One of the biggest and best fight cards of the entire summer is set to hit the Pay Per View airwaves this Saturday night. The UFC makes its long awaited return to Brazil, as they present UFC 134 live from the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro.
Making their first trip to the birthplace of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for the first time since 1998’s Ultimate Brazil event, the card is stacked with a long list of Brazilian talent, most of them facing off against foreign competition, meaning that several fights will have a Brazil vs. the world feel. The event is capped off by Middleweight kingpin Anderson “The Spider” Silva searching for his fourteenth straight win inside the Octagon and his ninth title defense, when he takes on the Dana White anointed “greatest Japanese fighter of all time” Yushin “Thunder” Okami.
There are a number of intriguing bouts on this contest, both from a fan’s point-of-view as well as from a gambling perspective. As always, I’ll try to give you a glimpse inside the fights, provide a bit of insight and offer a prediction from a gambling perspective. Let’s not waste any more time, let’s get into the first fight of the night. As always, all betting lines are the best current market lines according to BestFightOdds (www.bestfightodds.com.)
Preliminary Card (Broadcast on Facebook): Welterweight Bout: Erick Silva (-270) vs. Luis Ramos (+245)
Luis Ramos is a 30-year-old fighter from Brazil, who owns a fair amount of experience on the Brazilian MMA circuit. Ramos is a member of the Nova Uniao Fight team, who also possesses a wealth of ground skills. “Beicao” is currently riding a three fight win-streak, last tasting defeat to former UFC Welterweight Roan Carneiro by Decision in October of 2010.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: The betting line currently favors Erick Silva by a fairly wide margin. Usually this is the kind of place where I would look to make a small play on the underdog, but I’m not going to in this one. Silva is a highly touted prospect and is the younger fighter. Despite lacking big fight experience, Silva looks to be the stronger stand-up fighter, and in a fight where two BJJ Black Belts will likely stalemate one another on the ground, this one is going to come down to striking and well-timed takedowns. That favors the younger, stronger Silva who likely will be the stronger fighter in the clinch and the better boxer when standing. However, at -270 Silva is being given a 73% chance of winning the fight and I think that’s in the right ballpark, so I’m not touching this one. But for predictions sake, Erick Silva by Unanimous Decision.
Preliminary Card (Broadcast on Facebook): Bantamweight Bout: Yves Jabouin (+180) vs. Ian Loveland (-195)
This is actually the only fight on the entire card to not feature a Brazilian born fighter, as Canadian Jabouin takes on American Loveland. Yves “The Tiger” Jabouin is a former Featherweight fighter, who is making the drop to Bantamweight for the first time. Jabouin is mostly a striker who relies on big power to earn his victories, and has earned 11 of his 15 career victories by way of TKO or Knockout. The former WEC fighter was brought over during the UFC-WEC merger, but is still searching for his first UFC victory. At UFC 129 he was submitted by Pablo Garza via impressive Flying Triangle Choke. If Jabouin wants to win this fight, he’s going to need to keep Wineland away from him and avoid the constant takedowns.
Ian “The Barn Owl” Loveland is a 14-8 fighter representing the Oregon branch of Team Quest. The 27-year-old has an established background in Tae Kwan DO and wrestling. In his last fight he was defeated by Unanimous Decision to perennial Bantamweight contender Joseph Benavidez. Loveland uses his strong wrestling background in his fights often, usually shooting early and often for takedowns and then working ground and pound. His stand-up was exploited against Benavidez and against a strong striker like Jabouin, he’s going to want to get this fight to the ground as early as possible.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: This is basically a straightforward Striker vs. Wrestler fight. If there is one thing that history should have taught us in MMA, it’s that the wrestler often wins these battles and usually relatively easily. I see this one going basically the same way. Jabouin has good power and solid stand up, but he is making the cut to 135 for the first time and I don’t believe he has a very good body-type to try to cut that kind of weight. I expect that he has a decent first round, but in the final two rounds of the fight he will begin to gas and Loveland will take over. I expect to see a lot of takedowns and a lot of ground and pound en-route to a late stoppage victory for Loveland. At -195 Loveland needs to win this fight 66% of the time to make a bet profitable, I think he’s probably around the 70% region so I think there is a bit of value, so I will be making a small Half-Unit play. Ian Loveland via TKO in the third round.
