Well fight fans, the UFC has given us plenty to be thankful for this year. 2011 has been a banner year for the world’s biggest and brightest MMA promotion and as it winds down to a close the UFC is going out with a bang, waving goodbye to 2011 and ringing in 2012 with a blockbuster main event. Two of the biggest Heavyweight fighters in the world clash in the final UFC bout of 2011 when Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem battles Brock Lesnar.
While some folks have complained about the supporting cast of bouts for the UFC’s final card of 2011, but there are a number of interesting bouts that are hunkering down the rest of the main card as well as the undercard. This event also marks the final Preliminary Special to air on SPIKE TV as the UFC will now move it’s Preliminary specials to the FOX family of networks in 2012. It’s the last week of 2011 and I’m sure you have holiday parties to be making booze lists for, so let’s make this introduction short and get right to the good stuff.
Preliminary Card Bout (Facebook): Featherweight Bout: Manvel Gamburyan vs. Diego Nunes
Manvel “The Anvil” Gamburyan is an Armenian fighter who is the cousin of former world ranked fighter Karo Parisyan. He is a former cast member of the Ultimate Fighter 5 where he finished as runner up to Nate Diaz. The judo black belt has since made the drop to the Featherweight division where he enjoyed slight success during his WEC run including an eventual title shot against champion Jose Aldo. Gamburyan is also a black belt in Kyokushin karate and trains at the Hayastan MMA Gym in North Hollywood, California. Gamburyan uses his judo skills blended with strong wrestling skills to work his opponents to the mat where he controls and punishes them with ground and pound. Gamburyan has a career record of 11-6.
Diego “The Gun” Nunes is a 29-year-old fighter from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Nunes is a Muay Thai kick boxer who also has strong Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skills to compliment his striking skills. Nunes has trained with a number of premier Brazilian fight teams including Team Nogueira Brazil and currently Nova Uniao. The BJJ purple belt is able to fight effectively from a distance, utilizing a long reach and strong kicks to keep wrestlers away from him. He also has precision striking, as he is very accurate with his punches and kicks. Nunes has a professional record of 16-2.
Preliminary Card Bout (Facebook): Welterweight Bout: Matt Riddle vs. Luis Ramos
Matt Riddle is a 25-year-old American fighter who owns the rare career distinction of having all of his career bouts in the octagon. However, currently on a two fight losing streak, he may be headed out the door if he can’t earn a victory in this fight. Riddle is a wrestler who is continuing to improve as a mixed martial artist, but his striking game has not come along as well as his grappling skills. Riddle struggles when he is unable to work the fight to the mat. The member of the Throwdown Training Center in Las Vegas, Nevada will need to have made some more improvements in his striking if he’s going to defeat the Brazilian Ramos in the fight. Riddle has a professional record of 5-3.
Luis “Beicao” Ramos is a Brazilian fighter who trains out of the Nova Uniao gym in Rio de Janeiro. The 30-year-old fighter is a former Shooto 168-Pound champion. Owning the usual Brazilian skill set of BJJ mixed with Muay Thai kickboxing, Ramos is a stellar fighter who isn’t poor in any particular area. In his UFC debut he drew the unfortunate task of facing blue chip prospect Erick Silva on short-notice and was promptly KO’ed in the first round. Ramos will surely be looking to keep this fight standing if he has any chance of winning this bout, since very few people are able to fight successfully underneath the strong wrestling of Matt Riddle.
Analysis and Prediction: It all depends on the game plan of Riddle. Against Lance Benoist he was content to strike and get battered in the process and I expect the same thing to happen against Ramos. However, if he fights smart and wrestles for the majority of the fight, he should be able to spend enough time on top to earn a Unanimous Decision. I have a rule that I never bet on Matt Riddle, so despite that, he still has the ability to win this fight, so I’m going to pick him. Bet at your own risk though, because you never know which Riddle will show up. Matt Riddle via Unanimous Decision.
Preliminary Card Bout (Facebook): Lightweight Bout: Jacob Volkmann vs. Efrain Escudero
Jacob “Christmas” Volkmann owns one of the most fitting nicknames in all of MMA, because he really does look like Lloyd Christmas from Dumb and Dumber. He is a former Welterweight, who has enjoyed considerably more success since dropping to the Lightweight division. The former NCAA Division 1 wrestler from the University of Minnesota uses takedowns and constant pressure to overwhelm his opponents on the mat. Training out of the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy Volkmann owns a career record of 13-2.
Efrain “Hecho en Mexico” Escudero is a former winner of the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter. He is actually making his return to the UFC as a late-replacement for TJ Grant who was forced to withdraw from an injury. Escudero was only the second Ultimate Fighter winner to be cut from the UFC, after Travis Lutter. Since leaving the UFC he has gone 5-1, and has been successful enough to earn a return trip. Escudero trains out of the MMA Lab in Tempe, Arizona. He is a wrestling based fighter with decent kickboxing skills to compliment. Overall, Escudero owns a career record of 18-3.
Analysis and Prediction: Despite his strong wrestling background Escudero will be at a distinct disadvantage on the ground for this bout. Volkmann has a better wrestling credential and has been an absolute beast on the ground since his drop to Lightweight, constantly threatening with ground and pound and submission attempts. It’s hard to see where Escudero has an advantage except maybe striking, but I don’t think he has the defensive skills to keep himself upright and exploit that advantage. Volkmann will be all over Escudero as soon as the fight starts, and should wear him down enough to earn a late submission victory. Jacob Volkmann via Submission in Round Three.
