MMA Review: #399: UFC on FX: Sotiropoulos vs. Pearson

-This show was also doubling as the finale for the TUF: The Smashes series, which pitted Team UK against Team Australia and ran alongside the US’s Season 16. Thankfully they didn’t try to sell this one as a PPV as they’d done with UFC 147! Interesting point – despite three of the four finalists ending up as UKers, the series was actually pushed more to the Australian market, and it just turned out that their talent pool isn’t quite there yet. Hopefully it will be in the future because it’d be cool to see the sport continue to grow all over the world. This was a decent enough card on paper actually with some of the TUF cast but also legit contenders like Hector Lombard, Rousimar Palhares and Chad Mendes featuring.

UFC on FX: Sotiropoulos vs. Pearson

12/14/12
Gold Coast, Queensland

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Kenny Florian.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Cody Donovan vs Nick Penner

Canadian Penner had made an unsuccessful UFC debut on the previous Aussie show in March, losing to local favourite Anthony Perosh, so this was his chance to bounce back. Initially pegged to face debutant Eddie Mendez, instead he ended up against another debutant in Donovan, fighting out of the Grudge Team and taking the fight on short notice. Side note but the old WEC ring announcer Joe Martinez is doing this show instead of Bruce Buffer and it’s WEIRD AS HELL although he’s a perfectly decent announcer!

Round One and Penner takes the centre of the cage with Donovan circling on the outside. Takedown attempt by Donovan and he muscles Penner into the fence. Penner quickly reverses position though and they jockey for the dominant position. Crowd are SILENT here. Knee breaks for Donovan. Donovan comes charging in, but Penner counters nicely with a right hook that drops him! Penner pounces looking for the finish, but Donovan looks recovered and quickly gets full guard. Armbar attempt by Donovan but Penner avoids it. Donovan transitions into a triangle though, but Penner postures out and they’re back on their feet. Looks like Penner’s cut under his left eye. Donovan charges in but again Penner counters on him with a hard right. Donovan still doesn’t get the message though, and this time he wades right into a HUGE RIGHT UPPERCUT that folds him. He looks just about done as Penner follows him down into half-guard, but evidently Donovan’s got a solid chin as he manages to tie Penner up to recover. Weird bit of refereeing as Marc Goddard stops the action for, well, lord only knows what, but then lets them continue from the same position. Couple of punches from Penner but a leglock attempt forces him to stand and Donovan joins him. Leg kick from Donovan and he wades into the clinch, but decides to break with a knee. Looks like Penner took a low blow in there somewhere too and the ref calls time. They restart and Donovan shoots for a takedown and gets it this time, dragging Penner down into half-guard. Donovan works to pass but Penner reverses to his feet, and suddenly they trade wildly from close range and it looks like Penner might be rocked. BIG LEFT HOOK from Donovan drops him HARD and he quickly follows up with some punches over the top that knock him silly! Wow.

That was a really fun fight, actually. If it were between two bigger names people would’ve been raving about it I think but as it was two unknowns it literally got no props at all. Well, I’ll give it props here at least. Good comeback win for Donovan too who showed a good chin even if his striking defence looked questionable.

Lightweight Fight: Mike Wilkinson vs Brendan Loughnane

These two UKers had been teammates on the Smashes and seemed to get along well, which usually either makes for a shitty fight or a really awesome one, so I was hoping for the latter! As far as the match-up went it looked pretty even on paper, but bias towards Manchester as opposed to well, wherever Wilkinson is from, made me take Loughnane.

Round One and they press forward with Loughnane landing a couple of early leg kicks. Really nice left inside leg kick connects hard for the Mancunian. Wilkinson finally answers with one of his own. Couple of punches are exchanged and Wilkinson fires off with a fast one-two. Side kick to the chest from Loughnane and he follows with another inside leg kick. Wilkinson is coming up short on a lot of his punches so far. He does manage to glance on a right after a flurry though and then shoots in for a takedown, planting Loughnane on his back in guard. Wilkinson begins to work with some short elbows as Loughnane looks to tie him up. Loughnane begins to land some elbows of his own from his back, but Wilkinson is clearly getting the better offense in now. Good job from Loughnane to suddenly explode to his feet, but Wilkinson keeps him pushed against the cage with some knees to the legs. They break off and Loughnane connects on a hard right hand. Couple more good leg kicks from Loughnane and he stuffs a takedown. Head kick is just about blocked by Wilkinson. Good leg kick again and Brendan follows with a flying knee, but eats a couple of punches on the buzzer. Tight round but despite the takedown I’d go 10-9 Loughnane as he clearly got the better of the stand-up.

