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August-08-2008,
UFC 87: Preview and Predictions...By Jay Graziani

UFC 87: Seek and Destroy
Saturday, August 9th, 10 PM ET
Target Center, Minneapolis
Weigh-in: Friday, August 8th, 5 PM ET, live on UFC.com

UFC 86 was another favorite-heavy event, with underdogs pulling off only two upsets, one being the controversial decision win of Forrest Griffin. August's installment doesn't look to be much better, with 8 of the 10 fights seeing favorites of 5-to-2 or better and a lot of rookies on the card. The dilution of talent in the UFC is becoming more and more apparent; with the exception of the welterweight title bout, not much else on this card has anything to shake up the UFC fighter hierarchy.

Here's a preview of Saturday night's fights, with current odds from Bookmaker.com.

Ben "Killa B" Saunders (5-0-2) vs. Ryan Thomas (9-1-0)
Current Odds: Saunders -285; Thomas +225

Ryan Thomas is so unknown that UFC.com doesn't even have a picture of him (along with 3 other fighters on this card). He has a decent record in small events, with the majority of his wins coming via submission. Saunders is coming off his first UFC bout, a win over fellow TUF 6 vet Dan Barrera. Both are well-versed in submissions and Thomas has a collegiate wrestling background to boot. This should be closer than it looks on paper, so I'll lean towards the underdog. Prediction: Thomas, 1st round submission.

Chris "The Professor" Wilson (13-4-0) vs. Steve "Hollywood" Bruno (11-3-0)
Current Odds: Wilson -325; Bruno +265

Bruno is a striker who has fought his way through small promotions against few challenging opponents. Wilson managed to go the distance with Jon Fitch in his UFC debut, a fight he stepped into as a replacement. Wilson has to be given some serious credit for holding up against Fitch, and I think he is a bit underrated here. Prediction: Wilson, 2nd round TKO.

Andre Gusmao (5-0-0) vs. Jon "Bones" Jones (5-0-0)
Current Odds: Gusmao -240; Jones +190

Gusmao collected a 5-0 record fighting for Renzo Gracie's NY Pitbulls in the IFL. Jones has put together an identical record in small MMA promotions, but has only been fighting since April and started training in MMA a mere 9 months ago. Gusmao may be a bit too much for him to handle this early in his career. Jones has a decent standup game and good wrestling background, but Gusmao will hold a strong edge in submissions. Prediction: Gusmao, 1st round submission.

Cheick Kongo (11-4-1) vs. Dan "The Viking" Evensen (10-2-0)
Current Odds: Kongo -550; Evensen +400

Kongo was surrounded by plenty of hype before losing a decision to Heath Herring in March. His biggest claim to fame is beating CroCop, although that doesn't seem as much of an accomplishment in hindsight. Evensen, last seen in BodogFIGHT, is making his UFC debut and has yet to fight anyone of note. Both should look to keep this standing, where Kongo's striking should play a big role. Kongo is a bit inconsistent to be this large of a favorite, so betting-wise I'll lean towards the underdog. Prediction: Kongo, 1st round TKO.

Luke "The Silent Assassin" Cummo (6-5-0) vs. Tamdan "The Barn Cat" McCrory (8-1-0)
Current Odds: Cummo -145; McCrory +115

Cummo is only 6-5, but each of those losses has been by the scorecards, against opponents including Joe Stevenson, Josh Koscheck, and, his most recent opponent, Luigi Fioravanti. He is primarily a striker but will struggle to get into range against 6'4" McCrory, who is coming off a 9 month hiatus since taking his first loss at the hands (or, more correctly, legs) of Akihiro Gono. Both are primarily strikers, but barring the reach advantage, I don't see much in McCrory's favor. Prediction: Cummo, 2nd round TKO.

