January 2, 2010

Fight Picks and Predictions for UFC 108: Card Subject to Change

By Nicholas Bailey (nbailey@mmaratings.net)

UFC 108 is a truly snakebit event. The aura of bad luck surrounding this card is so strong that I hesitate to even write about it, for fear of what may befall me, but I must soldier on, as I have a reputation to maintain.

I can only hope that, not only do I not become the victim of a freak meteor accident, but that what predictions I do create continue to be relevant on fight night. The most recent adjustment to the card having occurred only hours ago, with Steve Cantwell pulling out of his fight against Vladimir Matyushenko.



Rashad Evans (-210) vs. Thiago Silva (+180)

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As his teammate Anderson Silva did before him, Lyoto Machida has produced ‘unwanted children’--fighters too good to match up against top contenders, for fear that they’ll beat them, but who lost so convincingly that there is no desire for a rematch. The only solution in such instances is to match them up against one another, to push one farther down the totem pole and allow him to fight lower-tier opposition, and to kick the can down the road for the winner, to be utilized as new opportunities emerge.

Against Lyoto both of these men had their stylistic warts clearly spotlighted: Evans’ poor footwork, schoolyard feinting, and over reliance on the speed and power of his right hand; Silva’s over-hasty aggression and mediocre chin. So the question in this matchup is: who can best strengthen their now-exposed weaknesses and who can best exploit those of their opponent.

Silva likely cannot improve his ability to absorb heavy blows without being knocked down, but he can fight in a more controlled manner, and use his power more thoughtfully. He did all of this against Jardine, developing a real gameplan and doing a basic study of his opponent’s habitual weaknesses and exploiting them. Jardine, as has hurt him in the past, does not cover himself up at all while striking, so Silva simply looked for opportunities to land a short counter left, which is what knocked Jardine down for the finish. Embarrassingly for Jardine, seconds before that exchange a near-identical exchange occurred, with Silva’s hook missing his chin by inches, with no defensive adjustment on Jardine’s part. Similarly, against Chuck Liddell, Rashad killed him with a near-schoolyard move, flopping his left out in a pathetic facsimile of a feint, which caused Chuck to move into range to look for the uppercut, only to run into Rashad’s immediatel follow-up right. Rashad tried the same goofy trick against Machida, only to find himself being parried and trapped (since the feint was no true threat) and eating an immediate counter as he tried to rush into the overhand right, which was the beginning of the end.

While Rashad likely cannot completely re-build his striking style for this fight and patch all the weird problems in his footwork, he can certainly be expected to shore up some of these defensive liabilities, especially since it’s been made clear that Thiago Silva and his camp are diligent and skilled tape studies.

Thiago is the more versatile striker, punching well with both hands and throwing knees and kicks well, with Rashad being much more reliant on his hands, but Rashad should be faster and definitely possesses a better chin (one need only look at the amount of punishment Machida had to inflict in order to lay him out). Thiago is most dangerous when he can get on top of an opponent, as he has very punishing ground and pound and lead-heavy top control, but it’s unlikely he can get a takedown on a very solid wrestler like Rashad.

This is a good test for both men, but it’s likely that Rashad’s superior speed and Silva’s inferior chin will put the former champion back on the winning path. Rashad by KO round 1.


Paul Daley (+105) vs. Dustin Hazelett (-130)

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The Paul Daley hype train has gotten way out of control. Make no mistake-the man is nothing less than lethal on the feet, as I’ll be the first to acknowledge. However, he also has glaring weaknesses in that he’s lost on the ground and cannot wrestle. While he made Martin Kampmann look like a chump, it was less than a year ago that he was dominated by Nick Thompson, and not long before that he was embarrassed by Jake Shields. If Hazelett tries to strike with Daley, Semtex will walk right through him.

Dustin Hazelett is no fool. He knows where his strengths lie, despite his improving standup and natural power, and he has the size and wrestling to drag this fight to the ground, where he has an enormous advantage. Hazelett’s slick submission skills are the cut-throat sort that will provide a finish not long after the fight hits the ground against someone with Daley’s grappling vulnerabilities. It would be no shock to see Hazelett get clobbered, as Daley is truly gifted on the feet and Hazelett isn’t the most durable fighter, but he just has too much in his favor for the predicted outcome to be anything other than Hazelett by submission round 1.

I think Daley’s defensive liabilities are being underestimated against a top-notch grappler here, and like Hazelett for a unit at -130. I was able to get on him when the lines opened at even (follow my twitter) and thought it was good for two units at the time.


Joe Lauzon (-280) vs. Sam Stout (+235)

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Lauzon has two easily identifiable weaknesses: he’s small for one of the most competitive divisions in MMA, and, while skilled, he doesn’t have the offensive chops in any area of the game to cause enough concern to an opponent to take them out of their own game. That means that strong athletic fighters can physically dominate him and middling fighters can put him on the defensive with their strengths.

