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UFC 166 Sotiropoulos vs. Noons: Can Georgie Make the Fire Light, Again?

UFC 166 Sotiropoulos vs. Noons: Can Georgie Make the Fire Light, Again?

It’s said that everyone called George Headly Robinson “Georgie” in the Trench Town ghetto of Kingston, Jamaica — where he was immortalized in Bob Marley’s anthem, “No Woman No Cry.”

“I remember when we used to sit

In a government yard in Trench Town

And then Georgie would make the fire light

Like it was logwood burning through the night…”

In their book, Bob Marley: Musician, Sherry Paprocki and Sean Dolan wrote that Georgie, a fisherman, was one of several friends who helped a homeless Marley survive. Georgie offered Marley the fish he caught, and maintained a bonfire behind a makeshift restaurant, at which Marley and company continued developing as musicians in night time sessions. “No Woman No Cry” would become Marley’s signature song. It resonated with what Paprocki and Dolan call “joyful sadness”: lessons in hope and kindness in the face of bitter poverty — along with a determination to, as the song describes, “push on through.”

Tomorrow night, MMA’s favorite “Georgie,” George Sotiropoulos, pictured above fighting Kurt Pellegrino in 2010, will re-enter the Octagon for UFC 166 to fish for a victory of his own.

A native of the province of Victoria in Australia, Sotiropoulos had some excellent results in his career: first, as pioneer of Australian MMA, then plying his trade from Japan to the US and beyond. Sotiropoulos notched victory after victory with an aggressive, grappling-heavy fighting style. An appearance on The Ultimate Fighter 6 followed, then a rise to UFC lightweight contender. Australian fans memorably chanted “Georgie!” at his victory over Joe Stevenson at UFC 110 in Sydney.

Possibly his most impressive victory was over Joe Lauzon in 2010: a “Fight of the Night” clinic of striking and grappling, ending in Lauzon tapping in submission to a Sotiropoulos arm lock.

A winner of seven straight, “Georgie” was on the cusp of a title shot… when the tough times came.

After the triumph over Lauzon, Sotiropoulos would lose three straight bouts, including a first round knockout at the hands of Rafeal Dos Anjos at UFC 132. Now, he finds himself left out of the rankings, and fighting off the PPV card this weekend: off many fans’ radar and among the evening’s preliminary bouts.

So, what happened to Georgie? No one’s sure. Some fans (predictably) cry “overrated.”

Others say Sotiropoulos just endured a tough run, fighting a few tough opponents, and perhaps had grown a little stagnant in his training.

Sotiropoulos claims he learned hard lessons from the losses — “how not to fight” — and fight fans will see a new man tomorrow. According to Sotiropoulos, moving his training to Coconut Creek, Florida, where he now trains with the vaunted American Top Team camp, has resulted in huge gains, particularly in his jiu-jitsu.

Tomorrow’s opponent KJ Noons has lost three straight as well. He’s best known for his boxing skills, which carried him to an upset victory over UFC contender Nick Diaz back in 2007. That win earned him a title with Elite XC and go undefeated for close to three years. Unfortunately, he would lose a rematch to Diaz in 2010 and begin his current slide, including losses in five of his last six bouts.

Whoever loses tomorrow would seem to face elimination from the UFC roster.

Sotiropoulos has shown a dynamic and exciting jiu-jitsu game in past bouts. The hope here is this change of scenery brings it back, perhaps along with a new fire… to, as the song goes, “push on through” this rough stretch.

Simply put, it’s just too early to say goodbye to Georgie…

“Make that fire light!”

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