Edit: Originally, it was written above that I was 10-3 in main events, it should have read as it does now: 11-4.
Even my lowest success rate wasn't that shabby by MMA standards. It's difficult to predict because each fighter possesses unique skills, often in disciplines at which his or her opponent is only passably competent. For example, at UFC 106 (Nov. 21st), it will be difficult to gauge how Karo Parysian's (18-5, 8-3 UFC) judo will match up against Dustin Hazelett's (12-4, 5-2 UFC) Brazilian Jiu jitsu (BJJ). Then there's the subjective aspect of MMA. Judging is a necessary evil, but it's frustrating when you feel your fighter was robbed. On top of that, mixed martial artists are often (T)KO'ed or submitted after making just one mistake. Imagine if a fumble or missed block by a single player could instantly end a football game in the first quarter!
Check out: mmaplayground.com. It's a website where players form teams and compete to see who can correctly pick the most matches. My current record of %63.6 (98-56) compares favorably with the leading teams in the largest divisions. Certainly, many individual players are ahead of me, but even the very best Super-Heavyweight group, with a %64.3 average, is well within my reach.
If you're interested in receiving a Word document that contains all my previous picks, just send an e-mail request to: email@example.com.
Next to each fighter's name you'll see the most recent betting odds from bodog.ca. The odds are given in the American decimal system, which is pretty simple once you know how to read it. The negative number, for favorites, shows how many dollars you'd have to bet to profit $100. The positive number, for underdogs, is how much you would earn from a $100 bet. Ca va?
Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida (-375) vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (+290)
As recently as this Tuesday, UFC light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida (15-0, 7-0 UFC) was listed at -500 on bodog.ca. Since then, the scales have tipped more than 100 points in favor of Mauricio Rua. That means almost all the money has been pouring in on "Shogun." However, that doesn't indicate that MMA fans think he'll beat Machida. Rather, it suggests that betters saw enough value in the line to warrant a high-risk bet on Rua.
Realistically, "Shogun's" aggressive, come-forward approach should play right into Machida's methodical, counter-striking hands, feet, and knees. "The Dragon" is a patient, but devastating striker who makes opponents pay dearly for even the slightest tactical error. I expect to see "Shogun" getting visibly outclassed tomorrow night and I don't expect he'll make it to the fourth round. His best chance for victory is to utilize his under appreciated BJJ to test Machida's as-yet unknown submission defense. Unfortunately, Rua's wrestling is not as stellar, so he'll have a tough time getting the scrap to the mat. Meanwhile Machida's take-down defense is almost as stifling as his striking defense. Plus, he trains frequently with BJJ masters like Anderson Silva and the Nogueira Brothers (Roderigo and Rogerio). So, even if we haven't seen it much, it's pretty safe to assume that "The Dragon's" submission defense is rock solid.
I expect "Shogun" to start off very carefully, but to become increasingly frustrated as he finds himself unable to either catch Machida standing or take him down. Once he's frustrated, Rua will get sloppy. Shortly after that, "The Dragon" will put him on the wrong end of a highlight reel, like he's done to every other UFC opponent. Notch another victory, and the first ever title defense, for the Karate Kid from Belem, Brazil.
Machida by TKO, Rd. 3
Main card (Televised):
265 lbs.: Cain Velasquez (-350) vs. “Big” Ben Rothwell (+275)
Like many MMA fans, I'm not convinced that, Mexican-American, Cain Velasquez (6-0, 4-0 UFC) is the threat to the heavyweight (HW) crown that Dana White and the UFC would have you believe. What we've seen from him in the octagon so far is that he can soundly trounce second-rate fighters [Brad Morris (0-2 UFC), Jake O'Brian (4-3 UFC), and Dennis Stojnic (0-2 UFC)], and that he can out-wrestle Chieck Kongo (14-5-1, 7-3 UFC). Kongo, of course, is a talented striker whose takedown defense is comparable to that of a dairy cow: apply firm sideways pressure and he tips over almost immediately.
