith (6-5-1) took this fight on 10 days notice, as two other opponents withdrew through injury.
"The three changes of opponent were stressful, I admit," said Kaufman, who hopes to fight on the UFC's June card in Vancouver.
K.J. Noons needed just 30 seconds to knock out Sam (Hands of Stone) Stout of London, Ont., with a huge overhand right to the chin. And Noons (12-6) did more damage before the referee could get to him to stop the action.
Stout (21-10-1) was so dazed that he tried to grapple with the referee after being knocked out and then fell backwards. But he was smiling soon after.
The fight was scheduled for lightweight (155 pounds) but was switched to welterweight at the request of both fighters. They weighed in at 168-169 pounds.
Jimmo and Noons got US$50,000 performance of the night bonuses.
Veteran lightweight Mark Bocek (12-5) of Woodbridge, Ont., returning to the cage for the first time since November 2012 after injury, won a slender 28-29, 30-27, 29-28 split decision over newcomer Mike (El Cucuy) de la Torre (12-4).
Bantamweight Mitch Gagnon of Sudbury, Ont., opened the card with a unanimous 30-27 decision over Tim (The Psycho) Gorman (9-3). Gagnon (11-2) won his third straight in the UFC.
In a battle of bearded Australia TUF Nations teammates, welterweight (Filthy) Rich Walsh (8-2) showed a better all-round game in earning a unanimous 30-27 decision over Chris (The Savage) Indich. The durable Indich (5-2) becomes the first indigenous Australian to fight in the UFC.
Montreal middleweight Nordine Taleb (9-2) used his superior grappling skills to score a one-sided 30-27 decision over Australian Vik (The Spartan) Grujic (6-4) in another matchup of TUF Nations cast members.
Lanky bantamweight George Roop (15-11-1) won a 29-28, 30-27, 29-26 decision over Dustin (The Diamond) Kimura (12-2).
The card marked the UFC's first in Quebec City, which became the sixth Canadian city to host an event after Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg. Halifax is scheduled to join the UFC club in October with a televised card.
Attendance was 5,029.