Michigan: Oberhausen, Germany it is not. After a lackluster international outing das past weekend, the world’s biggest MMA promotion heads to the Palace of Auburn Hills on Saturday for UFC 123. The main event features a light heavyweight tilt between Rampage Jackson vs. Lyoto Machida, two fighters looking to get another shot at the title they both once held (albeit for two brief periods of time). Supporting the non-title main event is the rubber match of the B.J. Penn vs. Matt Hughes trilogy to determine…a…winner…okay, a title shot is not on the line, but pride and relevance are. Keep reading for the picks.
Preliminary/Spike TV Quick Picks
Tyson Griffin over Nik Lentz
Paul Kelly over T.J. O’Brien
Edson Barboza over Mike Lullo
Dennis Hallman over Karo Parisyan
Aaron Simpson over Mark Munoz
Brian Foster over Matt Brown
George Sotiropoulos vs. Joe Lauzon
Unlike the 122 card, I don’t anticipate UFC 123 to disappoint or lack in action and that’s exactly what we should get from the first fight. Save for the DQ loss to Shinya Aoki in Oct ’06, Sotiropoulos hasn’t truly lost a fight since July ’05, with victories in the UFC over George Roop, Joe Stevenson and most recently over Kurt Pellegrino at UFC 116. He’s also got a great ground game with 7 of his 13 wins coming by submission. Lauzon most recently rebounded from a decision loss to Sam Stout with a Submission of The Night win in his hometown of Boston over Gabe Ruediger at UFC 118. Lauzon’s collected several fight bonuses and this one could be a chance for him to pick up some extra cash. Unfortunately, I see Sotiropoulos taking it.
Jay’s Pick: Sotiropoulos by decision
Phil Davis vs. Tim Boetsch
Before I dive into this, let’s get the lines straight: Davis is favored -800 to Boetsch’s +500. Upset alert? Not likely. “Mr. Wonderful” (Davis) is undefeated in his MMA career at 7-0 using his NCAA Div I wrestling skills and size to control the fights. Boetsch, on the other hand, is making his second tour of duty with the UFC after a 2-2 stint that ended with a decision loss to Jason Brilz at UFC 96. He quickly racked up 4 straight wins, most recently against Todd Brown at UFC 117. With a 12-3 record, Boetsch may not seem like such an underdog, but Davis’ size and grappling should be enough to put him away.
Jay’s Pick: Davis by submission, R2
Gerald Harris vs. Maisuel Falcao
Falcao makes his UFC debut after crafting a 25-3, 1 NC record in Brazil with 21 KO. Obviously, the Chute Box prospect likes to slug it out (if you’ve seen his highlight video, you’ll know this may be a bit too true where he had to be restrained for reigning down excessive hammerfists after a KO). He’ll have to let ‘em fly (legally) if he’s to pull off an upset over Harris, who’s on an impressive 10 fight winning streak and has put away all 3 of his opponents in the UFC, including his insane slam of Dave Branch at UFC 116 this past July. At a +225 underdog, he’s not a terrible bet, but Harris can pack a punch too and has the stronger wrestling base to back it up…oh and Falcao won’t be able to soccer kick the hell out of him on the ground either.
Jay’s Pick: Harris by TKO, R3
BJ Penn vs. Matt Hughes
The Prodigy makes a return to welterweight to settle the score in his trilogy with Matt Hughes. Refresher: Penn, the heavy underdog at the time, took the WW belt from Hughes at UFC 46 back in January 2004. Two years later, they met again for the belt, only this time Hughes stopped Penn in R3 with strikes from a crucifix. 4 years later, no belt is on the line, but this fight is interesting for each of their respective careers. On one hand, Penn is on a two-fight losing streak , but has been petitioning to move up to welterweight in hopes of MAYBE getting a third shot at GSP. A win over Hughes would throw him back into the mix at 170 and offers up the possibility of some interesting fights. For Hughes, he’s won three in a row since losing to a bloated Thiago Alves at UFC 85, with victories over TUF rival Matt Serra, Renzo Gracie and Ricardo Almeida. Penn is definitely a step up in competition, but Penn’s attitude towards training and his heart have always been black clouds hanging over what are otherwise stellar talents. It’s a tough call with Penn being the favorite at -170 to Hughes’ +150. I bet on Penn to come out hungry in his last fight against Edgar and I was sorely disappointed. I’ll give it to Hughes in a slight upset.
Jay’s Pick: Hughes by decision
The Dragon vs. Rampage. The LHW division in the UFC, particularly at the top, has become one of the most (if not THE most) exciting in the sport with the title belt getting passed around more than Paris Hilton and multiple finishes coming by way of spectacular TKO/KO’s (Evans over Griffin, Machida over Evans, Shogun over Machida). After taking some time off to pity the fools (read: American moviegoers) as B.A. Barracus in The A-Team movie, Rampage got out wrestled by Rashad Evans at UFC 114 in May. Machida, on the other hand, was tooling everyone in the UFC en route to a 15-0 record before Shogun got screwed lost their controversial first encounter at UFC 104.
If you believe in karma, you saw Machida get blasted in the 1st round of their rematch at 113 a few weeks prior to Evans/Rampage, dropping the belt to the now-recovering Shogun in the process. We can go back and forth about Rampage’s wild but powerful boxing and Machida’s conservative counterstriking karate, but in my eyes, Jackson’s two most recent victories (a decision win over now-exiled Keith Jardine and a KO over an undersized Wanderlei Silva) and overall style don’t lead me to believe that he’ll pick at Machida cautiously like Shogun did to goad him into making a mistake. Back to Hollywood or a few notches down the LHW ladder, Quinton.
Jay’s Pick: Machida by TKO, R2
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