It’s odd to think of two “Ultimate Fighter” finale shows on one weekend without it being a misprint but that’s essentially what this latest “UFC on FX” is: a TUF finale.
George Sotiropoulos vs. Ross Pearson
Fight Breakdown: Pearson is a durable striker with a solid, but not lethal, ground game. George is a first rate grappler who is just good enough standing to get by.
It’s a first rate striker/grappler matchup and the key to winning will be who can get it into their range of expertise.
Why It Matters: Both need momentum after having seen it stalled out. A win here gets them back into the mix, a handful of fights away from a title eliminator.
Hector Lombard vs. Rousimar Palhares
Fight Breakdown: This might be my favorite fight of the month, at least anticipation wise, because both guys are usually never dull and both are kind of nuts. The stare down at weigh-ins might be worth the price of admission alone.
Palhares is a BJJ black belt who specializes in leg locks; if he grabs something below the waist odds are someone’s going to be limping for a while. He has no qualms trading, either, but he’s at his best working the ground game. Unlike a lot of fighters who are good at everything but not special at one he’s special at ripping apart the legs and fairly average everywhere else. His striking isn’t pretty but he’s powerfully built and strong, thus making up in pure physical prowess what he lacks in technique. Look for him to throw wildly and make a mad dash to get some sort of leg lock in.
Lombard is a heavy handed judoka who has no problems going to the ground, either. He’s at his best when he’s aggressive, throwing big shots and pushing the pace. He has big power in his hands against guys who also bounce at bars when they’re not fighting; so far he hasn’t shown anything against higher level competition that suggests he’s elite. He has all the pedigree of an elite level fighter with world class judo and a black belt in BJJ. His way to win is keep it standing, keep Palhares away from his legs and try to tag him early, often and as hard as possible. “Toquinho” has a reliable chin but it is breakable.
Why It Matters: Lombard came in with an insane amount of hype and promptly shit the bed against Tim Boetsch in one of the worst fights of the year. For a guy Bjorn Rebney declared to be good enough to knock out Anderson Silva he’s certainly looked like just another guy so far. He’s also getting paid a fairly substantial amount and Zuffa is going to expect him to deliver at some point soon. Palhares is still a tough out for anyone and a win here, especially by KO, does more to help rehab his image and standing than anything else. He’s shown he can destroy subpar fighters but if the Boetsch fight was any indication he might’ve made his reputation by thumping lesser competition and isn’t as elite as his record would otherwise state. That’s HUGE considering what he signed with Zuffa for and the hype he had coming in.
Palhares is entering gatekeeper territory right now, career wise. If you can beat him you’re ready for the Top five. A big win here for him and he stays close to that title picture territory, as well. At this point he’s about two to three high profile fights away from becoming the middleweight version of Cheick Kongo if he splits them. Palhares needs to get on a roll again and it has to start here.
Robert Whittaker vs. Brad Scott (TUF Finale)
Fight Breakdown: Brad Scott has good grappling and is a solid prospect out of the UK. Up until TUF he was a fairly proficient finisher, as well. Whitaker is a solid Aussie prospect with power in his right hand and is plenty durable. He’s looked like an absolute killer on the show.
Why It Matters: The winner gets a spot in the UFC and the title of “Ultimate Fighter” winner. The loser might not be around after the fight.
Colin Fletcher vs. Norman Parke (TUF Finale)
Fight Breakdown: Both men are grapplers known for submission work. Fletcher is a full head taller, look for him to use distance on his feet to control the fight.
Why It Matters: The winner gets a spot in the UFC and the title of “Ultimate Fighter” winner. The loser might not get another fight in the UFC.