This weekend provides possibly the most hyped heavyweight UFC fight all year long as the highly popular, former WWE superstar, Brock Lesnar goes up against the worldly popular MMA fighter Alistair Overeem. Half of the interest in this fight lies solely in the promotional build-up for these two mammoth, literally, UFC heavyweight stars. Before I break down the highly anticipated main event, it only seems fitting to briefly run through the entire 141 fight card from beginning to end.
Preliminary card (on Facebook)
Featherweight bout: Manvel “Manny” Gamburyan (11-6) vs. Diego Nunes (16-2)
The 30-year old, Armenian born Gamburyan has been around the fight circuit for more than a decade, and finds himself ranked as highly as the #9 featherweight in the world. As a young boy, Manny grew up practicing Judo after moving to the United States, and eventually won 8 junior nationals, becoming one of the top Judoka in the country. While many may not recognize Manny so much nowadays for his Judo skills, some may remember his cousin, who demonstrated a lot of Judo in his time with the UFC, Karo Parisyan. Gamburyan was supposed to fight Diego Nunes earlier in the year, but was forced out due to a training camp injury, luckily we still get to see this fight in the last card of 2011.
Diego Nunes, only one year younger than his opponent Gamburyan, has been fighting since 2004 and composed a solid record while doing so, only losing two bouts, however they’ve both been since 2009 as he has increased his level of competition. Many didn’t see much of Diego Nunes around the American MMA scene, until his loss to Kenny Florian this summer. It should be noted that Nunes trains with Team Nogueira in his native country of Brazil, one of the most tightly-knit teams of MMA practitioners in all of the world. The team considers themselves a family and treats it just as that. Rather than just a group that gets together to workout every so often, team Noguiera stays in touch with each member and care about what’s going on in each athlete’s lives, not just inside the octagon.
The Crimson-Eyed prediction: Nunes’ kickboxing will constantly bother Gamburyan as he looks for openings to turn this into a Judo/Wrestling match. Nunes is too sharp and will constantly mix up his striking, taking it to Manny for the entire 15 minutes. Nunes via Decision
Welterweight bout: Matt Riddle (5-3) vs. Luis Ramos (19-7)
Matt Riddle is a 25 year old wrestler from Pennsylvania, although he grew up in Saratoga Springs, New York, where in his senior year, he became a New York state wrestling champion. Riddle came from little money, so instead of training at his local gym, he picked up BJ Penn’s book Mixed Martial Arts: The Book of Knowledge and began to train himself at home in his apartment. Riddle has struggled as of late though, dropping his last two in a row, and likely facing an exit from the UFC without a win on Friday night.
Luis Ramos is also coming into this fight off a loss against Erick Silva at UFC 134. Ramos fights out of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and it’s worth noting that in his 26 fights, none of his losses have come consecutively. When fighting a guy like Riddle, you have to lean towards the Brazilian’s side again in this one.
The Crimson-Eyed prediction: As long as Ramos can avoid being knocked out for three rounds against Matt Riddle, he has the all-around skills to beat Riddle in whatever area this fight ends up going. Ramos via decision
Lightweight bout: Jacob Volkmann (13-2) vs. Efrain Escudero (18-3)
Volkmann has done well for himself since joining the UFC and it hasn’t necessarily come from his athletic abilities, although he has now won four consecutive fights coming into Friday night. After scrutinizing President Obama in a post fight press conference in 2010, Volkmann was visited at home by the U.S. Secret Service as a result. While at first it seems extreme, the spout actually landed Volkmann on a variety of television and late night talk shows. While it initially seemed that Jacob wasn’t ready for the level of competition in the UFC, he has rallied and looks to extend his impressive winning streak to five straight.
Efrain Escudero is likely most known for winning season 8 of Spike’s, The Ultimate Fighter. However after his victory, he only posted a 2-2 record and went his separate ways from the organization. Since leaving, Escudero has won 5 out of his last 6 and gets a shot at redemption in this lucrative lightweight match up. Both fighters have proven that they are very skilled within their division but seem to stumble when given a seemingly fair bout against other lightweights. It doesn’t help any that out of every weight class, 155 lbs is undoubtedly the most cluttered and full of talent as well as rising potential.
