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UFC 141 breakdown, betting odds and picks

New Year’s Eve weekend show ends year-long picks competition

Updated Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011 | 9:13 p.m.

UFC 141 News Conference

UFC President Dana White separates Nate Diaz, left, and Donald Cerrone after Diaz shoved Cerrone during a news conference Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011 in advance of UFC 141 on Friday. Launch slideshow »

A near-pick’em heavyweight fight with high stakes would seemingly polarize opinions.

That wasn’t the case with the Las Vegas Sun’s UFC 141 picks panel. Although Alistair Overeem enters Friday’s main event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena as a slight -150 (risking $1.50 to win $1) favorite, all three prognosticators sided with the +120 underdog in Brock Lesnar.

UFC 141 will decide more than the next No. 1 contender in the heavyweight division. The results will also crown the winner of the Sun’s year-long picks competition.

ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto (98-58, .628) is a mere percentage point ahead of the Las Vegas Sun’s Case Keefer (118-70, .627) entering the final event of the year.

Cagewriter.com/ESPN Radio’s Steve Cofield (112-76, .595) and KSNV’s Kevin West (113-75, .601) are also looking to finish the year with a success rate of more than 60 percent.

Check below for picks, betting odds and a breakdown of every fight.

Alistair Overeem

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 6’4''
  • Weight: 255
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 35-11
  • Out of: Amsterdam
  • Betting line: -150

Brock Lesnar

  • Age: 34
  • Height: 6’3''
  • Weight: 265
  • UFC record 4-2
  • MMA record 5-2
  • Out of: Alexandria, Minn.
  • Betting line: +120

Heavyweight Title Eliminator Bout

Main Event

Last fight: Unanimous decision victor over Fabricio Werdum at Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum.

Punch list: Overeem hasn’t lost a fight since 2007. He’s on a 10-fight winning streak — five victories by submission, four by knockout and one by decision. He’s perhaps at his most dangerous in the clinch, where he can feed high-powered knees into his opponent’s face.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Lesnar

Cofield: Lesnar

Last fight: First round TKO defeat to Cain Velasquez at UFC 121.

Punch list: Lesnar is proud to bring up the fact that he’s taken down all of his opponents in the octagon — even Velasquez. But Velasquez was able to work his way back to his feet quickly, which ultimately enabled him to take Lesnar’s belt. It should be telling to see if Lesnar can hold Overeem down.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Lesnar

Okamoto: Lesnar

Donald Cerrone

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 6’0”
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 4-0
  • MMA record 17-3
  • Out of: Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Betting line: -280

Nate Diaz

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 6’0''
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 9-5
  • MMA record 14-7
  • Out of: Stockton, Calif.
  • Betting line: +230

Lightweight Bout

Co-Main Event

Last fight: First round submission victory over Dennis Siver at UFC 137.

Punch list: Aside from light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, Cerrone has probably had the best year out of any fighter in the UFC. Cerrone goes for his fifth straight win since debuting in the UFC in February. He’s finished his last two opponents, Siver and Charles Oliveira, in the first round.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Cerrone

Cofield: Cerrone

Last fight: First round submission victory over Takanori Gomi at UFC 135.

Punch list: UFC President Dana White has trumpeted the win over Gomi as the best performance of the younger Diaz brother’s career. Diaz feels he can beat any of the top lightweights in the UFC — something that wasn’t necessarily true when he fought at welterweight for most of the last year.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Cerrone

Okamoto: Diaz

Johny Hendricks

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 6-1
  • MMA record 11-1
  • Out of: Dallas
  • Betting line: +200

Jon Fitch

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 13-1-1
  • MMA record 23-3-1
  • Out of: San Jose, Calif.
  • Betting line: -250

Welterweight Bout

Featured Contest

Last fight: Split decision victory over Mike Pierce at UFC 133.

Punch list: The former Oklahoma State wrestler used to train in Las Vegas before packing up and moving to Dallas. The decisions he’s made for his career appear to have been the right ones. He’s looked flawless in the octagon outside of one unanimous decision loss to Rick Story last year.

Staff picks:KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Fitch

Cofield: Hendricks

Last fight: Majority draw against B.J. Penn at UFC 127.

