I have to be honest and admit that I haven’t followed either “the Smashes” or “TUF 16” as closely as I might. The fact that its been aired in the middle of the night in the UK and you can only catch up on so much TV may be to blame for that and a general ennui with the whole Ultimate Fighter format probably takes the rest of the responsibility.
Nonetheless, UFC events on back to back nights is something to look forward to and both cards have actually been quite stacked, almost as if the UFC are aware that the TUF competitors aren’t really all that much of a draw anymore.
First up, on Friday (main card actually showing at 2am, Saturday morning in the UK on ESPN) we have the finale of “The Smashes” with a brace of tasty UFC bouts sandwiching the finals of the Lightweight and Welterweight tournaments.
The main event pits former TUF winner, England’s Ross Pearson (13-6) against Aussie submission specialist George Sotiropoulos (14-4) in the traditional coaches match.
Pearson is returning to Lightweight following a 1-1 run at Featherweight (although he may return to 145 after thus bout) and brings a reputation as a well rounded competitor who likes to stand and trade. However, all of his finishes have come in his pre-UFC career and there is a suspicion that we’ve never seen the best of ‘the Real Deal’ in the Octagon.
Nonetheless, I’ve always been a fan of how Pearson fights and still think he was robbed by the judges in his 2011 decision loss to Edson Barboza.
Sotiropoulos comes into this fight having seen an eight fight run of wins which looked to be leading to a title shot snapped by a 0-2 streak. If it wasn’t for his importance to the UFC’s growth in Australia, G-Sot could be fighting for his career here.
Unlike Pearson who’s record indicates a solid all round game, G-Sot’s wins have come overwhelmingly from his submission skills, making this a pretty clear striker vs. grappler game.
I may be a tad biased, but I fancy a motivated Pearson to keep the fight standing and punish Sotiropoulos here.
Hey, I’m a sucker for a punchy Brit.
Talking about punchy Brits, the next bout sees Brad Scott (8-1) bring a six fight win streak plus his two decision wins in the TUF tournament into his Welterweight final. Across the cage stands the only Australian left in either tourney, Robert Whittaker (9-2) who is rebounding from a loss in his last pro fight but has been more impressive in the tournament, having won both his matches by first round KO.
The other tournament final, this time at Lightweight sees the aptly named Colin “Freakshow” Fletcher (8-1) facing off with fellow Team Pearson member Norman Parke (16-2) in what promises to be a compelling ground battle between two submission specialists.
Both fighters have been impressive in the tournament and carry significant win streaks in from their pre-UFC career (four wins for Fletcher, six for Parke) but I’m minded to hand the advantage to Park thanks to his greater experience and well rounded game.
That said, looking at Fletcher, who knows what he’s capable of?
Opening the main card is the match I’m actually looking forward to the most, with adopted Australian, Hector Lombard (31-3-1-1) looking to banish memories of his insipid display in a losing Octagon debut to Tim Boetsch with a victory against leg lock legend Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares (14-4) who is likewise looking to recover from a loss.
This is a classic striker vs. grappler matchup with Lombard having 17 of his 31 wins by knockout as opposed to Palhares having ten of his fourteen wins by submission. That said, it’s interesting to note that the last time Lombard fought in Australia, he walked away with a victory via heel-hook.
With home field advantage and the fact that Palhares weak point seems to be big middleweights with heavy hands (his last three losses being to Alan Belcher, Nate Marquardt and Dan Henderson) I’d favour Lombard to take the win. Unless he’s careless with his positioning, in which case Toquinho will be walking away with his leg as a souvenir.
The undercard suffered the loss of local stars Kyle Noke and Anthony Perosh, but they have been ably replaced by Mike Pierce and Igor Pokrajac and as usual it is well worth catching the prelims for the unheralded fights by fighters trying to make an impact.
As I said above, the main card airs live on ESPN at 2am on Saturday morning for fans in the UK and for folks elsewhere, please check http://www.ufc.com for local listings.
MAIN (FX, 9 p.m. ET)
Ross Pearson vs. George Sotiropoulos
Brad Scott vs. Robert Whittaker – “TUF: Smashes” welterweight-tournament final
Colin Fletcher vs. Norman Parke – “TUF: Smashes” lightweight-tournament final
Hector Lombard vs. Rousimar Palhares
PRELIMINARY (FUEL TV, 6 p.m. ET)
Chad Mendes vs. Yaotzin Meza
Joey Beltran vs. Igor Pokrajac
Seth Baczynski vs. Mike Pierce
Ben Alloway vs. Manuel Rodriguez
Brendan Loughnane vs. Mike Wilkinson
Cody Donovan vs. Nick Penner