The Crimson-Eyed prediction: We see a new and improved Efrain Escudero, who comes out impressively and ends Volkmann’s night quickly. Escudero via submission (Rd. 2)
Welterweight bout: Kim Dong-Hyun “Stun Gun” (14-1-1) vs. Sean Pierson (11-5)
“Stun Gun”, a kickboxing/judo fighter, comes to UFC 141 from his home country of South Korea. While he may not always win as impressively as he used to in the past, the point is that he still puts together wins. His only loss in his MMA career came in his last bout against Carlos Condit, who is now fighting for the interim welterweight title. However, before the Condit fight, “Stun Gun” put together an impressive decision victory against Nate Diaz on January 1, 2011.
Pierson is a Greco-Roman style wrestler fighting out of his hometown of Toronto, Ontario in Canada. After a rough 4-3 start to his MMA career in the early 2000’s, Pierson took what was nearly a 5 year break from the sport before returning and making a 6-1 run before being invited to step into a UFC fight on short notice and ultimately winning it. However Pierson did lose his next, and most recent, fight against contender Jake Ellenberger via KO in the very first round. This will be Pierson’s first UFC fight in the U.S. and certainly on the biggest fight card of his MMA career.
The Crimson-Eyed prediction: “Stun Gun” Kim Dong-Hyun via KO (Rd. 1)
Preliminary card (on Spike TV, for the last time EVER)
Lightweight bout: Anthony Njokuani (14-5 (1)) vs. Danny Castillo (12-4)
Anthony Njokuani can be considered a late bloomer when it comes to martial arts, as he didn’t even begin his MMA training until the age of 21. After coming out of the starting gate hot, Njokuani has cooled down after hitting a rough patch of fighters in the end of the WEC era. After dropping his debut UFC bout, he picked up a quality victory over Andre Winner at UFC 132 earlier this year.
Danny “Last Call” Castillo has won 4 out of his last 5 bouts to earn this shot at Njokuani on Friday night. At 32 years old, Castillo will be motivated to pick up the win and continue climbing the heavily cluttered lightweight ranks to make a contender run before it becomes too late in his career. Castillo, who trains in California with UFC bantamweight Urijah Faber, will look to establish a solid wrestling game in this fight just in case it does happen to go the distance.
The Crimson-Eyed prediction: After opening up with some solid striking from Njokuani, I think Castillo will find his rhythm and start picking his shots for takedowns throughout the fight. Castillo via decision
Featherweight bout: Ross Pearson (12-5) vs. Junior Assuncao (13-4)
Despite a questionable split decision in his last fight, Ross Pearson is doing a good job in the UFC after winning season 9 of The Ultimate Fighter. Pearson would love to further showcase his new and improved boxing technique in this fight against Assuncao on Friday night.
Junior Assuncao is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu/Muay Thai fighter who actually trains out of Roswell, Georgia. A black belt in BJJ, Assuncao has furthered his education by becoming a coach himself, training martial artists in the art of BJJ for over 9 years now. Like Pearson, Assuncao began his MMA career as a lightweight and has recently made the 10 lb. drop to the featherweight division.
The Crimson-Eyed prediction: Pearson’s lightning quick striking will bother Assuncao and make him uncomfortable through the duration of the fight. Pearson will jab Assuncao consistently before looking to finish. Pearson via TKO (Rd. 2)
Main Card (PPV)
Featherweight bout: Nam Phan (17-9) vs. Jim Hettes (9-0)
Nam Phan started out his MMA career quite nicely, amassing a record of 12-2 before kind of falling off the deep end, as he now sits at 17-9 including his stint on The Ultimate Fighter reality show. After avenging his loss to Leonard Garcia in his most recent bout, Phan will try to string two consecutive wins together against an undefeated up-and-comer.
“The Kid” Hettes has won every single fight in his career to this point, both amateur and professional level. If that wasn’t impressive enough already, he has won every single fight by submission, with the first 10 victories being in round 1. In Phan’s defense, Hettes has had only one fight inside the UFC organization but don’t count on that to slow down his performance Friday night.
