Congratulations on reading this blog all the way to the first week of the semifinals. I can assure you the back half of the season will have every twist and turn you can imagine, plus exciting match-ups, new friendships and broken allegiances.

The first order of business was to select the semifinal match-ups. All Canadian welterweights wanted to fight Australia’s Richie Walsh, seemingly because they were all teammates, therefore they didn’t want to fight each other. But with three of them through, it was inevitable that two of them would meet in the Octagon and one of their dreams would be shattered. The middleweights seemed a lot simpler. Tyler Manawaroa and Elias Theodorou had been wanting to fight each other for quite a while, and with impressive fast finishes by both Vik Grujic and Sheldon Westcott, they both wanted to test each other.

The fights were announced to us as a group: Walsh would fight Olivier Aubin-Mercier, Kajan Johnson would fight Chad Laprise, Vik would fight Sheldon, and Tyler was set for an explosive battle with Elias.

The first fight off the mark was Kajan against Chad, a battle between two teammates—not only on Team Canada, but they are also training partners at Tristar Gym in Montreal. Certainly, it’s an odd scenario for them, but this competition was The Ultimate Fighter, after all, and not “The Ultimate Teammate.”

Chad had been spending a bit of time chatting with us each night, because for him to get to his bedroom, he had to run the gauntlet past our bedroom of singing and one-upping stories. As we got to know Chad a bit better, it was clear he was a genuinely nice guy, a true professional in the sport and a great ambassador. I was surprised when I learned from Chad that he was a very angry guy growing up, as he’d come from an abusive childhood. He’d found God and met his beautiful wife and changed his life for the better. What a great story! He also wrote his wife a letter every single day for our entire time there, and although we weren’t able to send them, he was going to give them to her when he got out. It was like that movie, The Notebook. Not that I’ve seen that film, because I’m a bearded man…okay, maybe I have, once.

So Chad and Kajan were set to fight, and as an impartial fan of the sport, I was excited for this match-up. Two guys who were seemingly really well-rounded, fighting out of one of the top gyms in the world. This would certainly be a good display of skill. It certainly would have been harder for members of Team Canada, not knowing who to cheer for, or even if they should cheer at all.

As the fight kicked off, both guys moved a lot, finding range with long punches and some low kicks. It was quickly apparent that Chad’s cornerman, Kru Ash, was far more vocal than Kajan’s corner. All of the Canadian coaches had been extremely friendly to everyone during our time there, and I could only imagine there was some reason for this. As the fight progressed, there was no real advantage to either fighter, although Chad was pressing forward more and Kajan was looking to counterpunch.

Round two began, and Kajan made a few attempts at a takedown, but he was unsuccessful. It seemed momentum was beginning to shift in Chad’s favor, more so in mood and energy than in any actual strikes landed. It seemed as though Chad’s self-belief was growing exponentially, whereas Kajan’s was slowly diminishing. Then, out of nowhere, “CRAAACK,” a massive overhand right landed square on Kajan’s jaw and folded him to the canvas. There was absolute silence in the arena. Nobody made a sound, and it was one of the most eerie environments I’ve been in.

Obviously, the Canadians didn’t enjoy seeing it, and none of us Aussies enjoyed seeing what we knew was a very serious knockout and subsequent injury. Chad had earned himself a spot in the finale, and deservedly so. He looked extremely sharp in the fight, listening well to his corner and got the job done well.

I was really happy for Chad, as I knew he was a guy who deserved this success, but I was hoping Kajan would get out of it without anything too serious. After learning his jaw had been broken in three places, I was disappointed for Kajan. Even after the differences we’d had, it was sad to see a guy have his dream taken away in such a devastating fashion, with a seemingly long and painful road to recovery ahead of him. However, we’re all professionals and know exactly what’s on the line each time we roll the dice and fight. We understand and accept the consequences.

The next fight—Tyler Manawaroa and Elias Theodorou— was one we’d been itching to see. Tune in next week to see what fireworks this brings!

Until then, Keep Badgin!

Brendan “Badger” O’Reilly would like to thank his cult-like supporters, his sponsors Mass Nutrition Chermside, Sports Master Athletics, Harris Stability Systems, Battlebeard Athletica and gyms Gamebred Combat Club, Alliance Jiu Jitsu Brisbane and Fortitude Boxing. Follow the Badger’s antics on Twitter: @oreillymma
Watch The Ultimate Fighter: Nations every Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1

About The Author

Brendan O'Reilly
TUF: Nations Blogger

Brendan "Badger" O'Reilly prides himself on being a physical and aggressive fighter. He is a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is a former Greco-Roman and Freestyle wrestling state champion in Australia. Before discovering MMA, Brendan was a representative Rugby League player, while also competing in rodeos. He set aside both sports to focus solely on succeeding in mixed martial arts. Outside of competing as a professional fighter, Brendan owns and operates Gamebred Combat Club, a Cross Fit and MMA gym, in Brisbane, Australia and also boasts a degree in Applied Science.