Punch list: Fitch could benefit greatly from welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre being out with an injury. If Fitch defeats Hendricks, he’s right in line to possibly face the winner of Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit for the interim title. The UFC has hesitated to give Fitch a rematch with St. Pierre because of the way he was thoroughly dominated the first time, which remains his only loss.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Fitch

Okamoto: Fitch

Alexander Gustafsson

  • Age: 24
  • Height: 6’5''
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 4-1
  • MMA record 11-1
  • Out of: Stockholm, Sweden
  • Betting line: -325

Vladimir Matyushenko

  • Age: 40
  • Height: 6’0''
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 7-3
  • MMA record 26-5
  • Out of: El Segundo, Calif.
  • Betting line: +250

Light Heavyweight Bout

Pay-Per-View Fight

Last fight: Second round TKO victory over Matt Hamill at UFC 133.

Punch list: The UFC needs to groom potential up-and-coming challengers for champion Jon Jones. Gustafsson could become one of the fighters to fill that void. His only career loss came to wrestling savant Phil Davis. All of Gustafsson’s UFC wins have come by stoppage in less than two rounds.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Gustafsson

Cofield: Gustafsson

Last fight: First round knockout over Jason Brilz at UFC 129.

Punch list: No fighter likes to be referred to as “a gatekeeper”. But that’s exactly what Matyushenko is for the 205-pound division at this point of his career. He can beat most of the fighters in his division, but is still well behind the top contenders. That’s nothing to be ashamed of for a 40-year old who has spent his life winning plenty of fights.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Gustafsson

Okamoto: Gustafsson

Jim Hettes

  • Age: 24
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 9-0
  • Out of: Swoyersville, Penn.
  • Betting line: +180

Nam Phan

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’6’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 1-2
  • MMA record 17-9
  • Out of: Orange County, Calif.
  • Betting line: -230

Featherweight Bout

Pay-Per-View Opener

Last fight: Second round submission victory over Alex Caceres at UFC on Versus 5.

Punch list: The hype for Hettes is as heavy as any featherweight in the UFC. He’s demanded that much attention by submitting each of his first nine opponents. But none of his victims were particularly heralded, meaning a showdown with Phan should be telling to his true level.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Hettes

Cofield: Hettes

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Leonard Garcia at UFC 136.

Punch list: Phan salvaged his job by defeating Garcia is one of the top fights of the year. He’s known as a fighter who always brings an entertaining scrap, hence his placement in the first pay-per-view bout of the evening two events in a row.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Phan

Okamoto: Phan

Junior Assuncao

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 2-2
  • MMA record 13-4
  • Out of: Athens, Ga.
  • Betting line: +230

Ross Pearson

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 5’6’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 4-2
  • MMA record 14-5
  • Out of: San Diego
  • Betting line: -300

Featherweight Bout

Spike Prelim

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Eddie Yagin at UFC 135.

Punch list: Assuncao used his size to overwhelm Yagin in his UFC return fight. That won’t be an option against the bigger Pearson, meaning Assuncao will likely need to showcase his black-belt level Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Pearson

Cofield: Assuncao

Last fight: Split decision loss to Edson Barboza at UFC 134.

Punch list: “The Real Deal” is the headliner of the final live fight to ever air on Spike. It’s appropriate, as Pearson rose to fame by winning “The Ultimate Fighter” 9 for the British team on Spike. He makes his 145-pound debut at UFC 141, deciding to drop after going 1-2 in his last three fights.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Pearson

Okamoto: Pearson

Danny Castillo

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 2-1
  • MMA record 12-4
  • Out of: Sacramento, Calif.
  • Betting line: -180

Anthony Njokuani

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 1-1
  • MMA record 15-5
  • Out of: Las Vegas
  • Betting line: +150

Lightweight Bout

Spike Prelim

Last fight: First round TKO victory over Shamar Bailey at UFC 139.

Punch list: It’s a quick turnaround for Castillo, who pummeled Bailey in short order less than six weeks ago. He jumped at the shot for another fight when Njokuani’s original opponent, Ramsey Nijem, pulled out of UFC 141 with an injury.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Castillo

Cofield: Njokuani

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Andre Winner at UFC 132.

