UFC 104 Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 10/22/2009
After an abnormally long break, the UFC is back in action with another pay-per-view event. UFC 104: Machida vs. Shogun will take place on Saturday, Oct. 24 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The home of the Lakers, Kings, and that other pseudo-NBA team will host a card that doesn't have a lot of top-end star power, but which should go a long way towards sorting out the pecking order in the light heavyweight division. If new champion Machida can look impressive then he will remain undefeated and will establish himself as one of the best pound-for-pound MMA fighters in the world. A loss, though, would completely throw the division into chaos. Here's a look at how the card breaks down (all UFC odds from Bodog):
Lyoto Machida (-450) vs. Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua (+300) - Machida is undefeated, and is one of the smartest fighters in the octagon. He's a karate fighter who moves extremely well - well enough to overcome a lack of reach. He not only hasn't lost, but hasn't been particularly challenged along the way. Rua has to be frustrated by the spot he found himself in. He's had a decent run in the UFC, and should be in a position to be wearing the hardware. Machida's rise has gotten in the way of that vision, though. Rua is good enough to beat a lot of fighters, but I'm not convinced that he is smart enough, strategic enough, or aggressive enough to overcome Machida's impressive tools. Rua will have to come out of the gate very fast and set the tone before Machida can do the same. I don't like his chances.
Pick: Lyoto Machida
Cain Velasquez (-450) vs. Ben Rothwell (+300) - Velasquez is undefeated, and is unquestionably on the rise. If he wins this fight then there is a pretty good chance that he will get a shot at Brock Lesnar for the heavyweight title, assuming Lesnar gets past Shane Carwin in UFC 106 (which he will do). To get that chance, Velasquez needs to get past Rothwell, a journeyman who is making his UFC debut after 36 career fights. Rothwell was with Affliction before they self-destructed, and he has lost 14 out of his last 15. Rothwell is no disgrace, but he's facing a fighter who is younger, stronger, tougher, and much, much faster. Rothwell is at his best when he can earn a submission from the top position on the ground. That likely won't happen well here.
Pick: Cain Velasquez
Gleison Tibau (-130) vs. Josh Neer (even) - This fight was supposed to feature Sean Sherk, but an injury forced Neer to step in. Both guys are coming off a controversial loss, and both are looking to establish their credibility in the very tough lightweight division. The match features an interesting contrast in styles. Tibau generally likes to take his opponent to the ground and then wear him down. Neer is very good with the takedown defense, and will make it hard for Tibau to fight his fight, and therefore to get comfortable. Because of that, and because the fight is already very close, I lean towards Neer because his odds seem like a better deal in a coin flip.
Pick: Josh Neer
Anthony Johnson (-500) vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida (+325) - These two fighters couldn't be more different if they tried. Johnson is a brawler - a striker who punches and punches until he hits something. Yoshida is a more refined, tactical judo fighter. If Johnson wins it is because he overpowers and outhits Yoshida. If Yoshida wins it's because he will have gained a tactical edge and out-thought Johnson. If Yoshida were a top fighter then I'd give him a big edge. I haven't been particularly impressed by him, though, so I think that Johnson's power will be more than enough to overcome his lack of tactics.
Pick: Anthony Johnson
Joe Stevenson (-295) vs. Spencer Fisher (+235) - Both of these guys are long-time contenders looking to take their game to the next level. In neither case am I particularly optimistic that that next level is a particularly lofty one. Fisher would have an edge if it came down to a slugfest - he's a better puncher with a longer reach. Stevenson is better on the ground, though, and he has a more well-rounded game and a general skill edge. As much as I would like to avoid another pick at heavy odds, I can't do it here.
Pick: Joe Stevenson
Ryan Bader (-450) vs. Eric Schafer (+300) - Schafer is a strong jiu jitsu fighter, but he just isn't in a good spot here. Bader is a significantly better fighter, and he is very difficult to get to the ground. This one is no closer than the price.
Pick: Ryan Bader
Antoni Hardonk (-135) vs. Patrick Barry (+105) - Both guys were formerly impressive fighters on the rise who have taken backwards steps. Neither guy is particularly special, but Hardonk is the better fighter.
Pick: Antoni Hardonk
Yushin Okami (-260) vs. Chael Sonnen (+200) - Sonnen is looking to get a winning streak going, but he's outmatched here.
Pick: Yushin Okami
Rob Kimmons (-155) vs. Jorge Rivera (+125) - Rivera is aging and is past his prime. Kimmons is good enough to take advantage of that.
Pick: Rob Kimmons
Kyle Kingsbury (-125) vs. Razak Al-Hassan (-105) - We don't know much about either guy, and don't have a lot of reason to be excited about what we do know. This one isn't worth making a pick in.
Chase Gormley (-250) vs. Stefan Struve (+190) - I normally don't back guys making their UFC debut, but I'd make an exception with Gormley. He's undefeated and talented, and seems to be tabbed as a heavyweight with real potential.
Pick: Chase Gormley
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