Can Ross Pearson eventually become a contender in the UFC's lightweight division?
Generally, fans don't think of the United Kingdom as a major player in the landscape of mixed martial arts. For years and years, the best fighters in the sport hailed from Japan, Brazil, and the United States due to the quantity of trainers and quality of training in specific techniques that existed in these countries.
The United States is a hotbed of wrestling talent, a skill that has been deemed by many as the most essential in the sport, while Brazil is the mecca of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Japan is in the middle with a mix of various styles which also include high-level Judo and Karate training, but they've also produced some decent wrestlers in the past. The UK has never been mentioned in the same conversation, but the mixed martial arts scene did have a long-time reputation of producing bar brawling power punchers that produced weekend entertainment for its residents.
That reputation is changing. Along with the rise of Michael Bisping as the UK's representation in the UFC, the UK began to see some gains in the quality of their camps in the country. Bisping's own camp, Wolfslair, became a name to watch along with camps like London Shootfighters and the surging Team Rough House. The increasing determination by fighters in the country to travel stateside is also helping the quality of fighters in the country grow.
Ross Pearson is the latest British import to showcase some dazzling skills in the Octagon. His dismantling of Germany's Dennis Siver in last night's UFC Fight Night 21 was a brilliantly executed display of stand-up against a very dangerous and dynamic fighter, and it's obvious that Team Rough House is at the forefront of the ascension of British mixed martial arts.
Pearson's performance says a lot about what we can expect from him in the future. He waded through Siver's aggressive counters, remained relatively unscathed in exchanges, and peppered Siver with a solid jab to the face in most of the encounters. The fact that he was hardly damaged in the fight is a testament to the stand-up techniques he's learned at Team Rough House.
After such an impressive win, there is some talk as to where Pearson goes from here. He absolutely dominated both Siver and the very tough Aaron Riley, so the next logical step is to push him into the middle of the pack. If the UFC is trying to build up the British lightweight fighter, I'd assume they'd propose a somewhat close-in-rank battle. Joe Lauzon fits that description after his loss to Sam Stout, and he's well-rounded enough to present some problems in multiple areas of a fight. Mark Bocek would be an intriguing test of his grappling acumen as well.
The sky seems to be the limit right now for Pearson. We haven't seen much of what he can do on the ground against a stronger opponent, but for a rather novice fighter in terms of fighting better competition -- he's looked good in his performances in the Octagon. Under the wing of fighters like Paul Daley and Dan Hardy, he could become a legitimate threat at the top of the UFC in a couple of years.