Round Two and Loughnane goes right back to the inside leg kick and then avoids a rush from Wilkinson. Right hand connects for Loughnane but he misses a side kick. Takedown attempt is avoided nicely by Loughnane too, but Wilkinson connects on an overhand right and they go into a WILD TRADE that sees Wilkinson land the better shots. He follows by going for the takedown, but Loughnane blocks by landing some elbows to the head while defending the single leg. They break off and Loughnane lands with a nice left uppercut. Looks like Wilkinson is cut over his right eye. Inside leg kicks land for both men. Good jab from Loughnane. Inside leg kick follows. Wilkinson continues to push forward but he’s finding it hard getting inside Loughnane’s reach. Head kick glances for Loughnane. Good right to the body from Wilkinson. One-two follows. Loughnane is sporting a bloody nose now as both men connect on some jabs. Good left from Wilkinson sets up a takedown attempt, but again Loughnane defends it well. Exchange continues and Wilkinson is landing more now because he’s managing to back Loughnane up towards the fence. Left hook to the head and the body land for Loughnane and he follows with a big knee to the body. Wilkinson fires right back though, popping the crowd. Big right hand lands for Loughnane but Wilkinson walks through it and grabs a rear waistlock. Loughnane looks for the Sakuraba kimura, and then he breaks free and lands a flurry to end the round. 10-9 Loughnane.

Round Three and Loughnane’s eye is all busted up now too. They trade off right away with both men landing some big combinations, but Wilkinson takes an eye poke and the ref has to step in. Wilkinson decides he’s fine to continue and they restart, with Loughnane hitting him with a one-two right away. Left hand answers for Wilkinson nicely. Good leg kick and a left hand from Loughnane. Wilkinson shoots for the takedown again and it looks like he’s got it, but Loughnane shows some excellent defense to remain standing. They break free and Wilkinson lands with the overhand right, then ties up for a trip attempt. Loughnane avoids it but takes a knee on the way out. This is a really good fight. Combination connects for Wilkinson and sets up a single leg, but again he can’t get Wilkinson down despite landing with a solid knee to the body. Loughnane switches position and tries for a takedown of his own, landing a knee flush to the face for good measure, but Wilkinson won’t go down. Two minutes to go and Loughnane’s still got Wilkinson against the fence. Short left hook breaks for Wilkinson, but Loughnane follows up by dropping him with a right hand! Wilkinson manages to survive and gets to half-guard, but he takes a hard elbow to the side of the head on his way to escaping to his feet. Wilkinson looks for the takedown again, but Loughnane avoids it and cracks him with a flying knee. Wilkinson answers right back with a combo, and that causes Loughnane to go for the takedown. Good knee from Loughnane but he can’t get Wilkinson off his feet. They break with seconds remaining, and trade off openly until the buzzer sounds. Wild stuff. Closer fight than the score would suggest but I’d call it 30-27 for Brendan Loughnane.

Judges somehow go the other way, and it’s 29-28, 29-28 and 29-28 for Mike Wilkinson. Do not get that at ALL, sorry. I mean it was a close fight, but I thought every round Loughnane did just about enough to take it. Bogus decision in my eyes and it’s sad to see Loughnane get released from his UFC contract due to poor judging. Really good fight however as both men left it all in the Octagon and went for it, and that’s all you can ask for really.

Welterweight Fight: Ben Alloway vs Manny Rodriguez

Weird to see the matches between the TUF cast as UKer vs. UKer and Aussie vs. Aussie, but I guess it landed like that due to Zuffa only keeping the semi-finalists on. These two were the Aussies who had won on the show, and both men had shown pretty decent skills to be fair – Rodriguez hadn’t actually lost as he was eliminated via injury in fact. I was still taking Alloway though just because he seemed like a chill dude on the show.

Big crowd pop for Alloway as he’s actually fighting out of Gold Coast.

