George Sotiropoulos will look to rebound from his first two-fight losing streak. | Photo: Sherdog.com
The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Australia for the first time since a tabulation debacle ultimately forced Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall to square off for rounds four, five and six to decide one half of the promotion’s flyweight tournament final. A different kind of tournament will be featured on Friday at the Gold Coast Convention Center in Queensland, Australia, as UFC contracts will be delivered to the welterweight and lightweight winners of “The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes.”
In addition to more teary-eyed newcomers realizing their lifelong dreams, “Ultimate Fighter” coaches Ross Pearson and George Sotiropoulos will settle their differences in an interesting lightweight clash. Perhaps best of all, the ever-volatile Hector Lombard returns to his adopted homeland to tangle with leg lock guru Rousimar Palhares at 185 pounds.
Here is a closer look at UFC on FX 6, with analysis and picks:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC on FX 6 Free Fan Pick’Em
George Sotiropoulos (14-4, 7-2 UFC) vs. Ross Pearson (13-6, 5-3 UFC)
The Matchup: Sotiropoulos and Pearson were opposing coaches on “The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes,” and in staying true to unwritten reality show protocols, the Aussie and the Brit managed to cook up a pretty decent beef along the way.
It has been nearly a year-and-a-half since a counter right hook from Rafael dos Anjos sent Sotiropoulos crashing to the canvas at UFC 132. A training injury forced the Australian out of a matchup against Takanori Gomi at UFC 144, and he has been occupied with his coaching duties in the latter portion of 2012. Once regarded as a dark horse title contender at 155 pounds, Sotiropoulos enters this bout looking to halt a two-fight skid that began with a unanimous decision loss to Dennis Siver at UFC 127.
Pearson returns to lightweight after a two-fight stint at 145 pounds. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 9 winner did well enough in his featherweight debut, outpointing Junior Assuncao at UFC 141, but struggled to handle the speed and punching combinations of Cub Swanson in suffering a second-round technical knockout loss to the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts product in June. “The Real Deal” is 4-2 as a lightweight in the UFC, with losses coming at the hands of Cole Miller and Edson Barboza.
The key for Sotiropoulos is to use his serviceable standup just enough to initiate clinches and takedown attempts. That means applying constant pressure while jabbing and kicking effectively. Sotiropoulos has proven vulnerable to a solid hook in recent bouts, which makes it even more imperative to get the fight to the ground as quickly as possible. He simply does not have the boxing chops to win a prolonged standup battle with the technically sound Pearson, who is an opportunistic counterpuncher.
Known as a durable slugger, Pearson mixes a solid jab and good footwork with consistent aggression. When faced with a quicker, superior athlete such as Swanson or Barboza, Pearson has been beaten to the punch. That should not be a problem against his rival coach, however. Sotiropoulos has incrementally improved his striking over the years, but the 35-year-old jiu-jitsu player is not going to overwhelm anyone with sheer volume or breathtaking speed.
The ground game is where the Australian does his finest work. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Sotiropoulos is adept at passing guard and working submissions, and he uses his own rubber guard to limit his opponent’s offense from above. This is a problem for Pearson, who is generally most effective when he lands measured ground-and-pound from top position; anywhere else on the ground, the Alliance MMA representative looks lost. If Pearson cannot control range with his boxing and kicks to the legs and body, he will risk being smothered by Sotiropoulos for significant periods of time.
The Pick: Pearson will fare best if Sotiropoulos allows emotions from the show to get the best of him and engages in a back-and-forth slugfest. If not, he will have to hope that his opponent’s age -- the Australian is 35 -- and ring rust will be too much to overcome. Sotiropoulos will use a solid one-two to get inside and force Pearson into his world before winning via submission in round three.
Next Fight » Hector Lombard vs. Rousimar Palhares