Latest UFC/MMA news and notes from around the web for the week of December 25, 2011

via quickwrestlingnews.com

Welcome, Maniacs, to the weekly series where we help you catch up on some of the original reporting done by other sites in the vast MMA landscape. Like Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar pictured above, we can all "get along."

Teaming up with MMA sites like MMA Fighting, Cage Potato, Fight Opinion and The Fight Nerd, we'll provide an opportunity for all MMA fans to read some fresh and original voices in the sport.

This week, Lowkick speaks with Vladimir Matyushenko, The Fight Nerd picks the worst New Year's Eve fights ever from Japan and Bleacher Report speaks with returning UFC fighter Efrain Escudero.

The full list of links is after the jump.

- Interview and photoshoot with Vladimir Matyushenko (LowKick)

You are 4-1 since returning to the UFC. Do you consider it the best time of your career right now?

Yeah, I think so. It's not just because it's the best time in my career, but overall MMA is having great success. My career is going good as well, so yeah, I'm really enjoying being part of the UFC and MMA.

- 12 gifs of Brock Lesnar being awesome (Cage Potato)

- Gabriel Gonzaga comments on UFC return (Five Ounces of Pain)

"It was natural," Gonzaga explained of return to the UFC. "I feel I never left. The UFC is my home, they take care me very good (and) I have a lot of friends there. I am excited to see everyone again!"

- An Examination of Alistair Overeem's Recent Fight History (MMA Fighting)

Headed into Friday night's UFC 141 main event, the question of just how good Alistair Overeem is remains one of MMA's heated topics. His supporters point out that he's won titles in Strikeforce, DREAM and K-1. His detractors suggest he's done most of that while facing non-elite competition.

In some ways, both sides have valid points. Perhaps his performance against Brock Lesnar will provide answers about his place among the heavyweight elite, but until then, it's worth a look at his recent history.

- Dana White: Jon Fitch is in the welterweight mix, not the doghouse (5thRound)

Most don't believe Jon Fitch owns the most aesthetically appealing game in the business, but UFC president Dana White states the former top contender is right back in the welterweight title mix if he reigns supreme this Friday against Johny Hendricks at UFC 141.

- Liver Kick's top 5 knockouts of 2011 (MiddleEasy)

Our readers came together to choose the top 5 knockouts of 2011. Our good friend and Liverkick.com's own StillW1ll packaged them together in an awesome video like only he can do. For knockouts of the year, we've got:

- Top 10 Worst New Year's Eve MMA fights in Japan (The Fight Nerd)

As 2011 comes to a close, MMA fans can look forward to one thing - New year's Eve MMA events in Japan! Truly the best of the best when it comes to events, these super shows usually have great matches with the top talent fighting each other. In the past, we have seen some amazing cross-promotional events, such as Pride VS K-1, and great moments, such as Dan Henderson and Takanori Gomi winning their respective Grand Prix tournaments, and Fedor crushing many a man placed before him.

However, it would not be a NYE show in Japan without a few freak show fights to drag things on. That is why today, only days before the next big NYE event in Japan, we take a look at some of the worst, strangest, and weirdest MMA fights from Japanese New Year's Eve shows!

- Antonio Inoki's shadow war on NYE (Fight Opinion)

If the impending 2011 Inoki MMA/IGF card at Saitama Super Arena looks like a familiar friend to you, that's because it is. The booking is reminiscent to the card produced by Inoki and promoted by PRIDE in 2000 at the Osaka Dome, where you had a mixture of MMA blending in with a pro-wrestling atmosphere. MMA fighters want to be pro-wrestlers just like the wrestlers want to be MMA fighters (if they could do so). The Osaka Dome show would launch the kakutougi boom in Japan, a dream period that Antonio Inoki had imagined was coming for decades.

- 11 for 11: No. 3 Zuffa offers its fighters insurance (MMA Payout)

This year Zuffa offered its 400 fighters in the UFC and Strikeforce health insurance beginning this past June. Zuffa is paying the premiums for all of its fighters under contract.

- Efrain Escudero: These last 13-14 months have been hell (BleacherReport.com/MMA)

"It changed my perspective of everything, Escudero told me. Not just personal, kinda like personal life as well. Not just inside the octagon. You live and learn. Some people are really good at it just right off there back."

"It took me a little speed bump and stuff. I got carried away. Now, I'm a gym junkie. I'm back to being the same old me that was before I went into The Ultimate Fighter. The one that had nothing to lose and everything to gain and just do it and love the sport, love the adrenaline rush, love everything."

"A lot of people say, "Why be in there if your gonna be nervous or scared or doing it for the paycheck?" I have a college degree. If I want a paycheck, I'll do my normal job. I do this because I love it."

- UFC 141 Lesnar vs Overeem preview (MMA Convert)

Have you seen the weigh-in pics of UFC 141's main event? If ever there was an example of two expertly-drawn comic book characters stepping off the pages and coming to life, it's Brock Lesnar and Alistair Overeem, who seem to have taken the words "monstrosity" and "man-mountain" to the extreme. Seriously, they look like photoshops that North Korea would use as propaganda ("See," said the late Kim Jong-Il. "We make superheroes. America will fall!"). Their physiques are so improbable in human beings, steroids have tested positive for "Brock Lesnar" and "Alistair Overeem" and been faced with suspension.

- Karo Parisyan rediscovering the fire to compete (Fightline)

Karo Parisyan is tired, you can hear it in his voice. Tired like he's just waking up from a years-long nightmare in which someone else was living in his body, fighting and making his decisions for him. What makes it all worse is that there was no dream, that Parisyan has been the pilot all along, the reason for his own derailment. Now, frustrated but attaining clarity, he's just hoping it's not too late to fix his mistakes.

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