Preliminary Card (Broadcast on Facebook): Featherweight Bout: Yuri Alcantara (-435) vs. Felipe Arantes (+380)
Two relatively unknown Brazilian fighters make their UFC debuts in this Featherweight contest. Yuri “Marajo” Alcantara is a former Lightweight fighter, who has been fighting professionally since 2004. Alcantara is also a veteran of Brazil’s Jungle Fight promotion, where he was the inaugural Lightweight Champion of the promotion. He is a member of the Pattaya/Striker Fight Team and holds a black belt in BJJ. He is also a strong striker with good Muay Thai skills and KO Power in both of his hands. He is currently riding an 11-fight winning streak, and has finished his last 6 opponents.
Felipe “Sertanejo” Arantes is a late-replacement opponent for Alcantara whose first two opponents were forced from the card with injury. Arantes is also a Brazilian fighter, fighting with the Macaco Gold Team in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The 23-year old fighter has a record of 13-3 with 10 stoppage victories (6 by KO or TKO and 4 via Submission.) Despite a fairly strong record, Arantes has struggled against stronger opposition and is taking this fight on short notice, against a destroyer like Alcantara, he is going to need to weather the early storm and pick his shots if he wants to win this fight.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: At -435 Alcantara is a huge favorite and that’s with good reason. He has been very active over the past few years and has had impressive results. His last fight he absolutely blitzed and destroyed Ricardo Lamas at WEC 53. I’m not interested in betting Alcantara at such long odds and I don’t think Arantes can pull off the upset so I’m not touching this one. But for prediction’s sake Yuri Alcantara via TKO in Round One.
Preliminary Card (Broadcast on Facebook): Bantamweight Bout: Raphael Assuncao (-162) vs. Johnny Eduardo (+149)
Raphael Assuncao is a Brazilian fighter who now fights out of Atlanta, Georgia in the USA, but is originally from Recife, Brazil. The 29-year-old fighter is the younger brother of former UFC fighter Junior Assuncao. Like his brother he is a BJJ black belt, who also has improving Muay Thai skills. He holds a career MMA record of 14-4, with seven wins by way of Submission. Assuncao is searching for his first UFC victory, as he lost his first fight in the promotion to surging Featherweight Erik Koch. Assuncao is making the cut to 135-Pounds for the first time in his career for this fight. Assuncao has improving stand up skills, but he knows where his strengths lie and uses his striking to close the distance before searching for a way to get the fight to the ground.
Johnny Eduardo is a 33-year-old fighter from Brazil. He is making his UFC debut after an impressive career spanning 15 years, as he made his MMA debut in November of 1996. He is entering his debut fight on an 11-fight winning streak, stopping all but 2 of his opponents during that stretch. Eduardo is a strong striker with crisp boxing skills. He has strong footwork and has no problem exchanging punches in the pocket. Although he also holds a fair number of wins via Submission in his career, that was against lesser competition and he will be at a disadvantage grappling from the bottom against someone as skilled as Assuncao.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: Eduardo is a veteran fighter, but is still relatively unknown to most MMA fans, including myself. From what I have seen of him, he has good, solid technical striking skills, however, Assuncao will be a pretty significant step up in competition for him. If he keeps this fight standing, he should be able to out-point Assuncao, but if he gets on the bottom underneath Assuncao, it will certainly be a much tougher fight for him. Given the unknowns in this fight, I’m going to stay away from it betting wise, but for a prediction I’ll take Assuncao. Raphael Assuncao via Submission in Round Two.
Preliminary Card (Broadcast on Facebook): Welterweight Bout: Paulo Thiago (-390) vs. David Mitchell (+340)
Paulo Thiago is a part-time fighter, but is still one of the toughest fighters in the UFC’s stacked Welterweight division. That could possibly be because when he’s not fighting MMA he is a member of the BOPE, Brazil’s version of the Navy Seals. The 30-year-old has black belts in both BJJ and Judo, as well as having good boxing skills with Knockout power. He is a member of the Constrictor Jiu Jitsu team in Brazil and holds a career record of 13-3. Thiago is likely fighting for his UFC life, as he is currently in the midst of a two-fight losing skid, losing back to back fights to Martin Kampmann and Diego Sanchez respectively.
