Straight from the Land Down Under, the season finale of “The Ultimate Fighter: Smashes” pitted England against Australia one last time. We also saw the revival of a middleweight monster, a unique live crowd, and plenty of fun fights! FanSided’s Elton Hobson breaks it down.
Before I break down the fights from last night – how about a hand for that Australian crowd?
Seriously, that was the best live crowd for a UFC event this year, at any event, anywhere. And I’m including Brazil, Japan, China, even my beloved Canada on that list. Some of those crowds had passion and energy. Some of them were extremely well-educated and respectful. But I don’t think any crowd had “all of the above” the way that small room of Aussies did last night.
And it certainly was small – the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition center has a capacity of 6000, of which I doubt there were even that many. But the smallness added intimacy you don’t normally see at a big UFC event. Someone would should out a joke, and everyone would laugh. The crowd would go quiet during tense moments, and you could hear the corner men shouting as clear as the anxious whispers from the first row. It added a unique feel to an otherwise routine card.
So, to, did the fights themselves, which were all outstanding. Let’s get into the night’s action, shall we?
-Ross Pearson looked good in the win, but I didn’t think he looked great. He seemed a bit hesitant to pull the trigger against Sot, even when he had him hurt. He also let the Aussie land a few too many shots for a guy who’s striking he outclassed (on paper, at least).
Finally, I happen to think Sotiropolous is a bit “chinny” for the fighting style he seems to employ. Still, let’s not be a complete Debbie Downer here – Pearson looked composed, well-prepared, and clearly has plenty of power. I look forward to seeing where he goes next.
-George Sotiropolous is another frustrating case of an MMA “what if”? Here’s a guy with unbelievable jiu-jitsu – not a submission hunter like Frank Mir or Jon Jones – but a guy with creativity, who can do what few others can do on the mat. Unfortunately, his style and the other facets of his game just don’t complement his rubber guard game at all. His wrestling is pedestrian, and he tends to get sucked into striking battles where his power and chin just aren’t up to snuff.
Massive kudos to him for surviving as long as he did against Pearson’s onslaught, but until he changes up his style I don’t see him cracking the upper echelons of the lightweight division.
-Bradley Scott vs. Robert Whittaker was an absolute blast to watch, one of those fights where the momentum switches back and forth and back and forth until even the fighters themselves aren’t sure who’s winning at any given moment. It reminded me of the Australian edition of Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar, and hopefully the ratings for the show in Australia reflect that as well.
As for where these guys go – who knows? I’ll admit to only fleetingly paying attention to “Smashes”, and this was the first time I had seen (rather than read about) either of these man fight. As the winner of the inaugural season, I expect Whittaker to get a nice push in both Australia and the U.K. To continue the Griffin/Bonnar comparison, I also see Scott getting a nice little push as well. The UFC is booking more and more international cards, and these guys could be a staple of them for years to come.
-Colin Fletcher vs. Norman Parke was less of a barn-burner, but it was still a fairly entertaining affair and a pretty dominant performance from Norman Parke. I thought it was particularly impressive because after the first round, Fletcher clearly made adjustments for Parke’s methodical style and stopped trying to audition for the Moscow Ballet. And yet Parke was still able to control the fight, put Fletcher on the canvas, and work his game. It was a good display of poise from a relative newbie in MMA.
-MA GAWD THE HECTOR LOMBARD! Of all the fights on the card, it was the opening bout that saw (at least to my mind) the most surprising and definitive finish of the night. Hector Lombard had the worst UFC debut this side of “Shogun” Rua (seriously – call me the next time Forrest Griffin submits anyone). His prospects went from “red hot” to “ice cold” over the course of 15 horrendous, gawd-awful minutes against Tim Boetsch. He went from being a potential challenger to Anderson Silva to wondering if he still had a job.
Well, those fears are over. Rousimar Palhares is not the elite of the middlweight division, but he’s not far off. He’s a very dangerous guy with a collection of broken limbs on his mantle to rival Ronda Rousey or Frank Mir. And Lombard absolutely trucked him, putting him to sleep inside of a round. Even Dan Henderson and his legendary “H-Bomb” couldn’t accomplish that feat. I look forward to seeing Hector Lombard version 2.0 take on the elite of the middleweight division.