Whilst news that Norman Parke has been released from the UFC are clearly a bitter pill to swallow for the Northern Irishman, there are certainly some very tough tests for him to be had in Europe.
You could argue that the 155lbs division is a hotbed for talent right now across the European scene with many shows lately featuring some top Lightweight bouts.
So with that thought in mind and in typical #WHOATV fashion we propose five top Lightweight opponents we would love to see Norman fight on his return to the cage, wherever that may be;
Loughnane is definitely one of the best in Europe at 155lbs at the moment and would be a great challenge for Parke. With six wins in his last seven fights, and his only loss, a razor close split decision loss to BAMMA Featherweight Champion Tom Duquesnoy, its hard to argue that Loughnane himself is only a fight or two away from resigning with the UFC. Loughnane tasted the heights of the UFC early in his career and you can definitely argue that he is a completely different fighter now than what he was back in 2014. If Parke is looking for a tough bout on his return to European MMA, they don’t come much harder than Brendan Loughnane.
Former BAMMA Lightweight Champion Mansour Barnaoui dropped to Featherweight in his last outing against M-1 Featherweight Champion Ivan Buchinger and fell short in a five round war, but back at his nature weight of 155lbs Barnaoui is a real handful for anyone. Of his twelve wins, Barnaoui has only been to decision once and would be a superb matchup for Parke. The one thing which is likely to hold things up on this fight would be his commitment to M-1 and its highly likely that Barnaoui has burnt his bridges with BAMMA, but that aside I personally think this would be a superb fight for both Parke and Barnaoui and the winner would definitely stake claim to being one of the best in Europe.
Current BAMMA Lightweight Champion Martin Stapleton has had a career revival since late 2014 and has been on an unstoppable tear of the 155lbs division, reaching the heights at BAMMA 23 stopping Gavin Sterritt in just over a minute to capture the BAMMA 155lbs strap. The SBG Manchester fighter would be a very tough test for Parke and serve a real purpose for both men. For Parke it would be a chance to prove he can hang with the very best in Europe and for Stapleton it would prove that he is ready for the UFC level of opponents. What really impressed me with Stapleton in his last outing was his self believe going into the fight and I think he is another fighter who is on the cusp of a return to the UFC, and Parke would be a great test to see if he is definitely ready.
Saul Rogers is undoubtably chomping at the bit to get back into the cage and Norman Parke would be a great step up in opponent for Rogers. Rogers was unfortunately not able to compete in the Ultimate Fighter finals due to an issue with his visa and as a result hasn’t competed in a professional fight since May 2015. For me this fight really gives Rogers the chance to get a win over a very high level opponent and whilst you could argue he has defeated some of the biggest names on the UK scene, you could also argue that his record is missing that “big name.” For Parke the fight would offer him the chance to rack up a win over one of the most highly touted Lightweights.
Sinclair has unfortunately been plagued with injuries throughout his career but bounced back from a year long layoff at BAMMA 21 and stopped Michael Brighton within the first round. Former BAMMA Lightweight Champion Sinclair was arguably one of the best 155lbs in the UK in 2011/2012 but his inactivity has allowed the rest of the division to creep up and surpass him whilst he has been held up on the sidelines. A big fight like Parke would be a true test for Sinclair to see if he still has it within him to hang at the top of the Lightweight division and you could certainly argue could be used as a number one contender bout for the BAMMA 155lbs strap.