As UFC 141 approaches on Dec. 30 in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand, MMA crazed fans will eagerly be awaiting the clash between two behemoth men, Brock Lesnar and Alistar Overeem. However, the casual or avid fan alike may want to put their drink down, skip a third trip through the buffet line, cash in their color at the casino’s window clerk or roll out of their hotel suite bed a tad earlier than expected and get down to the MGM Grand to catch the preliminary card, because the fights on display are sure to provide a well-rounded expose of MMA.

The preliminary card may not feature any household name, but it does offer some UFC veterans, young up-and-comers, proven unknowns that may have what it takes and former TUF champions looking to make the jump from the prelims to the main card.

Two featured fighters on the preliminary card are former TUF champions Efrain Escudero and Ross Pearson. Escudero looks to right the ship of his career as it seems the wind has fallen out of his sails; whereas Pearson looks to cement his name as a real contender in his division and erase the memory of two losses that have left some wondering if Pearson is more pretender than contender.

The card also features a veteran in Manny Gamburyan that fought in the UFC dating back to 2007, but has had a career riddled by injury and adversity. Those in attendance will see if Gamburyan can put his career back on track against Diego Nunes, who comes with talent and hype.

Also, up-and-comers like Mathew Riddle and Jacob Volkmann will look to continue their momentum. Riddle burst on the scene, but has since slowed, while Volkmann looks to continue his impressing roll of four straight wins.

The featured fighter, in my humble opinion, is the South Korean Dong Hyun Kim, a massive welterweight that has a 5-1-1 record in the UFC against formidable competition. Kim possesses incredible power and a solid ground game, which will be on display against stiff competition in the form of Sean Pierson.

The action kicks off with four fights streaming live on Facebook beginning at 6:50 p.m. ET. The remaining two preliminary bouts air in what will be the last edition of the UFC Prelims on Spike TV, beginning at 9 p.m. ET.

The MMA Corner’s panel of Corey Adams, Chase Buzzell and Bryan Henderson analyze all of the prelim bouts in this edition of the Round Table.

FW: Manny Gamburyan (11-6) vs. Diego Nunes (16-2)

Adams: In a perennial featherweight match-up, two fighters who are coming off losses will look to get back on track in the opening fight of the event.

In one corner will be “The Anvil,” who has had an up-and-down career. Gamburyan advanced to the finals of The Ultimate Fighter 5, but was defeated by Nate Diaz in the second round. Since then, he has gone on to face mid-level competition while in the UFC, then transferred over to the WEC, where he went on a three-fight win streak before being defeated in his title shot against Jose Aldo. But in this fight against Nunes, there may be some factors that will help him.

Nunes exploded onto the UFC scene after compiling a 4-1 record in WEC, and has fought two tough guys in his two fights inside the Octagon (Mike Brown and Kenny Florian). The Brazilian does hold wins over Brown and other solid WEC fighters, but here’s a key statistic: In his last seven fights, all of them have gone to the judges’ scorecards. I see his lack of finishing ability being a problem against Gamburyan.

Nunes certainly is capable of finishing fights, as he did in all of fights which took place in Brazil before he came into the larger promotions. But Gamburyan is going to look to finish this one early. “The Anvil” takes care of business by either TKO or submission in the second round.

Buzzell: I must echo my colleague Corey’s analysis that Nunes has failed to finish fights, which may be a factor working against him in a fight against a savvy veteran like Gamburyan. However, “The Anvil” has gone to the cards in four of his last six fights and is coming off two consecutive losses and is 5-5 since 2007. Gamburyan has always struggled when stepping up against formidable competition, but done well when taking on lesser quality opponents. I attribute this pattern to the fact that “The Anvil” must be in a top position to truly be effective. Gamburyan looks to secure top position by utilizing his well-versed clinch game and low center of gravity to work a judo-like takedown. Then Manny can control his opponent and either lay-and-pray or use ground-and-pound. Beyond this approach, he is limited. Against Diego “The Gun” Nunes, this may be problematic.

