Sport MMA Vik Grujic’s TUF: Nations blog, episode 4

Vik Grujic’s TUF: Nations blog, episode 4

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“As you wish man!”

Those were Nordine’s famous words as he granted Team Australia middleweight Tyler Manawaroa the fight he was craving. This was set to be the biggest fight yet!

Now down 3-0, Australia was not going so well as a team, but spirits were still high. We stuck by one another, and each fighter had given all they had. What more could you ask for?

Chris Indich’s confrontation with Nordine in the gym kitchen didn’t sit too well with Nordine. I can remember that incident rather clearly and recall Nordine showing respect to Chris for a great fight. However, we see in the van Nordine informs his team of this conversation — it’s as though the Canadians are shocked that we won’t roll over and die! Yes, it is a competition, and both sides want to win.

Post-fight, we were allowed to order a special meal. Team Canada’s victorious Chad Laprise ordered his favourite, cheesecake, and as a sign of respect, he even brought Chris a piece. Winning hearts with cheesecake … brilliant!

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Usually there were plenty of celebrations after a fight and the winning team was last to sleep as result. For us on the losing team, it was business as usual … but the next morning proved to be a bit more special than normal.

Snow! The entire landscape was covered in it. I had never seen any location look more glorious in all my years. Canada was putting on a display for us Aussies! Like kids, we played in the snow for ages and it was amazing! I could easily do live in a place like that.

The weigh-ins came around quickly for Tyler and Nordine. Tyler is one of the young guns on the Team Australia squad. I felt like an older brother to him during our time in the house and I tried to guide him the best I could. Viewers should bear in my mind that he is called the “Wild Thing” for a reason. As a fighter, he is unorthodox in his approach and very talented with his execution. Crazy as all hell too! He’s the kind of guy that blurts out what he’s thinking without caring how people view him, but in saying that, he’s still very respectful to others.

Staredown ... Team Canada's Nordine Taleb (left) and Team Australia's Tyler Manawaroa face off before their middleweight bout.
Staredown … Team Canada’s Nordine Taleb (left) and Team Australia’s Tyler Manawaroa face off before their middleweight bout.

This was not the case with the Tyler and Nordine’s staredown at the weigh-ins … and we all felt the same way at that point. Tyler was pissed off that the rest of Team Canada thought intimidation tactics were going to work on us, and he really wanted to get in Nordine’s face at the weigh-ins and stand his ground. Mission accomplished!

Back at the house, the mood was pretty fierce as both teams could hardly wait to watch the Tyler vs Nordine showdown.

Fight day at last. We watched Tyler get his hands wrapped and get warmed up.

Tyler burst through the doors as both teams waited with extreme nervousness on the bleachers. You couldn’t describe how anxious we all looked.

The tale of the tape.
The tale of the tape.

Beginning the first round, both men charged to centre of the cage. Like the other fights before this one, there was no touching of the gloves — the Canadians had been instructed not to! As expected, both fighters threw hard shots and attacked with extreme aggression. Nordine looked to be the more technical fighter, throwing combinations off the counter, as opposed to the less-experienced Tyler, who threw single punches from awkward angles, giving the element of surprise.

Nordine’s clinch looked amazing. He dictated the fight whenever the two were engaged in the clinch.

In the second round, Nordine was still looking the sharper with his hands and was showing his experience in most of the exchanges. Tyler needed to turn it up a gear, and that’s what he did — going on the attack, landing some good shots and fighting hard. Both men were bleeding from the face and it looked like Tyler had his nose busted, with his hands began to drop as fatigue set in.

Both rounds were difficult to score. The exchanges looked even, and the takedowns were on the same level. At this point, both teams had lost their minds. We were supposed to be standing on the bleachers but we were all scattered about. Elias Theodorou can even be seen bouncing on the spot, twisting and turning … and he even appears to be dancing?

I recall leaping of the bleachers in excitement at the end of the second round, ripping my hat off my head and slamming it on the cage walkway, nearly breaking my finger in the process! I was out of control.

Tyler Manawaroa (right) lands a spinning back elbow on the chin of Nordine Taleb.
Tyler Manawaroa (right) lands a spinning back elbow on the chin of Nordine Taleb.

Legendary referee Yves Lavigne was the official for the bout. He announced that the fight was even, and that it would go to a third round, much to our excitement.

It was obvious at the start of the third round that both men were looking worn, but it wasn’t known until after the fight that it was revealed that Nordine had broken his foot sometime in the first round. The striking war continued as both men went toe-to-toe, Tyler even managing to land a fancy spinning back elbow.

It wasn’t until the last minutes of the round that Nordine landed a strong takedown, securing half guard. He began to pour on the pressure, throwing short elbows and punches from the inside. I remember what happened next as if I were there at this very moment. The Australian team all grew very quiet … almost silent, as if the fight was completely lost in the dying seconds and we were going down 4-0. Out of nowhere, Tyler kicked off the cage and swept Nordine, securing full mount and immediately throwing everything he had! I nearly peed my pants with amazement. Tyler finished out the round on top, and as the round ended, it looked like he could have finished the fight with just a little more time.

Everyone held their breaths as Yves Lavigne announced the winner. TEAM AUSTRALIA IS ON THE BOARD! From the bleachers, all the other Aussies ran around the cage as I yet again lost my marbles and leapt clear over the cage with what felt like one hop (if you watch the replay you can just see me do this, much like a Ninja!). We were ecstatic — so happy for Tyler, on many levels, and as a team. We were on the scoreboard, our sense of worth restored. Tyler’s victory was all of ours to share. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi. I’ve got to say, I’ve never been fond of this chant. I always felt it made us Australians making us look like redneck bogans. However, I screamed it out, probably the most vocal of all of Team Australia. Hypocritical? No. Unified!

Bonding time ... Team Australia's Tyler Manawaroa (left) and Team Canada's Nordine Taleb at the hospital after their fight.
Bonding time … Team Australia’s Tyler Manawaroa (left) and Team Canada’s Nordine Taleb at the hospital after their fight.

So now, the Team Canada’s top dog was out of the running. Nordine was apparently the man who was going to destroy us all. It’s always such a good feeling of justice when you make people eat their words. The hospital scene with Tyler and Nordine was a very important one to show in the episode. We fighters all share a bond with one another after we fight. This scene reinforced what Chris Indich and Chad Leprise said earlier on in the episode … it’s only a sport and respect must always be maintained. The warrior’s code. Only those who have fought can relate.

We had our first victory now. Now we get to choose the match ups we wanted for a change.

Team Australia’s Richy Walsh was sent in to do battle against Matthew Deroches. This is a fight we all felt confident with … even with that silly hat Richy pulled out to wear at the fight picks!

The fights just keep getting better and better!

Team Australia's Richy Walsh (right) stares down Team Canada's Matthew Desroches ahead of their welterweight bout.
Team Australia’s Richy Walsh (right) stares down Team Canada’s Matthew Desroches ahead of their welterweight bout.

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