Preliminary Card Bout (Facebook): Welterweight Bout: Dong Hyun Kim vs. Sean Pierson
“The Stun Gun” Dong Hyun Kim is a South Korean born fighter who at 6’1” and cutting from over 195 pounds is one of the largest Welterweights in the UFC. Born in Suwon, South Korea the 30-year-old Kim is a 4th degree black belt in Judo and has stellar wrestling skills to back up his Judo. Until recently Kim was undefeated in the UFC and was on the fringe of title contention before a Carlos Condit knee knocked him unconscious and back a couple of rungs in the Welterweight ladder. The product of the Busan Team MAD Gym will look to take another step up the ladder by outwrestling and outworking Sean Pierson in this bout. Kim owns a professional MMA record of 14-1-1 with 1 No Contest.
Sean “Pimp Daddy” Pierson is the Canadian fighter who burst onto the scene with his upset victory over Matt Riddle at UFC 124. Pierson is a former police officer who was relieved of his duty due to his exploits in the UFC’s octagon. Pierson is a Greco-Roman wrestler with decent striking skills but somewhat poor striking defense. He looked good outworking Matt Riddle, but that was partly combined due to Riddle’s poor offensive showing in the kickboxing department. His wrestling skills will be tested against Kim, who will look to put this fight on the mat at every opportunity. Pierson is a member of the Grant Brothers MMA Gym in Canada. He owns a professional record of 11-5.
Analysis and Prediction: This one is a bit lopsided if you ask me. Pierson is a mediocre fighter and Kim was possibly one fight away from title contention before Condit derailed that hype train. Kim’s wrestling is very strong and he can plant a good majority of the fighters at Welterweight on their backs at will. Standing he has serviceable boxing which while not amazing is technically sound, which should be enough to get by against Pierson for the short amount of time that the fight spends standing. I expect Kim to trade a few punches before changing levels and shooting for a takedown. Pierson needs to keep the fight standing if he wants to win, but I don’t think he’ll be able to keep the big Korean off of him for three rounds. Eventually Kim gets this fight to the ground and works towards a late second round TKO with elbows. Dong Hyun Kim via TKO in Round Two.
Preliminary Card Bout (Spike TV): Lightweight Bout: Anthony Njokuani vs. Danny Castillo
Anthony “The Assassin” Njokuani is a Nigerian born fighter who is one of the most entertaining Lightweights on the UFC’s roster. Born in Lagos, Nigeria the 31-year-old now trains full time at the Janjira Muay Thai Gym in Las Vegas, Nevada. Njokuani is very tall and length for the Lightweight division and at 6’1” with a 75.5 inch reach, he holds a reach advantage against most of the UFC’s roster of Lightweights. Njokuani has shown somewhat limited ground skills throughout his career, but can strike with the best of them at Lightweight. Njokuani is a strong finisher, who owns the distinction of being the only fighter under Zuffa’s employ to ever earn three straight Knockout of the Night Bonuses (vs. Bart Palaszewski at WEC 40, vs. Mushin Corbbrey at WEC 43, and vs. Chris Horodecki at WEC 45.) Njokuani owns a career record of 14-5.
Danny “Last Call” Castillo is a 32-year-old member of the Team Alpha Male gym where he trains regularly with Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez and Chad Mendes. Like most of his teammates Castillo is a wrestler and a boxer. Castillo was a former NAIA All American Wrestler before making the switch to MMA. In his fights he often sets up his takedowns well by using his strong technical boxing skills, however in this fight, I doubt he’ll dabble very long in the striking department as Njokuani has proven to be one of the best Lightweight strikers in the division. Castillo owns a professional record of 12-4.
Analysis and Prediction: Njokuani is definitely one of the best strikers in the UFC’s stacked Lightweight division, but he isn’t well-rounded enough to compete with the elite fighters in the UFC. He’ll surely always have a job since he is entertaining as hell, but he doesn’t have the takedown defense to keep himself upright in this bout. Expect him to tag Castillo a couple of times, but it shouldn’t be more than about a minute before Castillo gets within range and shoots for a takedown which he shouldn’t have much of a problem getting. From there it’ll be ground and pound and Njokuani will likely give up his back in the scramble where Castillo can latch on for the submission victory. Danny Castillo via Submission in Round One.
Preliminary Card Bout (Spike TV): Featherweight Bout: Ross Pearson vs. Junior Assuncao
England’s Ross “The Real Deal” Pearson is best known as the Lightweight winner of the Ultimate Fighter: UK vs USA season. Pearson is making his Featherweight debut after spending his entire octagon career at 155 pounds. Pearson is a highly entertaining who is basically a brawler at heart, despite his solid martial arts background. Pearson is a black belt in Tae Kwan Do and a brown belt in Judo, but in his bouts, it’s his kickboxing skills that he loves to showcase. In his last bout, most people expected him to be completely obliterated by Edson Barboza, but the man from Sunderland, England looked damned good, despite coming out on the wrong side of a Split Decision. Pearson is a member of the Team Rough House gym and owns a professional record of 12-5.
Junior Assuncao is a Brazilian born fighter from Recife, Brazil. Now fighting out of Roswell, Georgia Assuncao is an instructor at the Ascension MMA Gym. Assuncao is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt and is also a black rope in the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira. He is the brother of UFC fighter Raphael Assuncao who is coming off an entertaining beat down of Eddie Yagin at UFC 135. Assuncao is a grappling wizard, but often has trouble securing a takedown to work the fight to the mat, since he is often over-powered by larger and stronger fighters and he doesn’t have the wrestling fundamentals to outwork them. Despite that, he remains a dangerous opponent for anyone who is foolish enough to try and grapple with him. Assuncao owns a professional record of 13-4 and is currently riding a seven fight winning streak.
Lee McGregor is the owner and editor-in-chief of Source4MMA.com which will be launching in early 2012.