Ross Pearson is coming off his first loss in the UFC. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
As the world’s top mixed martial arts promotion expands its drive to go global, Aussie fans will be treated to three local fighters -- including New Zealanders Mark Hunt and James Te Huna, two kiwis that will certainly bring the ruckus as the crowd cheers them -- on the UFC 127 “Penn vs. Fitch” undercard this Saturday at the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia.
With “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 9 winner Ross Pearson meeting hardened battler Spencer Fisher, it also features a lightweight match sure to produce someone ready to move to the next level. What makes UFC undercards interesting these days is the “pink slip” threat that exists for fighters. Sometimes, two fighters in the same fight seem likely to get released in defeat, given the organization’s crowded ranks. Those are often entertaining to watch, if only for the sheer will on display. Like Fernando Vargas once said, “It’s hard to get up at 5 a.m. to do roadwork when you’re in silk pajamas.” Guys who are a loss away from the chopping block fight with a verve and fury all their own.
Seven matches comprise this undercard, and at least four of them seem likely to produce the dreaded pink slip. Life is a competitive sport, folks, so let us get down and dirty with the breakdown.
Ross Pearson vs. Spencer Fisher
The Matchup: Winner of Season 9 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Pearson has proven a decent lightweight with effective striking, though his stylistic shortcomings were exposed in his last outing -- a second-round submission loss to Cole Miller at UFC Fight Night 22. Fisher, one of the organization’s more experienced veterans, is forever wedded to the idea of making fights exciting, and he pulls it off with admirable consistency. Both men like to bang and require a good deal of absorbed punishment before they will relent and try for a takedown.
When UFC matchmaker Joe Silva arranges an event, fights like this take about 10 seconds to contemplate and analyze before he faxes off contracts to the respective managers.
If there is an emerging trend in MMA, it is that of the younger breed surpassing established veterans and winning the bulk of those types of fights. Fisher’s two bouts with Sam Stout were masterpieces of standup violence, as the duo hammered each other with high-level muay Thai technique. If there was a red-flag moment in Fisher’s typically steady career, it was how readily Joe Stevenson steamrolled him in his second-round elbow-induced submission loss at UFC 104. Power grapplers have always been Fisher’s stylistic kryptonite, but if an opponent bangs with him, he essentially walks right into his kitchen.
Pearson would be best served to keep Fisher honest standing and then initiate a takedown at some point. It seems doubtful he has the top control or submission skills to actively threaten Spencer if he does plant him on the mat, but Pearson should have enough verve and variety to mix it up en route to forcing some exciting trades. Then, he can cool Fisher’s heels by getting him down and camping there.
If Pearson goes for an all-out brawl, that is certainly a way to endear himself to fans, but it is also a one-way ticket to risking an upset he can ill afford at this point, especially in the UFC’s stacked lightweight division. This fight is essentially a litmus test to see if he can differentiate between trying to make this fight winnable or trying to make it exciting, maybe not necessarily both; still, nobody would hold it against him if he tried.
The Pick: Pearson by decision.
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