Nunes is a very athletic fighter who has a striking game that is very dynamic, punishing opponents with a wide array of kicks, both high and low, and has both technique and power in his hands. “The Gun’s” grappling game and submission game continue to be a work in progress, but for now it is serviceable against the quality of opponents he is seeing. “The Gun” did burst onto the scene with early and impressive wins which have tapered off, in part, due to him developing a more conservative approach. With Nunes being Brazilian, exposed to high-level BJJ and having the natural pedigree, Nunes’ BJJ game is developing fast and will no longer be considered the weak link to his game.

In order for Gamburyan to be successful, he needs to hold onto his opponent, take him down and gain top position. Against Nunes, I see this being a problem as Nunes is an athletic striker that can get in and out of the strike zone and lay some pain on his opponent without being scathed. I see Nunes finishing Gamburyan in the third with a referee stoppage due to strikes.

Henderson: Neither of these men has been a huge finisher of fights lately, as my colleagues have pointed out. In addition, neither fighter has been 100% consistent inside the Zuffa-owned promotions. Gamburyan moved to the WEC after two straight losses and now finds himself in a similar streak inside the Octagon, but with one of those defeats coming at the hands of Jose Aldo, the divisional champion.

Gamburyan’s lengthier list of losses concerns me as he heads into this bout. While Nunes had a harder time with Mike Brown, their one similar foe, it came at a better time in Brown’s career than when the former champ was knocked out by Gamburyan. Gamburyan’s other significant wins have come against Leonard Garcia, a brawler, and Jorge Santiago, whom “The Anvil” knocked out in 21 seconds. However, the Santiago win came in 2003 and was only Santiago’s fourth pro bout.

I’m leaning towards Nunes in this one. It should be a close fight, and I definitely see it going to a decision, but Nunes has a solid skill set and the more consistent history in the cage. He’ll outpoint Gamburyan to take the judges’ nod.

WW: Luis Ramos (19-7) vs. Matthew Riddle (5-3)

Buzzell: The Ultimate Fighter show has produced many fighters that have gone on to have success in the UFC, or MMA in general. Riddle appears to have the same potential and tools to propel a TUF appearance into a successful career in the UFC. Prior to participating in the seventh season of the reality show, “The Riddler” was a self-taught martial artist learning from video tapes and books. Usually such an approach to MMA would not be succesful, but Riddle’s capacity to learn, combined with his natural ability, has opened some eyes and this fight against Ramos may allow the noise to spread when it comes to the hype that is building. Riddle is well-known for a vicious knockout against Dan Simmler, however “The Riddler” is more apt at taking the fight to the ground and utilizing his jiu-jitsu game, where he has shown quick, active hips. Riddle is able to rely on his BJJ because he is skilled at taking his opponent to the ground based on his solid wrestling foundation that dates back to wrestling at a small Div. I school. Riddle has shown significant power in his hands, but his technical skills still lag behind, as he has been carved up on the feet by some of his opponents.

Luis “Beicao” Ramos is a Brazilian fighter that is coming off a loss to fellow countryman Erick Silva at UFC 134. However, prior to the loss “Beicao” was riding a three-fight win streak. At UFC 134, little knowledge of Ramos’ game was garnered as he was knocked out in just 40 seconds, thus the jury is still out on what he can bring to the UFC. What is known is that “Beicao” sports a solid record of 19-7 and is not afraid to go the distance, as he has gone to the cards in 16 of his 26 fights. Moreover, Ramos has only been stopped twice. He has not shown a particular strength in either striking or submitting his opponents, having only finished eight opponents in his 19 wins.

In the end, Riddle is young, athletic and hungry. I believe the UFC sees that Riddle is talented and likable and is giving him a manageable opponent that will make him work but is not equipped to put “The Riddler” in any real danger. Due to Riddle’s constant growth, I see him taking another step within the division and knocking “Beicao” out in the first.

Henderson: This is a tough one to pick. On one hand, Riddle has very little experience compared to his Brazilian foe. On the other, Riddle has fought eight times in the Octagon while “Beicao” has only spent 40 seconds inside the eight-sided cage of the UFC.

In the end, I look towards Ramos’ aggressiveness and do not see enough. He’s similar to Riddle in that he is a decision machine. He is a Shooto champion and a Nova Uniao product, so he’s not a complete pushover by any means. However, he won’t threaten Riddle in the stand-up and could fall victim to the TUF alum’s stifling wrestling.

