The UFC returns to the Pay Per View airwaves this Saturday night with it’s latest offering, UFC 135. Live from what will likely be a sell-out at the Pespi Center in Denver, Colorado. A little bit of nostalgic fact-for-thought, the UFC held their first ever event in Denver. The event UFC 1, took place nearly twenty years ago. The UFC is also returning to Denver for the first time since Zuffa has taken control of the organization and the first time since The Ultimate Ultimate, in 1995.
The aptly named UFC 135: Jones vs. Rampage, features a Light Heavyweight Title Bout, pitting current champion Jon “Bones” Jones against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. The five-fight PPV card may be lacking somewhat in “big” name power, however, what it lacks in name, it makes up for in potential. If you’re the kind of MMA fan that loves brawls, loves knockouts and loves two dudes slugging it out on the feet, then this card is likely custom-built for your approval. A quick rundown of the fighters on the main card highlights Knockout Artists like Mark Hunt, Takanori Gomi, Travis Browne and Quinton Jackson.
Unfortunately for those of you looking to lay down a lot of loot, this one might not be the best of cards for you. The betting lines feature a number of mismatches and heavy favorites, in fact the card features only three fights where the favored fighter is less than a 2-to-1 favorite. However, there’s nothing wrong with a couple of parlays to make your odds slightly better (actually, there kind of is, parlays are generally considered sucker bets, but we can’t let a UFC event go by without betting on it.) As always, all betting lines are the current best available market lines from Best Fight Odds (www.bestfightodds.com)
Preliminary Bout (Facebook): Light Heavyweight Bout: James Te Huna (-135) vs. Ricardo Romero (+145)
Ricardo Romero is a member of the Advanced Martial Arts team in North Brunswick, New Jersey. Romero possesses a 76-inch reach but has shown himself somewhat lacking in the stand up department. Romero has decent takedowns to mix with his solid grappling and submissions game. Romero has a career record of 11-2 with 4 wins via TKO and 6 via Submission.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: This is kind of the who-cares fight of the night, and deserves to be the opener. Te Huna is an extremely aggressive fighter who rarely backs down and constantly pushes forward. Romero took a lot of punishment in the first round against Seth Petruzelli, before rallying back to win in the second once Petruzelli punched himself out. Against Kyle Kingsbury, Romero again showed a propensity to get hit a little too often for my tastes. At -135, I think a small bet on Te Huna might be worth it. He’s the better striker and is more aggressive, but remember aggressive means that he’s going to take chances and leave himself open to potential counters. However, the loser of this fight is likely facing a pink-slip and I think that may be motivation enough. If not, I believe that Te Huna has looked better in his two octagon appearances than Romero has looked in his two appearances. James Te Huna via TKO in Round Three
Preliminary Bout (Facebook): Bantamweight Bout: Takeya Mizugaki (-185) vs. Cole Escovedo (+190)
Takeya Mizugaki is a Japanese fighter who is a former Shooto Rookie of the Year from 2003. Before joining the WEC and UFC he was the winner of the Cage Force Bantamweight Tournament. He possesses strong boxing skills, as well as a fairly well-rounded grappling game. Mizugaki has a career record of 14-6-2, finding moderate success in the WEC and the UFC, but has struggled against the top fighters of his weight class. He has suffered recent losses to Brian Bowles, Urijah Faber, Scott Jorgensen and Miguel Torres.
Cole “The Apache Kid” Escovedo is a fighter from Fresno, California. He is the first ever WEC Featherweight champion and now is seemingly bouncing between the Featherweight and Bantamweight divisions. He is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter who has made considerable improvements to his stand up skills. Escovedo is a member of the Pacific Martial Arts fight team who owns a career record of 17-7, with ten of his wins coming by way of submission.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: I’m a bit surprised by this one. I thought that this fight would likely be a little bit closer to a Pick’ em, with the Japanese fighter as a slight favorite. However, with such long odds, getting nearly 2-to-1 I like Escovedo in this spot for a small bet. He’s got decent stand up and good grappling skills but Mizugaki has proven very tough to finish, with only Urijah Faber doing that since 2006. However, I think Escovedo can win the stand up exchanges by using his size and a decent jab mixed with leg kicks. On the ground, it’s probably close to even, although Escovedo might have a slight edge here as well. Cole Escovedo via close but ultimately Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Bout (Facebook): Featherweight Bout: Junior Assuncao (+125) vs. Eddie Yagin (-130)
Junior Assuncao is a Brazilian fighter with strong backgrounds in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai and Capoeira. The BJJ black belt is a member of the Ascension MMA / Hardcore Gym in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the older brother of UFC fighter Raphael Assuncao. He previously fought in the UFC in 2006-2007, but after compiling a 1-2 record in the promotion, he was released. Since his release he has compiled a 7-1 record on the regional circuit. He enters the fight on a six fight winning streak.
