Ross Pearson, the season nine winner of The Ultimate Fighter, is quickly moving up the ranks of the UFC Lightweight division.
Since defeating Andre Winner for the for TUF crown last June, Pearson has defeated Aaron Riley and Dennis Siver. His win over Siver at Ultimate Fight Night 21 was a unanimous decision in which he showed the skills to compete with the top fighters in the division.
Pearson's striking was crisp and came from all angles. Whether it was boxing, kicks, or even a flying knee, Siver never had an answer for everything the 25-year-old threw at him.
Even when Pearson found himself on his back, he was able to limit the damage inflicted by his opponent. He continually worked his way back to his feet. Conversely, when he took Siver down, he was able to work his way to dominant positions and scored lots of damage.
It's safe to assume that the top four current fighters in the lightweight division are BJ Penn, Frankie Edgar, Kenny Florian, and Takanori Gomi. Those four seem to be a step above the rest of the fighters at 155, but the next level is wide open for anyone to assert themselves.
With Diego Sanchez moving back to welterweight and Joe Stevenson having lost his last fight, "The Real Deal" has as good of a case as anyone right now to place his name as the number five fighter in the division.
Will Dana White give Pearson a shot at one of the top four in his next fight? Perhaps, but White may want to take a more cautious approach—allowing Pearson to continue his growth as a fighter.
If that is the case, a fight against Clay Guida or George Sotiropoulos would be very entertaining and give Pearson a bigger name in which to defeat.
Guida would do what he always does; push the pace more than any lightweight fighter. It would be a good test for Pearson's stamina and show if he could handle being the hunted and not the hunter.
Sotiropoulos is coming off of a big win over Stevenson to vault himself up the lightweight ladder. It would be interesting to see how Pearson deals with a fighter that has a great ground game and jiu-jitsu.
Should White push Pearson to the main event level, he could face the loser of the Kenny Florian vs. Takanori Gomi fight. Facing either would be, by far, the biggest test in his young career. Hanging with both men and pulling out a victory would cement his place at the top of the division.
Pearson is still very young and has a lot of growing to do. His 11-3 record and all-around game means he'll be in the spotlight for the next several years. Just how far he can go is unknown.
After another impressive victory Wednesday night, the elite of the lightweight division is now in his sights, and Ross Pearson is now the top young fighter in an increasingly deeper division.
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