David Mitchell is an American born fighter from Windsor, California. “Daudi” is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter fighting out of the Nor-Cal Fighting Alliance in Santa Rosa, California. Most of his experience has come on the regional circuit fighting his first 11 fights and winning all of them in California. In his last fight he made his UFC debut and was outpointed by TJ Waldburger. He is not getting it any easier as he takes on Thiago, who is probably better than him in most areas of the fight game.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: This is a fight that is tailor-made to make Paulo Thiago look good in front of his home crowd and probably send Mitchell out the door. Thiago has the better stand up skills and hits harder, so the standing advantage goes to him. Mitchell has shown a tendency to pull guard if he’s in trouble, but that’s almost suicide against someone with Submission skills like Thiago who has 8 career Submission victories. -390 is A LOT of juice, Thiago is being given an 80% chance of winning the fight. It’s hard to see how Mitchell wins this one, but that’s just too much juice for me to bet this one. As for a fight prediction, Paulo Thiago via Submission in Round Two.
Preliminary Card (Broadcast Live on SPIKE): Middleweight Bout: Rousimar Palhares (-280) vs. Dan Miller (+252)
Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares is a 31-year-old from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is a relatively short Middleweight standing only 5’8″ tall, but he is aptly nicknamed tree trunk (Toquinho is Portuguese for tree trunk,) as he is well-built and very muscular. He is a BJJ black belt training with the Brazilian Top Team. He will likely be a bit of a hometown hero in this fight, as during his youth he was forced to live in the slums of Rio. He holds a career MMA record of 12-3, with 9 victories via Submission. He has lost only two contests since 2006 and those were to two elite level Middleweights in Dan Henderson and Nate Marquardt. Palhares will likely be looking to take this fight to the mat where he can work his impressive top game submission skills.
Dan Miller is an American from Sparta Township, New Jersey. He is the older brother of UFC Lightweight Contender Jim Miller. He is a very well-rounded fighter who is great at nothing, but good at all aspects of the fight game. He trains at the AMA Fight Club in New Jersey along with a number of other UFC Fighters. Miller has a background in high school wrestling and also holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Jamie Cruz. Miller owns a 13-5-1 record who has struggled against elite-level Middleweights, but has proven very tough to finish, as he has never been KO’ed or Submitted in his MMA career.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: At -280 Palhares is being given a 74% chance of winning this fight, but I think he actually holds a slightly larger edge than that. Both of these guys like to move forward and neither man is likely to back down, which has the potential to create some fireworks. Neither man is going to shy from a stand up battle, but neither has extremely strong boxing skills, but Palhares hits harder, which gives him the standing edge. Palhares stocky frame and massive upper-body strength makes him very difficult to take down and despite Miller’s expert BJJ skills I don’t think he’ll be able to earn a submission from his back. It will be tough for Palhares to stop Miller, as he has never been stopped in his career, but he should be able to control the action from start to finish with well-timed takedowns and top control. I hate laying big money, so this is again only a small Half-Unit bet, but I’ll take the Brazilian. Rousimar Palhares via Unanimous Decision.
Preliminary Card (Broadcast Live on SPIKE): Lightweight Bout: Spencer Fisher (+200) vs. Thiago Tavares (-205)
Spencer “The King” Fisher is an American fighter from Brevard, North Carolina. The 35-year-old fighter is a former member of the Militech Fighting Systems camp from Iowa, but now runs his own gym and fight team known as Team Evolution. He is a very experienced fighter with over 30 career fights, and a professional MMA record of 24-7. He is a fan-friendly fighter as he often prefers to stand and trade as opposed to take the fight to the ground where he can use his wrestling skills and top game. He has often said that he would prefer to lose an exciting fight than win a boring one, and he fights exactly true to his word. He has often struggled against strong wrestlers in the Lightweight division.