Fight begins and immediately Rodriguez shoots on a takedown. Alloway tries to stuff it but Manny manages to get him down into full guard. Triangle attempt is avoided and Rodriguez works into half-guard. Alloway looks to use the fence to stand, but he winds up giving his back in the process and Rodriguez uses a rear waistlock to bring him back down. Alloway gets to half-guard but Rodriguez works to pass and eventually works into side mount before taking the back with one hook. Second hook appears to be in too and Rodriguez looks for the rear naked choke, but Alloway defends it well. Short punches land for Rodriguez to soften him up, but he loses a hook and it allows Benny to stand. Rodriguez drags him back down with the rear waistlock, but loses the hooks in a scramble and it allows Alloway to escape up to his feet in the clinch. Good pop for that. Benny turns the position around and lands with a knee, then separates. Good trade sees Alloway connect on a left hook and a leg kick. Another left hook lands for Benny and then a kick lands low, but as Rodriguez goes down the ref steps in and waves off the fight! Crowd are in shock as he explains to Rodriguez that he didn’t see the low blow so he’s called the fight off….but then after some discussion with some suit at cageside he allows it to go on. Okay then. They restart and both men come out swinging. Left hook lands for Rodriguez. Body kick answers for Alloway and then he KNOCKS RODRIGUEZ SILLY WITH A FRONT KICK TO THE FACE!~!

Holy shit. That was one of the best knockouts of 2012. Looked like Rodriguez was ducking in for a takedown and just leaned right into it; totally devastating finish for Benny Alloway and an impressive showing for him too as he weathered a tricky storm to come through for the win. I can see him settling into a gatekeeper position in the UFC for a while yet which is good for him as he seems like a great guy. Really fun fight between the two Aussies and the ending should make highlight reels for years to come.

Welterweight Fight: Mike Pierce vs Seth Baczynski

I don’t like Pierce’s style, but you could make an argument that he’s the most underrated 170lber in the world, when you consider he’s only lost in the UFC to Fitch, Hendricks and Koscheck and all were close decisions. Baczynski is another guy who you could say is underrated though as he’d come back to the UFC after a drop to 170lbs and had reeled off six wins in a row there, including four in the UFC and one outside over top prospect Alex Garcia. So definitely an interesting fight on paper even if Pierce’s style would likely make it a bit dull to actually watch.

Round One and it looks like Baczynski has quite a large size advantage. It looks like he wants to stay on the outside, but Pierce wastes no time in closing the distance and he hits a double leg to guard. Baczynski immediately starts to box the ears from his back, and uses his posture to prevent Pierce from doing much from the top. Pierce moves him towards the fence surprisingly, and that allows Seth to turn on his side to attempt to stand, but Pierce keeps him pushed against the fence. Baczynski looks to break free but Pierce drops for the takedown and drags him right back down. Seth works back up again and we’re back to the clinch. They break free and Seth tries to throw some combinations, but comes up a little short. Big head kick misses for him. Pierce looks to close the distance and catches him with a left hook, but Seth avoids the clinch. Body kick from Baczynski is caught and Pierce follows with the takedown. He begins to punch the legs as Seth looks to stand back up, and Pierce also traps the leg to prevent him escaping. Couple of solid hammer fists land to the head for Baczynski but he seems stuck. Big slam from Pierce plants him firmly on his back in guard. Elbows land for Seth from his back, but he also takes some short ones to the grill from Pierce at the same time. Looks like his right eye might be a bit marked up too. Pierce ends the round on top and takes it on my scorecard quite clearly; 10-9.

Round Two and Baczynski pushes forward with some combinations, but Pierce grabs a single leg and manages to hit another slam into half-guard. He again triangles one of the legs to prevent Seth from standing, and begins to land some short punches from the top as Baczynski tries to fire back. Seth manages to stand, but Pierce stays right on him and refuses to let up. Good job from Baczynski to get some separation and he lands a solid right hand and then just misses a flying knee. Pierce catches another body kick and goes for the single, but Baczynski grabs a guillotine which forces Pierce to break off. Front kick lands to the body for Seth. Right hand connects for Pierce though and he lands another takedown. Good job from Baczynski to stand right away but Pierce keeps him pressed into the cage. Short elbows land for Seth in the clinch and he manages to reverse position. He breaks off and throws a combo, but Pierce answers right back with a right hand. Big right hook glances for Baczynski. Pierce wades into the clinch though and hurts him with some uppercuts, then follows with a left that has Seth wobbled. He manages to clinch to land a knee and a nice overhand elbow, but misses on a flying knee and he ends up on his back. Pierce drops down into the guard and avoids a triangle attempt to work into half-guard. Elbows from Pierce and the round ends there. Another round in the books for Mike Pierce although it was closer this time.

