UFC on FX6: Official Preview and Predictions
By Tom Taylor
This weekend is the kind that most MMA fans drool over, as the UFC will hold not one, but two shows in as many days. For the first of the two shows, the UFC returns to Gold Coast, Australia for UFC on FX 6, which will serve as the finale of The Ultimate Fighter Australia vs. UK, also called The Smashes. In the main event, opposing coaches Ross Pearson and George Sotiropoulos will put to rest the rivalry they developed over the course of the season. The lightweight clash between the two coaches will be supported by a dynamite middleweight matchup between notorious slugger Hector Lombard and Brazilian leg lock aficionado, Rousimar Palhares. The rest of UFC on FX 6’s main card will be comprised of The Smashes’ two final fights. First, Colin “Freakshow” Fletcher and Norman Parke will battle it out with the hopes of emerging the lightweight winner, then, Robert Whittaker and Brad Scott will compete to earn the title of welterweight winner. When this MMA-heavy weekend kicks off, here is what we can expect from UFC on FX 6’s main card.
George Sotiropoulos (14-4-0) vs. Ross “The Real Deal” Pearson (13-6-0)
From the early vantage point, this clash of coaches has the look of a classic grappler vs. striker matchup. Sotiropoulos, a BJJ blackbelt, will hold a definite age on the ground, while his opponent Pearson is probably the more dangerous striker of the two.
Still, Pearson has shown aptitude on the ground with five career submission wins, and Sotiropoulos has proven to be fairly game on the feet, despite having only finished one fight via strikes. Neither man, however, has seen any real success for some time. Pearson will enter this lightweight bout having most recently competed as a featherweight, where he had his lights turned out by Cub Swanson. While he did taste victory before that fight, outworking Junior Assuncao to a unanimous decision, Pearson has alternated wins and losses in his last six fights. Sotiropoulos, on the other hand, will carry a two fight losing streak into this fight. The Aussie has not fought since he was flattened by a counter right hook from Raphael Dos Anjos nearly a year and a half ago. Before that, he was outhustled by Denis Siver, coming up short by unanimous decision. So, the implications for this fight are grand for both men. Neither can afford a loss here, at least not if they hope to stay relevant.
Relevant, oddly enough, probably wouldn’t have been an endearing enough adjective to describe Sotiropoulos in the not too distant past. Upon entering the UFC, the submission specialist assembled a 7-fight win streak, handily beating the likes of George Roop, Joe Stevenson, Kurt Pellegrino, and Joe Lauzon. Despite his recent skid, it wasn’t all that long ago that Sotiropoulos was marching on the gate of title contention. And while Pearson hasn’t gotten quite as close to the top of the mountain as his upcoming opponent, he is a TUF winner and has shown sharp standup skills and an impressive willingness to slug it out with just about anyone.
When this bout unfolds, much will depend on Sotiropoulos’s ability to keep his cool. Over the course of The Smashes, we watched Pearson gradually work his way under his opponents skin, and if Sotiropoulos gets emotional in the cage, he might find himself in the middle of a fire fight with Pearson— this is probably not where the Australian wants to be. Pearson, after all, holds a technical edge in the standup department, but also has the power to end his opponent’s night with a well timed punch or kick. The Australian will also have to cope with the possible effects of ring-rust, but both men have shown adequate condition in the past, so we shouldn’t expect cardio to be an issue for either.
Sotiropoulos will find success in fighting smart against his scrappy British opponent. A likely Sotiropoulos strategy might be to use stiff combos to set up trips and takedowns, and drag the fight into his world on the mat. Overall, provided he keeps his composure and doesn’t get caught early, he should be able to dictate the location of the fight. Following some action on the feet and on the mat, look for Sotiropoulos to put his blackbelt to use and trap Pearson in something inescapable.
The Pick: Sotiropoulos does his Aussie protégés proud, locking up a second-round submission over a game Pearson.
Hector Lombard (31-3-0) vs. Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares (14-4-0)
This is one of those no-brainer matchups. In Lombard vs. Palhares we have two highly-regarded middleweights, who are both coming off disappointing losses, but are still only a win or two away from title contention. And when these two compact, yet tankish middleweights enter the cage together, we will be treated to a sight reminiscent of some Discovery Channel special on silverback gorillas.
Despite their similar builds however, Lombard and Palhares have starkly differing styles. Lombard, despite being a decorated Judoka, has become notorious for his crippling power punches and rabid ferocity. His Brazilian opponent, however, is without a doubt the most feared leglock specialist in MMA today— a reputation he has gained by securing seven of his ten submission wins with leg locks or heel hooks. In short, there are probably few men, even in the talent-rich ranks of the UFC, who have such a propensity to hospitalize as these two.
Given this, it is unlikely that this fight will reach the judges scorecard. More probably, it will go one of two ways. In Scenario one, we will see Palhares being robbed of consciousness by Lombard punches. In Scenario two, we will see Lombard being robbed of an arm or leg by a Palhares submission. Still, while these are the two most likely outcomes, there are variables in this fight, like there are in any other.
One such variable will be Lombard’s submission defense. Despite rattling off a 20-fight win-streak before his loss to Tim Boetsch in his Octagon debut, many fans have criticized the worthiness of Lombard’s recent opponents. Sure, he managed to go undefeated for several years, but during that time, Lombard did not face anybody with submission savvy of Palhares. This begs the question, if Palhares can tie up one of Lombard’s limbs; will Lombard be able to maneuver his way to safety in the same way that Palhares’s recent opponent, Alan Belcher was? This will prove to be a decisive x-factor in the middleweight matchup. Lombard will have a distinct edge over Palhares’s previous opponents, however— that being his ability to match, and possibly exceed, Palhares’s crushing strength. Still, if Lombard wants to leave this fight on two legs, his submission defense will have to be on point.
