British slugger Ross Pearson earned a devastating third-round TKO on Saturday over Australian George Sotiropoulos, his opposing coach on "The Ultimate Fighter," in the main event of UFC on FX 6.
The match between Pearson (14-6 MMA, 6-3 UFC) and Sotiropoulos (14-5 MMA, 7-3 UFC) took place Saturday morning at Australia's Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre but aired in North America on Friday night due to the time difference.
Returning to lightweight after two fights at 145 pounds, Pearson appeared more muscular than in recent memory and walked confidently forward throughout the fight. The rangy Sotiropoulos tried to retreat and counter, but Pearson was the more accurate and devastating striker throughout.
"This fight's been a long time in the making, and I just wanted it so bad," Pearson said after the win. "I worked so hard for it, and I just had to take my time. I kept telling myself to go, go, go, like I normally would. But sometimes I haven't been able to get the finish because I'm pressing too hard.
"I listened to my coaches, took my time, stayed relaxed, and the knockout will come. My corner was telling me, 'It's not about power. It's about timing and finding that shot. Once you land, he's ready to go.' I just listened to them and did what I had to do."
Pearson appeared well on his way to ending the fight in the first round after a left hook put Sotiropoulos on the canvas. but the Aussie scrambled back to his feet and showed impressive resiliency.
Sotiropoulos then did his best to turn the momentum of the fight with a well-placed jab and a late scramble that saw him move to his opponent's back. However, the bell sounded before he could fully sink in a hold.
Sotiropoulos looked fresh to open the second, but he still couldn't find an answer for Pearson's slick head movement and crisp counterpunches. Pearson scored nearly three times as many punches as Sotiropoulos in the second round according to a FightMetric report, and the end appeared inevitable.
A left hook started the assault again in the third, and after Sotiropoulos climbed up off the mat, a jab-hook combo landed flush to the chin and earned Pearson the win 41 seconds into the round.
Pearson and Sotirpoulos developed a strong dislike for each other during filming of "TUF: Smashes" due to a series of clashes that took place both on- and off-camera. With the fight now in the books, Pearson said the feud is essentially over, but he isn't expecting a new friendship to develop.
"Me and George are never going to be friends," Pearson said. "He's his person and I'm my person, and we're never going to get along.
"But whatever it is, I got the fight out of the way. There's nothing to look back on."
In the night's co-feature, Team Australia's Robert Whittaker (9-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) and Team UK's Brad Scott (9-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) combined for one of the most memorable tournament final fights in the 18-edition history of "The Ultimate Fighter."
In the end, it was Whittaker who just edged his opponent en route to a "TUF: Smashes" welterweight title.
The bout was fast-paced and exciting from the opening bell as both fighters were willing to engage quickly and trade punches and kicks in the pocket. Whittaker appeared to get the best of the early exchanges with a slight edge in both speed and intensity of his combinations.
In the second round, Scott changed the momentum after narrowly slipping a high kick and scoring an outside trip before moving immediately to his opponent's back. The Brit searched desperately for a fight-ending rear-naked choke, but Whittaker brought the crowd to life by surviving the attacks and eventually working free to his feet.
Still, it was obvious the fight was even after two rounds.
With the fight on the line in the third, both fighters stepped up their intensity. Whittaker counted on kicks to all level and a thunderous series of elbows to score points while Scott stood on the outside and fired straight punches up the middle.
The momentum went back and forth throughout the final five minutes, but as blood trickled down Scott's face Whittaker picked up the pace, and the late volume earned him a hard-fought unanimous-decision win, 29-28 on all three judges' cards.
"The third round, I knew the second could've gone either way," Whittaker said after the fight. "I just wanted to seal that third round and make sure (the judges) knew who won it."
In the lightweight final of "The Ultimate Fighter: the Smashes," Northern Ireland's Norman Parke (17-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) became the first man from his country to claim a tournament win on the long-running reality series with a convincing decision win over fellow Team UK fighter Colin Fletcher (8-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC).
Despite facing on opponent with an eight-inch reach advantage, Parke was able to counterstrike effectively and take his opponent to the ground nearly at will. To his credit, Fletcher remained active throughout the bout and might have had his best round in the closing five minutes, but he simply had no answer for Parke, who took a unanimous decision with scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 to earn a UFC contract.
Additionally, former Bellator Fighting Championships middleweight title holder Hector Lombard (32-3-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) earned his first UFC win with an impressive first-round finish of Brazilian submission master Rousimar Palhares (14-5 MMA, 7-4 UFC).
Unlike his disappointing UFC debut this past June, Lombard was aggressive from the opening bell and moved forward with powerful strikes.
Palhares never looked comfortable as he tried to retreat and counter the blows, and Lombard was able to pierce his defence with sweeping hooks and powerful straights as the action moved against the cage. A native of Cuba who long resided in Australia, Lombard wowed the crowd with a flurry of punches that sent Palhares to the canvas and forced a TKO stoppage at the 3:38 mark of the opening frame.
Immediately following the result, Lombard called for a future fight with top British contender Michael Bisping, who is currently scheduled to face Vitor Belfort in January.
"I would now love to fight Michael Bisping," Lombard said. "He's said a lot of things about me lately, and I want to settle it in the Octagon."
UFC on FX 6 drew an announced attendance of 5,133 for a venue-record live gate of $900,000.