Everything is bigger in Las Vegas, Nevada. Especially, when it comes to big money fights.
For its final event of 2011, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is packing its bags and heading back to the MGM Grand Garden Arena in "Sin City" with one hell of a heavyweight showdown in tow.
Former division champion Brock Lesnar will make his long-awaited return to the Octagon against the first, last and only Strikeforce heavyweight champion: Alistair Overeem. In addition, perpetual mangling machines Nate Diaz and Donald Cerrone will throw down a 100 pounds south, while Jon Fitch and Johny Hendricks will square off in an attempt to determine the next contender at welterweight.
But, it's not all sunshine and roses because there is a tinge of melancholy in the air: This pay-per-view (PPV) event will signal the final Spike TV "Prelims" special ever.
Yesterday, we examined the four Facebook fights that will kick off the event. Today, let's take a look at the last two UFC bouts that will air live on Spike TV.
Check it out:
145 lbs.: Ross Pearson vs. Junior Assuncao
Few gave The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 9 winner Ross Pearson (12-5) much of a chance in his UFC 134 bout with Brazilian bomber Edson Barboza. Astounding everyone involved, however, the British striker held his own against Barboza, peppering him and avoiding his murderous power shots. While he wound up losing the fight via split-decision, "The Real Deal" proved to the mixed martial arts (MMA) world that he was far more than just someone who won a reality show. And he’ll look to prove himself a contender at a new weight class as we head into 2012.
A capoeira specialist who originally went 1-2 in the UFC before being released in 2007, Assuncao (13-4) stormed back, earning his way back into the world’s largest fight promotion with an impressive six-fight win streak. Dropping to 145 pounds, he made it seven with a dominant victory over Eddie Yagin at UFC 135, controlling "The Filipino Phenom" on the ground to score a unanimous decision. Stopping Pearson would be a fantastic way to prove that he was worth bringing back.
I’m always wary when a fighter goes down in weight after a loss, but there’s enough of a skill disparity here for me to put those concerns aside. Pearson is, simply put, a damn good striker. Despite my picking Barboza to dominate him and subsequently putting money on the line, I scored their bout 29-28 in favor of Pearson. He easily handled Dennis Siver, another of the premier strikers in the division. Assuncao, on the other hand, has yet to beat anyone of interest. Expect a fairly one-sided sprawl-and-brawl from the newly-svelte Pearson as be batters Assuncao en route to a commanding decision.
Prediction: Pearson via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Anthony Njokuani vs. Danny Castillo
Nigerian Muay Thai specialist Anthony Njokuani (14-5, 1 NC) didn’t have the best ZUFFA debut in the world, losing to Ben Henderson via submission, but he quickly started turning heads with three consecutive "Knockouts of the Night." While "The Assassin" was finished twice in a row in his next two bouts before beating down Edward Faaloloto at WEC 52, he has looked absolutely monstrous in the UFC, giving highly-touted Edson Barboza everything he could handle in their UFC 128 "Fight of the Night" and absolutely obliterating Andre Winner four numbered events later.
He’ll look to establish a foothold in the murderous UFC lightweight division with a win over Castillo.
Replacing the injured Ramsey Nijem, Team Alpha Male’s Danny Castillo (12-4) has gone 2-1 in the UFC, scoring dominant wins over Joe Stevenson and Shamar Bailey, while dropping a unanimous decision to Jacob Volkmann. "Last Call’s" most recent bout -- his knockout of Bailey -- actually took place little more than one month ago, and the fact that he’s already ready to take on the vicious Njokuani is a testament to how dominant it was. With Chad Mendes and Urijah Faber fighting for titles, Castillo hopes to show the world that it’s not just the tiny guys that make Alpha Male so dangerous.
I am a huge fan of Njokuani despite his unfortunate Tweet following the Shane Roller loss, and I firmly believe that he is capable of handling anyone at 155 pounds on the feet; however, I don’t think Castillo is oing to give him the chance. We haven’t seen "Njo" matched up against a grappler since that fight, so there’s no telling whether he’s improved his grappling game, but Barboza seemed to have little trouble bringing him down when he put his mind to it. Njokuani’s best weapons are his long-range kicks, and I don’t think he can play that game without getting taken down. Even if he uses his boxing like he should, he hasn’t shown enough ability to keep it standing for me to pick him over "Last Call." Expect Njokuani to spark Castillo in the early going, but get brought down for his effort and guillotined in the ensuing scramble.
Prediction: Castillo via first round submission
Join us tomorrow for a look at the UFC 141 best bets, which will include complete wager lines for the entire "Lesnar vs. Overeem" fight card, as well as who is (and isn't) a good money bet at the sportsbook.
See you then.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC 141, beginning with the preliminary card bouts on Facebook scheduled for 6:50 p.m. ET and the Spike TV bouts at 9 p.m. ET. In addition, we will also provide LIVE, real-time results of the main card PPV action as it happens throughout the evening this upcoming weekend.