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October-24-2009,
UFC 104: Preview and Predictions...By Jay Graziani

UFC 104: Machida Vs. Shogun
Saturday, October 24th, 10 PM ET, live on pay-per-view
Staples Center, Los Angeles
Weigh-in: Friday, October 23rd, 4 PM ET, live on UFC.com
Current odds from Bookmaker.com

Stefan "Skyscraper" Struve (17-3-0) vs. Chase "Los Angeles" Gormley (6-0-0)
Current Odds: Struve +185; Gormley -225

Struve is coming off a bloody win over Denis Stojnic, his inagural victory in the Octagon. He faces a UFC novice in Gormley, who has racked up 6 straight wins in smaller promotions to earn this shot. Gormley has good hands and great takedowns, but the lanky Struve works well from his back and has good enough kickboxing to keep the newcomer at bay, especially considering his 8 inch height advantage. Prediction: Struve, 1st round submission.

Kyle "Kingsbu" Kingsbury (7-2-0) vs. Razak "Razor" Al-Hassan (6-1-0)
Current Odds: Kingsbury -135; Al-Hassan +105

Kingsbury disappointed on TUF 8, losing his UFC debut to Tom Lawler in the season finale event and even failing to notch a victory in two exhibition bouts during the show. Al-Hassan also came up short in his UFC debut, falling victim to a brutal Steve Cantwell armbar in the "Fight For The Troops" event. Whether that armbar caused any long-term damage has yet to be seen, though the little action we've witnessed from either fighter suggests they might not be quite ready for primetime anyway. I'll side with Kingsbury, as he at least has experience, even if in defeat, against a tougher class of opponents. Prediction: Kingsbury, 1st round TKO.

Jorge "El Conquistador" Rivera (16-7-0) vs. Rob "The Rosedale Reaper" Kimmons (22-4-0)
Current Odds: Rivera +125; Kimmons -155

Rivera has accumulated a 5-5 record in the Octagon stretching all the way back to UFC 44 six years ago, including just a 2-2 record since his appearance on TUF 4. Kimmons is a quick submission specialist, with only one of his last 16 fights making it into the second round and 12 of those ending in submission victories for him. While Kimmons should be able to stand with Rivera, if things get hairy he can rely on his superior ground game to get him out of trouble. Prediction: Kimmons, 1st round submission.

Yushin "Thunder" Okami (23-4-0) vs. Chael Sonnen (23-10-1)
Current Odds: Okami -220; Sonnen +180

Okami is surprisingly relegated to the undercard despite only a single loss (to Rich Franklin) in 8 appearances in the Octagon. Since returning to the UFC this year, Sonnen has a first-round submission loss to Demian Maia and a decision win over Dan Miller. Neither fighter is known for exciting bouts - their combined 46 wins include 23 by decision - and while both prefer a ground-and-pound attack, Okami is one of the best at it. Style matchup and power favor Okami as he should confirm his top-contender status. Prediction: Okami by decision.

Antoni Hardonk (8-5-0) vs. Pat "HD" Barry (4-1-0)
Current Odds: Hardonk -125; Barry -105

Hardonk's trying to get back on track after a one-sided loss to Cheick Kongo derailed his ascent in the heavyweight division. Barry was handed his first defeat (as a 3-to-1 favorite) when he was choked out by Tim Hague. Both are kickboxers, but look for Hardonk's superior ground skills to give him the edge. Prediction: Hardonk (-220), 2nd round TKO.

Ryan "Darth" Bader (9-0-0) vs. Eric "Red" Schafer (11-3-2)
Current Odds: Bader -450; Shafer +350

Bader notched a victory over Carmelo Marrero to continue his undefeated streak and validate his TUF8 championship run. Schafer's on a four-fight win streak dating back to his loss to Stephan Bonnar 2 years ago. Schafer marks a step up in competition, but Bader's stand-up and great wrestling background should make this a very winnable fight for him. Prediction: Bader, 2nd round TKO.

