Ross Pearson analysis: Dan Hardy offers his verdict ahead of UFC Fight Night Sydney

In the month that four British fighters are due to step in to the Octagon, British UFC welterweight and UFC commentator, Dan Hardy, provides his thoughts on each, starting with Ross Pearson who’s in action in the co-main event in Sydney this weekend…

With UFC Fight Night Sydney fast approaching I’d like to tell you a little bit about one half of the co-main event. Taking on tough New Yorker, Al Iaquinta, Ross Pearson carries the hopes of many UK fans as a top contender in the UFC’s deep lightweight division. He has an exciting and storied career inside the Octagon, experiencing many highs and lows in his thirteen appearances for the organization.

I’ve known Ross for some time, training with him during our days at Team Rough House in Nottingham. As you can imagine the whole team was happy to hear that he would be in The Ultimate Fighter house for season 9, alongside another Rough House prospect, team mate Andre Winner. We watched them both progress through to the final when we were faced with the situation of the two having to face each other in the finale. 

I was in Andre Winner’s corner across the Octagon from Pearson as I watched the two struggle for the win and the six-figure UFC contract. One of the hardest situations I’ve been involved in, cornering a friend against a friend! Pearson won a hard fought unanimous decision to win the contract and the season. In his next two fights he really shined, outclassing veterans Aaron Riley and Dennis Siver with superior footwork and striking.

It’s not long before a fighter meets adversity for the first time when signing with the ‘Big Show’, and the lightweight division in the UFC is by far the most stacked with talent. His next three fights would force him to add two losses to his record and pushed him to try a lower weight class. At the end of 2011 he made his featherweight debut winning a decision over Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, Junior Assuncao. It wouldn’t be long though before he returned to lightweight to coach against George Sotiropoulos on The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes.

Looking much more comfortable back at this weight, he dropped Sotiropoulos in the second with a left hook and knocked him off his feet at the beginning of the third with a beautifully placed right hook, for the victory. Pearson’s next fight was another TKO win before a fight with Melvin Guillard ended with Pearson getting cut by an illegal knee while he was still a grounded fighter. (A grounded fighter has anything but the soles of his feet on the floor and Ross had a hand on the canvas.)

Following this unfortunate event he stepped in against Diego Sanchez in New Mexico, his opponent’s home town. The judges’ decision at the end of the fight was fitting for the event’s geographic location, giving Sanchez an embarrassingly controversial unanimous decision. It was another disappointing setback but as his moniker tells you, Pearson is ‘The Real Deal’. His most recent fight was against one of the toughest guys to have fought at lightweight.

Scoring a second round technical knockout over Gray ‘The Bully’ Maynard is an impressive scalp to add to his professional record. A win that will be respected by the rest of the division, as Maynard was previously a two-time contender for the title. Now he takes on Al Iaquinta in the co-main event in Sydney – a chance to start a win streak and begin forging a path towards the lightweight crown.

Pearson for my money is the best chance the UK has right now of clinching a UFC title. His career has been a great learning experience for him thus far and at only 30 years old the Sunderland, England native has plenty of time. He is improving from fight to fight and over the next year or two I hope we will see him really start to create waves and force his way into the top ten.

Fighting Al Iaquinta, the owner of a UFC record of 4-1, is a great opportunity to show how quickly he is improving and set himself up for a crack at the upper echelon of the division. Make no mistake though, Iaquinta is no slouch. Fighting out of the Serra/Longo gym like middleweight champ Chris Weidman, he will have great coaches and team mates to prepare him. Fisticuffs are guaranteed in what promises to be a great supporting act to our main event grudge match between Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold.

Watch Ross Pearson and the rest of the action from UFC Fight Night Sydney, live via UFC Fight Pass from 3am on Saturday or on delay on BT Sport 1 from 10pm.