Thiago Tavares is a Brazilian fighter from Florianopolis. The 26-year-old is a strong ground fighter with a black belt in BJJ. He trains with the Brazilian Top Team and has a career record of 15-4-1, with 11 wins coming by way of Submission. He is somewhat notorious for kicking Nik Lentz in the groin so hard that he cracked Lentz’s metal cup. Tavares has added solid wrestling skills and technical boxing to compliment his extremely solid BJJ skills. It is very likely that he will look to exploit Fisher’s fairly weak defensive wrestling skills and try to take the fight to the ground.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: Tavares is being given a 67% chance of winning this fight and with a clear path to victory I think that’s probably about right. Fisher has struggled against the better wrestlers of the division and at 35-years-old is beginning to hit the downside of his MMA career. While Tavares is not an elite level wrestler by any means, he is still 9 years younger and is likely going to be the stronger fighter in the cage, so he should be able to earn takedowns, even if he has to work for them. I think this line is fairly well set as Tavares has seen the blue print to beat Fisher several times, however, Tavares has shown a somewhat fragile chin and despite his advanced age Fisher can still throw bombs. If Tavares gets sloppy and carries his hands low, Fisher needs only one clean punch to land to end the fight. Because of that, I’m not touching this fight. However, for a prediction I will take the Brazilian once again. Thiago Tavares via Submission late in Round Two.
Main Card (Broadcast Live on Pay Per View): Light Heavyweight Bout: Luiz Cane (-200) vs. Stanislav Nedkov (+186)
Luiz “Banha” Cane is a 30-year-old fighter from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Cane holds a black belt in BJJ, as well as strong Muay Thai and Boxing skills. Cane holds a career record of 11-3, although one loss stems from a DQ where he threw an illegal knee to a downed opponent, in a fight that he was dominating and likely on his way to winning. Nonetheless he has big power in his hands as he owns an impressive 9 wins via TKO or KO. In his last fight he snapped a two-fight losing skid, by stopping Eliot Marshall in the first round via Strikes. He has however shown himself to be a bit “chinny” as he was TKO’ed by both Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Cyrille Diabate in back to back fights. Despite his black belt in BJJ, Cane is likely going to want to keep this one standing and avoid going to the ground against a strong grappler like Nedkov.
Stanislav “Staki” Nedkov is a 29-year-old fighter from Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria. Nedkov is a strong and well-built 205 pounder who has a black belt in BJJ as well as strong wrestling and improving boxing skills. Nedkov is an undefeated prospect making his UFC debut with a career record of 11-0. He owns 9 stoppage victories in his career winning 4 fights via Submission and 5 via TKO or KO. He is a strong grappler who prefers to use takedowns to get on top of his opponents and unleash ground and pound to either earn a TKO or search for a Submission opportunity. One glaring issue that has shown itself in some of Nedkov’s fights is cardio issues, as he gassed heavily in his fight against Kevin Randleman and somewhat in his fight against Travis Wiuff. Another concern for Nedkov is his relative inactivity since 2009, as he has had only one fight since November of 2009.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: This is one fight where I actually like the underdog, although I don’t plan on making a huge play. I’m not totally sold on Stanislav Nedkov as the second-coming of Fedor, but he is still a strong and undefeated talent with the tools to exceed in the UFC. I am however relatively unimpressed with Luiz Cane. I believe he is slightly over-hyped due to his impressive victories via Knockout. I think he is being slightly over-valued in this fight and although he should probably be the favorite I think it is closer to the realm of -150 not -200. At +186, Nedkov is being given approximately a 35% chance of winning the fight. I think it’s probably closer to a 40% chance, so I’m going to make a small Half-Unit play on the underdog in this one. Stanislav Nedkov via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (Broadcast Live on Pay Per View): Lightweight Bout: Ross Pearson (+280) vs. Edson Barboza (-300)
Ross “The Real Deal” Pearson is an English fighter from Sunderland. He is a 26-year-old fighter who is best known as the winner of the Lightweight division on The Ultimate Fighter: USA versus UK. He trains with the famed English fight team Team Rough House. Pearson has a martial arts background in the sports of Tae Kwan Do (holding a black belt) and Judo (where he holds a brown belt.) He made his professional MMA debut in December 2004 and currently has an MMA record if 12-4. Pearson is mostly a brawler who isn’t afraid to strike against any opponent, and it has served him well as he has a UFC record of 4-1 with wins over Dennis Siver, Aaron Riley and most recently Spencer Fisher. Pearson’s one glaring weakness has been his ground game, but he may not need to worry about that against Barboza.
