Norman Parke is a fighter who looks to out-pace his opponents more than anything. As a southpaw striker, Parke likes to throw the overhand left as his main weapon. He mixes up his strikes fairly well as he also throws jabs, body shots, and leg kicks. However, Parke doesn’t throw a lot of combinations, instead throwing a lot of single strikes. Parke also chooses to stay in his opponent’s range, which means he often gets countered while throwing strikes.
Parke has also showcased a fairly effective takedown game, although it’s worth questioning just how effective it really is. He landed six takedowns against the very tall and lanky Colin Fletcher, but since then has landed just 3 of 14 takedowns against Kazuki Tokudome and Jon Tuck. Overall, Parke has landed 3.0 takedowns per 15 minutes at 37 percent accuracy, but it’s possible that his real wrestling ability isn’t as good as those numbers would indicate.
There are a couple things that concern me about Parke. One is that he hasn’t shown much finishing ability in his UFC career so far. All three of his fights have gone to decision and Parke has yet to land a single knockdown or attempt a single submission. His wins have come from either landing a bunch of takedowns (against Fletcher) or landing more strikes than his opponent (against Tokudome and Tuck).
That leads me to the second concern, which is that Parke absorbs too many strikes for a fighter who isn’t a great finisher. Fletcher landed 56 significant strikes against him despite being taken down so frequently; Tokudome landed 43 significant strikes and Tuck landed 67. Parke has yet to show that he’s capable of dominating a UFC opponent – so I have to question how much upside he has in the lightweight division.
Parke’s opponent in this fight is Leonardo Santos, the winner of the second season of The Ultimate Figher: Brazil as he defeated William Macario by second-round arm-triangle choke. Having watched Santos on tape, I have to say that I’m genuinely impressed with his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, not just because of his impressive credentials, but because of the way he’s applied BJJ to MMA. Santos is excellent at using weight transfers to open up his opponent’s guard and move into dominant position. He’s definitely a “position over submission” type of grappler.
My concern about Santos is how well he’ll be able to get fights to the ground in the UFC. It took Santos until late into the second round to successfully take Macario down for his first takedown in seven attempts. As a 6’1” lightweight, Santos isn’t built like a wrestler; instead, he relies on trip takedowns and opponents’ mistakes to get fights to the ground.
I’m not sure that Parke is going to allow this fight to go to the ground at all. So far Parke is 5 for 6 at defending takedowns in the UFC, and it’s hard to imagine him letting Santos take him down easily. On the other side of the coin – Santos is good enough on the ground that it might only take one takedown to subsequently get the submission finish.
For the most part, however, I have to think that Parke will keep this fight at standing distance and get the better of Santos with strikes. I don’t think Parke necessarily dominates in that situation – Santos is a fairly capable kickboxer – but it should be the kind of fight Parke can win.
Pick: Norman Parke by decision
DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER
Parke opened at -150 with Santos at +110, but betting action has lifted the line on Parke to -235 with Santos at +195. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Santos, as I believe he’s legitimately dangerous on the ground… if he can get the fight there. A small bet on Santos is tempting, but I’m going to pass as I believe Parke should win this one as long as he fights smart.