Punch list: Keeping up with who he’s fighting has served as a challenge itself for Njokuani. Two previously scheduled bouts fell apart before Castillo emerged as Njokuani’s next challenge. Njokuani’s star has risen after a 15-minute dismantling of Winner this summer.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Castillo

Okamoto: Njokuani

Sean Pierson

  • Age: 35
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 1-1
  • MMA record 11-5
  • Out of: Toronto
  • Betting line: +300

Dong Hyun Kim

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 6’1’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 5-1
  • MMA record 14-1-1
  • Out of: Busan, South Korea
  • Betting line: -400

Welterweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: First round knockout loss to Jake Ellenberger at UFC 129.

Punch list: The police officer learned a lesson in brutality against Ellenberger earlier this year. Pierson went to sleep after Ellenberger caught him with a left hand early in their bout. He never got a chance to try and make use of his wrestling ability in that fight.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Kim

Cofield: Kim

Last fight: First round knockout loss to Carlos Condit at UFC 132.

Punch list: From the bizarre coincidences category, “Stun Gun” hasn’t fought anywhere other than Las Vegas in the last three years. All but one of the Korean’s UFC fights have taken place locally. He’s efficient at judo and looking to get back on track after a stunning, lopsided loss to Condit.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Kim

Okamoto: Kim

Efrain Escudero

  • Age: 25
  • Height: 5’9”
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 3-2
  • MMA record 18-3
  • Out of: Glendale, Ariz.
  • Betting line: +215

Jacob Volkmann

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 4-2
  • MMA record 13-2
  • Out of: White Bear Lake, Minn.
  • Betting line: -275

Lightweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: First round submission victory over Cesar Avila at Bellator 55.

Punch list: All eyes will be on Escudero when he takes the scale at Thursday’s weigh-in, as missing weight in his last UFC fight set in motion the events that saw him get cut from the roster. Escudero needs to be ready to use his above-average takedown defense against Volkmann.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Volkmann

Cofield: Volkmann

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Danny Castillo at UFC on Versus 5.

Punch list: Volkmann nearly got the stoppage he craves in his last fight, but Castillo fought through it to reach the scorecards. A matchup with Escudero is another chance for Volkmann to prove he has what it takes to finish, something he hasn’t done during his current four-fight win streak.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Volkmann

Okamoto: Escudero

Luis Ramos

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 171
  • UFC record 0-1
  • MMA record 19-7
  • Out of: Rio de Janeiro
  • Betting line: Even

Matt Riddle

  • Age: 24
  • Height: 6’3’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 5-3
  • MMA record 5-3
  • Out of: Las Vegas
  • Betting line: -130

Welterweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: First round knockout loss against Erick Silva at UFC 134.

Punch list: UFC signed the former Shooto Brazil champion to promote a fight between him and Silva, former Jungle Fights champion. It didn’t live up to the anticipation, as Ramos met his demise in less than a minute. He’ll want to use his stand-up to make the debut knockout a distant memory.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Riddle

Cofield: Riddle

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Lance Benoist at UFC Fight Night 25.

Punch list: He needs a win in the worst way. Riddle has lost two straight, so another at UFC 141 might send him to the unemployment line. Look for Riddle to make use of wrestling and try to get Ramos to the mat.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Ramos

Okamoto: Riddle

Diego Nunes

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’6”
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 1-1
  • MMA record 16-2
  • Out of: Rio de Janeiro
  • Betting line: -260

Manvel Gamburyan

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5’5’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 2-4
  • MMA record 13-7
  • Out of: Hollywood, Calif.
  • Betting line: +200

Featherweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Kenny Florian at UFC 132.

Punch list: Nunes came a round away from possibly challenging for the 145-pound strap. He beat Florian, who went on to fight featherweight champion Jose Aldo, in the first round of their bout but dropped the next two stanzas. Nunes is a volume striker who can score points with his technical kickboxing.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Gamburyan

Cofield: Nunes

Last fight: Majority decision loss to Tyson Griffin at UFC on Versus 4.

Punch list: Gamburyan has lost two in a row, but one of them is very forgivable. He was one of champion Jose Aldo’s knockout victims last year and followed it with a close defeat to Griffin. Gamburyan has more power than Nunes. He’ll look to use it in a fight where bad blood is boiling.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Gamburyan

Okamoto: Nunes

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  1. Excellent preview. well done.

  2. looks like a good card.

  3. The Cerrone/Diaz bout will be worth the price of the PPV by itself.Two tough and talented young brawlers.I'm pulling for Cerrone.