Edson “Junior” Barboza is a 25-year-old fighter from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is a former Ring of Combat Lightweight Champion. Barboza is a former professional Muay Thai kick boxer who held a 25-3 record as a professional kick boxer. He has since added a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu since starting his MMA career in 2009. He trains at The Armory in Jupiter, Florida. Since his professional MMA debut he has compiled an 8-0 record with 6 wins via KO or TKO and 1 via Submission. He made his UFC debut in November 2010 and made a statement, winning the fight by TKO due to Leg Kicks, as he kicked Mike Lullo so many times he could no longer stand. He is coming off of a strong decision win against Anthony Njokuani at UFC 128 in a purely stand-up battle that won him Fight of the Night Honors.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: Barboza is the superior fighter here. His stand up skills are far more technical and he likely hits harder than Pearson. Although Pearson is unlikely to try and shoot for a ground fight, he wouldn’t win one here, as Barboza is far superior on the ground as well. Another important style clash in this fight is that Pearson relies mostly on a brawling boxing style, using mostly his fists, while Barboza attacks from all angles using knees, kicks, elbows and punches, making him a much more versatile striker. 75% is probably a little bit low for Barboza as his line of -300 suggests, but I’m not interested in that much chalk. There is however another option for those of you looking for action on this fight. My sports book is currently offering Prop Bets on this fight. One of those gives you the option to take Edson Barboza to win inside the distance, which means you need a stoppage. Despite going the distance against Njokuani, I think Barboza can stop Pearson here more than 55% of the time, which makes it a worthwhile play. Pearson has proven durable as a fighter and has only been TKO’ed once in his career, so it’s not going to be a huge play. But once again a small Half-Unit play on Barboza to Win Inside the Distance. Edson Barboza via KO in Round Two
Main Card (Broadcast Live on Pay Per View): Heavyweight Bout: Brendan Schaub (-230) vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (+216)
Brendan “The Hybrid” Schaub is a 28-year-old fighter, who fights out of Aurora, Colorado in the USA. He is a former professional football player, where he was an AFL player, as well as a member of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills practise roster. He was the runner-up on The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights, where he lost in the Finale by Knockout to Roy Nelson. Since that loss he has shown steady improvement and is currently on a 4-fight winning streak. Schaub has spent time at the Grudge Training Center as well as time with Greg Jackson’s MMA Camp in New Mexico, the results of made him into a formidable Heavyweight prospect. He has solid foot and hand speed, along with big Knockout power in his hands. He has continued to improve his stand up skills and in his last fight he knocked out former PRIDE star Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. In this fight, he’ll look to knock out another PRIDE legend when he takes on Big Nog.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira affectionately known to many fans as “Big Nog” is a Brazilian fighter and a bonafide MMA legend. “Minotauro” is a 35-year old fighter from Bahia, Brazil and was the first ever PRIDE FC Heavyweight Champion. He now runs his own gym known as the Black House with notables Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida and twin brother Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in Gardena, California. Nogueira is a strong grappler who holds black belts in both Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo. He has also spent time training his boxing skills with the Brazilian and Cuban National Boxing teams. Nogueira holds a professional MMA record of 32-6-1-1.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: Nogueira is a legend in the sport of MMA, however at 35-years old, he is fighting for the first time in almost 18 months and is on the downside of a career filled with wars against some of the greatest fighters the sport has ever seen. He says that he is fighting healthy for the first time in years, but I don’t know how much health has to do with his past performances compared to his advanced age and his worn-out body. Nogueira likely holds the edge in grappling skills and ground fighting, however against a younger, stronger opponent with better wrestling, he has very little chance of getting the fight there unless Schaub wants it there. That means that this one is likely going to be decided on the feet. There Schaub holds an advantage in both hand and foot speed as well as in power. He will be able to overcome the fact that Nogueira may have better technical boxing, by using his speed advantages to counter punch. Those counter shots should carry him all the way to a crushing Knockout victory. Schaub at -230 is being given a 70% chance of winning, which I think may be a bit low, but it’s in the right ball park. Nogueira has made a career however out of proving people wrong and snatching desperate last minute submissions, so it’s enough for me to stay away from this fight. No bets, but for a prediction I’ll take the young American. Brendan Schaub via Knockout late in the Second Round.
