Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor
Norman Parke is being given some soft competition since winning The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes.
The UFC loves England, and England loves the UFC. England also loves English fighters, but there aren't too many of those around these days.
Dan Hardy is out indefinitely due to the fact that his heart doesn't work. Michael Bisping's days as a professional fighter, unfortunately, could very well be numbered due to repeated eye surgeries (more on him later). Paul Daley, after seeing a glimmer of hope for a UFC return, had the door firmly shut in his face after getting likened to recently released scumbag Rousimar Palhares by Dana White.
Because of this, the best-known British fighter in the UFC who is actually fighting right now is probably Ross Pearson. Though he is a solid fighter, Pearson still remains a mystery to most fans. Other British fighters, like Brad Pickett (who has lost to every noteworthy bantamweight he has faced) and John Hathaway (who is lost in the shuffle of solid welterweights), are also anonymous cogs in the middle of their divisions.
Enter Norman Parke.
The top dog of TUF: The Smashes is in the enviable position of having strongly represented the Union Jack opposite those "bloody convicts down under," and also being a native-born Irishman. This puts him on the short list of fighters the UFC would like to plug near the top of 2014's upcoming card on the Emerald Isle and also guarantees him main card bookings in England for the foreseeable future.
That assumes he keeps winning, naturally, and the UFC seems to appreciate this.
The UFC has made it a habit to throw their TUF winners into the deep end of late. Fellow TUF winners Colton Smith, Robert Whittaker, Court McGee and Kelvin Gastelum have been beating the hell out of each other over the last couple months. Tony Ferguson, in his third UFC fight, fought 14-year veteran Yves Edwards. Michael Chiesa, in his third UFC fight, fought fringe top-10 lightweight Jorge Masvidal.
Not Parke, though. Parke is fighting Jon Tuck.
Who? Damn right, who.
Tuck is probably best known for being "that guy who lost to Al Iaquinta in his fight to get into the house," and only the biggest of TUF fans with the greatest of memories would remember that. He also holds the distinction of being one of the many people to slap around token Chinese fighter Zhang Tiequan.
Compared to other TUF winners, it looks like UFC might just be giving Parke a can to open.
Granted, Parke and Tuck were scheduled to fight a while back. This isn't out of nowhere. It is, however, quite the coincidence that Parke finds himself getting much lighter competition than every other recent TUF winner.