Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back this Friday night (Dec. 30, 2011), and it is here to, "PUMP [clap] YOU UP!"
Major-league mountains of muscle Brock Lesnar and Alistair Overeem will headline the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion's final event of 2011, squaring off for a shot at newly-minted heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos.
In addition, high-octane lightweights Nate Diaz and Donald Cerrone will go toe-to-toe in the hunt for contendership, while former number one welterweight contender Jon Fitch will look to quell the rise of hard-hitting Johny Hendricks.
But before we get to that stuff, we've got another delectable batch of "Prelims" fights to whet our appetites, which will air live via streaming video on Facebook on fight night.
Join us after the jump for breakdowns of the four fights set to be broadcast on the UFC's official Facebook page:
170 lbs.: Dong Hyun Kim vs. Sean Pierson
Dong Hyun Kim (14-1-1, 1 NC) used to be a contender like you, but then he took a knee to the face.
Heading into his UFC 132 clash with Carlos Condit, Kim was this close to breaking into the welterweight elite, having effectively smothered Amir Sadollah and Nate Diaz. Condit, unfortunately, proved to be just too bad of a mamma-jamma for the Korean Judo specialist, blasting him with a brutal flying knee and finishing him off with punches. The loss was the first of Kim’s career, and he’ll be out to pick the pieces back up against his Canadian foe.
Meanwhile, the Octagon debut of Pierson (11-5) UFC was one of the more entertaining in recent memory, as he managed to overcome the spastic flailing of Matt Riddle with clean striking. His subsequent bout with Jake Ellenberger at UFC 129 was also entertaining, but much less so for Pierson, as he was brutally flatlined in the first round by the American murder machine. Pierson, a former police officer who was relieved of duty due to his "Pimp Daddy" persona and UFC endeavors, will try to unleash his inner John Pike and end Kim’s "occupation" of the welterweight hierarchy.
Despite the loss to Condit and his unimpressive third round against Nate Diaz, I am of the firm belief that Kim’s pimp hand is stronger than his counterpart’s. He’s got serviceable striking and can put a large fraction of the division on its back with relative ease. Pierson’s the better finisher of the two, but I just can’t get the Riddle fight out of my head --Riddle unleashed the least-impressive offensive onslaught since the Winter War and Pierson was still unable to put him away. While both fighters are in similar situations, having lost to some of the best welterweights in the game, this still strikes me as a major league mismatch. Expect Kim to get his hands on Pierson early and often before unleashing the elbow storm he used to put away Jason Tan, securing his first stoppage in three years.
Prediction: Kim via second round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Jacob Volkmann vs. Efrain Escudero
"Dumb and Dumber" for his decision to call out Barack Obama, Jacob Volkmann (13-2) has been on a tear recently, spoiling the UFC debut of Antonio McKee and soundly outgrappling Alpha Male product Danny Castillo with at least a dozen D’arce attempts. "Christmas" is undefeated since his drop to lightweight, which was brought about by consecutive losses to Paulo Thiago and Martin Kampmann, and could break into the lightweight elite with a win over the returning Escudero.
A whole lot of things went wrong for Efrain Escudero (18-3) the last time he stepped into the Octagon. First, he missed weight, and then Charles Oliveira happened. After being choked out by the Brazilian phenom, "Hecho en Mexico" became just the second TUF winner to be cut from the organization, the first being Travis Lutter. Since then, Escudero has gone 5-1, his sole loss coming at the hands of fellow UFC castaway Fabricio Camoes. Replacing an injured T.J. Grant on short notice, Escudero has a huge opportunity in front of him, and he’ll need to make the most of it in the crowded lightweight division.
This just doesn’t strike me as a good fight for Escudero. Not only is this on short notice, but I’m not convinced he has Volkmann beat in any area except maybe striking, and I’m not sure he can make it the sort of fight that lets him use that advantage. Despite facing wrestling-centric fighters like Castillo and McKee, the latter of whom has literally no other method of attack, Volkmann has consistently found himself winning the grappling battles ever since making the cut to lightweight. Volkmann needs a few fights with effective strikers at 155 pounds before I call him champion material, but his wrestling prowess should be enough to carry the day against Escudero.