Round Three and Pierce swings his way into the clinch, although he takes a knee coming in. Single leg attempt from Pierce but Seth manages to defend it and break free. Head kick glances for Baczynski and he follows with a knee and a series of jabs. Good knee to the head from Seth and he follows with a shot to the body. He’s really swinging now. Pair of knees have Pierce covering up and his face looks in a bad way too. Seth keeps coming with combinations, and lands a good knee to the body and a pair of hooks. Pierce has a solid chin as some of these have landed flush. Seth is backing Pierce up at least. Good knee to the body, but Pierce manages to clinch. Baczynski breaks free, but Pierce hits a single leg and lands in guard. Baczynski immediately starts to hit him in the ears again, but Pierce seems content to grind away with short elbows and punches from the top anyway. Action slows down with a minute to go so the ref calls a restart, but Pierce grabs Seth before he can land any strikes and drives him into the fence. Takedown follows and Baczynski ends up in full guard. Ground and pound for Pierce and the fight ends soon after. Close round that you could perhaps argue for Baczynski, but either way it’s Pierce’s fight.

Judges have it 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 for Mike Pierce. Not the most entertaining fight to watch as it was your typical Mike Pierce fight, filled to the brim with clinching and not much going on when the fight hit the ground, but eh, it’s effective I guess. Still, I don’t see much room for complaint when he isn’t on the main card when he’s fighting like this.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Joey Beltran vs Igor Pokrajac

This was Beltran’s second run at 205lbs after a July loss to James Te Huna, and with a questionable UFC record at best he was dying for a win. Pokrajac meanwhile had been on a solid run before being armbarred by Vinny Magalhaes at UFC 152, so this was a potentially do or die situation for him, too. I was just hoping for an exciting fight personally.

First round and they exchange wild punches right away before Beltran uses a whizzer to force Pokrajac into the fence. Beltran does some really good work from the clinch, landing tons of punches to the body as well as some short uppercuts too. Knees land as well for Beltran as Pokrajac doesn’t seem to have much of an answer. Wild combination from Beltran as he shows some surprisingly fast hand speed, and then he drops for a double leg, but Pokrajac blocks it. Another good combination lands for Beltran from close range. Beltran follows with another combo and he isn’t giving Pokrajac any room to breathe at all here. Not literally of course otherwise the fight would be done. Really good shots to the body from Beltran and he follows with some big uppercuts, but suddenly a right hand from Pokrajac stuns him and now HE comes alive, trying to take the back before landing a knee. He winds up forcing Beltran back into the fence, landing some knees to the body, but Beltran fires back with uppercuts and then they trade on the buzzer. 10-9 Beltran. Fun round.

Second round and Beltran comes out swinging but walks into an early counter. Good leg kick lands for Pokrajac and then they trade for a moment. Combo from Pokrajac sets up another CRAZY EXCHANGE and Pokrajac gets the better of it this time before going for a takedown. Beltran stuffs it though and they end up clinched. Good elbow inside from Pokrajac. Beltran turns him around though and he begins to hammer the body again. Beltran’s clinch work has been excellent in this fight. Action slows down for a while before Beltran lands a punch to the groin of Pokrajac. Ref calls time as it was a blatant shot and allows Pokrajac to recover. They restart with about a minute to go and Pokrajac lands some solid counters to Beltran’s punches, but the Mexecutioner comes back with a great combo and then REALLY opens up with a flurry ending with a series of knees to the body. Beltran is outstriking Pokrajac here. Round ends in the clinch. 10-9 Beltran.

Third round and Pokrajac cracks Beltran early on with a one-two. Into the clinch again but Beltran quickly forces Pokrajac back into the fence after reversing position. Pokrajac returns the favour and they continue to muscle for position. Beltran uses the left underhook to reverse once more but can’t do much with it and they separate. Good left counter lands for Beltran and Pokrajac taunts him by dropping his hands! He begins to land with some heavy right hands to back Beltran up, but Beltran fires right back with some punches of his own that land flush and snap Igor’s head back. These guys have ridiculous chins. Pokrajac forces him back into the fence again but they separate quickly. Head kick misses for Pokrajac and he walks into a left hand. Beltran forces him back into the fence, and they muscle for position while exchanging some short blows. Pokrajac breaks for a moment but Beltran stays on him like glue and continues to work. Front headlock from Beltran and he uses it to land some hard knees, before Igor breaks to get back to a regular clinch. They break with seconds to go and trade some more bombs, and the fight ends there. Got to go with Joey Beltran.

Judges have it 30-27 all round for Joey Beltran in what was probably his most impressive UFC showing to date. Of course the lustre came off when he got busted for steroids in the post-fight drug test, which always sucks. Fight was a fun if sloppy brawl.