The Crimson-Eyed prediction: Hettes via Submission (Rd. 1)
Light-Heavyweight bout: Vladimir Matyushenko (26-5) vs. Alexander Gustafsson (12-1)
“The Janitor” Matyushenko has been fighting professionally since 1997, and is remarkably still relevant this weekend on the eve of 2012. Now 40 years old, Matyushenko is on a 2-fight win streak, most recently defeating Jason Brilz via 20-second KO back in April. “The Janitor” would love to pick up another significant win to open up a 15th year of MMA competition.
Facing him across the cage will be 24 year old Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson, who has won 3 straight and 4 out of his 5 total UFC fights. Although his competition hasn’t been very impressive, it’s hard to tell much about his lone loss which came to Phil Davis last year. As long as Gustafsson doesn’t take a 40 year old veteran lightly, then he should be okay throughout the fight.
The Crimson-Eyed prediction: Gustafsson via decision
Welterweight bout: Jon Fitch( 23-3-1 (1)) vs. Johny Hendricks (11-1)
Arguably the most unpopular fighter with his organization, Jon Fitch carries around a 23-3-1 record, 13-1-1 in his 15 UFC fights. Despite his success in ruling the welterweight division, besides for champion Georges St. Pierre, Fitch has had one failed title shot, which earned Fight of the Night, and has never had the opportunity to try it again. Instead, the UFC has steadily given him mid-level competition within his division, and Fitch has won them all, albeit by decision.
Hendricks on the other hand, comes in with everything to fight for. With only 12 professional fights, he’s been given an opportunity to fight a top-5 welterweight and really just needs to put together a solid performance, win or lose. With a win though, Hendricks would propel himself into the top 5 welterweight talk and have some serious competition coming his way in the future.
The Crimson-Eyed prediction: As a longtime fan of watching Johny Hendricks fight, I truly hope he can handle a step-up in competition of this magnitude. However, Fitch is the king of doing only what it takes to win, and I think that happens again on Friday night. Fitch via boring Decision…(Go Hendricks!!)
Lightweight bout: Nate Diaz (14-7) vs. Donald Cerrone (17-3 (1))
This should be the most intense fight of the entire card. I know everyone is pumped for the heavyweight main event, but trust me, these two will BRING IT as soon as the bell rings, there will be no feeling out process as there will be in the final fight. Nate Diaz, like his brother Nick, has a strong reputation for being a bully among all other lightweights in the division. No matter the size or issue, Nick Diaz will gladly give anybody his best shot on any given day of the week.
Although he’s moderately quiet, “Cowboy” Cerrone is always willing to settle the score inside the octagon, where no words are needed. Donald Cerrone has had one hell of a year in 2011, and looks to close out his case for “Fighter of the Year” as he’s won all four previous fights and looks to make #5 his best victory of the year.
The Crimson-Eyed prediction: Fireworks, I don’t know who to tell you will connect with the first solid punch or attempt the first choke, but you can probably count on many such occurrences from both of these fighters until it’s finally over. I easily see this being fight of the night, and you will all see why. Diaz via Submission (Rd. 3)
Main Event – Heavyweight bout: Brock Lesnar (5-2) vs. Alistair Overeem (35-11 (1))
This fight has been hyped for months, and it’s finally time to actually get these guys in the cage together. After some drug testing drama out of the Overeem camp, it looks as if he’s going to be able to compete after all, thankfully. “The Demolition Man” Overeem has exponentially more MMA experience than his competitor Brock Lesnar. He’s finished 33 of his fights, meaning they didn’t go to decision. He’s got the style, the swag, the team, so he should be the easy pick…right?
Brock Lesnar is looking to become the dreaded beast sitting atop the heavyweight division as he once was in recent history. Although his reign was short lived, it’s hard to think of another heavyweight who imposed more fear into his opponents before the fight, leading all the way up to the final staredown. Lesnar won’t be intimidated by Overeem, or vice versa.
The Crimson-Eyed prediction: The fight will start at a slow pace, due to considerable time off for both of these fighters since their last competition. I’d say give it a minute or so, before expecting their tree-limb arms to start swinging at each other. Brock’s key to this match will be to avoid the clinch of Alistair Overeem, and his deadly knee strikes. For Overeem, he needs to keep his back toward the cage and be aware of any and all takedown attempts from the wrestling standout Lesnar. Overeem via TKO (Rd. 2)