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Australian Sotiropoulos nears shot at UFC crown

After a year in which George Sotiropoulos won all three of his fights in exciting fashion, it would be difficult to blame the rising Ultimate Fighting Championship standout for wanting to rest on his recent accomplishments.

Sotiropoulos, however, is more interested in getting back to work.

The 33-year-old will look to win his eighth straight fight in the UFC and ninth straight overall when he faces fellow lightweight contender Dennis Siver at UFC 127 in Sydney on Saturday.

Sotiropoulos, an Australia native living in Vancouver, Wash., received two “fight of the night” bonuses among his three victories in 2010.

He knows the successful year has put him in position near the top of the lightweight rankings but will mean little if the winning streak ends now.

“I’m just looking at the future, mate,” Sotiropoulos said.

Sotiropoulos could be one win from a title shot, but the lightweight title picture is a bit cloudy.

Gray Maynard and champion Frankie Edgar will first have a rematch after a draw in January. Incoming World Extreme Cagefighting champion Anthony Pettis was promised a title shot, but he will first fight Clay Guida instead of waiting around for his chance.

Sotiropoulos would be in line for his shot with a win over Siver, but he realizes when that chance comes could be hinging on the outcomes of several other fights.

“I can only control what I can control as a fighter. The rest will unfold as it does,” he said. “My goal is just to be the No. 1 guy, and if I just keep doing what I’m doing, everything will take care of itself.”

What he has been doing is dominating opponents with one of the best ground games in mixed martial arts. Sotiropoulos is a jiujitsu black belt, and he has dominated opponents once his fights have hit the mat.

Still, he is far from one-dimensional.

Sotiropoulos was an amateur boxer and is quick to point out he stunned Joe Stevenson and Kurt Pellegrino with punches.

“I think the grappling overshadows the rest of my game,” Sotiropoulos said. “I would say people who think that I’m only skilled in one aspect of the sport are sorely mistaken. I dedicate an equal amount of time to all parts of my game.”

He will have to be versatile against Siver, one of the division’s top stand-up fighters. Siver has won two straight fights and six of his past seven.

“He’s a credible opponent. Very skilled. He has a kick-boxing background, and that’s what he likes to do. That’s where he’s most comfortable. That’s what he’s best at,” Sotiropoulos said. “I know what he brings to the table, but I’m going to fight my fight and do what I do.”

While each fighter will bring a different strength to the cage, there is little question who will have the crowd’s support.

Sotiropoulos is probably the top fighter to come out of Australia, and he won fight of the night the only other time the organization visited the country.

He said a large percentage of the crowd in Sydney will come from his home state of Victoria, including “just about anyone I ever met growing up.”

It’s one of the reasons Sotiropoulos requested the opportunity to again appear on this card.

“I’m excited to be a part of another show in Australia,” he said. “I want to be a part of all the shows here.”

The card features a main event welterweight bout between Jon Fitch and BJ Penn. Also, Michael Bisping takes on Jorge Rivera in a middleweight fight.

■ NOTE — Three preliminary fights will air live on Ion (Cable 51) beginning at 6 p.m. The pay-per-view broadcast will go live at 7.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509.

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