MONTREAL - Sam (Hands of Stone) Stout isn't sure what to expect Saturday night as he walks to the cage at UFC 154.
There are nine Canadians on the bill — 10 if you add Montreal-based French middleweight Francis Carmont — but the only all-Canadian matchup sees Stout against local lightweight John (The Bull) Makdessi.
"I'm interested to find out how that all's going to play out. I've fought in the Bell Centre a lot more than he has," said Stout, from London, Ont. "I don't know if the crowd's going to be a Montreal crowd or a Canadian crowd. It's really difficult to predict whether they're going to be cheering for him or cheering for me or it's going to be split down the middle or one of us is going to have more of a cheering section that night than the other.
"I'm prepared for either and when I get out there if the whole crowd's booing me, I'm still going to go out there and fight my best."
Whatever happens in the cage, Stout says the two will leave on a good note. Fighting is Stout's business and nationalities don't really matter.
"I'm going to fight him with the same intensity I would fight anybody else and when it's all over, I'll shake his hand and I'll buy him a drink and that's that. I won't harbour any resentment towards him win, lose or draw."
Both fighters are crowd-pleasers, known primarily for coming forward and fighting on their feet.
Stout (19-7-1) is coming off a June win over Spencer (The King) Fisher — the rubber match in a three-fight series — in which he showed success with takedowns.
"Over the years I've been wrestling on my wrestling and my jiu-jitsu game so much," he said. "And I say it in every interview. And up until now I've never shown it.
"After that fight with Spencer, it really gave me a lot more confidence in my wrestling and my jiu-jitsu and I felt comfortable on the ground. I felt comfortable going for the takedowns, setting them up. So I think it's something you're going to see a lot more of from me and it's going to make me a much more difficult fighter to train for and prepare for."
Stout has earned six bonus cheques for outstanding performances in his UFC career.
Makdessi (9-2) defeated Pat Audinwood and Kyle Walker in his first two UFC fights.
"He really likes to press," said the five-foot-nine Stout. "You've got punches and kicks coming at you from angles you're not used to. So he's a very difficult guy to train for."
But Makdessi, a pocket dynamo at five foot eight, has lost his last two outings — to Anthony Njokuani and Dennis Hallman (who failed to make weight).
He has since revamped his training. And after working with a sports psychologist, he says his mental confidence is vastly improved.
"I put too much pressure on myself," he said of the past.
And through ties via his brother's Fear the Fighter clothing line, he has trained with former lightweight champion Frankie (The Answer) Edgar and Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Marcelo Garcia.
In hindsight, he believes he may have taken the Hallman fight too soon after tearing his medial collateral ligament in his knee. He also had a torn abdominal muscle for that bout, something he said mentally he was unable to get past before and during the fight.
But he acknowledges such injuries are commonplace in his sport. The setbacks, he says, have taught him life lessons.
"It made me grow as a fighter, as a person," he said. "I feel more mature, I feel smarter in the sense of how I train and I listen more to my body."
Against Njokuani, he says his aggressive approach made him vulnerable to getting hit.
For Stout, there is a sense of nostalgia with the Montreal show.
Featherweight Mark (The Machine) Hominick, a longtime friend, training partner and co-owner of their gym in London, is also on the card. That hasn't happened in the UFC since UFC 58 back in 2006.
Georges St-Pierre, who meets Carlos Condit in the main event Saturday night, fought B.J. Penn in the co-main event on that card.
"We feel really at home here," Stout said of Montreal.