“The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia” welterweight Jake Matthews (@JakeBJJMMA) will blog for Sherdog.com all season long, giving his thoughts, reactions and behind-the-scenes insights on the show. “The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia” (#TUFNations) airs each Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1 in North America, and Thursdays on FX at 4:30 p.m. AEDT (with a second airing at 10:30 p.m. AEDT) in Australia.
It was gut-wrenching, standing on the edge of the mat, watching Vik Grujic and Luke Harris face off, knowing that my time had come and gone. I was still suffering the loss, and as excited as I was for Vik, I couldn’t help but feel disheartened.
I suffered my first loss in a way I thought would never happen. I let the pressure and the magnitude of the fight get to me in so many ways. But, on the plus side, I took things away from that fight that will most definitely help me to succeed in the future -- primarily that I must fight with my heart to win, and not be consumed by the fear of loss.
Hearing my team and coaches’ concerns of my mental toughness was a little disappointing, but perhaps to some degree they were right. What failed me on that day wasn’t my ability or my preparation; it was simply my mindset. Olivier was saying that he was disappointed that he didn't submit me. He should be thankful for small mercies, because if I could change aspects of that fight, he would be the one coming away with the loss. The next person who steps in the cage with “The Celtic Kid” is gonna see a different, more focused fighter.
I couldn’t have asked for a better bunch of blokes to spend the time in the house with. You would think that, due to the nature of the show, help and support from other team members would be limited, but I was overwhelmed by the support the boys showed. Needless to say it didn’t help. There were moments where I just wanted to say, “Boys, just leave me be,” but the Aussies being Aussies wouldn’t have listened anyway. It’s the nature of our bond.
On a better note: Jon Jones is in the house! Each and every one of us were in absolute awe when Jon walked into the gym, and I immediately felt energized and motivated once more, like a fire had been lit under me. For anyone who thinks Jonny isn’t that big, don’t let the TV deceive you. He is a massive unit! We couldn’t wait to see what the champ had in store for us, and funnily enough, everyone picked up the pace when the instruction started. Only a few months prior, I was watching Jon on TV, and now I’m learning all his little tricks from the man himself.
Despite Vik being a big guy, his weight cut didn’t faze him too much, and boy did he look fired up and focused during the stare down. For anyone who doesn’t know Vik, he is a very family-orientated man, as you can most likely tell from the photos he has posted like wallpaper all over the bedroom. Despite Vik’s obvious hardships -- trying to juggle his training and family, and sacrificing a career over his chosen direction -- Vik is a very wealthy man in terms of the love and bond he has with his wife and children.
Vik is a very explosive and well-rounded fighter. Luke, from what I know, is a high-level judo player with some good BJJ, having trained all over the world, and he’s racked up an impressive amount of first-round finishes.
Seeing as things haven’t been going Team Aus’ way, we thought it would be a good idea to invite Kyle Noke and the other coaches over for dinner. It was a good way to tighten our bond, and it was also an awesome time to pick Jon’s brain and get to know him on a more casual level. Besides his obvious abilities inside the Octagon, he’s an extraordinary individual. And you’ve gotta love the “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oh,oh,oh” -- almost got it right!
Now it’s fight day, and being around fighters so much, you gain a sixth sense into how they’re tracking. You can tell when they’re in the zone, and Vik was in the zone!
The fight begins and what the? Luke looked as if he had never been in a fight before. I’ve seen Luke fight prior and he didn’t look like the same guy. I’m not sure if it was nerves that got to him but he didn’t look quite right. He seemed stiff and really unsure. Nineteen or 36, I guess some fighters allow the pressure to creep in at the wrong time.
Within the first 20 seconds, I knew Vik was going to win. Both fighters moved around, feeling each other out, and about 40 seconds in, Vik hits Luke with a left, clinches and throws him to the mat. As Luke goes down, he holds onto a headlock, but Vik unleashes a series of elbows that ends the fight. Because of Luke’s high-level judo and jiu-jitsu game, we knew Vik had to keep his distance and time his shots. We were screaming at him to keep away, but then he picked Luke up and slammed him to the canvas.
Finally, another win on the board for Team Aus. I could see the look on the Canadians’ faces, especially Olivier being such good friends with Luke, and Kajan was surprisingly quiet. As much as we wanted to play the Canadian game as payback and rub the win in, we kept it civil.
Well, that wraps up the preliminary fights. As heartbroken as I am not to be in the semis, I’m still excited to see what the future matchups will bring. Tune in next week for some hard training, good laughs, and to see who will face off in the semis.