Eddie “The Filipino Phenom” Yagin is a member of the Alliance MMA gym who is making his UFC debut. Yagin is a decent boxer who is able to put together quick combinations and constantly moves forward when striking. Yagin is also a decent wrestler and will likely be the physically stronger fighter in the cage against Assuncao. Yagin holds a career record of 15-4-1, with 5 wins each via TKO, Submission and Decision.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: I admittedly don’t know a lot about Yagin. I’ve seen some YouTube footage of his fights and he looks like a pretty good fighter. He has shown a solid all-around game, with decent striking albeit over-aggressive at times and good Jiu Jitsu skills. Assuncao is on a bit of a comeback roll, but the level of his competition is somewhat questionable on the regional circuit. This is a close fight and as such I’m going to avoid betting on it, but I think that Yagin is probably the better wrestler. And with all other things being equal, the guy on top is probably going to win, so Yagin is my prediction. Eddie Yagin via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Bout (Spike TV): Middleweight Bout: Nick Ring (+140) vs. Tim Boetsch (-140)
Nick “The Promise” Ring is a Canadian fighter from Calgary, Alberta. Ring is probably best known for his stint on the eleventh season of The Ultimate Fighter, where he defeated eventual winner Court McGee in the first round before withdrawing from the competition due to injury. He is a strong boxer with good Muay Thai based kicks and knees. Ring also has very underrated grappling skills. After his most recent return from injury he has begun to split his training time between his home gym and the Tristar Gym in Montreal, Quebec alongside UFC fighters Georges St. Pierre and Rory MacDonald.
Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch is a former Light Heavyweight fighter who has shown flashes of brilliance in his drop down to the Middleweight Division. He is a wrestling based fighter with strong experience in the foundation from his time as a High School and collegiate wrestler. Boetsch is a member of the AMC Pankration team in Kirkland, WA. Boetsch is an extremely strong and compact fighter, with huge knockout power and an impressive wrestling base to match. With his recent drop to Middleweight he has to be one of the physically strongest Middleweight fighters in the UFC.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: I like Nick Ring, I really do. He’s Canadian, he’s a cool guy and I’ve met him once before, so I’ve got to root for him. However, I think he might be in slightly over his head in this fight. Ring struggled against Riki Fukuda two fights ago and was unable to stuff all of Fukuda’s takedowns. Boetsch is a bigger, stronger, albeit slightly slower version of Fukuda, so Ring may be in for a long night if he’s not able to keep his distance and keep the fight standing. On the feet Ring will have advantages in speed and stand up ability, two advantages that he’ll need to exploit ruthlessly. However, Ring has never been much of a Knockout artist and I doubt he can avoid takedowns for all three rounds, meaning at some point he’s going to be underneath Boetsch, and even with his underrated grappling skills, it’s not a place you want to be. This line is pretty well set, but there may still be a bit of value in Boetsch until about -150 or -155, so if you’re feeling like laying it down, Boetsch might be a good bet. Tim Boetsch via Unanimous Decision (though I’ll likely be cheering against him)
Preliminary Bout (Spike TV): Lightweight Bout: Tony Ferguson (-325) vs. Aaron Riley (+295)
Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson is a 27-year-old fighter from Muskegon, Michigan. He is best known to most fans as the winner of the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter. During that season he competed as a Welterweight but is returning to his more natural weight of 155-Pounds. Ferguson is an extremely talented athlete who relies heavily on his athletic talents to win him fights. In high school he earned 12 varsity letters in football, baseball and wrestling in Michigan, before moving onto Grand Valley State University on a full wrestling scholarship. Ferguson has a career record of 11-2.
Aaron Riley is a 30-year-old fighter from Tell City, Indiana and is one of the most experienced fighters on the UFC roster, with over 40 career fights. He is a very well-rounded fighter with decent wrestling and strong Muay Thai. Riley is a member of Jackson’s Submission Fighting from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Riley holds a professional record of 30-12-1.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: Ferguson is returning to Lightweight, which is a weight where he should be much more comfortable and even stronger than he showed on his season of The Ultimate Fighter. Ferguson has strong wrestling which he can use to dictate where this fight takes place. Standing Riley is no slouch, but he can’t keep up with the speed and power of Ferguson. As long as Ferguson stays upright he should be able to slowly outwork and wear down Riley all en-route to a late stoppage. But at -325, I’m not betting on it. Tony Ferguson via TKO in Round Three
UFC 135 Main Card Bout (Pay Per View): Heavyweight Bout: Ben Rothwell (-300) vs. Mark Hunt (+315)
Ben “Northstar” Rothwell is a 29-year-old veteran fighter. At 6’5″ and cutting weight to make the 265 pound Heavyweight limit, he is one of the biggest fighters in the UFC. Rothwell is a kick boxer with decent wrestling, but often turns his fights into brawls instead of fighting intelligently. With nearly 40 career fights, Rothwell has a professional record of 31-7. Despite his strong stand up skills, Rothwell has shown somewhat spotty defense and has shown himself to be a bit ‘chinny’ being knocked out 3 times, and rocked several times in his fights.