Sam Stout is definitely a middling fighter. Supposedly a kickboxing convert, he’s striking is only average, and he’s had to work hard to bring the rest of his game up to acceptable. But he is big and very durable. Unless Lauzon can leglock him early, he’s going to have to continually hustle for takedowns to keep Stout from scoring points on the feet. Lauzon doesn’t like taking punishment, but he’s tough enough to deal with Stout’s middling power, so a Stout victory will probably go the distance, while Lauzon can win either with a submission or (more likely) with continuous takedowns and ground control. I may be selling Lauzon’s abilities short, but I think he will struggle to get the takedowns and wear himself out, letting Stout take over. Sam Stout by decision.

Stout is pretty bad by UFC standards, and I don’t like to rely too much on that caliber of fighter, so I only recommend a small play on him here.


Duane Ludwig (+350) vs. Jim Miller (-425)

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Here’s someone that’s benefited greatly from the various withdrawals from UFC 108; Jim Miller would likely have been ground to dust by Sean Sherk (himself a replacement for similarly poor matchup Tyson Griffin) or at least out-pointed by his T-rex boxing, but now he’s going to be able to get takedowns and run his favored game against a more dangerous striker. A million years ago Duane was supposed to be a miniature Bas Rutten, but it turns out he could never adapt to the ground game as well as his one-time mentor and wasn’t as tough or lethal on the feet, either. Miller is an improving fighter that currently does his best work with decent wrestling and excellent top-position grappling. He’d never get top position on Sherk, but he should be able to reliably take Ludwig down and advance position until he can choke Ludwig. Jim Miller by submission, round 2.


Junior Dos Santos (-300) vs. Gilbert Yvel (+260)

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Junior Dos Santos is still unproven in many respects, but he’s proven all that he needs to win this fight. Against Crocop he showed that he can take a shot and go hard for three rounds, and he’s shown great hands and power throughout his UFC career. Gilbert Yvel is a dangerous striker, but he’s very faded and certainly not on the level of even the Crocop Santos recently dispatched. This is going to be ugly, with Dos Santos crushing the smaller Yvel early with strikes, although it’d be nice to see him work takedowns and submission offense against a fighter that isn’t going to threaten too much from the bottom, to get some live practice in. Dos Santos by KO round 1.

I’m normally averse to odds this long, but Yvel really doesn’t have much going for him in this fight.


Martin Kampmann (-240) vs. Jacob Volkmann (+195)

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Volkmann is in well over his head here. Paul Daley made Kampmann look like a clown, but Volkmann is no Paul Daley. Especially unfortunate for the Lloyd Christmas look-alike is the fact that, while Kampmann is billed as a kickboxer and often fights that way, his best skills seem to be on the ground, so Volkmann has the choice of being picked apart on the feet, where he’s most uncomfortable, or trying to work his traditional game and getting outclassed on the feet. While Kampmann can win in any way, Volkmann’s greatest chance lies in your traditional lay-and-pray offense, hoping he can freeze Kampmann in a defensive posture and eat up time that way to edge out the fight on the judge’s scorecard. I don’t think he can. As he gets increasingly desperate and Kampmann continues to pile up strikes on him, it’s likely that Volkmann will get softened up enough to fall into a submission. Kampmann by submission round 3.


Dan Lauzon (+150) vs. Cole Miller (-160)

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Miller was completely melted by Efrain Escudero in a demonstration that it takes more than reach to effectively work a jab, but Lauzon won’t bring the same kind of movement to the table, and certainly not the power. On the floor, Lauzon can expect a draw at best, getting suck in the lanky Miller’s guard, and on the feet, he won’t be able to get past Miller’s hands. A tough situation for the younger Lauzon, then. Miller by decision.


Ryan Jensen (+300) vs. Mark Munoz (-340)

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Munoz completely ran into a brick wall with the monstrous wrestling of Matt Hamill, but here he should be back to his old tricks: working a dominant wrestling game combined with enormous natural punching power to dominate his opponents. Jensen’s submission game shouldn’t seriously threaten him from the bottom with the kind of base Munoz brings to the table. Munoz by TKO round 1.


Jake Ellenberger (-140) vs. Mike Pyle (+110)

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Ellenberger doesn’t have the world’s sweetest boxing style, but he does have a fantastic gift of raw natural face-melting power. Pyle is a slick enough grappler to threaten him from anywhere on the ground, but Ellenberger’s wrestling is such that it will only go there if he wants it there, which he won’t. This puts Pyle, a skilled fighter and dangerous submission artist, in the unfortunate position of having his brains bashed out because he can’t get his own game started, which is why the wrestler’s ability to dictate the terms of the fight is so widely prized. Ellenberger by KO, round 1.

I have faith in Ellenberger’s power.


Rafaello Oliveira (-180) vs. John Gunderson (+160)

BestFightOdds.com

Neither one of these fighters is long for the UFC. Gunderson is more thoroughly established as a regional-level journeyman type fighter, while Oliveira has more potential to drastically improve and show that he does belong in the biggest league, although that’s still unlikely. Oliveira by decision.


2u on Dustin Hazelett at (EVEN) to win 2u
.5u on Sam Stout at (+235) to win 1.18u
3u on Junior Dos Santos at (-300) to win 1u
1.4u on Jake Ellenberger at (-140) to win 1u

ufc-betting


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