WEC veterans Danny Castillo and Anthony Njokuani kicked off the preliminary action live on Spike TV for UFC 141 inside MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Castillo had trouble early on finding his range and Njokuani kept him at distance with punches over the initial minute of Round 1. However, Castillo turned the tide and managed to close the distance to earn the takedown.
With the exception of a break choke, Njokuani was unable to shake Castillo on the ground and was outclassed during the opening frame.
Njokuani kicked off Round 2 with punches and a knee that found its mark. Castillo began to load up on his punches and Njokuani used his superior striking to easily land off Castillo.
A big right hand from Njokuani dropped Castillo, but he quickly recovered to score a takedown. Castillo was able to recover and finish the round in top control.
The final frame saw Njokuani find success in the first 60 seconds of the round, but Castillo scored a takedown along the cage where he controlled the majority of the action.
Njokuani escaped during the final minute of the fight and finished strong, but it was simple case of being outmatched by a superior grappler.
With the decision victory, Castillo made it back-to-back victories inside the Octagon and has now scored three wins in the sport's premier organization.
"It feels good, "Castillo told UFC post-fight. "It wasn't the fight I wanted or the performance I wanted but it's another victory. I'm three and one this year now, my first year in the UFC. That fight was on two or three weeks notice, the one before that was on four weeks notice. I came out there to fight. I won that. It kind of disappointed me that everybody was booing me. I'm an exciting fighter. It's frustrating."
In the final preliminary fight, Ross Pearson made his featherweight debut against Junior Assuncao.
Assuncao wasted no time in getting the fight to the mat, but he was unable to do much damage and Pearson returned standing.
Pearson pushed the action throughout the opening round, while Assuncao looked to counter strike with unorthodox style.
The newest addition to the featherweight division came out aggressive, and while he didn't do a lot of damage, he stuffed two early Assuncao takedowns. Assuncao used a technical striking style and takedown attempts to keep Pearson off balance, but midway through the fight, Pearson began to find his range with punches.
Pearson followed punches and knees with a nice trip takedown. With two minutes remaining in the round, Assuncao had enough as he landed a takedown of his own and the round came to a close.
Assuncao wasted little time: As the third and final round started, he brought the fight to the mat.
Pearson worked his way back to his feet momentarily, but Assuncao quickly put Pearson against the cage. He did little damage and faded as the final two minutes of the fight went in the books and Pearson turned up the pace with heavy strikes that bloodied Assuncao.
The Ultimate Fighter winner finished very strong and left Assuncao's right eye bruised and bloodied as he earned the unanimous decision victory.
The Brit displayed vastly improved wrestling to return standing and made the most of his opportunities on the feet with crisp punches to Assuncao.
A move in training to Alliance MMA in California paid dividends for Pearson, and he'll now build off the New Year's weekend victory heading into 2012.