Featherweight Fight: Chad Mendes vs Yaotzin Meza

This would initially have seen the consensus #2 145lber Mendes taking on possibly the top prospect in the division in Hacran Dias, but the Brazilian picked up an injury late on and was replaced by the unknown Meza, apparently a training partner of Lightweight champ Benson Henderson. Obvious pick here was Mendes as this looked like a squash to be realistic.

First round begins and Mendes opens with a low leg kick as Meza circles around. A second leg kick lands and Meza looks a little tentative. Leg kick glances for Meza. Overhand right narrowly misses for Mendes and it’s clear that Meza is keeping his chin way too high. Leg kick lands for Mendes. Wild left hook misses for Meza. Mendes connects on a left to the body and again just about misses an overhand right. He keeps pushing forward though and a third attempt at the overhand right LANDS WITH AUTHORITY and Meza goes DOWN AND OUT. That was a seriously nasty shot.

Well, I said I was expecting a squash and that’s what happened, but I mean, credit where it’s due, in his WEC days Mendes might’ve gone to decision with a guy like Meza but now he’s crushing him in like a minute with strikes. Dude looks better all the time and I can definitely see him working his way back up to another shot at Jose Aldo if he continues like this.

Middleweight Fight: Hector Lombard vs Rousimar Palhares

This to me was the real main event of the show – two of the highest regarded (as well as the most ludicrously muscled) 185lbers in the world facing off with the winner likely moving on into the title picture despite both men suffering disappointing losses in their previous fights. Although I’m a huge fan of Toquinho’s, I was actually picking Lombard here as his hard-hitting style complete with great takedown defense sounded like a bad match for the Brazilian leglock king.

Round One and Lombard pushes forward right away, but Toquinho lands a huge leg kick on him early. Lombard keeps coming forward and avoids an attempt at the clinch. Good leg kick again from Palhares. Big right hook misses for Lombard. Another leg kick lands for Toquinho and he almost catches Hector coming in with a knee too. Lombard keeps stalking forward though and this time a right hand counter to the leg kick drops the Brazilian. Palhares gets back up, and he seems fine. Leg kick from Toquinho but Lombard catches him with a body kick and a left hook. Front kick from Toquinho but Lombard lands the left again and the Brazilian looks a little wobbled. Toquinho backs up, but a BIG FLURRY from Lombard sends him crashing down! Jesus, I didn’t even catch which exact shot put him down there. Big shots land for Lombard as Palhares gets to guard and clings on for dear life, which is a surprising sight to see. Lombard decides to stand back up, and Palhares still looks a bit foggy. Right hand wobbles him again and then another flurry ending with the left hand sends him down once more, and this time some punches on the ground KNOCK HIM UNCONSCIOUS.

Lombard looked AWESOME there although the match-up, as I mentioned earlier, definitely favoured him. Still, this was the Hector Lombard everyone expected to see at UFC 149 and if he’d done this to Tim Boetsch he would’ve been looking at a title shot and some serious money. But hey, hindsight and all. In an unfortunate note, not only did Toquinho get KOd badly here but he also tested positive for ‘elevated testosterone levels’ in the post-fight drug test and he’s been under suspension since. Damnit I think he just has naturally high testosterone! Anyway, this was an unbelievably explosive KO to watch.

The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes: Lightweight Finals: Norman Parke vs colin Fletcher

Both of these two fighters came from Team UK, although they’re technically from different countries as Parke is from Northern Ireland. Parke had made his way to the finals by using a strong wrestling game with good ground-and-pound, but ‘Freakshow’ Fletcher was coming in more as the favourite as he’d used his long reach and good kickboxing – as well as a wily ground game – to get to this point, with his most impressive showing being a weird sub of Richie Vaculik with a keylock from the back (!). My pick was Fletcher based on him seeming to have the most potential. He comes out here wearing a creepy clown mask – dude is one of the weirdest looking fighters in UFC history for sure and really deserves the Freakshow nickname.

Round One and Fletcher stays on the outside, but Parke uses a left hook to close the distance and grabs a clinch. Fletcher tries to set up for a big knee, but he can’t get it and Parke forces him into the fence. Takedown attempt from Parke and he gets Freakshow onto his back, but Fletcher immediately pops back up. Parke stays on him and looks to get him back down, but Fletcher gets underhooks to block it. Nice takedown from Parke and he lands on top in half-guard. Fletcher tries to scramble free, but Parke keeps him down and looks to advance position. Looks like Freakshow’s going for a kimura on the left arm. He transitions from that into a sort-of armbar attempt, but gives up on it due to being in half-guard basically. Parke remains on top and keeps trying to pass, but he isn’t really doing much in the way of damage. With two minutes to go he opens up with a couple of hard, short elbows. Into side mount and then north/south for Parke, but Fletcher looks to spin out. Parke’s top control is really good though as he prevents that, then traps an arm between his legs to enable him to drop some elbows. Scramble by Fletcher and he almost gives his back, but finds himself on top in side mount when Parke slips. Round ends with a few strikes from Fletcher. 10-9 Parke.

