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UFC 104 Matchups / Odds – Preview

UFC 104 Preview/Picks

Stressed about World Series odds? Don’t worry. You still have time to do your baseball homework. In the meantime, how about letting out that stress by watching some fights? UFC 104 airs this Saturday and puts a title on the line for the first time since early August. Let’s make picks for the top fights.

Light heavyweight championship bout: Lyoto Machida (15-0) vs Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (18-3)

UFC 104 betting lines: Machida -450, Rua +325

A year ago, Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida’s role in the UFC was unclear; we knew he was a phenomenal fighter, especially on the defensive end, but many fans found him “boring.” Since then, he’s viciously knocked out two undefeated fighters, Thiago Silva and now ex-champion Rashad Evans. Still think he’s boring? If anyone still thinks so, Saturday should change that opinion once and for all.

The reason: few fighters are as aggressive as challenger Mauricio Rua. “Shogun” has devastating power in his Muay Thai knees, kicks and punch combinations. Of his 18 wins, 15 are knockouts and two are submissions. The guy loves to finish fights and will go for broke against Machida, forcing the champion to act.

Unfortunately for Shogun, his exciting style may play right into Machida’s hands. Statistically, Machida is the toughest fighter to hit in the UFC today. The one truly successful Karate practitioner of the sport, he uses his upright stance to stay out of his opponents’ striking range. He frustrates them, forces them to lunge at him, then explodes with counter attacks. That should be his game plan against the overaggressive Shogun and should be the key to him retaining the light heavyweight belt.

Online betting pick: Machida -450

Heavyweight bout: Cain Velazquez (6-0) vs Ben Rothwell (30-6)

UFC 104 betting lines: Velazquez -300, Rothwell +240

Cain Velazquez may be the Mark Sanchez of MMA – thought to be the next big thing by some but considered extremely overhyped and inexperienced by others. Though he was a win away from a title shot against Brock Lesnar until Shane Carwin got bumped up to No. 1 contender status, Velazquez may be better off facing Rothwell, who is a solid intermediate challenge for him.

Ben Rothwell is no pushover; he’s a big, heavy-handed fighter who has battled high-end heavyweights like Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski. Rothwell is very well-rounded, combining his punching power with solid wrestling and submission skills. Velazquez, a wrestler first and a kickboxer second, will have his work cut out for him trying to budge the 265 pounds-plus Rothwell on the ground.

I think Velazquez is up to the task. He’s an excellent technical wrestler thanks to his background at Arizona State and he already showed that he can manhandle a much bigger man when he beat Cheick Kongo at UFC 99. Though Rothwell has dangerous hands, Velazquez also showed against Kongo that he can really take a punch – or three. Most importantly, Velazquez’s personality doesn’t fit the “overhyped” label; he’s a tireless worker, never satisfied with his performance and always looking to improve. I don’t think he’ll underestimate Rothwell.

Don’t expect an easy fight by any means, but Velazquez will prevail – just like the Phillies’ World Series betting hopes.

Online betting pick: Velazquez -300


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