The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes is set to premiere next week, and it looks to be an interesting season. Coached by Ross Pearson and George Sotiropoulos, the season looks to have some solid prospects and talent.
Who are the early favorites in both the lightweight and welterweight divisions? Let's take an early peak.
Norman Parke (Team UK)
Norman Parke has been a longtime staple of British MMA, but TUF provides him with an opportunity to break out. The submission artist has taken on tough competition in the past, including TUF veterans Tom Maguire and Ali Maclean (twice).
Parke is a student of Robert Drysdale, who is considered one of the top American jiu-jitsu artists. A total of 12 of his 16 wins have come by submission, which shows his competence as a grappler.
Parke has to be considered one of the favorites in the lightweight bracket, especially with his resume.
Colin Fletcher (Team UK)
Like Norman Parke, Colin Fletcher is a submission artist. He won seven of his eight wins by tapout, which makes him another dangerous fighter on the ground.
"Freakshow" has a scary grappling game and could be a hassle for any fighter on the show. The lightweights need to take notice. Fletcher is a serious threat to win the first ever UK-Australia version of TUF.
Robert Whittaker (Team Australia)
The only Australian I consider an early favorite, Robert Whittaker, has gone unnoticed and underrated for years. Whittaker is 9-2, and has finished all of his opponents by knockout or submission.
Whittaker owns notable wins over fellow castmate Ben Alloway and Australian MMA staples Corey Nelson and Ian Bone. Don't be surprised if Whittaker finds himself in the finals of the welterweight bracket.
Bola Omoyele (Team UK)
Bola Omoyele may not be a recognizable name now, but the boy has skills. A longtime staple of British MMA, Omoyele has been working with American Top Team to refine his game further.
Omoyele is a great striker. He has finished all of his opponents. With six stoppages in six tries, he has knocked out five and submitted one with strikes.
Omoyele needs to be feared on the feet. That is just one reason why he is an early favorite at 170 pounds.