Published Monday, 15 October 2012
In the same year that Rory McIlroy captured another major and Paralympians Jason Smyth and Bethany Firth reigned supreme in London, there is a man from the north coast making waves in a very different sporting discipline down under.
The latest series of the UFC's reality show "The Ultimate Fighter" is currently on our screens and this time it features fighters from Australia and the UK in what the UFC have dubbed "The Smashes" (possibly one of the most ridiculous yet brilliant names for a TV series for a long, long time). One of the participants is Bushmills Mixed Martial Artist "Stormin' Norman Parke" and it didn't take him long to make an impact.
Before I go into the details of his performance I feel the need to explain what the show is all about.
As I'm sure many of you know the Ultimate Fighting Championship, better known as the UFC, is a global phenomenon and the world's leading Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) organisation. The growth of the sport and the UFC can be attributed to its reality show "The Ultimate Fighter" in which 16 MMA fighters compete for a six figure contract with the UFC. The added twist is that the competitors share a house for the duration of the competition, so just imagine the Big Brother house in which contestants are encouraged to beat each other up.
I know this may seem a bit barbaric and MMA is not everyone's cup of tea but it makes for great television. Allow me to state the blindingly obvious and declare that I am indeed a massive MMA fan and not afraid to say so.
There are those who will be quick to knock this sport but there is the same level of skill, discipline, sportsmanship and dedication associated with this sport as with any other more mainstream, viewer friendly, offering.
In that sense, Norman Parke's performance in the latest episode of the series cannot be overlooked and deserves to be mentioned as one of the outstanding displays from a Northern Irish sports person this year.
For those of you not up to speed on MMA bear with me because here comes the geeky analysis part of the blog. Without going overboard the reason I am so impressed with Norman Parke is that he was completely dominant in his bout against Australian rival Ritchie Vas.
Parke won the two round fight with ease and controlled his opponent for the full ten minutes, well maybe except for the brief moment he dropped to one knee after eating a big right hand.
Parke man handled Vas in the clinch and was able to score takedowns at will. On the ground the Bushmills man overwhelmed his opponent and displayed some great transitional work whilst controlling his opponent from top position en route to an easy decision win.
If any of what I have just said means nothing to you it will become clear when you watch the fight. I would encourage everyone from these shores to seek out this series and follow Stormin' Norman because we could have another Northern Irish superstar on our hands.
Then again, given the nature of MMA and the varied skill sets involved, you can't predict how the next fight will go and perhaps it may be a case of one and done for Parke on the show. If so, he can still come back with his head high because that one performance is worthy of recognition and shows yet again that from such a small pool of people Northern Ireland really does manage to produce some of the top athletes in the world.
Hopefully Norman Parke can go on to capture the title of the "Ultimate Fighter" and as his name suggests become one of the growing number of Northern Irish athletes to take the sporting world by storm.
If he manages to do so Bushmills may become famous for more than just its whiskey.