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January-30-2009,
UFC 94: Preview and Predictions...By Jay Graziani

UFC 94: St-Pierre vs. Penn 2
Saturday, January 31st, 10 PM ET on PPV
MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
Weigh-in: Friday, January 30th, 7 PM ET, live on UFC.com and ESPN.com
Current odds from Bookmaker.com

Matt "No Regard" Arroyo (3-2-0) vs. Dan Cramer (0-0-0)
Current Odds: Arroyo -170; Cramer +140

Arroyo has appeared in the finales of both The Ultimate Fighter 6 and 7, most recently falling to a 1-1 record at the hands of Matt Brown. He has a strong jiu-jitsu background, but little professional experience. Cramer has yet to notch a professional fight despite appearing on TUF 7. He came in with a 3-0 amateur record, but was injured before his planned professional debut against Cale Yarbrough at the TUF 7 finale. Cramer has the better standup, but his lack of experience will be his downfall against a more experienced submission specialist. Prediction: Arroyo, 1st round submission.

"Irish" Jake O'Brien (10-2-0) vs. Christian "The Hungarian Nightmare" Wellisch (8-4-0)
Current Odds: O'Brien -275; Wellisch +215

O'Brien, a former Purdue wrestler, is coming off back-to-back TKO losses to Andrei Arlovski and Cain Velasquez. He hasn't tasted victory in over two years. Wellisch, meanwhile, caught a mean right cross en route to a 44-second KO loss his last time out. Both are moving down from heavyweight, so how each handles the weight adjustment may play a major role. There may be value in Wellisch at this high of a line. Prediction: Wellisch, 2nd round TKO.

Chris "The Professor" Wilson (14-4-0) vs. John "Doomsday" Howard (10-4-0)
Current Odds: Wilson -355; Howard +285

Wilson lost but went the distance against Jon Fitch in his UFC debut, then followed that up with a decent showing in a decision win over Steve Bruno. He has solid striking, a good submission game, and great takedown defense. Howard is making his UFC debut after bouncing around smaller promotions, including the IFL. He is also more of a standup guy, but has notched a number of submission victories. Wilson's reach should keep Howard at bay; look for this match to end early. Prediction: Wilson, 1st round TKO.

Manny "The Anvil" Gamburyan (8-3-0) vs. Thiago Tavares (13-3-0)
Current Odds: Gamburyan -110; Tavares -120

Judo expert Gamburyan was on a roll since his TUF television appearance, but then was KO'ed by fellow reality show star Rob Emerson in 12 seconds. Tavares lost his last two as a very heavy favorite, but he joins the majority of Brazilian fighters in being excellent in submissions. Tavares should also have the edge in stand-up, especially considering his reach advantage. Look for Tavares to finally prove deserving of the favorite role. Prediction: Tavares, 2nd round submission.

Jon Fitch (17-3-0) vs. Akihiro "The Japanese Sensation" Gono (29-13-7)
Current Odds: Fitch -725; Gono +525

Fitch is surprisingly relegated to the undercard even though his decision loss to Georges St-Pierre was his first since 2002. Gono most recently lost a decision to Dan Hardy which saw him enter as a 7-to-2 favorite. The PRIDE veteran has been in the fight game for nearly 15 years and the wear has shown in his last 2 fights where he was virtually ineffective. Nonetheless, I can't advocate laying this much chalk against an experienced fighter with plenty of tricks up his sleeve. I don't see Gono winning, but the odds here are too high to back Fitch. Prediction: Fitch, 3rd round TKO.

Nate Diaz (10-2-0) vs. Clay "The Carpenter" Guida (24-9-0)
Current Odds: Diaz -140; Guida +110

Diaz is 5-0 since formally entering the UFC after his TUF 5 championship run. He is a talented up-and-comer, though this will be his first UFC pay-per-view appearance. Guida has also been flying under the radar with his last 3 fights broadcast on free TV. The lanky Diaz will have a significant reach advantage on Guida, and his lankiness will add to his submission danger as well. While Guida has been through some wars, Diaz's jiu-jitsu seems to be a terrible match-up for him; and despite his heart and willpower, Clay will have to pull out all the stops to even manage to take this to the scorecards. Prediction: Diaz, 3rd round submission.

