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UFC 108 Preview: Prospects Out to Prove Their Worth in Preliminary Action

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After a slow week of MMA action last week, we're now back into full swing with Dynamite 2009!! taking place early tomorrow morning and UFC 108 taking place on Saturday, January 2nd. UFC 108 will be headlined by a light heavyweight showdown between Rashad Evans and Thiago Silva, but it'll also include some interesting match-ups such as a welterweight bout between BJJ phenom Dustin Hazelett and heavy-handed Muay Thai striker Paul Daley and a heavyweight clash between Junior Dos Santos and Gilbert Yvel.

Mark_munoz_vs_ryan_jensen_medium In middleweight action, 2001 NCAA Division I national wrestling champion Mark Munoz (6-1, 1-1 UFC) will take on the well-rounded Ryan Jensen (14-5, 1-3 UFC) in what could prove to be a solid test for both fighters. This will be Jensen's second foray in the UFC as he dropped two fights in the UFC previously to eventual middleweight contender Thales Leities and Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Demian Maia. After a loss to Joey Villasenor on the Strikeforce: Le vs. Shamrock card, Jensen bounced back with two victories and a return to the UFC. He lost to Wilson Gouveia at UFN 15 back in September of 2008, but rebounded with a quick win against Steve Steinbess at UFN 19 roughly a year later.

Munoz enters the contest following a split decision victory over Nick Catone at UFC 102 and a devastating knockout loss to Matt Hamill at UFC 96. Interestingly enough, Munoz holds a win over current UFC welterweight prospect Mike Pierce in only his second professional fight.

Jensen's main weakness throughout his career has been fighters who possess the Brazilian jiu-jitsu chops to put him into some real danger on the ground. Fortunately for Jensen, Munoz isn't a Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace who's going to transition to an armbar with blazing speed, but Munoz does happen to have the wrestling ability to control Jensen on the ground much like a jiu-jitsu fighter can do in a fight. He also has the punching power to put away opponents after he gains a positional advantage.

Munoz will have his work cut out for him though. Jensen has a knack for catching fighters in chokeholds, and he caught a lot of fighters in chokes within the first round of action. Munoz will need to avoid those submission abilities, and he'll need to control Jensen from the top while landing significant blows to wear him out.

Many fans don't remember most of Jensen's fights, but he can be an absolute load to deal with. He actually crushed Thales Leites with two big overhands before succumbing to his jiu-jitsu, and he was also defeating Wilson Gouveia until he was caught by the armbar. Munoz doesn't present those dangers in the submission game. I'm going to take Ryan Jensen in this match-up.

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Mike_pyle_vs_jake_ellenberger_medium Welterweights Mike Pyle (19-6-1, 1-1 UFC) and Jake Ellenberger (21-5, 0-1 UFC) will square off in a battle pitting Ellenberger's powerful wrestling and ground n' pound against Pyle's Brazilian jiu-jitsu techniques and Muay Thai striking. Pyle enters the contest following a submission victory over Chris Wilson at UFN 19 back in September, but he suffered a loss in his debut against Brock Larson at UFC 98. Ellenberger is coming off a very close split decision loss to Carlos Condit at UFN 19.

Ellenberger's performance against Carlos Condit has probably given a lot of fans some problems in trying to pick this fight. He was very impressive in the pace he was able to maintain along with the punching and wrestling he put on display in the fight. It was one of the best fights I've seen out of Jake Ellenberger, and a similar performance against Mike Pyle could put him on the path to victory.

Pyle relies heavily on his submission ability to win him fights, but Ellenberger has proven over the course of his career that he isn't easy to submit. If Ellenberger can use his strength and takedown Pyle and avoid the submission game, he could pull out a decision victory with a top control game. If Pyle happens to give up his back, Ellenberger's wrestling ability could be formidable enough to put in the choke.

Pyle will be looking for the submission constantly while on his back, so Ellenberger will need to be aware at all times. I think the striking department could be real interesting after watching Ellenberger battle it out with Condit. Pyle isn't an impressive striker, and Ellenberger showed some good power in that match-up. A knockout isn't unfathomable but, I think Ellenberger can escape the early onslaught of transitions from Pyle to get the victory with a solid top control game via decision.

John_gunderson_vs_rafaello_oliveira_mediumThe final preliminary card bout will feature a lightweight showdown between IFL veteran John Gunderson (22-6, 0-0 UFC) and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Rafaello Oliveira (9-2, 0-1 UFC). Gunderson is entering this contest riding a three-fight winning streak while Oliveira comes into the contest following a loss to Nick Lentz at UFC 103.

Oliveira is well-known for the excitement he can bring to a fight whether it be from his power or submission ability. He has solid Brazilian jiu-jitsu technique, and he's definitely one of the more dangerous BJJ black belts in the UFC's lightweight division. The only problems that Oliveira has had in the past have come from wrestlers who can control him from the top.

Unfortunately for Oliveira, Gunderson fits the mold of a fighter who can be very controlling on the ground. He has some solid jiu-jitsu skills and his wrestling isn't half bad either. Gunderson actually finished his last three bouts in unique fashion as two fights ended in the highly underutilized kimura and another ended in the very rare Peruvian necktie.

Despite having an experience edge, Gunderson is the underdog in this fight for a reason. I think Gunderson is a solid underdog bet here, but Oliveira has the skills to come out with an impressive victory in this battle. I'll take Oliveira in this bout between prospect and veteran.