This Saturday (Oct. 26, 2013), lightweights Norman Parke and Jon Tuck will go to war on the main card of UFC Fight Night 30 on FOX Sports 2 from Phones 4u Arena in Manchester, England.
Both combatants are talented submission artists looking to make a name for themselves in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Parke has more cage experience thanks to a lengthy mixed martial arts (MMA) career. He made a splash by winning The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Smashes" last December and continued his momentum by defeating Kazuki Tokudome at July's UFC 162. The talented Robert Drysdale-trained product sits with a gaudy 18-2 record that includes 12 submission victories.
Tuck made his Octagon debut last year, defeating Zhang Tiequan at UFC on FUEL TV 6 last November. The win kept his undefeated record intact. Tuck was set to face off against Parke way back at UFC on FOX 7 last April before he was forced to reschedule due to injury.
It's a bout several months in the making but Parke and Tuck will finally have their day in Manchester. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Norman Parke vs. Jon Tuck:
Record: 18-2 overall, 2-0 UFC
Key Wins: Kazuki Tokudome (UFC 162), Colin Fletcher (UFC on FX 6)
Key Losses: Joseph Duffy (Spartan Fight Challenge)
Keys to Victory: Parke has been steamrolling through competition for the vast majority of his MMA career. He has an extensive background in grappling that includes training in judo, an Irish freestyle wrestling title and a slew of varied submission victories inside the cage.
Normally, this well-rounded skill set would give him a huge leg up on his competition. However, his opponent is a highly accomplished grappler as well, having won the 2010 World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Cup's Open Light division. If and when this fight hits the ground, it's truly anyone's game.
Parke has only finished three of his 18 wins via striking stoppage, so he may be at a disadvantage in the stand-up game. Tuck has shown equal skill in both striking and grappling throughout his young MMA career, so it's probably in Parke's best interest to turn this into a grappling match.
He trains with one of finest pure jiu-jitsu practitioners currently competing in MMA in Drysdale. It's far from guaranteed that Parke can lock up a submission on Tuck because he's never tapped out.
But Tuck also hasn't faced a submission whiz with the ability to end a fight like Parke can.
This fight could quickly turn into a back-and-forth grappling war at UFN 30. It wouldn't be a surprise to see either fighter win with a submission, but the fight could also turn into a slow, drawn-out bout where both fighters' offense gets neutralized. To win, Parke is going to have to prove his jiu-jitsu is superior to Tuck's.
Record: 7-0 overall, 1-0 UFC
Key Wins: Tiequan Zhang (UFC on FUEL TV 6)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Tuck is a promising young lightweight who is looking to prove himself against the world's best talent in UFC. The grappling champion has never lost in MMA and he has three submission victories via rear naked choke. Before his decision win over Zhang at UFC on FUEL TV 6, he knocked out his prior two opponents.
It's clear that Tuck has an array of ways to dispatch his opponents in the cage, but Park possesses the more diverse submission skill set. While Tuck has used one move to earn all of his submission wins in the cage, Parke has utilized various chokes, armbars and even leg locks to earn the tapout.
That's not to say Tuck can't hang with Parke on the ground. He can. But it may be to his benefit to keep this fight standing. He obviously has a better chance of knocking his opponent out than getting knocked out himself, so that could give him a degree of confidence that could pay dividends this Saturday.
His takedown defense will have to be on point in Manchester. Getting dragged to the mat won't find him in a hopeless position; but with Parke's ground acumen, it won't be easy to lock up a submission from the bottom. The resilient Parke has tapped out twice before and has never been knocked out.
Still, Tuck should look to keep the fight standing. If he can implement a good sprawl and land some crisp combinations in the process, he'll open up a world of opportunities to score points in the eyes of the judges.
Tuck is a huge lightweight who most likely cuts several pounds to make the division's weight limit. He'll look to utilize this perceived strength advantage to get a leg up on Parke. Tuck may attempt to prove that he can compete with Parke on the ground, but it's not his best way to win.
Tuck will also need to be in full health. If he exhibits any lingering effects of the injury that kept him out of his scheduled bout against Parke at UFC on FOX 7, his performance could suffer in a big way.
Bottom Line from Manchester: The bottom line here is that this bout features two excellent ground masters who are looking for momentum in a competitive division. Oftentimes, when you have two high-level grapplers like this, the fight turns into either a stalemate on the ground or a stand-up fight that never really takes off.
While that could happen here, Tuck's power on the feet could definitely play a big part in how this fight plays out. It's not wholly beneficial to be a specialist in today's evolving MMA landscape, but Parke is as close to one as it gets. He has the arsenal to put Tuck away on the ground, but he could get surprised if he's not careful or if he is overconfident.
It's hard to say what Tuck's gameplan will be. If his pride comes into play, he may go to the ground immediately. If he has a calm and clear head, he'll most likely look for a knockout on the feet.
This bout has the potential to deliver one of the best fights of the night, or it could be one that bores the crowd in a big way. If Parke is too tentative in the striking, he could easily lose a lackluster decision. If both fighters continually look for takedowns, transitions and dominant positions, we could have a war on our hands.
Norman Parke and Jon Tuck are ready to rise up in their young UFC careers. Which fighter will emerge from the Phones 4u Arena with their undefeated UFC record still in place?