Mark “The Super Samoan” Hunt is a New Zealand based fighter who is a former professional kick boxer He is a former Super Heavyweight fighter, who has lost considerable weight to compete inside the UFC. He is perhaps one of Dana White’s strangest signings in recent memory, entering the UFC on a five-fight losing streak. He then lost his UFC debut and was strangely given another chance at the UFC, and took advantage winning the fight by KO in round 2 and winning the Knockout of the Night award. Despite this he still enters the fight with a 6-7 professional MMA record.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: This is the only fight of the main card that I have even a remote interest in betting on. Rothwell is a heavy favorite and should be, as if he fights smart he should be able to takedown and submit Hunt relatively easily. However, Rothwell has a propensity to test himself in brawls instead of fighting smart, and if he does that, he enters Hunt’s world. At over 3-to-1 if you feel like gambling go for it. As it is, this is the perfect spot for an Arb (I’ll explain that in a second.) As for a prediction I’ll take Rothwell to use his brain for something other than a punching bag. Ben Rothwell via Submission in Round Two
**Now, for those of you wondering what an Arb is, it stands for Arbitrage. Because different sports betting sites have different lines, this specific fight has a great potential outcome. If you have money on the correct sports books, you can back both fighters and ensure profit. For example, on Site A Mark Hunt is a +315 underdog, meaning that for every $100 wagered you would win $315, if Hunt wins. So bet $100 on Hunt. On Site B, Rothwell is a -300 favorite, meaning you must wager $300 to win $100, so on this site we bet $300 on Rothwell.
Now look at the possible outcomes. Hunt wins – You lose $300 on your Rothwell bet, but win $315, so profit $15. Rothwell wins – You lose your $100 on Hunt, but win it back on your bet on Rothwell, breaking even. So just root for Hunt to win, and count your free money. (Obviously the downside to this, is if they manage to draw and you lose both bets.)
Main Card Bout (Pay Per View): Lightweight Bout: Nate Diaz (-240) vs. Takanori Gomi (+225)
Nate Diaz is the younger brother of former Strikeforce Welterweight Champion and current UFC fighter Nick Diaz. He may be best known as the winner of the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter. He is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter who also has a strong volume boxing style that often frustrates his opponents. He is a member of the Cesar Gracie Jiu Jitsu team fighting out of Stockton, California, where he is a brown belt in BJJ under Cesar Gracie. Diaz holds a professional MMA record of 13-7.
Takanori “The Fireball Kid” Gomi is one of the most decorated Japanese fighters of all time. In the golden days of PRIDE he was one of the promotion’s stars. Gomi is a very experienced fighter with strong wrestling that he uses similarly to Chuck Liddell during his prime, as a means to keep the fight standing. He has knockout power in both hands and as Tyson Griffin learned, one punch is often enough to end the fight. Gomi now splits his training time with Kugayama Rascal Gym in Japan and the American Kickboxing Academy in the US. Gomi is very experienced with a career record of 32-7-1 No Contest.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: Nate Diaz is looking to repeat the same game plan that his brother used to defeat Gomi (don’t let the No Contest fool you, weed or no weed, Nick Diaz won that fight.) Luckily for him, he is nearly a mirror image of his brother in terms of fighting style, as they both use that volume punching style to throw a lot of leather and accumulate damage against their opponents. Also, lucky for him is that Gomi is not quite the fighter that he once was. Against Tyson Griffin, Gomi showed that he still has the power to end the fight with one punch, but Diaz has never been knocked out in his MMA career. It might actually be a bit too much juice to lay on Diaz, but I’m not really thrilled at the prospect of backing Gomi either. So this one is a no-bet for me. Nate Diaz via Submission in Round Three
Main Card Bout (Pay Per View): Heavyweight Bout: Travis Browne (-340) vs. Rob Broughton (+335)
Travis “Hapa” Browne is a thirty-year-old fighter from Oahu, Hawaii. He is mostly a stand up fighter who is working on developing his BJJ skills to solidify his all-around game. He is a tall fighter, at nearly 6’8″ and weighing over 250 pounds. He has massive power in both of his hands and has a number of highlight reel knockouts on his resume. Active as a professional fighter since 2009, Browne is unbeaten in his career, compiling a record of 11-0-1, with 9 knockouts. He is currently a member of Jackson’s Submission Fighting.