Anthony "Rumble" Johnson (7-2-0) vs. Yoshiyuki "Zenko" Yoshida (11-3-0)
Current Odds: Johnson -325; Yoshida +265

Johnson made short work of Luigi Fioravanti, once again displaying his knockout skills during Fight Night 17 in February. Yoshida bounced back from a loss to Josh Koscheck to quickly submit Brandon Wolff, entering as a 5-to-1 favorite. Yoshida has a strong Judo background, but Johnson's size advantage should allow his striking to dominate the fight. Prediction: Johnson, 3rd round TKO.

Joe "Daddy" Stevenson (30-10-0) vs. Spencer "The King" Fisher (23-4-0)
Current Odds: Stevenson -255; Fisher +205

Stevenson has lost three of his last five and is on the verge of lightweight irrelevancy, despite a recent decision win over Nate Diaz. Fisher has slowly worked his way up the lightweight ladder and has won six of his last eight, including the last three straight. Stevenson will have the clear advantage on the ground, but he hasn't delivered in a big fight for awhile and Fisher as a heavy-hitting underdog looks attractive. Prediction: Fisher by decision.

Gleison Tibau (19-6-0) vs. Josh "The Dentist" Neer (25-8-1)
Current Odds: Tibau -140; Neer +110

Tibau has lost in three of his last five outings, though his opponents during that span have represented a solid set of lightweight championship contenders. Neer has had only a meager break since fighting in August, a decision loss to Kurt Pellegrino, but steps in here to replace an injured Sean Sherk. Both fighters are coming off tough decision losses and really need a win here to keep their careers alive. Neer will likely be outclassed on the ground and I question his ability to keep this one standing or to finish it early. Prediction: Tibau, 3rd round submission.

Cain Velasquez (6-0-0) vs. Ben Rothwell (30-6-0)
Current Odds: Velasquez -325; Rothwell +265

Velasquez took a unanimous decision from Cheick Kongo to continue his undefeated streak, a fight which saw his chin tested despite Cain dominating the ground game for the majority of the fight. Rothwell is making his Octagon debut after a successful career in the IFL and Affliction. He has a single loss in his last 15 fights dating back to February of 2005, a 3rd round TKO at the hands of former UFC heavyweight champ Andrei Arlovski. Both are large, well-rounded fighters, with Rothwell likely dominating in standup, while Velasquez will control the mat. Nonetheless, Velasquez has come too far too fast to be this large of a favorite against a seasoned opponent. Prediction: Rothwell, 2nd round TKO.

Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida (15-0-0) vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (18-3-0)
Current Odds: Machida -415; Rua +315

Machida has looked near-flawless in his unblemished run to the light heavyweight championship, culminating in a 2nd round KO of Rashad Evans. His first title defense finds him facing former PRIDE champion Shogun Rua, who has followed his PRIDE brethren in slow UFC starts. His debut saw him submitted by now-disgraced Forrest Griffin, and he followed with a lackluster effort against Mark Coleman. A more recent first round KO of Chuck Liddell says less about Rua's ability than the Iceman's suddenly glass chin. Shogun hasn't shown a glimpse of his old PRIDE self yet, and there's no reason to count on his rebound coming against such a high-caliber fighter as Machida. Prediction: Machida by decision.

Picks (2009): 19-32 -24.25 units; Best Bets: 5-6 -2.45 units

Rob Kimmons -155
Antoni Hardonk -125
Yushin Okami -220 (Best Bet)
Spencer Fisher +205
Ben Rothwell +265

Opinions (2009): 32-39 -14.2 units
Stefan Struve +185
Kyle Kingsbury -135
Ryan Bader -450
Anthony Johnson -325
Gleison Tibau -140
Lyoto Machida -415

10-24-09
Jay Graziani
MajorWager.com
graziani@majorwager.com

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