Title bout, contender bout, welterweight wars, oh my.
After producing the potential fight card of the year its last time on the network television, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will grace FOX once again this Saturday (Dec. 8, 2012) with a fantastic line up of mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts that will take place at the KeyArena in Seattle, Washington.
In the UFC on FOX 5 main event, Bens Henderson will go to war with Nate Diaz with his lightweight title on the line, while Mauricio Rua takes perhaps his final shot at UFC greatness against Alexander Gustafsson. In addition, B.J. Penn will look to pick up his first non-Matt Hughes UFC welterweight win when he collides with Rory MacDonald and Mike Swick will look to continue his comeback run at the expense of Matt Brown.
Yesterday, we previewed the first four bouts that comprise the initial UFC on FOX 5 Facebook/FX portion of the "Prelims" under card right here. Today, we share breakdowns of the remaining three that will air live -- and for free -- on FX before the FOX event starts at 8 p.m. ET.
Let's get cracking:
135 lbs.: Mike Easton vs. Raphael Assuncao
A training partner of Dominick Cruz, Mike Easton (13-1) entered the UFC after nearly two years away from the sport. If he had any ring rust, however, he didn’t show it. "The Hulk" is unbeaten under the Zuffa banner, most recently outpointing Ivan Menjivar at UFC 148.
After a 1-3 stretch capped off by a one-punch knockout loss to Erik Koch, Raphael Assuncao (18-4) made the drop to 135 pounds and hasn't looked back, decisioning dangerous striker Johnny Eduardo in Rio de Janeiro and knocking out Japanese grinder Issei Tamura at UFC on FUEL TV 4.
Easton’s power isn’t what he thinks it is and his offensive wrestling leaves something to be desired, but he’s tailor-made to beat Assuncao. His swings are sufficiently intimidating to force opponents to shoot from way outside, where his takedown defense is more than adequate to keep it standing. Assuncao is no joke on the feet, but I see him -- like Menjivar -- getting too cowed to avoid getting battered with leg kicks all night long.
There's a good chance that this is a cruddy fight, with Easton content to sit back and pick away at a tentative Assuncao, but "The Hulk" will pick up his fourth UFC victory and hopefully a fight with a Top 10 foe.
Prediction: Easton by unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Dennis Siver vs. Nam Phan
After a two-fight losing streak prompted his release from the organization, Dennis Siver (20-8) returned two fights later with a vengeance, going 8-1 with wins over Spencer Fisher, Andre Winner, George Sotiropoulos and Matt Wiman. Just when it seemed he was going to step into the lightweight elite, however, he was buckled and submitted by Donald Cerrone at UFC 137.
Despite a solid run on TUF 12, it seemed like late-replacement Nam Phan (18-10) and his UFC career would come to a sad halt this year after dropping 10-8 rounds in two of three consecutive fights. Impressively, however, he outstruck Cole Miller for a close decision win at UFC on FOX 4 earlier this year.
The win put Phan at 4-6 in his previous 10 bouts, though a robbery against Leonard Garcia makes that mark somewhat inaccurate.
I have a soft spot in my heart for anyone who works the body with the fervor that Phan does, but I can’t imagine this ending well for him. I consider Siver the superior striker of the two and, even if that turns out to be incorrect, he’s developed a solid wrestling game that he can fall back on. Further, despite Nam’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, he’s more or less dog meat off his back.
I expect Siver -- the taller man for once -- to establish his lead-leg kicking game early and control Phan at range while keeping him off-balance with takedown attempts. Even if he can’t drag down Phan regularly, the threat of it will further open his striking game. Clear-cut unanimous decision for the German bruiser.
Prediction: Siver by unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Ramsey Nijem vs. Joe Proctor
Despite getting pasted by Anthony Ferguson at TUF 13 Finale, Ramsey Nijem (6-2) -- who fights out of The Pit -- has emerged as one of the more intriguing prospects in the division. Packing an excellent wrestling game, Nijem dominated Danny Downes and took out C.J. Keith in a spirited one-round affair.
Nijem, 24, has split his wins between knockouts, submissions and decisions.
After making his way into TUF 15 house by upsetting Jordan Rinaldi, Proctor made his way to the quarterfinals with a submission over Chris Tickle. Unfortunately, despite the incredible amount of karma he surely earned by eliminating that irritation, he found himself dominated by James Vick his next time out.
Proctor bounced back with an early technical knockout over Jeremy Larsen at TUF 15 Finale, his first victory of the sort.
There’s really not much to say here because it’s a wrestling/jiu-jitsu specialist versus a better wrestling/jiu-jitsu specialist. I have my doubts about Nijem’s chin, but Proctor is by no means the man to take advantage of that. Whether it’s on the ground, up against the cage, or scrambling, I expect Nijem to hold a significant advantage whenever they up, which should be pretty often.
Nijem is a better fighter fighting out of a better team. He’ll control this bout with his grappling on his way to a comfortable unanimous decision.
Prediction: Nijem by unanimous decision
I'm not even going to garnish it: This is a friggin' fantastic card. I can't wait for Saturday.
See you then, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC on FOX 5: "Henderson vs. Diaz," beginning with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook scheduled for around 3:45 p.m. ET. In addition, we will also provide LIVE, real-time results of the main card action as it happens throughout the evening this upcoming Saturday, starting promptly at 8 p.m. ET.