UFC 80 Predictions and Betting Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 01/10/2008
It seems hard to believe, because we just got done with UFC 79, but UFC 80 is just around the corner. The painfully lame nickname for this event is Rapid Fire. This gathering doesn't have any particular high-profile appeal, and is definitely more for the hardcore fans than the general public, but there is still some intrigue to be found in the card. Odds for three fights, which will take place at Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, England on Saturday, Jan. 19 starting at 3:00 p.m. EST, are posted at Bodog. Here's a preview:
UFC 80 Predictions:
BJ Penn (-285) vs. Joe Stevenson (+225) - The main event, which is for the Lightweight Championship belt, isn't as glamorous or as competitive as some we have seen recently.
Penn has put together a pretty solid MMA career. He has a record of 11-4-1, and he has come back to beat two people who beat him - Jens Pulver and Matt Hughes. He also has a respectable loss to the now scorching-hot Georges St. Pierre, and the much bigger Lyoto Machida. He also has some solid wins over guys like Serra, and both Rodrigo and Renzo Gracie. He's a ruthless submission fighter who relies on some potent Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He has a powerful takedown, and it is very hard to take him down. His biggest flaw is stamina late in matches when his opponent is bigger or stronger.
Stevenson doesn't have the same credentials, but he is 4-1 in his last five, and he is no patsy. He also uses Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, so this match is truly strength against strength. He's a seasoned journeyman at 28-7, but his most impressive victory is only in The Ultimate Fighter 2. He has dropped down in weight since then.
Stevenson is bigger and stronger, and that could be a bit of a problem for Penn based on past history. Still, Penn is clearly the classier fighter, and should have an edge. My read on this fight is that Penn is the deserved favorite, but I'm not yet convinced that he is as strong a favorite as his price indicates. If the price moves towards the favorite then Stevenson could become attractive as a live underdog, but he is far from a lock. In fact, if I had to pick an outcome it would probably be Penn by decision, though I'm obviously not totally excited about the choice.
Gabriel Gonzaga (-260) vs. Fabricio Werdum (+200) - Gonzaga has only two losses in his career. His most recent was in a heavyweight championship fight against Randy Couture in UFC 74. He earned that fight by knocking out Cro Crop with a stunning kick to the head. The only other loss for Gonzaga was back in 2003 to Werdum. Werdum won that fight in a third round TKO. His career hasn't been particularly impressive since then, though. His biggest fight was a loss by unanimous decision against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in July of 2006. He just signed with UFC last year, and he lost his only fight. That was by unanimous decision to Andrei Arlovski at UFC 70 in a match so boring and lacking in action that the crowd booed throughout.
Gonzaga seems to have an edge in this fight. The challenge is that the public is pretty overwhelming on the side of Gonzaga. That often makes me nervous, and that's the case here. Gonzaga is full of potential, but he hasn't fully realized that potential. It will take more thought to decide whether this price reflects his chances of taking a step forward here.
Kendall Grove (-350) vs. Jorge Rivera (+275) - This is not an interesting fight in my eyes. Both guys are coming off of regrettable losses - Grove in a stunning first round knockout to Patrick Cote at UFC 74, and Rivera almost a year ago to Terry Martin at UFC 67. The difference is that Grove is a promising fighter who I think has a pretty solid future, while Rivera has dome little to impress up to this point, and I don't expect much different going forward. I am reasonably confident that Grove will win, but I certainly am not happy with this price. My inclination would be to hold off to see if the line softens a bit, and hold off if it doesn't. Even at this inflated price, though, I don't see any particular value on Rivera.