Don't get me wrong, Velasquez is a two-time All-American wrestler, possesses abundant cardio, and has decent striking. So he's clearly a HW contender. Still, his submission defense has yet to be tested, he's a bit undersized for HW at 238lbs., and there are lingering questions about his chin. Ben Rothwell (30-6, 0-0 UFC) thinks he can provide clarity and hopes that the answer regarding Cain's suspect chin is that he really doesn't have one. "Big" Ben is a veteran fighter with nearly three times as many (T)KO's (17) as Velasquez has fights. He's 6'5", 265 lbs., and has traded shots with, former UFC HW champ, Andrei Arlovski. Unsurprisingly, he's convinced that his size, punching power, and experience will carry the day. Unfortunately for Ben, it will be his lack of a fully-developed wrestling game that proves his undoing.
Cain Velasquez must have learned from the Kongo fight that damage adds up fast against the freaky, giant, mutants in the upper ranks of the UFC's HW division. This time out he should have prepared a game plan that plays to his strength on the mats. I'm just not sure what the undersized Velasquez will do when he runs into some of the UFC's castaways from Skull Island, like Brock Lesnar, Shane Carwin or Gabriel Gonzaga, who can grapple as well as Cain does AND hit harder than he could ever hope to.
Velasquez by Unanimous Decision
155 lbs.: Joe “Daddy” Stevenson (-270) vs. Spencer “The King” Fisher (+205)
Both these guys have had roller-coaster careers, but, Joe "Daddy" Stevenson's (30-10, 7-4 UFC) has had more ups than downs. He won The Ultimate Fighter 2 in 2005, has appeared in multiple main events, and was granted a lightweight (LW) title fight in January, 2008. Sure he has lost two of his last three fights, but he's one of those fighters that always seems to catch breaks in terms of exposure. Spencer Fisher's (23-4, 8-3 UFC) story has been the exact opposite. His UFC record is very similar to Stevenson's, but he's never appeared in a main event and, to this point, his career highlight is a dramatic decision win over unheralded Sam Stout (14-5-1, 3-4 UFC) in 2007. It's funny to me how similar these guys are, though. Stevenson, a so-called submissions artist, has submitted only one opponent since early 2007. While Fisher, who is known for throwing leather, hasn't finished anyone via strikes since 2006. So, neither has lived up to his billing of late. Both their games have become more rounded recently, but neither has what I would describe as a complete skill set.
Ultimately, I'll go with Stevenson because he's been in the octagon with better opposition on average. He should also be physically stronger, which will help in transitions and thus enable him to secure favorable positions on the ground. This could be Fisher's last chance to make a big splash in the LW division, but I think it will be one more case of close-but-no-cigar for "The King."
Stevenson by Submission, Rd.3.
155 lbs.: Gleison Tibau (-135) vs. Josh “The Dentist” Neer (+105)
Make no mistake, Josh "The Dentist" Neer (25-8-1, 5-4 UFC) is a scary dude who can end a fight with his fists at any moment. He seems to love trading shots as much as most of us love sunshine and fresh air. Unfortunately for Neer, there's no way he could have closed the gaping holes in his ground game in the three short months since he spent 15 minutes as Kurt Pellegrino's grappling dummy at UFC 101. On top of that, Gleison Tibau's (19-6, 5-4 UFC) stand-up is a bit slicker, even if it's slightly less powerful. A skilled grappler like Tibau shouldn't have too much trouble exposing Neer's deficiencies on the ground.
Tibau by Submission, Rd.3
170 lbs.: Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (-450) vs. Yoshiyuki “Zenko” Yoshida (+300)
Anthony Johnson is just too big and powerful at WW for Yoshiyuki Yoshida to defeat him using his renowned judo skills. Johnson is so big, in fact, that he's rumored to cut down from over 200lbs. and missed weight for this fight by six pounds. Seriously, he needs to either overhaul his diet to drop some muscle or just give it up and head to 185lbs. Johnson's failure to make weight means that Yoshida will automatically receive %20 of "Rumble's" purse. The Japanese judoka will also receive a beating he won't soon forget.
