#UFC Fight Night 123 #Cub Swanson #Brian Ortega #UFC 218 #Lomachenko vs Rigondeaux #GLORY Redemption #Rico Verhoeven #Conor McGregor #UFC 217 #Francis Ngannou #Alistair Overeem

Ross Pearson (left, file photo) edged Junior Assuncao. | File Photo:

A new player has entered the featherweight division.

“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 9 winner Ross Pearson made a successful debut at 145 pounds, as he captured a unanimous decision from Junior Assuncao at UFC 141 “Lesnar vs. Overeem” on Friday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. All three cageside judges scored it for Pearson (13-5, 5-2 UFC): 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27.

The defeat snapped Assuncao’s seven-fight winning streak.

Pearson forced the issue throughout the 15-minute encounter and answered takedowns from Assuncao with leg kicks, knees and counterstrikes. The 27-year-old Brit seemed to turn the tide in the second round, when he wobbled Assuncao (13-5, 2-3 UFC) with a left jab, swarmed and delivered an exquisite trip takedown of his own.

Assuncao, to his credit, never went away. He struck for a pair of takedowns in the third round, only to be answered by a head kick and knee from Pearson, who won for the second time in three outings.

Team Alpha Male representative Danny Castillo weathered his standup exchanges with muay Thai practitioner Anthony Njokuani, scored with repeated takedowns and captured a hotly contested split decision in a competitive preliminary lightweight affair. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28, two of them in favor of Castillo (13-4, 3-1 UFC).

A late replacement for the injured Ramsey Nijem, Castillo secured multiple takedowns in all three rounds and controlled extended stretches of the match from the waistlock position. Clearly the more polished standup fighter, Njokuani established himself in the second round with beautiful knees from the clinch, a standing elbow and a counter right hook that put Castillo on one knee.

Njokuani (14-6, 1 NC, 1-2 UFC), a three-time “Knockout of the Night” award winner in the WEC, drilled Castillo with various strikes -- left hooks, low kicks and a flying knee among them -- in round three but had trouble staying upright. That ultimately cost him the fight.

Dong Hyun Kim File Photo

Kim cruised by Pierson.

South Korean judoka Dong Hyun Kim blended clean standup with timely takedowns in earning a unanimous decision from Sean Pierson in a preliminary welterweight matchup. All three cageside judges scored it 30-27 in Kim’s favor, as he won for the fourth time in five appearances.

Kim (15-1-1, 1 NC, 6-1, 1 NC UFC) set the tone with low kicks, left hooks and straight right hands, perhaps surprising Pierson with his crisp striking.

A competitive first round gave way to a far more one-sided final 10 minutes. Kim countered Pierson (11-6, 1-2 UFC) effectively and jarred him with a front kick late in round two. More low kicks and jabs followed in the third period, while Kim mixed in takedowns and a Superman punch, cementing his latest victory.

A heavy diet of takedowns, top control and ground-and-pound carried Jacob Volkmann to a unanimous verdict over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8 winner Efrain Escudero in an undercard battle at 155 pounds. Volkmann (14-2, 5-2 UFC) swept the scorecards by identical 29-28 counts, as the three-time NCAA All-American wrestler extended his current winning streak to five fights.

Volkmann, a practicing chiropractor in his native Minnesota, kept Escudero (18-4, 3-3 UFC) on his back or trapped in the clinch for the better part of two and a half rounds.

However, Escudero benefitted from a Herb Dean restart midway through the third period, locked in a modified guillotine choke and transitioned deftly to a north-south choke. In trouble and with plenty of time left on the clock, Volkmann somehow defended the hold and survived, riding the lead he had built to that point to another win on the judges’ scorecards.

Nova Uniao standout Diego Nunes recorded his fourth win in five outings, as he captured a unanimous decision from “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 finalist Manny Gamburyan in a preliminary featherweight matchup. All three cageside judges saw it the same: 29-28 for Nunes (17-2, 2-1 UFC).

Nunes assaulted his Armenian foe’s legs mercilessly with well-placed kicks and often answered his attempted takedowns with knees to the gut. Gamburyan (11-7, 2-5 UFC) did his best work in the second round, where he wobbled the Brazilian with a powerful right hand, delivered a takedown and operated briefly from top position.

However, Nunes was the superior standup fighter. His attack on Gamburyan’s legs took a visible toll, leading to a third consecutive defeat for the former WEC title contender.

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