TUF: The Smashes concludes Friday evening (if you're in North America) as the headlining tilt of an FX card from the Land Down Under. The main event will feature a contenders bout at 155 pounds, as opposing coaches Ross Pearson and George Sotiropoulos will touch gloves and make it official before throwing some leather.
The fight is likely to be a barn burner given the penchant of each man to put on exciting shows. Pearson is a standup ace who strikes with highly technical combinations that can overwhelm his opponents, while Sotiropoulos has pieced together a highly aggressive ground game from years of nomadic training around the globe.
On paper it's as great a stylistic clash as one could imagine, but the fact that both men forcefully hunt for a finish every time they're in the cage is likely to provide entertainment for however long it lasts.
Pearson will undeniably look to keep things off the mat with his Aussie counterpart, as trying to win a fight there against someone so skilled is essentially a death sentence. He'll look to batter Sotiropoulos on the feet, perhaps exposing the one notable flaw in his opponent.
Similarly, Sotiropoulos will look to exploit the ground game of Pearson. While most assume Pearson to be an inadequate grappler because of his nationality and propensity to engage in kickboxing matches, he's actually not as bad on the ground as people may think and holds a brown belt in judo. That said, he's entering a fight against a truly elite ground fighter, and isn't likely to score victory there.
Intangibles in the fight are likely to include Pearson's yo-yoing in weight, which is never healthy for a fighter, as well as the lengthy layoff for Sotiropoulos, who hasn't fought for over a year. For a guy in his mid-30s, that can be an eternity in the fight game.
Smart money in this one has to be on Pearson. He's younger, stronger, faster, and has been more active over the past year. Sotiropoulos' main path to victory comes via submission, but Pearson should avoid those troubles long enough to score a TKO in the first round.