Co-Main Event (Broadcast Live on Pay Per View): Light Heavyweight Bout: Mauricio Rua (-220) vs. Forrest Griffin (+225)
A Light Heavyweight rematch 4 years in the making takes co-headliner status in Rio. Their first match up at UFC 76 is still widely considered one of the biggest upsets in the sport of MMA. Rua was widely considered the top Light Heavyweight fighter in the world and was making his UFC debut after Zuffa purchased his former home PRIDE FC. In that first fight Griffin used takedowns, his size advantage and a continuous work-rate to wear down Rua, who seemed to gas half-way through the second round. Griffin continued to pressure the Brazilian before eventually earning a late takedown and earning a third round submission via Rear Naked Choke. Since that fight both men have had short reigns as the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and this rematch promises excitement.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is a Brazilian fighter from Curitiba, Brazil. The 29-year old fighter was once widely considered the best Light Heavyweight fighter in the world. He is returning to the Octagon for the first time since losing his UFC Light Heavyweight title to current champion Jon Jones in a fairly one-sided loss. “Shogun” is a strong striker with an aggressive pressuring style, he also holds underrated ground skills. Rua holds black belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as well as in Muay Thai. He is a former member of the Brazilian Chute Boxe camp, formerly the number one camp in Brazil. He currently trains with his brother Murilo and Andre Amade at his own gym, the Universidade da Luta (University of Fighting.) Rua has had a bit of an up-and-down career in the UFC, losing his debut and then winning a less than impressive TKO over the over the hill Mark Coleman. He has since put things together destroying Chuck Liddell, then losing a close and very controversial decision to Lyoto Machida, before making a statement and KO’ing Machida in the first round of their rematch. During fights Rua prefers to rely on his strong Muay Thai skills and is constantly moving forward. He throws somewhat awkward punches, but his overhand rights and lefts which don’t necessarily look the best technically, hit with all kinds of power. He also has an under-rated clinch game and is one of the sport’s best finishers when he has another man rocked.
Forrest Griffin is the very likeable winner of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. His first UFC fight against Stephan Bonnar has likely earned him a permanent home in the UFC. The 32-yearold fighter from Columbus, Ohio is one of the biggest Light Heavyweights in the division, often walking around north of 230-240 pounds when not training. At 6’3″ he will hold a two-inch height advantage and a four-inch reach advantage for this fight. He’s going to need to do his best to exploit that edge in this fight if he wants to repeat his upset from 4 years ago. Griffin is a very well-rounded fighter, who isn’t really great at anything, but is good enough at everything to get himself through. He is a member of Xtreme Couture and often enters his fights with a very strong game plan, which is how he earned his first win against Shogun, he will need an equally strong strategy for this fight. Griffin often uses volume punching, constant clinches and takedowns where he can impose his strength and size advantages to earn takedowns and stellar cardio to gain the upper hand in his fights. Griffin recently returned from a 14-month layoff with a Decision win over Rich Franklin. In a pure kickboxing match Griffin is sure to be out-gunned by the Brazilian. If he wants to succeed in this fight, he’s going to need to do what he does best and make the fight ugly. He needs to constantly close the distance and pressure Rua from the inside, he needs to use constant takedowns to wear down the Brazilian and make him work from the bottom, where he should be able to make Rua tire out from the work of having a 230 pound man, smashing away from on top of you.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: I’m definitely not betting on this fight, I’ll go ahead and say that right away. Both men have the ability to win this fight, and at -220 and +225 I think the current market lines are fairly well set. However, there is still analysis to be done, so let’s take a look at it. In Rua’s last fight he was absolutely dominated by Jon Jones, however, Jones is a completely different beast than Griffin. Rua will know that his best chance for victory is a stand up battle where he holds an edge in speed, punching power and overall technical skill. Griffin has also shown himself to have somewhat of a glass chin and if one of those looping punches from Shogun hits the mark it might be a short night for Griffin. Griffin needs to use his kicks and a strong jab to exploit his reach advantage and keep Shogun away. From there he’ll need to close the gaps quickly and get inside before Shogun has time to get him in range for a big power shot. Once inside takedowns are going to be a key for Griffin. Despite Shogun’s black-belt in BJJ he has never really been someone who submits fighters from his back and likely won’t be able to do it against someone as strong and someone as positionally aware on the ground as Griffin. I’ve had a really tough time picking this one, but I’ve got to make a selection and I’m going to lean with Shogun here. I think at some point one of those big punches will land and as I said before, there are few better than Shogun at finishing an opponent who is hurt. Mauricio Rua via TKO in Round Three.
