UFC 111 Preview: New Jersey's Own Kurt Pellegrino Headlines Quality Undercard

One week after a solid UFC on Versus card that featured the face-breaking elbow from Jon Jones and the quick, powerful hands of Junior Dos Santos, the UFC comes back with a potentially huge event in UFC 111. The event will take place on Saturday, March 27th at 10 PM EST on pay-per-view from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Most notably, the card featured a welterweight title bout between Georges St. Pierre and Dan Hardy, and a very significant heavyweight tilt between Shane Carwin and Frank Mir. Surprisingly enough, the preliminary card is actually very intriguing as well, and the results could prove to be meaningful to the middle of the pack in various divisions.

Pellegrino_camoes_mediumHeadlining the non-televised portion of the UFC 111 undercard will be an intriguing lightweight showdown featuring the very tough and relentless Kurt Pellegrino (14-4, 6-3 UFC) taking on Brazilian prospect Fabricio Camoes (10-4-1, 0-0-1 UFC). Camoes will be making his sophomore appearance with the promotion after battling Caol Uno at UFC 106 to a draw. Pellegrino is currently riding a three-fight win streak with wins over Rob Emerson, Thiago Tavares, and Josh Neer.

For a preliminary match-up, there is quite a bit riding on this fight for both fighters. Pellegrino will look to extend his streak to four wins, but he's likely eyeballing an ascension in the ranks to fight better competition over an impressive W-L record. Unfortunately, each step up has resulted in a loss that has sent him back down the ladder. Both Nate Diaz and Joe Stevenson proved to be too much for Pellegrino in his past climbs toward the top, and Camoes could prove to be another tough challenge that Pellegrino can't pass.

Camoes probably doesn't want a winless record in the UFC hanging over his head with a loss. After all of the hype surrounding him following his impressive wins in EliteXC and Strikeforce, he'll need to prove he's the real deal on Saturday night. Rest assure, Pellegrino will push the Brazilian to a point in which he'll either sink or swim.

Pellegrino has stated he expects this fight to stay on the feet, but he's been preparing for the pulling of the guard as well as working a top control game much like he implemented against his last two opponents. Pellegrino's top control game is ferocious at times, and Camoes will likely be in some serious trouble if he resorts to a gameplan in which he tries to catch Pellegrino in submissions for most of the fight.

The stand-up portion of this fight should be rather interesting to watch since Camoes has shown some ability with his Muay Thai in the past. Pellegrino has also shown some improvement, although neither fighter is a phenom on the feet. In the end, I'd probably give the nod to Pellegrino as he's the grittier fighter with solid wrestling skills and enough know-how to avoid submissions. He'll also be fighting on his home soil in New Jersey, so I anticipate a barn burner from "Batman".

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Wallace_vs_hamman_mediumIn light heavyweight action, North Carolina-native Rodney "Sho Nuff" Wallace (9-1, 0-1 UFC) will battle ShoXC veteran Jared Hamman (11-2, 0-1 UFC) in a do-or-die battle that will likely see the loser's contract in jeopardy. Both fighters are former collegiate football players as Wallace was the all-time leading rusher for NCAA Division II school Catawba College from 2001-2004 while Hamman played defensive end at the University of Redlands. Yeah, I never heard of these schools either.

Wallace is 5'9" while Hamman is a 6'3" beanstalk in comparison with solid power in his hands. While most fans would see this glaring difference as a sure sign that Hamman will dominate, Wallace has some interesting skills to counter those problems. Most notably, Wallace is an absolute monster in the takedown game. Single and double leg takedowns that usually turn into explosive slams, and he has shown the gas tank to continually keep up his diet of takedowns throughout the course of a fight.

Hamman's gameplan should be similar to what Brian Stann imposed on Wallace at The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale. Using his size to put Wallace into the fence along with throwing heavy kicks to the legs and knees to the body. Unfortunately for Hamman, I think Wallace is going to be ready for that sort of gameplan this go around, and his explosive wrestling will put Hamman in some serious trouble. I'll take Rodney Wallace over Jared Hamman in this showdown.

Palhares_vs_drwal_mediumThe middleweights are next as Brazilian heel hook specialist Rousimar "Toquinho" Palhares (10-2, 3-1 UFC) returns following a heel hook submission victory over Lucio Linhares at UFC 107 to battle Polish striker Tomasz Drwal (17-2-1, 4-1 UFC). Drwal is currently riding a three-fight win streak with his most notable win coming against Miletich product Drew McFedries at UFC 103.

This is a very interesting clash of styles as Drwal is mainly known for his power punching abilities while Palhares is limited to his impressive Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills. Drwal has surprisingly become a real threat within the middleweight division, and his overall repertoire of skills seems to be expanding. He's shown some decent takedown ability and solid ground and pound capabilities. He still tends to wing punches off his hips against the fence at times, but he has resorted to a better strategy of crushing opponents with uppercuts when they're in danger.

Palhares could be considered somewhat of a power grappler, although he is at a disadvantage in some areas as he's very short. He does, however, possess leg breaking skill in the more obscure submissions such as the heel hook, but he also has some very slick transition skills that are always threatening to pull off a variety of other submissions.

Drwal will be the bigger monster in this fight with his strength and striking prowess, but I'm interested to see how he stacks up with Palhares during clinch battles. While Drwal is the bigger man, Palhares has some enormous strength in his physique, and his takedown game can be surprisingly explosive. If Palhares puts this fight to the floor, Drwal will be in grave danger of having his ligaments torn. I'll take Palhares here via my own personal mancrush, but Drwal has a very real chance of winning. Bettors take note on either fighter.

Riddle_vs_soto_mediumStepping in to replace the injured Ricardo Funch will be welterweight Greg Soto (7-0, 0-0 UFC) as he battles The Ultimate Fighter season 7 alum Matthew Riddle (3-1, 3-1 UFC) in UFC 111's first fight of the evening. Soto is a product of Pellegrino MMA in New Jersey sporting an undefeated record with his most notable win coming against Ray Steinbess on October 24th. Riddle is coming off a loss to Nick Osipczak at UFC 105 via a third round TKO.

The recently accepted New Jersey state police officer candidate currently has a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Kurt Pellegrino, and he's managed to show a variety of submissions along with limited knockout power in his seven fight career. Riddle also has some background in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but he's more formidable in the wrestling department as he was a New York state champion during his high school years.

Neither fighter has an impressive record, but Soto does have some skills that could put Riddle into danger. Unfortunately, I think Riddle will be able to use his wrestling to maintain his feet and dole out punishment over the course of three rounds on his way to a decision victory.

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