UFC 104 picks and predictions

UFC 104: Machida vs. Shogun takes place this weekend in Los Angeles and here are some handicapping insights on the main card matches.

MAIN EVENT: Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua
With all due respect to UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida, you’ve got to take the value with ‘Shogun’ Rua here. Before coming to the UFC ‘Shogun’ was on a short list for best ‘pound for pound’ fighters in the world. His run in the UFC got off to a bad start with a submission loss to Forrest Griffin. He had knee trouble during training and re-injured it in his subsequent fight against Mark Coleman. He’s since had knee surgery and looked very sharp in dominating Chuck Liddell at UFC 97.

‘Shogun’ has only lost three times in his MMA career—to Griffin in his UFC debut, to Mark Coleman at PRIDE 31 when he suffered a broken arm and couldn’t continue and early in his career to Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral. He’s beaten a who’s who of MMA superstars including Alistair Overeem (twice), Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Kevin Randleman and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson.

As always, it comes down to a matter of value—we’re getting a fighter who as of mid 2007 was considered the best light heavyweight in the world as a +320 dog. At the price, theoretical break even is just under 25% and ‘Shogun’ has a much better shot than that. Granted, Machida’s style is a tough matchup for anyone but with ‘Shogun’ you’re getting a top notch fighter at a great value price. See the latest UFC 104 odds below.

Cain Velasquez vs. Ben Rothwell

Velasquez is considered to be one of the next bigtime heavyweights by the UFC, but his win over Chieck Kongo at UFC 97 revealed some serious liabilities with his standup defense. Velasquez was dropped three times in the fight by Kongo’s punches, though he did recover each time and otherwise dominated the fight.
In this matchup, Ben Rothwell definitely has the striking power to exploit that weakness. ‘Big Ben’ has only lost once in his last 16 fights (to Andrei Arlovski at Affliction: Banned) and may have the best chin of any heavyweight in the sport. He’s also vastly more experienced than Velasquez, who’ll be fighting as a professional for just the 7th time here.

In other words, Rothwell definitely has a ‘puncher’s chance’ in this matchup and this should be a much more evenly contested fight that the wagering line suggests.

Gleison Tibeau vs. Josh Neer

Neer is a late replacement for Sean Sherk. Tibeau just a -130 favorite and while we think the underdog Neer has a good shot not much value backing him at even money. Pass.

Joe Stevenson vs. Spencer Fisher

Pretty simple concept here—these two fighters are much more evenly matched than the line suggests. Fisher has won four of his last five fights, while Stevenson has lost two of his last three. Value alone dictates a play on Fisher.

Anthony Johnson vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida

Yoshida went 1-2 in his first three professional fights, and has only lost once since for a 11-3 professional record. Unfortunately for him, his only loss in his last eleven fights was a highlight reel knockout defeat to Josh Koshcheck. Koscheck, of course, is a top level opponent so it’s hard to diminish him too much for dropping that fight. Johnson has been pegged as something of a future superstar by the UFC, but in our view he’s a pretty one dimensional fighter. Johnson has decent wrestling skills, but nothing to suggest that he’ll matchup effectively with Yoshida’s judo and submission expertise.

Ultimately, this is another fight that comes down to value—this is much closer to a ‘coin flip’ than the line suggests and that alone dictates a play on the underdog Yoshida.

That concludes our UFC 104 predictions. Follow the action live at THE SAVAGE SCIENCE. They've got the best UFC 104 play by play coverage by far. Stay tuned for more.

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