George Sotiropoulos to fight KJ Noons at UFC 166

Victorian mixed martial artist George Sotiropoulos will make his much anticipated return to the Octagon at UFC 166 in October, taking on former Strikeforce star KJ Noons.

Sotiropoulos (14-5), who suffered a third-round TKO loss to Ross Pearson in his most recent UFC bout in December, will join adopted Aussie Hector Lombard in one of the support bouts to the UFC heavyweight championship title match-up between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos in Houston, Texas on October 19.

Lombard (32-4) will drop from middleweight to welterweight to face former Strikeforce champion Nate Marquardt (32-12). Victory for Lombard, who has suffered close decision losses to Yushin Okami and Tim Boetsch either side of a devastating KO victory over Rousimar Palhares since joining the UFC last year, would likely vault the former Olympic judo competitor straight into the welterweight division's top 10.

Other bouts already announced for UFC 166 include Daniel Cormier vs Roy Nelson (heavyweight), Diego Sanchez vs Gilbert Melendez (lightweight), Luke Rockhold vs Tim Boetsch (middleweight), Tony Ferguson vs Mike Rio (lightweight) and Gabriel Gonzaga vs Shawn Jordan (heavyweight).

For Sotiropoulos, the bout against Noons represents a chance to get his career back on track. Two years ago, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and The Ultimate Fighter season six semi-finalist was on the verge of a lightweight title shot following seven successive UFC victories. However, a close decision loss to Dennis Siver at UFC 127, followed by a first round KO defeat at the hands of Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 132, sent him tumbling from championship contention.

Sotiropoulos then coached Team Australia in The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes, which culminated in a bout against Team UK coach Pearson at the Gold Coast in December. Both Sotiropoulos and Pearson traded verbal insults throughout the series, setting the scene for a much-hyped grudge match in which the Australian's superior grappling skills would be pitted against Pearson's fearsome striking. And while Sotiropoulos had his moments, it was Pearson's powerful left hook that eventually proved the difference, the Brit winning by TKO 41 seconds into the third round.

In Noons, Sotiropoulos again faces a talented striker. A black belt in Kenpō Karate, Noons has won 11 of his 17 mixed martial arts bouts — including eight by way of knock-out. He made his UFC debut in May this year, losing a unanimous decision to the UFC's number six-rated lightweight Donald Cerrone.

The news of Sotiropoulos' return comes hot on the heels of the announcement that Australian welterweight Kyle Noke would be the next man to coach a season of The Ultimate Fighter. To air on FX early next year, The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Australia vs Canada will pit a Noke-coached Australian team against a Canadian team coached by former welterweight title contender Patrick Côté. Uncontracted welterweights and middleweights will try out for the series in Sydney on September 11, and in Toronto, Canada on September 22.

The story George Sotiropoulos to fight KJ Noons at UFC 166 first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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