Main Event – Middleweight Title Fight (Broadcast Live on Pay Per View): Middleweight Championship Bout: Yushin Okami (+425) vs. Anderson Silva (-471)
The UFC Middleweight title is on the line in this rematch from January 2006, as Yushin Okami finally gets his shot at Anderson Silva. That fight so long ago was actually Anderson’s last loss as a professional. However, don’t read into it too much as Okami won the fight via DQ. After earning a takedown, Okami postured up to throw ground and pound but was caught with a nasty up kick from Silva, which KO’ed the Japanese fighter instantly. However, Okami had his knees on the ground so the kick was deemed illegal and with Okami unable to continue, Silva was handed a disqualification. Since that fight in Hawaii, Silva has taken the UFC by storm and is currently riding a fourteen fight winning streak which has included wins over some of the best Middleweights in the world including Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen, Demian Maia, Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson.
Yushin “Thunder” Okami is a Japanese fighter from Kanagawa, Japan. The 30-year-old fighter has an impressive 26-5 record and if you are to believe the Dana White hype machine is the “best Japanese fighter on the planet.” All hyperbole aside Okami is a tough match up for anyone as he is a fairly large and very strong Middleweight. Okami holds a black belt in Judo and also has extensive training in Kickboxing and Wrestling. The latter is probably the most surprising as most non-North American fighters often lack solid wrestling fundamentals. Since his loss to Chael Sonnen, Okami has actually moved camps to join Sonnen at Team Quest in Oregon, where he has continued to improve upon his wrestling. During his fights Okami often uses his Kickboxing skills to dictate the pace of the fight, before shooting for takedowns and using top control and ground and pound to earn points on the scorecards. Okami is definitely not a volume puncher as he often uses his strikes to counter his opponent and try to slow the pace of the fight. Since joining with Sonnen at Team Quest, Okami has shown considerable improvement in his wrestling skills defeating two strong wrestlers in both Mark Munoz and Nate Marquardt to earn a shot at Silva. It is very likely that Okami is going to implement a very similar game plan to that which Sonnen used in his failed attempt against Silva. During that fight, Sonnen ignored the stand-up completely and upon the fight beginning immediately moved forward and shot for a takedown. He was able to win all four rounds by using this strategy before being submitted by Silva in the final round with a Hail Mary submission attempt. Sonnen has said that Okami is now able to control and handle him in training, which may or may not be true, but either way expect to see a very similar game plan from Okami.
Betting Analysis and Predictions: If you guys have been reading my stuff for a while, you’ll know that I am a sucker for big underdogs. And this fight is no exception. I’m planning to make a small Half-Unit play on Okami in this fight. I’ve always thought that solid wrestling and eliminating the striking from Silva’s game is the way to beat him. Nate Marquardt found some success in the beginning of the fight earning a takedown against Silva, Dan Henderson won the first round against Anderson by taking him down and controlling him on the mat, and most recently Chael Sonnen showed the wrestling based game plan to defeat Silva.
I would expect that Okami is going to use a very similar strategy to the one that Sonnen used. Ignore the stand up, shoot for takedowns as quickly as possible and work from the top to try and ground and pound and wear down Silva while earning points on the judge’s scorecards. Just a note that Anderson Silva is the favorite for a reason and more often than not he is going to win this fight. However, I think getting almost 4.5 to 1 is a bit too much, as Anderson probably wins this fight closer to 75%-80% of the time. At +425 Okami is being given an 18% chance of winning the fight, which leaves just the slightest bit of value. But it’s a very small play for me and one that I expect to lose more often than I win, but the times it wins should cover the multiple times I lose. Yushin Okami via Unanimous Decision.
Lee McGregor is a fan of all combat sports including both Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts. When not catching fights or watching hockey, he can be found as an Author and Editor at his own website MyManCave.ca
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