UFC's inaugural season of the TUF Smashes has come to a close, and by most accounts it's been a home run for the Las Vegas fight promotion. Of lower profile than TUF Season 16 which aired at a similar time in the week, TUF Smashes proved its quality and shows how international rivalries can work and engage audiences who have patriotic affinity to one side or the other. The Cricket rivalry between the UK and Australia has been going on for over a century, while Rugby matches between the two also prove consistently popular, and with this success for the UFC it'd be worth investing in future seasons of TUF Smashes, perhaps every couple of years to allow for talent from both countries to develop in between.
TUF Smashes Lightweight Finale: Colin Fletcher vs Norman Parke
In a perhaps less than ideal all Brit Lightweight finale, Colin Fletcher of Sunderland, England takes on Norman Parke of Antrim, Northern Ireland. Colin 'Freakshow' Fletcher was the stand out character of the show, and often served as comic relief with humour ranging from self effacing dry wit to bizarre-but-amusing invented personalities that broke the ice in any room he entered.
From a fighting standpoint Fletcher uses his 6'2 length well for a rangey kickboxing game, but he has also put his spidery limbs to good use for a variety of chokes in his fight career as 7 of his 8 professional wins have ended by strangling submission. Fletcher does fight very upright and has shown to be prone to a good wrestler changing levels and getting under his hips for a shooting takedown, but so far his ground game has got him out of trouble, including in his semi final fight where he was able to counter being underneath the side control of Australian Richie Vaculik by snaking himself out of position and scoring a very unique looking reverse Americana that caused Vaculik to tap.
Stormin' Norman Parke may by giving up 4 inches in height to Fletcher, but has shown a well rounded game in his pro career that has included mostly submission wins but with TKO's and decisions as well. On the show he showed a punishing takedown and ground'n'pound game, as he roughed up Richie Vaculik in the first round (Vaculik got a second shot in the show against Fletcher, replacing injured Brit Mike Wilkinson) and put on an entertaining brawl with Brit Brendan Loughnane in the semi-final, getting the Unanimous decision and a place in the final.
Parke comes across more serious and angry than Fletcher, but relaxed and came out of his shell as the season went on. He was also a part of the Phone Scandal that nearly cost the British team its place on the show, even the winning fighters that included himself and Fletcher. Fletcher showed no sign of holding his jeopardised opportunity against Parke and the other Brits involved, but both fighters have promised to put any friendship on hold when it comes to their final fight.
Parke may be able to grind his way to a decision with a takedown and G'n'P game, but he must be ever mindful of the submission craftiness and unorthodox striking and grappling attack of Fletcher. Fletcher might be the fan favourite, but if I had to bet money I think Parke should have a slight edge in the odds.
In the only UK vs Australia finale, Somerset, England's Brad Scott takes on New South Wales, Australia's Robert Whittaker.
Scott is easily team UK's most well rounded and mentally strong welterweight, though caused division early in the season amongst his team for keeping a personal diary that was discovered to have had less than flattering opinions of his team mate's fighting abilities.
Scott was able to overcome the schoolgirl drama and bond with the team, though interestingly along with Colin Fletcher was oblivious to the Phone Scandal going on with other members of his team.
Reality TV drama aside, Scott has a near perfect record on the local UK scene and and managed to get and win a fight in Cage Warriors for an event in Dubai earlier this year before getting his TUF opportunity. Scott is a finisher and can win by submission or (T)KO, though only managed a unanimous decision in his first fight against Xavier Lucas, and a split decision over Benny Alloway.
Robert Whittaker came across as perhaps the most patriotic member of the TUF cast, the stars of the southern cross tattooed on his chest and taking to heart the Australia vs UK rivalry.
Whittaker came across as mentally driven on the show, KO'ing Brit Luke Newman in the first round of the preliminaries, and KO'ing a returning Xavier Lucas in the first round of the semi-finals.
Whittaker brings with him a Karate background to MMA, so his uniqueness in the kickboxing range can potentially fluster his opponents used to a more European or Thai style. Like Scott, he has a pro career made up of submission and TKO wins, though has stumbled when fighting international competitors.
Where Scott appears relaxed, Whittaker seems driven, which should make for an interesting dynamic when the two face. Both have faced similar levels of fighters, though Whittaker's losses have come against those of arguably better quality than anyone Scott has faced. Both fighters have been in the MMA game for a similar length of time (just 3 years and change each), but Whittaker's traditional background may serve him well considering all fights start on the feet. On that reasoning, Whittaker should be a slight favourite.