Round Two and Fletcher opens with a series of good leg kicks, but Parke circles out of distance and then goes for a knee-tap takedown. Fletcher blocks it but decides to stay in the clinch to look for knees, and that allows Parke to work for a trip and get him down again. Side mount for Parke but Fletcher rolls for a leglock. Good job by Parke to avoid it and he’s back into side mount. He takes north/south again and it looks like he might be setting up for a kimura, but Fletcher turns into him to avoid. Guillotine attempt from Parke and he gets on top, but Fletcher gets half-guard to avoid. Parke lets go and passes into full mount, and then he takes the back after dropping a couple of elbows. Looks like he might have a body triangle for good measure. Rear naked choke looks locked up, but Fletcher hits a beautiful escape and gets to his feet. Combination connects for Fletcher and he’s landing some nice leg kicks, but Parke manages to get in with a nice left hand too. Big knee misses for Freakshow. One minute to go and they exchange leg kicks. Good combination connects for Parke. Fletcher really shouldn’t be letting him get inside the reach. One-two lands again for Parke. Takedown follows and that’s the round. 10-9 Parke.

Round Three and they hug before beginning. Fletcher comes out with a leg kick but almost eats a big left hook. Wild trade sees Parke land a hard one-two. Fletcher really pushes forward with some leg kicks, but he’s still letting Parke get inside and the Irishman connects with a left hand. Nice left uppercut lands for Parke too. Spinning backfist misses for Fletcher and he slips to the ground for a second then bounces right back up. Good left hand by Parke again. Fletcher just looks gunshy for some reason. Combo from Fletcher but Parke counters with a sharp one-two. Left hand connects flush for Parke but Fletcher takes it. Combination lands again for Fletcher but Parke seems unfazed. Left uppercut connects for Parke as Fletcher steps in. Elbow lands for Fletcher but he eats a hard body shot for his efforts. Good combo from Freakshow, left to the body and right to the head. Fletcher really turns it on with some jabs and another combo and the crowd are way into this now. Good knee from Freakshow coming forward. He might be running out of time though as there’s only about a minute to go. Right uppercut glances for Parke. Spinning backfist is blocked by the Irishman. Body kick from Fletcher. Big left hand follows but Parke hits a takedown and then drags him back to the ground when he escapes to his feet. Fletcher tries to reverse, but gives his back instead and that might’ve sealed the deal for Parke. Fletcher manages to stand and turn into him, but the fight ends shortly after. 10-9 Fletcher but I think it’s Parke’s decision.

Judges score it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 all for Stormin’ Norman Parke. Definitely the right decision based on two really dominant opening rounds and really even though Fletcher did better in the third round he never had Parke in trouble and the Irishman landed almost as many good shots himself. This fight surprised me as I never expected Parke to be able to stamp his ground game on Freakshow like that but he did it pretty comfortably, and even on the feet Fletcher seemed a bit gunshy and never really opened up or used his reach how you’d expect. Good showing from Parke though and he’s young enough to carve out a niche for himself in the UFC for a while yet.

Welterweight Fight: Robert Whittaker vs Brad Scott

Lone Australian finalist Whittaker had probably been the most impressive of anyone on the cast, as he’d viciously finished both of his opponents en route to the final, showing not just KO power, but more importantly an absolute killer instinct. He was my pick to win this fight despite Brit Scott having come out on top in the best fight of the whole season – his semi-final war with Ben Alloway.

First round begins and Scott pushes forward with some jabs and a leg kick as Whitaker lunges in a couple of times with a big left hook. Scott comes up short with some punches before clinching and forcing Whittaker into the fence. They muscle for position and exchange some short strikes and some knees from the clinch, before Whittaker manages to break free. Good left hook coming forward from Whittaker and he follows with a right to the body. Counter left hand connects for the Aussie too. Scott pushes forward but almost walks into a big combo. Head kick just misses for Whittaker. Good jab by Scott, but Whittaker fires back with a leg kick. Right hand misses for Whittaker and Scott forces him into the fence, but the Aussie breaks free quickly. Left-right combo from Scott but he leaves himself too open and Whittaker counters with a BIG COMBO that ends in a left that sends the Brit to the canvas! Whittaker charges in looking for the finish, and he drops some bombs but Scott manages to survive and gets his back to the fence to stand, taking a big knee along the way. Scott comes back with a combo of his own and backs Whittaker up a bit now, but he seems a little wobbled still. Left high kick connects for Whittaker but Scott manages to get to the clinch. Whittaker breaks free, and then lands a big combination showing incredible hand speed to counter Scott coming forward. Good knee answers back for Scott but Whittaker catches him again to end the round. 10-9 Whittaker mainly for the knockdown.