Prediction: Volkmann via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Matt Riddle vs. Luis Ramos
The fists of Matt Riddle (5-3) fists have produced some of the more entertaining moments in UFC history, among them his hellacious knockout of Dan Simmler on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 7 season and his hilarious UFC 124 bout with Sean Pierson, which marked possibly the only time in the organization’s history where one could picture a fighter saying "NYEH!" every time he threw a punch. Amusing incompetence notwithstanding, Riddle has lost two straight to the aforementioned Pierson and to prospect Lance Benoist, and could find himself on the chopping block if he can’t defeat the former Shooto champion.
Luis Ramos (19-7) had the unfortunate honor of welcoming X-Gym prospect Erick Silva to the UFC, and caught a bad case of fist 42 seconds in. Prior to that loss, in which he was replacing Mike Swick, "Beicao" had won six of seven, capturing the Shooto 168-pound title in that time. Ramos, who fights out of Nova Uniao, could also be on thin ice this Friday, and has no intention of letting Riddle stop him from erasing the memory of the Silva beatdown.
To be honest, I’m not putting all that much stock in the Silva fight. For one, Ramos was a short-notice replacement. For two, Erick Silva is a legitimate blue-chip prospect. Further, in the seven fights prior to his UFC debut, "Beicao’s" only loss was a very controversial decision to UFC veteran Roan Carneiro. Ramos also has more than three times as many fights as Riddle, who has looked alternatively "meh" and hilariously incompetent in his last two fights. While some of his competition hasn’t exactly been ideal, Ramos[s grappling prowess and experience should be too much for Riddle, who is going to find himself on the wrong end of smothering decision loss.
Prediction: Ramos via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Manny Gamburyan vs. Diego Nunes
A finalist on TUF 5, Gamburyan (11-6) didn’t truly hit his stride until he dropped down to the featherweight division where, after wins over John Franchi and Leonard Garcia, he shocked the MMA world with a violent knockout of former champion Mike Brown. His subsequent title shot against Jose Aldo, however, ended in traditional Jose Aldo fashion -- with gratuitous violence. After being rocked by a hard uppercut, "The Anvil" was obliterated with punches while turtling, and after dropping a close decision to Tyson Griffin in his UFC debut, will be trying to avoid a three-fight losing streak this Friday.
Nunes (16-2), a Nova Uniao product, got his biggest opportunity yet at UFC 131, taking on Kenny Florian in the latter’s UFC debut, but after an impressive first round that saw him rattle the former title contender, succumbed to his grappling prowess and lost a unanimous decision. "The Gun" was originally slated to fight Gamburyan back at UFC 135, but both fighters fell to injury. Now, with a second shot at the Armenian, Nunes intends to begin the arduous climb back toward title contention this Friday.
I’ll admit that Gamburyan’s knockout of Brown was pretty darn impressive and that I picked him to beat Griffin; however, I just don’t think his brand of "spaz-fu" boxing is going to be enough to overcome the technical prowess of Nunes. Admittedly, Nunes has yet to secure a single stoppage during his time under the ZUFFA umbrella, but his lack of stopping power is offset by his striking acumen, as he’s effective at working his game from the outside to stymie takedown attempts. All in all, this is just a terrible matchup for Gamburyan; Brown possesses much more refined versions of Gamburyan’s best weapons (power and takedowns) and was entirely unable to bring them to bear against the Nova Uniao product. It wouldn’t surprise me too much if Nunes scored his first (technical) knockout since 2007, but the likelier outcome is that he batters Gamburyan from the outside with low and middle kicks while the Armenian impotently flails away.
Prediction: Nunes via unanimous decision
Join us tomorrow for a look at the UFC's last-ever, hour-long Spike TV "Prelims" special, which features Ross Pearson vs. Junior Assuncao and Anthony Njokuani vs. Danny Castillo.
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. In addition, we will also provide LIVE, real-time results of the main card action as it happens throughout the evening this upcoming weekend.