Ross Pearson and the 10 Best English Fighters in the UFC
After an unsuccessful run at featherweight, Ross Pearson made a big statement in his return to the lightweight division, knocking out George Sotiropoulos.
Pearson coached against Sotiropoulos on The Ultimate Fighter: Smashes, so the bout between the two served as the conclusion of the season. The Ultimate Fighter: Smashes featured British and Australian fighters competing in the lightweight and welterweight division, with Pearson and Sotiropoulos representing those two countries respectively.
A former winner of The Ultimate Fighter himself and a six-time winner inside the Octagon, Pearson has become recognized as one of the best English fighters in MMA. Where does he stand among the rest of the top fighters to come out of his home country?
Let's take a look.
10. John Maguire
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
John Maguire has slipped up, following wins in his first two UFC appearances. However, the 29-year-old remains one of the best fighters from England.
Prior to joining the UFC, Maguire was a champion of English promotion Ultimate Challenge MMA. Maguire defended his belt three times before accepting an offer to compete in the world's top MMA organization.
Maguire defeated Justin Edwards in his Octagon debut, then he followed that win up with a slick submission victory over DaMarques Johnson. Since then, Maguire has lost back-to-back fights against John Hathaway and Matthew Riddle.
A new opponent has not been named for Maguire, but welterweights like Seth Baczynski and Lance Benoist are potential opponents.
9. Jimi Manuwa
Undefeated in 12 fights, Jimi Manuwa looks like a potential contender in the light heavyweight division.
Like John Maguire, Manuwa is a former Ultimate Challenge MMA champion. The 32-year-old defended his belt five times before signing with BAMMA.
BAMMA was only able to hang onto Manuwa for one fight, as the UFC came calling. In his Octagon debut, Manuwa dominated Kyle Kingsbury, showing that he's a fighter to keep an eye on in the 205-pound division.
In February, Manuwa is expected to meet Cyrille Diabate. Both fighters being dangerous strikers, the matchup should produce an exciting stand-up battle.
8. Vaughan Lee
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Vaughan Lee hasn't been able to gather much momentum since joining the UFC roster, but he's shown he has the skill of a high-level bantamweight.
In his first appearance inside the Octagon, Lee fought to a split decision against Chris Cariaso, who is now considered a potential contender in the flyweight division. Following that fight, Lee picked up the biggest win of his career: a submission victory over Norifumi Yamamoto.
Against T.J. Dillashaw, Lee was unable to stay on his feet and ended up getting caught in a neck crank.
In February, Lee will fight Motonobu Tezuka at UFC on Fuel TV 7. A win over Tezuka would put Lee back on track and prove he's worthy of being mentioned among the best English fighters.
7. Paul Sass
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Paul Sass recently suffered the first loss of his MMA career, but he was on a tear prior to fighting Matt Wiman.
The 24-year-old submitted 12 of his first 13 opponents. Among those Sass forced to tap were talented UFC lightweights Michael Johnson and Jacob Volkmann.
Still young and considered a potential 155-pound contender, Sass will try to get back on a winning track in February, when he is scheduled to meet Danny Castillo.
6. John Hathaway
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Aside from a hiccup against a seasoned veteran in Mike Pyle, John Hathaway has looked like a contender in the making.
The 25-year-old welterweight holds wins over well-known fighters such as Rick Story and Diego Sanchez. He is currently on a run of three straight victories, which probably puts him one big win away from finally breaking through.
Right now, Hathaway's next opponent is unknown, but a bout with fellow grappler Mike Pierce could serve as a good test of his skills.
5. Dan Hardy
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Dan Hardy's stock has fallen since he earned a title shot against Georges St-Pierre in March 2010, but the entertaining welterweight is finally regaining his form.
After a four-fight losing streak, Hardy has bounced back to knock out Duane Ludwig and dominate Amir Sadollah en route to a decision victory.
Hardy is now campaigning (via MMAJunkie.com) for a bout with Matt Brown. With Brown coming off of a win on network television, that fight could give Hardy the chance to earn a big win over an opponent who is riding plenty of momentum.
4. Ross Pearson
Matt Roberts/Getty Images
At featherweight, Ross Pearson seemed to have some trouble with the speed of his opponents. Against George Sotiropoulos, Pearson was able to land first and eventually scored an impressive knockout in the third round.
Now that he's headed in the right direction once again, Pearson can attempt to win consecutive fights for the first time since he defeated Dennis Siver in March 2010.
Still improving as a fighter, Pearson owns a solid 6-3 record in the UFC and is capable of beating a good percentage of lightweights outside of the Top 10.
3. Brad Pickett
Brad Pickett doesn't get a whole lot of attention, but he's undoubtedly one of the best English fighters out there. With 12 wins in his past 14 bouts, a strong argument could also be made that he's a Top 10 bantamweight.
The only fighters Pickett has lost to since joining the UFC were interim champion Renan Barao and former WEC title challenger Scott Jorgensen. Meanwhile, Pickett has bested current flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, Ivan Menjivar and others under the Zuffa banner.
Later this month, Pickett will try to take a big step toward a title shot in a bout with Eddie Wineland, who is coming off of a knockout win over Jorgensen.
2. Michael Bisping
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Bisping is the face of English MMA and one of the best 185-pound fighters in the world.
The boisterous middleweight has won five of his past six fights, with his only loss during that time coming against Chael Sonnen in a close contest. Brian Stann, Jason Miller, Jorge Rivera, Yoshihiro Akiyama and Dan Miller account for the wins during Bisping's impressive climb to where he currently stands in the middleweight division.
With all that said, I'm sure many of you are scratching your heads and wondering why Bisping isn't the best English fighter out there. All your questions will be answered on the next slide.
1. Alistair Overeem
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Most recognize Alistair Overeem as a Dutch fighter, but the former Strikeforce champion was born in England.
Overeem is undefeated since an October 2007 loss to Sergei Kharitonov and is currently considered one of the three best heavyweights in MMA. A win over Brock Lesnar had earned him a shot at the belt, but Overeem failed a random drug test and was forced out of a championship bout with Junior dos Santos.
If Overeem can beat Antonio Silva decisively in February, there's a good chance he'll once again find himself scheduled for a title fight.