Second round and Whittaker lands an early right hook, but Scott fires back with a combo and then uses a flurry to back Whittaker into the cage. Takedown attempt is blocked though and the Aussie breaks free. Good body kick from Scott. Another combo from Whittaker ends with the right and stuns Scott, but he shows a good chin and seems fine. Nice jab from the Brit. Kick goes low and connects with Scott’s groin and the ref has to call time. They restart and Scott throws a pair of left hooks, then dodges a big combo from the Aussie. Big head kick misses for Whittaker and Scott grabs a plum clinch to land some knees, then manages to take the back and trip the Aussie down. He’s got the back with no hooks. One hook is in for the Brit and he works for the other while softening Whittaker up with some punches to the side of the head. Whittaker manages to shake the hook off, but he’s taking some pretty heavy blows here. Short knees land to the body as well but it doesn’t look like Scott’s going for the hooks again. Finally though he manages to slip them in and it looks like he’s working for the choke. Whittaker tries desperately to scramble out and almost does, but Scott’s got some good control. He loses a hook though and that allows the Aussie to explode right to his feet. Scott stays clinched though and lands a solid uppercut while pushing Whittaker into the fence. They break off and Scott lands a combo that Whittaker answers with a left hook. Into the clinch again and Scott lands a couple of knees, but Whittaker breaks with an uppercut. Head kick glances for Whittaker and Scott fires back with an uppercut on the buzzer. 10-9 Scott to even things up and this is anyone’s fight.

Third and final round and Whittaker clips him with a glancing left hook right away. Scott fires back with a good left of his own and they’re exchanging punches right in the center of the cage. Flurry from Whittaker backs Scott up again but this time he covers up and doesn’t seem to be hurt by it. Good left hand from Whittaker on the counter and that does slow Scott down. Stiff jab fires back for Scott. He looks for the clinch but Whittaker shrugs him right off. Good body kick follows. Stiff jab lands for Scott and he follows with a right hook that lands cleanly. Whittaker still seems to be landing the better shots in this round though and he backs Scott up with punches, but the Brit counters with a hard left hook that stops him in his tracks for a second. Both men keep on trading but Whittaker is stepping in with some nice elbow strikes now too. Body kick connects for Scott but he eats a big left counter from Whittaker. Exchange continues and they’re almost going shot-for-shot here. Big combo into a head kick for Whittaker that backs Scott up, and he follows with another combo. He’s just about beginning to pull away now. One minute to go though and Scott is still swinging back. Beautiful elbow strike into a body kick land for Whittaker though and Scott looks bloodied up. Big flurry from Whittaker backs the Brit up and looks to have him stunned, but Scott is tough as hell and stays in the fight. MASSIVE elbow from Whittaker connects and the fight ends with both men swinging wild. Awesome round. I’ve got it 10-9 Whittaker for a 29-28 overall.

Judges all agree with me and it’s 29-28 all round for Robert Whittaker to take the Smashes tournament. This was a hell of a fight in the end; well matched, with both men getting in a fair amount of shots and really until Whittaker started to pull away in the last minute of the fight it was anyone’s fight. These guys threw caution to the wind and went for it, and it made for an excellent fight. And at 21 (Whittaker) and 23 (Scott) I think both men probably have a bright future ahead of them in the UFC, too.

Lightweight Fight: George Sotiropoulos vs Ross Pearson

This was a rivalry that didn’t really ignite until the Smashes tapings, as while they didn’t seem to start off on bad terms, a lot of things happened during the reality show that really made for a mutual dislike, particularly on the part of Pearson, who seemed to be an easy-going guy who was riled up pretty badly by Sotiropoulos. The word was that George had been tricky to work with, and – although it’s never been mentioned by the UFC – he’d tried to pick a fight with some of Pearson’s coaching staff and had been knocked out by one of them in retribution. Only rumours of course! Anyway, I was picking Pearson to come out with the win, not only because he’s a Brit but because the match seemed to favour him as George had shown a very questionable chin in his last few fights.