I look for Riddle to try to score the knockout when these two stand toe-to-toe, while using his wrestling to keep the fight standing. Riddle has enough power to end this fight, and he might actually avoid the judges this time. Riddle via early knockout.

Adams: My counterparts have laid this fight out perfectly and I see it going the same way. Riddle has all the skills and athleticism to become a top contender in the division. Even with two straight losses coming into this fight, he should be as confident as ever to take home a victory.

As mentioned, little is known about Ramos as we have only seen 40 seconds of him in the Octagon, so it’s hard to ride with the Brazilian to take out Riddle. I’m going to take Riddle by knockout, but I’ll predict he gets the finish in round two.

LW: Efrain Escudero (18-3) vs. Jacob Volkmann (13-2)

Henderson: I can’t say I agree with Volkmann’s politics, but it’s hard to argue against his recent success inside the Octagon. The Minnesota Martial Arts Academy product entered the UFC as a 170-pounder and lost back-to-back fights to top contenders Paulo Thiago and Martin Kampmann. That resulted in his drop to 155, and with it a four fight winning streak.

Meanwhile, Escudero’s inconsistent performances and inconsistency with making weight led to a departure from the Octagon for the former TUF champ. He’s been travelling the indy circuit for a little over a year now and has posted five wins to only one loss in that span. Problem is, his only loss came against the only UFC-level foe he met, while he notched two of his wins against a MMA newcomer and a fighter with a losing record. True, his other three outings were against regional vets with decent records, but I’m not convinced of his abilities against Volkmann.

Jacob Volkmann (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

“Christmas” has put up some solid performances in his past four outings and seems to have found a home at lightweight. Escudero brings another recognizable name into the cage against Volkmann, but that’ll just help build the outspoken fighter’s resume. Volkmann via dominant decision.

Adams: It’s hard to go wrong with Volkmann in this fight with the roll he is on, but a former Ultimate Fighter winner is hungry to get back to top of the line competition to impress the UFC.

The key to this fight, without a doubt, is going to be the takedown defense of Escudero. If he comes in unprepared to go to the mat, it’s going to be a long night. Volkmann is capable of putting anyone on their back and will look to do just that early. Escudero does have 12 career submission victories, so “Christmas” also better be aware that his opponent can submit guys.

But a submission is unlikely to happen here, so I’ll echo what Bryan stated and take Volkmann by unanimous decision.

Buzzell: What happened to Efrain Escudero? He once was a promising up-and-coming lightweight, winning the season 8 TUF show. However, in recent times, as Bryan and Corey mentioned above, Escudero has struggled, even on the regional circuit. The win-loss column in his last five fights may look like Efrain is back on track, but when considering who the wins came against it leaves more questions than answers. Escudero was always a one-dimensional fighter, lacking the striking skill of many other top competitors in the lightweight division, but Escudero’s wrestling does not seem to be effective either.

Volkmann, on the other hand, has been on a roll, as he has won four consecutive fights, all inside the UFC cage. Volkmann has never impressed any fan with his fighting style, actually it has been quite the opposite as knowledgeable fans appreciate the technical skill the fighter they call “Christmas” exhibits, but have a hard time getting past how boring Volkmann is.

This fight pits two fighters who both rely on their wrestling skills to control their opponent and, if possible, make a safe attempt at a submission. Spoiler Alert: This may be boring if either fighter is not willing to take a chance. Given the roll Volkmann is on and the struggles of Escudero, I have Volkmann winning by split decision.

WW: Dong Hyun Kim (14-1-1) vs. Sean Pierson (11-5)

Buzzell: Kim is a fighter that must be reckoned with. Known as the “Stun Gun,” Kim is a physical presence at welterweight, standing over six-feet tall, and is seemingly big for the weight class in sheer physical mass. His presence is matched by his power and strength that is often exhibited in the clinch game and throws. Before seeking out the clinch, he is comfortable and poised on his feet and possesses KO power in his hands. Kim also is comfortable on the ground in both controlling his opponent to unleash ground-and-pound or to utilize a solid submission game. Kim does need to continue to show his potential against top-level competition; however, for the record, he has lost only once in the UFC against Carlos Condit in contrast to five wins.

