Are you like me? Like me, in this instance, meaning ignorant of British sports matters? I mean, I've been to England. I watched their sports shows. I can groove on some soccer, but after that it's, like, handball and things. They're into Olympic sports at times other than the Olympics. Whaaa? And they drive on the left side of the road, too. Sounds great, British people. Whatever you want to do. Hey, I'll be over here in my spaceship. It runs on used peanut oil and room-temperature Boddington's.
Ah, I kid, I kid. I love Great Britain and British culture. And the beverages really aren't that warm. They also have a lot of really talented and exciting MMA fighters. But still, being a generally non-UK sporting person, I had to look up the meaning behind the title of the recent UFC reality show, The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes, which pits English fighters against Australians. Turns out it's a clever play on The Ashes, a biennial cricket series between England and Australia. So that's exciting.
As it happens, The Smashes comes to a head in a few days at UFC on FX 6, which will air in the U.S. on Friday and features the finals of the show and several other tantalizing matchups. To celebrate the occasion, here is a list of the best British fighters working in MMA today.
Stiff competition for the 10 spot here. Terry Etim barely edges out former BAMMA middleweight champ Tom "Kong" Watson, who has one more loss on his record than Etim and has yet to win in the UFC (0-1 thus far).
I was also tempted to add someone buzzy like Michael Page or Ronnie Mann, but in the end Etim was the choice. He may not be the most exciting name out there, but he's a rock-solid veteran and a dangerous submission artist at 155.
Record: 15-5 (1)
Che Mills has looked good lately. His only loss in three UFC fights thus far came to some Canadian, name of Rory MacDonald.
Like most British fighters, Mills is a striker first, and that striking is good. But he's not a babe in the woods on the mat, either.
Division: Light heavyweight
More than two months later, I'm still thinking about the pasting Jimi Manuwa laid on Kyle Kingsbury in his UFC debut. Manuwa came back from some mild early trouble to force a doctor's stoppage after one round. Manuwa has a tailing comet where his left arm should be, but also showed a powerful right hand, sharp kicks, precise knees and decent takedown defense.
The barely intelligible brawler from Sunderland has plenty of fans on both sides of the pond. If the TUF Smashes coach wants to avoid a must-win situation, he's probably facing a must-win situation this week against Aussie counterpart George Sotiropoulos.
The Liverpudlian Triangle Master, as I like to call him as of right this second, tasted bitter irony when Matt Wiman submitted him in September. But he's still 3-1 in the UFC. Next up? A tricky matchup with Danny Castillo.
Trilby hat, jorts, wife beater, suspenders. Congratulations, Brad Pickett, on being the Britishest looking dude at this year's office costume party. You barely beat out the tea-drinking Beefeater and Ringo Starr. And that's not a Ringo lookalike either. I think that's really him.
Record: 25-10 (1)
Less than a year ago, Dan Hardy's job was in jeopardy. To his credit, he did something about it. He stopped leaning on his lead left hook and punk rock charisma. A more advanced grappling game and more controlled striking has him on a tidy two-fight win streak.
Although to be certain, it never hurts to have a mountain of fans, especially when one of them is Zuffa Chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta.
John Hathaway has a bright future. People love to hold up the Rorys and Joneses of the world when talking about the new generation of MMA, but Hathaway, 25, is right there with them. He's a complete fighter, nearly as dangerous on the ground (four submission wins) as he is on the feet (five T/KO wins).
After exposing upstart Pascal Krauss and embarrassing countryman John Maguire, Hathaway appears poised for a big step up the ladder.
Paul Daley is still one of the hardest hitters in the sport. He may also still be susceptible to wrestling. Who knows? But if things go for Daley in Bellator the way I think they're going to go, he'll have a chance to test himself against one of MMA's best wrestlers—Bellator welterweight champ Ben Askren—sooner rather than later.
If Michael Bisping beats Vitor Belfort in January, I believe he's a no-brainer for a shot at Anderson Silva.
Hard to believe Bisping, 33, has never had that opportunity. But the worm may finally be turning. He's 5-1 in his last six, but more importantly, he doesn't appear to be mucking around anymore. No more silly feuds with guys who aren't on his level. No more shooting himself in the foot. He appears to have his head on straight and pointed squarely toward the title. If he continues to take care of business, good things should happen for the UK's undisputed MMA king.