Fight begins and they circle with Pearson slipping a punch from George and landing a left hand early on. Pearson’s boxing is looking slick here even in the opening minute. Inside leg kick lands for Pearson. Sotiropoulos is firing out some jabs but not really landing. Good counter right from Pearson buckles George’s legs badly and he’s on ROLLER SKATES!~! Pearson follows up with some big punches as Sotiropoulos slides around like a drunk on ice, but somehow remains standing, mainly by trying to grab the Brit. Good knee to the body from Pearson but George manages to force him into the cage, going desperately for a takedown. Pearson stuffs it as Florian on commentary makes reference to the FISH DANCE!~! Ross breaks off and Sotiropoulos still looks wobbly. Overhand right lands hard for Pearson and he follows with a head kick. George is still really shaky. He manages to hang in there though as Pearson slows up a little. He slips a jab beautifully though and lands a left hand. Leg kick drops George but Pearson forces him back to his feet. Another straight left sets up a big right hook for the Brit and again Sotiropoulos looks wobbled. He uses a front kick to the chest to keep distance though and follows with his first decent shot of the night in an uppercut. Left hook connects for Pearson and he follows with a left to the body. Single leg attempt from Sotiropoulos and he switches to a double, managing to get Pearson down. Pearson manages to get up, but he messes up in the process and George hops onto the back with both hooks! Crowd are way into this now. Pearson stands with George on his back and the Aussie desperately looks to synch in the rear naked choke, but he can’t lock it up and Ross DIVES FORWARD TO SHAKE HIM OFF! Awesome. Round ends with George on top. 10-9 Pearson for the knockdown, but George was certainly fighting back at the end. Excellent round.

Into the 2nd and Pearson opens with a straight left and then avoids a Sotiropoulos combo. George just looks too slow on his feet to catch the Brit standing here. Good counter to the body from Ross. Another one connects to the same spot. Pearson is really pressing forward here. Decent jab lands for Sotiropoulos though. Action slows down a lot but the left to the body connects for Pearson again. Jabs land for both men. Brief clinch is broken by George and he snaps Pearson’s head back with a jab. Pearson seems to be just walking straight forward now which is allowing Sotiropoulos to land on him finally. Head kick glances for the Aussie. Beautiful right to the body from Pearson and he follows with a straight left. Flurry from Sotiropoulos returns fire, but he gets dropped HARD by a left hook. He gets back up but again he looks wobbly as hell. Takedown attempt is stuffed by the Brit who lands a knee for good measure. Pearson is back to slipping the punches now and countering well as he was early on. Left hook connects again for the Brit. Leg kick from Pearson but he slips and it allows George to rush him with punches and go for the takedown. Pearson stuffs it and lands a knee to the body, then breaks with an elbow before the round ends. 10-9 Pearson.

Third round and Pearson CRACKS HIM WITH A BRUTAL COUNTER LEFT HOOK! Sotiropoulos stumbles for a second and then goes crashing down face-first, and Ross pounces looking for the finish. George manages to kick him away and stand, but Pearson quickly closes him down again and forces him to dive for the takedown. Pearson stuffs it and stands, then nails George to the body with a hard right hook. Straight left follows and the Aussie is on rubber legs. Pair of hard jabs follow as Pearson walks him down, and then a big right hook FOLDS HIM UP. This time he goes down and covers up and one shot does enough to force the ref to step in.

Fun fight in the end as Sotiropoulos showed heart at least, but realistically even from the first minute he was wildly outgunned by Pearson standing, as the Brit’s movement and combinations were light years beyond Sotiropoulos’ more simple boxing game and he just couldn’t get Ross to the ground enough times to really capitalise on his grappling advantage. Big win for Pearson to return to 155lbs with and he looked much more healthy and dynamic at that weight than he did at 145lbs, so he’s certainly best staying there. Unhappy ending for the Australian fans but as a Brit this was awesome to watch!

-Aaaand we cut there with no highlight reel or wrap-up segment. Weird for an official DVD to do that but whatever, doesn’t especially matter.

Final Thoughts….

This was a far better show than I remembered, actually. Sure, there was nothing earth-shattering on the card and realistically the only fight to affect a title picture was Lombard vs. Palhares, but none of the fights truly sucked (even Pierce/Baczynski was perfectly watchable MMA) and everyone on the card from the opening fight to the main event came to throw down and really went for it in their fight. And really, what else can you ask for? Thumbs up for this one.

Best Fight: Whittaker vs. Scott
Worst Fight: Pierce vs. Baczynski

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com