Pierson is a fighter that is not fun to fight against because he is well-rounded in most aspects of the game and has a blue-collar work ethic that keeps him moving forward, seeking to punish his opponent. In the effort to punish his opponent, Pierson relies on a myriad of takedowns, throws, slams and trips to put his opponent on the mat and inflict pain from top position, where Pierson excels. If the fight does not go the the mat, Pierson is content with standing and trading with his opponent. However, in Pierson’s case, this could be dangerous as he does not offer a lot of head movement and could easily get clipped. Also, Pierson’s submission game, namely defense, is questionable.

I cannot choose the favorite in Kim without first giving pause for thought in the fact that Pierson is relentless and the constant pressure may cause Kim to be uncomfortable and throw off his game. However, in the end, I come back to my senses and realize that “Stun Gun” is big, strong and talented. He has seen superior competition and has a more well-rounded game than Pierson. Kim wins via submission, second round.

Adams: I’m going to agree with Chase’s breakdown of this fight and go with Kim as well.

“Stun Gun” could easily step into the Octagon with some of the best middleweights in the sport, given his size. He arguably has the best Judo in all of MMA and has used it to take down the likes of Amir Sadollah and Nate Diaz, to name a few. Pierson is a very tough fighter with his Greco-Roman wrestling background and will have to use that in this fight if he wants to stop Kim on the feet.

With the Judo style, Kim should be able to control the pace of the fight and keep things where he believes is comfortable. “Stun Gun” earns a unanimous decision.

Henderson: Kim is one of those fighters I doubt going into each and every one of his UFC match-ups. Yet, save for his loss to Condit, he always manages to come out on top. In this case, he’s getting an opponent that likely sets him up to bounce back from the defeat at the hands of Condit and begin working towards future title contention.

Pierson has gone just 1-1 inside the Octagon and hasn’t really done much in other promotions to make me believe he can present much of a problem for Kim. Kim has faced steadily increasing levels of competition since entering the UFC, jumping from a win over Nate Diaz to his ill-fated outing with Condit. Diaz, Amir Sadollah and T.J. Grant all represented stiffer challenges for Kim than what Pierson brings to the cage.

Pierson has lost three fights via some form of knockout, and I believe Kim will up that total to four when he leaves Pierson staring at the lights in the second round.

LW: Anthony Njokuani (14-5) vs. Danny Castillo (12-4)

Adams: Stepping in for an injured Ramsey Nijem will be Castillo, who will look make a statement to the UFC that he is capable of stepping in to take on anyone.

But his opponent on Friday will be the dangerous Njokuani, who possesses a high-level muay Thai game that is one of the best in the world. “The Assassin” has racked up eight knockout victories with his style of fighting, and also looked impressive in his last fight by defeating Andre Winner via decision. Njokuani is just one fight away from going on a run in the lightweight division, but just can’t seem to get a string of wins going. But the Nigerian is the favorite in this fight, as Castillo is a late replacement, and Njokuani will also hold a four-inch reach advantage.

Don’t expect Castillo to step into the Octagon and be stepping stone, however. “Last Call” has fought some of the top lightweights in the world while in his two-year stint in the WEC, and is also 2-1 in the UFC. The key for Castillo to win this fight is to use his wrestling ability to take Njokuani to the mat. The guys at Team Alpha Male in California will prepare him for this fight and he will be top-notch come Friday.

Danny Castillo (Tracy Lee/Combat Lifestyle)

I can see Castillo coming in and putting on a great performance, using his wrestling and earning a decision, but I’m leaning towards Njokuani in this fight. The speed and length will be too much for his opponent to handle and he will put Castillo away late in the fight.

Henderson: I have to lean the other way. It’s been a while since I’ve been truly impressed with Njokuani. He’s a good striker, no doubt, but he just doesn’t remain consistent enough and hasn’t really taken out anyone that has forced me to take notice.

Being a member of Team Alpha Male assures the fact that Castillo will display a solid wrestling base. He’s proven he can use his fists, but he won’t want to stay standing with “The Assassin.” Instead, he’ll have to take this fight to the mat and neutralize Njokuani’s best skills.

