Just a reminder if you're ordering this show. It's on FRIDAY night, at 10 PM. The UFC is airing a rare Friday PPV so as to avoid New Year's Eve, and the PPV start times are returning to 10 PM since…well, they're blaming the switch to 9 PM as the reason for their declining PPV buys. I guess it makes sense given that starting at 6 PM on the west coast is awfully early, but I dunno guys, maybe the decline in buys could have more to do with the fact that there are suddenly about four UFC shows a month, eh?
* Donald Cerrone over Nate Diaz, decision There's really no doubt that Jon Jones is the 2011 fighter of the year given the caliber of competition he dominated and the fact that Jones is a champion, but man, Cerrone can put in a great case for the silver medal. A win over Diaz would make Cerrone a perfect 5-0 in 2011. Cerrone just beat Dennis Siver two months ago and he's already back in the cage, with possibly just one more win standing between he and a title shot. Diaz is tough but Cerrone might quietly be one of the best fighters in the world who we just haven't yet identified as such. Of interest --- the only man who's legitimately beaten Cerrone was Benson Henderson, who did so twice in the WEC. So if Cerrone does win and lay his claim to a title shot, he could be held up if Henderson beats Frankie Edgar for the title in February. I can't think of anyone more deserving than Cerrone who'd be next in line, however, since Gilbert Melendez is still slumming it in Strikeforce.
* Jimy Hettes over Nam Phan, submission, R2 With all due respect to up-and-comer Jim Hettes, this is one of the least-worthy main card PPV fights in recent memory. The UFC should thank its lucky stars that Lesnar and Overeem stayed healthy since if one of them had to cancel on short notice and leave this show without a main event, the PPV buyrate doesn't even crack six figures. Anyway, Hettes has nine submissions in nine careers fights, so I suspect he'll continue his tap out streak against Phan. While Nam Phan has never been submitted in his career, he has lost a LOT (17-9 career record) and it's safe to say he's Not A Good Fighter.
* Jon Fitch over Johny Hendricks, decision In the spirit of Chief Wiggum's "yeah, now we love the house!" attitude, I've done a total 180 on Jon Fitch. Whereas I used to think he was the dullest fighter under the sun, I've come to see his matches as less competitive fighting and more as performance art. The guy just canNOT be beaten (except by Georges St. Pierre) and it's HILARIOUS. I'm now openly rooting for opponents to "get Fitched," a.k.a. getting clutched against the fence and perhaps taken down, wherein Fitch will position himself in a half-assed half-guard position and rain light, ineffective punches down for the duration of the round. Rinse, repeat, Fitch gets another decision. Hendricks is a talented wrestler himself so Fitch may have more trouble controlling him than usual, but let's be honest, we all know how this one ends. If Hendricks actually does beat Fitch in a huge upset, he should immediately get the first crack at Carlos Condit/Nick Diaz's interim WW title. That's the respect that should be shown to a man that actually cracks the Fitch Code.
* Alexander Gustafsson over Vladimir Matyushenko, TKO, R3 I love this booking. This is classic "up-and-coming young star against a tough-as-nails veteran looking for one more run" matchmaking. I'm a big Gustafsson fan and think he might just be a fight or two away from losing to….er, that is, "challenging" Jon Jones for the light-heavyweight belt. That said, Matyushenko has shattered the dreams of many a young guy looking to make his name off "The Janitor's" reputation. Man, do I love that nickname. "The Janitor." I realize the symbolism of Vlad wanting to get himself over as the guy who likes to take care of the proverbial dirty work, but how long into his 14-year MMA career do you think he started to regret his choice of nickname? Six months? A year? The first time the announcer said it and caused a good chunk of the live crowd to openly laugh? I cannot deny that it's the absolute perfect moniker for the hard, old-school guy that Matyushenko has turned into, but still, 'Janitor.' Amazing. He should have Neil Flynn as his cornerman.
* Brock Lesnar over Alistair Overeem, TKO, R1 The result here is pretty easy to determine. Either Overeem catches Lesnar coming in and knocks him silly, or Lesnar takes Overeem down and pounds him into oblivion. It's a coin toss as to who will implement his special first. My coin came down on Lesnar's side despite the fact that Lesnar is fighting for the first time in 14 months and for just the fourth time since November 2008. It takes a lot to pick a man who's been ravaged by diverticulitis but my bigger issue with Overeem is that he might not actually be any good. Sure, he's the "Strikeforce heavyweight champion" and 10-0-1 over the last four years, but Overeem has an Andy Warhol record --- lots of cans. You can argue his only solid win in that stretch was over Fabricio Werdum, and Werdum is only dangerous if he gets you on the ground. Overeem avoided that scenario in a blah decision win over Werdum last June but Lesnar's takedowns are slightttttty more dangerous than Werdum's. Just slightly. By a factor of fifty. I'm not even sure Brock's so-called glass jaw is a factor, since even though Cain Velasquez knocked Lesnar silly last year, Lesnar was certainly able to withstand a ton of punishment from Shane Carwin and still win.
I suspect the UFC wouldn't mind seeing their big draw lose here, since an Overeem victory would establish him as a new big deal in the company and set up a major unification bout against Junior Dos Santos. Overeem is kind of killed by a loss here, while Lesnar losing can just be written off as a case of ring rust and whatnot. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see Overeem actually win but I'll stick with my Lesnar choice. I'm not so easily 'diverted.' Ha ha, because he had diverticulitis! Ha ha, health problems! And he's the guy I picked to win!……groan.
Undercard…. * Diego Nunes over Manvel Gambuyran, decision * Ross Pearson over Junior Assuncao, decision * Dong Hyun Kim over Sean Pierson, KO, R2 * Luis Ramos over Matt Riddle, decision * Danny Castillo over Anthony Njokuani, decision * Jacob Volkmann over Efrain Escudero, submission, R1