Rob “The Bear” Broughton is an English fighter from St. Helens, Merseyside, England. Broughton is a fairly accomplished fighter, with over 20 fights on his resume. He is a member of the famed English gym the Wolfslair MMA Academy. Broughton is a former British Cage Rage Heavyweight Champion, as well as the champion of the ZT Fight Night Heavyweight tournament. Broughton is a freestyle fighter, but has shown poor wrestling fundamentals in some of his fights, despite a decent grappling acumen. On the feet Broughton has some power, and some decent hands, but his style is somewhat slow and plodding. Still, he is a formidable fighter who is tough and durable and owns a career record of 15-5-1, with 12 stoppage victories.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: This fight is Browne’s to lose. He is the larger man and is the better striker of these two massive Heavyweights. Broughton is more of a brawler than anything with weak wrestling, he won’t have any real way to work this fight to the mat to exploit his grappling advantage. Standing, Browne will be able to throw more combinations and basically outwork Broughton all the way as long as the fight lasts (and it might not be very long.) Travis Browne via Knockout in Round One
Main Card Bout (Pay Per View): Welterweight Bout: Matt Hughes (+400) vs. Josh Koscheck (-450)
Matt Hughes is a 37-year-old fighter from Hillsboro, Illinois. Hughes is a former two-time UFC Welterweight Champion and is widely considered one of the best Welterweight fighters of all time. He is already a UFC Hall of Famer as well. Hughes also holds the current record for most wins in the UFC with 18. Hughes is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler and translates that skill set into his fights. He will relentlessly shoot for takedowns and look to work his ground and pound from the top to try and earn a stoppage or find an opening to work his underrated Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skills. Hughes is an extremely accomplished veteran fighter with over 50 fights and a current professional record of 45-8.
Josh “Kos” Koscheck is the “heel” of the UFC’s Welterweight division. The 33-year-old from Waynesburg, Pennsylvania is best known for his stint on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. He is a former four-time NCAA Division 1 All-American wrestler. In the early days of his career he relied heavily on his wrestling, but he has made great strides in his striking game and now possesses solid boxing with big power in his right hand. Koscheck is a member of the American Kickboxing Academy and holds a career record of 15-5.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: This one is tough for me, I really like Matt Hughes (he has one of the best entrances of all-time,) and I really hate Josh Koscheck (he’s a bit of a douche bag.) Unfortunately, this isn’t a personality contest and Koscheck will likely be too much for Hughes. Hughes’ stand up has looked better recently, but he is still a fairly one-dimensional fighter who relies heavily on his wrestling. Koscheck is younger and likely will be physically stronger and with the wrestling ability to keep Hughes from earning the takedowns. Expect to see a similar fight to Koscheck vs. Frank Trigg at UFC 103. Koscheck will sprawl against the takedown and throw that huge right hand with bad intentions, hoping to knock Hughes straight into retirement. Josh Koscheck via TKO in Round One
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is a 33-year-old fighter from Memphis, Tennessee. Rampage is one of the UFC’s most popular fighters with a large fan-base due to his striking heavy offense and his somewhat eccentric personality. Jackson is a strong wrestler but usually uses his strength to keep the fight standing, where he looks to use his strong boxing skills to earn a knockout victory. Rampage packs power in both of his hands, but has had problems against fighters who mix there offense with leg kicks. Jackson is a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and will look to regain his title in this fight. He owns a career record of 32-8 with 21 stoppage victories.
Jon “Bones” Jones is the reigning and defending UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. Jones is a 24-year-old fighter from Rochester, New York. Before beginning his career in MMA, Jones was a state champion wrestler and also won a JUCO National Championship in Wrestling at Iowa Central Community College. Jones is most notable for his extremely long reach which is over 84.5 inches. He is also well known for his flashy stand up skills as well as the high degree of violence that often accompany his fights. Jones has a professional record of 13-1, with his lone loss being by Disqualification in a fight that he dominated start to finish against Matt Hamill.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: I like Rampage, I really do, but I think he’s going to be in for a long night in this one. Jones’ huge reach and rapidly developing stand up skills make him a tall task for anyone to handle. Rampage has also shown an inability to check leg kicks, so expect Greg Jackson to be telling Jones to leg kick Rampage into oblivion. Rampage is always dangerous and I would love to bet on him at nearly 5-to-1, but I don’t know that he has much of a chance of dethroning the champion other than landing the big punch early. Instead, Jones will use leg kicks to hobble rampage and use his reach to keep distance from Rampage’s big power punches. Halfway through the second round, expect Jones to try and take the fight to the mat, where he will be able to overwhelm Rampage and earn a TKO victory with nasty elbows. Jon Jones via TKO in Round Two.
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