It’ll be Castillo’s takedowns versus Njokuani’s ability to keep this fight standing. Castillo will win that battle and go on to ground-and-pound his foe en route to a second-round TKO stoppage.

Buzzell: As an analyst, anytime a fighter that is enormous for his division and possess flashy skills like “The Assassin,” it seems simple and sure-fire to pick Njokuani. However, I must agree with Bryan here: The proof is in the pudding. Everytime Njokuani faces a higher-level opponent, he does not impress. Despite all of the speed, length and athleticism, Njokuani has dominated as his skill set would suggest.

Castillo, on the other hand, is not nearly as flashy as Njokuani, however, “Last Call” gets the job done, relying on his strong wrestling. Moreover, Castillo is developing technical boxing skills and possesses raw power. Castillo struggles with BJJ at times, specifically submission defense, but that will not be a problem in this fight.

I believe Castillo has just enough striking prowess to stand on his feet and not have his lights put out by Njokuani. Castillo must look for and seize his takedown opportunity. If Castillo can execute a takedown, I do not see “The Assassin” being able to fend off Castillo’s ground-and-pound attack, as Njokuani is incredibly susceptible on the ground. Castillo, submission (most likely rear-naked choke) in the second round.

FW: Junior Assuncao (13-4) vs. Ross Pearson (12-5)

Henderson: After a strong start to his UFC career as a lightweight, Ross Pearson has found himself having a hard time picking up wins at 155. Therefore, he’s now headed to the featherweight division. Assuncao, who recently returned to the Octagon following a four-year absence from the UFC, will welcome the Brit to the 145-pound ranks.

It’s an interesting battle, as Pearson has shown good strategy in some of his outings and has manage to outpoint several solid opponents. Assuncao looked aggressive in Denver at the weigh-ins for his bout with Eddie Yagin, but that intensity didn’t translate into a finish, with Assuncao instead settling for a unanimous decision victory. Still, Assuncao had some dominant moments in that match-up.

This could come down to Pearson’s strategy and his ability to keep this fight standing. He’s already lost once in the UFC via submission, and Assuncao could present him with some problems there. However, I’m not so sure Assuncao can consistently get this fight to the ground, and I feel that Pearson’s technical abilities in the striking department gives him the edge in the stand-up. If Assuncao takes Pearson down, we could see the Brit’s featherweight debut end in disappointment. But more likely, Pearson will fend off Assuncao’s takedowns and outpoint the Georgia native en route to a decision win.

Buzzell: This fight features another former TUF winner in Pearson, the season nine champion. “The Real Deal” trains alongside fellow UFC veterans Dan Hardy and Paul Daley and true to form, Pearson is a British fighter that likes to stand and strike. Pearson is not a classic banger in the sense that he likes to go in and throw leather without much forethought; rather, he is an intelligent, cerebral fighter that thinks his way through the striking game. He also can utilize his striking tendencies through the clinch game. Moreover, Pearson is more advanced than most Brits when it comes to his ground game, holding a number of wins via submission.

Ross Pearson (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Assuncao boasts a solid record, but the numbers appear to be somewhat of a facade as Assuncao does not hold a single win against a “big name” in the sport. He usually relies on his submission game to take his opponent out, but has been able to secure wins via (T)KO. However, against Pearson, do not expect a knockout.

Perhaps the UFC sees something in Junior that I am not privy to, but I am puzzled by this match-up. Sure, Pearson has lost two of his last three fights (one by the hands of Cole Miller, who in my opinion is a middle of the road featherweight), and he has a still questionable BJJ game (despite the focused BJJ training), which is Assuncao’s strong suit, but I do not see Assuncao being able to stop Pearson’s aggressive attack. Pearson via first-round knockout.

Adams: I’m going to favor “The Real Deal” is this match-up as well, but my hunch is it will be closer than both Bryan and Chase think.

It’s safe to say that both of these featherweights are far from the top of the ranks and are just looking to get a win any way they can to stick around and push towards the top. Pearson will more than likely look to keep the fight standing and work his aggressive British style on Assuncao, but the Brazilian hasn’t lost since 2008 and will be a challenge to handle. I do believe “The Real Deal” will be able to overcome the submission ability of Assuncao however and will edge out a split decision.

Top Photo: Ross Pearson (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)