Karo "The Heat" Parisyan (18-5-0) vs. Dong Hyun "Stun Gun" Kim (11-0-1)
Current Odds: Parisyan -285; Kim +225

Parisyan was once seen as the paragon of judo in the UFC, but he's been unable to finish fights, managing only one stoppage in the last 5 years and 11 fights. His last fight against Thiago Alves showed that a good striker with an ability to defend grappling can pick him apart. Unfortunately for Kim, his strength is judo and he has yet to face competition on the level of Parisyan. Kim struggled in winning a controversial split decision against Matt Brown in September, and the step up in class will pose big problems for him here. Parisyan has been flat lately, but this is a great spot to start a comeback run. Prediction: Parisyan by decision.

Stephan "American Psycho" Bonnar (11-4-0) vs. Jon "Bones" Jones (7-0-0)
Current Odds: Bonnar -175; Jones +145

Bonnar has only four blemishes on his record, all at the hands of elite opponents. Three of his losses ended in decision (Forrest Griffin twice, Rashad Evans once) and one ended by stoppage due to cuts (vs Lyoto Machida way back in 2003). All those opponents are currently top contenders in the light heavyweight division. However, Bonnar hasn't fought since October 2007, pulling out of a March bout against Matt Hamill due to knee injury. He is 2-0 in the Octagon since losing the second time to Griffin, but against lower-tier opposition. Jones is a hot up-and-comer, compiling a 7-0 record just four months after his professional debut in April. Jones decisioned an undefeated yet unimpressive Andre Gusmao in August, and while he held his own in standup and in the clinch, his ground game left a lot to be desired. Against a strong jiu-jitsu game like Bonnar's, Jones will have to hope to keep it standing. Bonnar, however, has better standup than Gusmao, and that, coupled with his experience, should lead The American Psycho to a decisive victory. Prediction: Bonnar, 2nd round TKO.

Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida (13-0-0) vs. Thiago Silva (13-0-0)
Current Odds: Machida -280; Silva +220

Lucky number 13. Both Machida and Silva sport perfect 13-0 career records, and the winner here should vault themselves into title contention. This fight was originally slated for October, but a back injury to Silva caused a postponement. Machida is considered a top light heavyweight, recently notching a hard-fought, but ultimately boring, victory over Tito Ortiz. His resume is stacked, with wins over Penn, Franlin, and Bonnar, though the latter two victories came over 5 years ago. Silva's record isn't as impressive, with no particular standouts in the list of his fallen opponents, though 3 of his 4 UFC bouts have ended in the first round. Silva has only gone the distance once, which may spell trouble against Machida, 7 of whose last 9 fights went to the scorecards. Machida's style has frustrated strikers like Silva; he will likely continue his game plan of slowing the pace and wearing down his opponent. Silva just doesn't have the experience to out-strategize Machida and score the KO, his only real shot at victory. Prediction: Machida by decision.

Georges "Rush" St-Pierre (17-2-0) vs. BJ "The Prodigy" Penn (13-4-1)
Current Odds: St-Pierre -175; Penn +145

St-Pierre is perhaps considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, with his only losses coming by fluke TKO to Matt Serra and a submission to Matt Hughes back when Hughes was relevant. He's fought a virtual "who's who" of lightweight and middleweight fighters and has rarely looked bad, or even beatable. Penn and St-Pierre have faced off before, a split decision that went to St-Pierre. Penn rebounded from that defeat to win 3 of his next 4 and the lightweight title. He'll move back up in weight here, though that shouldn't be much cause for concern given his history of bouncing around divisions. Both are top-notch, elite fighters with plenty of big-fight experience and deep records against quality opponents. While GSP is a deserving favorite in this role, don't write off Penn, who has looked much better since his move to lightweight. Penn will give GSP a run for his money, and is impossible to pass up at plus money. Prediction: Penn, 5th round submission.

Picks (2009): 2-2 -0.05 units; Best Bets: 1-0 +1.00 units
Nate Diaz -140
Stephan Bonnar -175 (Best Bet)
BJ Penn +145

Opinions (2009): 1-5 -5.75 units
Matt Arroyo -170
Christian Wellisch +215
Chris Wilson -355
Thiago Tavares -120
Akihiro Gono +525
Karo Parsyan -285
Lyoto Machida -280

01-30-09
Jay Graziani
MajorWager.com
graziani@majorwager.com

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