Johnson by KO Rd. 2
Under Card (Guaranteed to Appear on Spike TV (6pm/PST):
205 lbs.: Ryan “Darth” Bader (-450) vs. Eric “Red” Schafer (+300)
Could Eric Schafer (11-3-2, 3-2 UFC ) catch Ryan Bader (9-0, 2-0 UFC) in a submission? Perhaps during a scramble? I guess so, and the LA Angels might still win the 2009 World Series. What's your point? Bader smashes him on the feet, then on the ground.
Bader by TKO, Rd. 1
265 lbs.: Antoni Hardonk (-140) vs. Patrick “Get Hype” Barry (+110)
I'm doing it. I'm picking my first upset at UFC 104. Maybe it's because I want to see Antoni Hardonk (8-5, 3-4 UFC) finally get bounced from the UFC. It could be because I think the diminutive Patrick Barry (4-1, 1-1 UFC) will make a decent light heavyweight one day, or just because I want to prove that I'm not totally risk averse, but I'm doing it. As long as this fight stays on the feet either guy has a chance. They've both finished a UFC fight via leg kicks (not an easy feat) in the past so you can bet that neither will be walking comfortably come Sunday morning.
Barry by TKO, Rd 3.
185 lbs.: Yushin “Thunder” Okami (-265) vs. Chael Sonnen (+205)
Yet again, Yushin Okami (23-4, 7-1 UFC) has been unceremoniously lumped in with the rabble deep down on the under card. Now that Lyoto Machida is finally getting his due, Okami is officially the UFC's resident Rodney Dangerfield-- he "gets no respect." Chael Sonnen (23-10-1, 2-3 UFC) is pretty decent and looked great in his last fight against Dan Miller at UFC 98. Still, he's not strong enough or patient enough to solve the riddle of Okami. Now if "Thunder" could just finish this fight maybe he'd get back on the main card where he belongs. Maybe he'd even get to fight a fellow contender again. Not likely.
Okami by Unanimous Decision
l85 lbs.: Rob “The Rosedale Reaper” Kimmons (-170) vs. Jorge “El Conquistador” Rivera (+140)
As much as I want to believe that Jorge Rivera (16-7, 6-5 UFC) has one last impressive K.O. in the tank, he's just too far past his prime to be tangling with a young prospect like Rob Kimmons (22-4, 2-1 UFC).
Kimmons By Submission, Rd. 2
205 lbs.: Kyle Kingsbury (-125) vs. Razak Al-Hassan (-105)
What can be said about Razak Al-Hassan (6-1, 0-1 UFC) except that he looked like crap in his UFC debut against Steve Cantwell even before Cantwell bent al-Hassan's elbow backward at a 45-degree angle. It was the type of performance you can't help but improve upon, but Ill take his opponent, Kyle Kingsbury (7-2, 0-1). That's based partly on the fact I've heard Kingsbury has some decent submissions, but mostly because I've never seen anyone fight as poorly as Al-Hassan in his UFC debut. At least Kingsbury lost his octagon debut in a lackluster decision that no one ever talks about. On thing's for sure, the loser of this fight leaves town.
Kingsbury by Submission, Rd. 1
265 lbs.: Chase Gormley (-250) vs. Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve (+190)
Stefan Struve (17-3, 1-1 UFC) is like that tall, lanky kid on the basketball team that towered over everyone, but still got noogies from the point guard on the team bus. Yeah, "Skyscraper's" submission skills are supposedly decent, but Chase Gormley (6-0, 0-0 UFC) is a grown-ass man.
Gormley by TKO, Rd 2