Jason "The Athlete" Macdonald (20-9-0) vs. Demian Maia (7-0-0)
Current Odds: MacDonald +195; Maia -245

MacDonald bounced back from losses to Yushin Okami and Rich Franklin to beat Joe Doerkson in April. He's still on his game, but he missed his shot at the crown and now is playing more of a gatekeeper role. Maia is now 2-0 in the Octagon after besting Ed Herman. Maia's jiu-jitsu is top notch and he should be able to control MacDonald if he can keep the fight on the mat, but MacDonald is a bit too experienced and well-rounded to be this large of an underdog. Prediction: MacDonald, 3rd round TKO.

Manny "The Anvil" Gamburyan (8-2-0) vs. Rob "The Saint" Emerson (7-6-0)
Current Odds: Gamburyan -345; Emerson +275

This is a battle of TUF 5 contestants, with Emerson losing two first round fights (one as a substitute), while Gamburyan made it all the way to the finals only to fall to Nate Diaz due to injury. Ignoring the bizarre no contest against Gray Maynard at the TUF 5 finale, Emerson has won his last 5 fights despite his subpar record. Gamburyan is 2-0 since his loss to Diaz, both submissions coming under two minutes into the first round. Emerson will have good height/reach and striking advantages and the edge in conditioning, but he will be in big trouble if Gamburyan is able to keep it on the mat. I backed Emerson his last time out as a 2-to-1 dog and still think he is being a bit underrated by the linesmakers. Prediction: Emerson, 3rd round TKO.

Kenny "KenFlo" Florian (9-3-0) vs. Roger "El Matador" Huerta (20-1-1)
Current Odds: Florian -145; Huerta +115

This bout features two of the top contenders in the lightweight division, and the winner of this match may well put himself in line for a title shot. Florian has put together an impressive record thus far, with his only losses in the Octagon coming at the hands of Sean Sherk and Diego Sanchez. Huerta is no slouch either, with his only loss coming by submission 20 fights ago, although his list of opponents is far from impressive. Huerta has been in the public eye since his appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated and I'm surprised to see him as the underdog here -- I'll bite. Prediction: Huerta, 3rd round TKO.

Brock Lesnar (1-1-0) vs. Heath "The Texas Crazy Horse" Herring (28-13-0)
Current Odds: Lesnar -245; Herring +195

Lesnar was given no gift upon entering the UFC, immediately facing off against experienced contender Frank Mir. His second opponent was originally slated as Mark Coleman, but he now must contend with Herring, a long-time PRIDE fighter who has faced many of the top heavyweights in MMA. Herring has the experience edge but is only 2-2 since his Octagon debut in 2007. He has proven his endurance and ability to stay out of trouble, as 7 of his 13 career losses have gone the distance, but will be at a huge disadvantage on the ground against Lesnar, although they match up well in size. Lesnar looked respectable against Mir before getting caught in a kneebar, but I think we'll see some better submission defense from him this time around and an overall better showing for the early stoppage. Prediction: Lesnar, 1st round TKO.

Georges "Rush" St-Pierre (16-2-0) vs. Jon Fitch (17-2-0)
Current Odds: St-Pierre -335; Fitch +285

While St-Pierre comes in as the favorite, Fitch actually has the better record, undefeated in nearly 6 years. Fitch is well-rounded with a great wrestling background, but has had problems finishing fights, with 6 of his last 10 bouts going the distance. That may spell trouble against St-Pierre, who has faced tougher opponents and is widely considered among the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Barring what is widely-considered to be a fluke loss against Matt Serra, GSP has only lost to Matt Hughes, and that was back when Hughes was actually relevant. Look for an all-out battle and a great technical fight. While GSP beat the similarly-styled Koscheck, the odds on Fitch are a bit generous and he is worth a shot in a fight that is definitely winnable. Prediction: Fitch, 4th round TKO.

Picks (2008: 17-13 +3.85 units; Best Bets: 4-2, +2.00 units)

Luke Cummo -145
Rob Emerson +275
Roger Huerta +115
Brock Lesnar -245 (Best Bet)
Jon Fitch +285

Opinions (2008: 23-17 +9.95 units)
Ryan Thomas +225
Chris Wilson -325
Andre Gusmao -240
Dan Evensen +400
Jason MacDonald +195

8-8-08
Jay Graziani
MajorWager.com
graziani@majorwager.com

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