The other prominent variable in this fight will be Palhares’s ability to take a punch. In his two most recent losses, to Nate Marquardt and Alan Belcher, we have seen Palhares wilt when hit with hard shots. Against an opponent like Lombard, who probably hits significantly harder than Marquardt or Belcher, Palhares will have to protect his chin like his life depends on it.
In the end, then, this fight will depend greatly on Palhares’s ability to grab hold of Lombard’s limbs, and on the flip side, Lombard’s ability to protect his limbs long enough to land some of his missile-like punches on his opponent’s chin. The man who is able to apply his strengths first wins.
When this bout begins, respect the old cliché and don’t blink, as these two men are talented finishers. Even despite Lombard’s recent loss to Tim Boetsch, a fight in which he looked tepid at best, his power and strength give him the ability to change the tide of any fight in seconds. Expect him to do just that in this fight, as he dodges his way out of Palhares’s initial takedown and submission attempts, until he finds his moment (possibly while Palhares is diving for a leg), and unleashes some big shots. From there, it will only be a matter of time before follow up punches seal the deal.
The Pick: In a fight that could go either way, Lombard comes out on top, battering Palhares early and scoring a first round TKO.
Brad Scott (8-1) vs. Robert Whittaker (9-2)
Despite being from different countries, Brad Scott and Robert Whittaker are actually quite similar in a number of ways. For one, both are very young and appear to be full of potential. Scott is just 23, while Whittaker is 21, and given their current trajectories, we can expect solid results from both in the future. They also have similar records, and have both showed aptitude in all areas of the game, each having finished several fights by knockout and submission. Of course, perhaps their most important similarity is that they’re both vying for the same prize.
Before appearing on The Smashes, Scott amassed an impressive six-fight win streak, finishing three opponents by TKO or knockout, and three by submission. Given this, he was a solid pick for winning the show from the get-go. Yet while he has battled his way to the finals, he didn’t exactly live up to his own hype on the show, as both his victories came by decision.
Whittaker, on the other hand, has had the look of a steamroller on the show, scoring first round knockouts of Xavier Lucas and Luke Newman. While he went 2-2 in his four most recent fights before the show, his performances on air have revealed him to be a man on a mission. The Aussie’s hands have looked impressively sharp, and he showed good recovery ability when under fire from Luke Newman in his first fight of the season.
Neither man has ever lost by knockout, but when the leather starts flying, do not be surprised if that changes. The stakes are high in this welterweight matchup, so we can expect both finalists to be prepared, but at the end of the night, Whittaker’s hands do him another service and carry him to the “W”.
The Pick: Whittaker grabs the biggest win of his career, and a UFC contract, with a second or third round KO of Scott.
Colin “Freakshow” Fletcher (8-1) vs. Norman “Stormin” Parke (16-2)
In the lightweight final, we will see one of the most experienced members of the cast, Norman Parke; take on one of the most polarizing members of the cast, Colin Fletcher. Both men are from the UK, but do not expect their shared heritage to distract their eyes from the prize: A UFC contract.
Love him or hate him for his unique attire and offbeat personality, there is no denying the submission chops of “Freakshow”. Before joining the cast of The Ultimate Fighter, the lanky lightweight snatched seven submission wins on the UK circuit. His record is made even more impressive by the fact that he secured two of those wins in the deep waters of the highly regarded British fight promotion, BAMMA. And while he wasn’t able to flaunt his submission skills in his first fight on the show against Ben Wall, they were on full display as he tapped out Richie Vaculik in his second.
Fletcher’s opponent, Parke, has also shown impressive aptitude on the ground. He has secured 12 of his 16 career wins via submission, and is an experienced wrestler to boot. On the show, Parke was impressive in dispatching Richie Vaculik (who fought twice, due to an injury sustained by Mike Wilkinson), and Brendan Loughnane.
On the feet, the edge is fairly easy to assign. While Parke has shown some decent power in the past, enough at least to carry him to three TKO victories, Fletcher is the significantly rangier man, and showed some impressive standup on the show— such as a series of vicious knees to the face of Ben Wall. For this reason, the edge goes to Freakshow.
Eventually, however, given the grappling abilities of these two team UK representatives, we can expect this fight to hit the mat. When it does, the edge in pure jiu jitsu has to be given to Fletcher, even if Parke proves to be the stronger of the two men.
When the referee waves this fight on, expect Fletcher to get things going with a long-range barrage of strikes. Look for the lanky Sunderland Fight Pit representative to keep his opponent out of takedown range with jabs and teeps, and attempt to take the spring of his step with snapping leg kicks. If Fletcher’s high output aren’t enough to deter his opponent from shooting for takedowns, his dangerous guard might be. If Parke does end up shooting, he will be forced to spend time in range of the wiry limbs of zany opponent. Parke is a tough-customer, and will certainly make waves of his own, but at this point, Fletcher appears to have more routes to victory. In the end, it is likely that he will find substantially more success on the feet, and on the ground.
The Pick: Expect Fletcher’s high offensive output, regardless of where the fight unfolds, to be the catalyst for a unanimous decision win, making him the lightweight winner of The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes.