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Norman Parke.

Norman Parke; The Ultimate Fighter

December-19-12
Norman Parke became 'The Smashes' champion and was crowned The Ultimate Fighter this weekend. Here's how....

Author: Jay Furness (@JayFurnessMMA)

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'Stormin' Norman Parke became the lightweight winner of this season's TUF: The Smashes, and in the process the first Irishman to claim the accolade. Bushmills' Parke now has himself a six-figure UFC contract, a solid fanbase through the show, and the chance to live his his dream.

The twenty-five (soon to be twenty-six) year old showed a great skillset and dominated every opponent on the show, before advancing to the live finale at UFC On FX 6.

Here's a look at how he did it.

Pre-TUF

Of course a lot can be said about his career outside of the show. It's made up the last six and a half years of his life, and TUF was just a fraction of that.

Debuting in MMA, a young Parke took on one of the UK's most experienced lightweight in Greg Loughran. A Bellator and Cage Warriors veteran, Loughran also handed Parke his first loss. Deciding it had come too soon, Norman spent a time away from the cage to hone his craft.

Two years later he returned. A ten-fight win streak showed the marked improvements he'd made and proved his decision to be the right one. Beating the likes of Ali Maclean, Paul Jenkins, Myles Price and Mick Bowman, he faced tough tests along the way.

The second and, to date only other loss of his career came at the hands of  a 5-0 Joe Duffy. The two burgeoning Irishmen met in a highly anticipated fight in Wales, with Duffy's submission game shining through.

Parke took that loss as another catalyst, and raced off to another six victories with five finishes, before heading to The Ultimate Fighter trials.

The first fight

When the line-up for The Smashes was announced, fans of MMA in the UK and Ireland instantly had Parke pegged as one of the favourites, alongside eventual finalist and friend Colin Fletcher. He had an exemplary record, great skills and wrestling that would give the other lightweights trouble.

This came to fruition as he met Richie Vaculik in episode 4 of the show (fight at 35:00). "This is what I want, the life I want to live and I'll not stop until I get it," affirmed Norman pre-fight. Outmuscling Vaculik from the off, he got on top of the Aussie and dominated from there.

Using his extra range, he opened up round two with some kicks that had Vaculik backpedalling. As soon as the oportunity presented itself, Parke took him down yet again and opened up with heavy shots. Vaculik had no answers and was pounded throughout the round, having no offensive success of his own.

As Team UK coach Ross Pearson noted, a tough Vaculik 'was never out of the fight', but as the Australian himself admitted, "I just got mauled for two rounds, it's hard to be happy about it."

Semi-finals

With the success of the Team UK lightweights in the opening round, Parke was forced to face teammate Brendan Loughnane in the semi-finals (video - fight at 31:00). Again having the physicality on his side, Norman noted that 'it's going to be a tough fight, but I'm confident in my abilities.' With the two men knowing each other so well after training together for five weeks, it was always going to be a hard-fought war.

Loughnane had more success than Parke's previous opponent, managing to stay on the feet longer and creating more scrambles when he was taken down, but ultimately it was the constant pressure and takedowns of Parke that were telling in the fight, particularly in the clinch.

As Parke began to pull away with his success in the clinch and from top position, Brendan never faded but was slowly being edged out. Try as he might with some solid knees and punches, he wasn't deterring 'Stormin' Norman from his goal. Loughnane had arguably his strongest round in the third, but it wasn't enough as the unanimous decision came through for Parke, punching his ticket to the final.

The final

The closest friends in the house, Norman Parke and Colin Fletcher also fulfilled the prophecies of an All-UK final. Very different stylistically, Colin's rangy striking and dangerous, unorthodox submissions from the bottom were going up against Parke's great wrestling and ground and pound.

Pre-fight, Parke acknowledged this, and that's just how it played out in the Octagon. However, his training in the meantime had shown more significant advances as he was also scoring well with a tighter looking boxing game.

In typical 'Freakshow' fashion, there was troubling kicks, but Parke scored with takedowns consistently, and some good punches that put Fletcher on the back foot. Unable to get into full flow because of his opponent's successful offense, Fletcher was resigned to defeat, and it was Parke that was emphatically taken the title of 'The Ultimate Fighter' in his UFC debut at UFC On FX 6.

The next step?

It remains to be seen. Three solid decision victories saw him crowned as The Smashes champion, but the finale win is so fresh that it's still unclear what is next on the agenda for Norman.

We opened the floor at www.facebook.com/yourmma, with answers ranging from George Sotiropoulos, to Mike Wilkinson, and a range of unsigned domestic fighters.

One thing is for sure, Parke has the tools to be fighting in the Octagon for a long time. How they'll transfer and the matchups that will be made can only be realised in time, but it's been a successful endeavour for the Northern Ireland man, who now gets to make a career out of his passion; fighting.


(Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

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