Gambling Spotlight: UFC 93

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Rich Franklin

#13 Light Heavyweight
#8 Middleweight

Former UFC MW Champ

vs.

Dan Henderson

#15 Light Heavyweight
#3 Middleweight

Former Pride MW Champ
Former Pride WW Champ

+105 (DOG/5D) Best Line -125 (DOG/BOOK/5D)
34 Age 38
6'1" Height 5'11"
24 - 3 - 1 Record 23 - 7 - 0
13 / 9 [T]KO / SUB 10 / 1
AMC / Matt Hume Training Camp Team Quest Temecula

W - Hamill (TKO)
W - Lutter (TKO)
L - Silva (TKO)

Last 3 Fights W - Palhares (UD)
L - Silva (SUB)
L - Jackson (UD)

This fight lacks the epic quality of 2007's battle between Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva, but we still get a fight pitting the perennial elite of Pride and the UFC's 185 divisions. Henderson played the role of MMA's Rennaissance Man, moving between weight classes to fight the likes of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Murilo Bustamante, Murilo Rua, Kazuo Misaki, and Wanderlei Silva while becoming the only fighter to hold major titles in two divisions at once. Franklin built his reputation in the UFC, defeating Evan Tanner to become the promotion's middleweight champion, and was one victory over Anderson Silva away from cleaning out the entire division.

Each fighter owns an extensive record, and together they bring a combined 58 fights into this contest. Their skill sets are clear: Henderson is a former Olympic wrestler, packs a powerful right hand, and sports an iron chin; Franklin brings days of cardio, more technical striking, and an underrated jiu jitsu game. These two transcend the classic notion of "striker vs. grappler" and will feature well rounded and well tested MMA skills.

Henderson and Franklin, despite their track records, have questions to answer in this fight. Henderson, 38 years of age, needs to prove age hasn't caught up to him and he can still hang with the upper echelon of mixed martial artists. For Franklin, a victory Saturday would give him the highest profile win of his career. He has fallen to elite fighters when given the chance and can claim Yushin Okami as his "best" win (with a performance that didn't particularly impress me).

Unlike the other Olympic wrestler on the card, Henderson's style should allow him to follow the Randy Couture career progression. The grueling Greco style relies more on leverage and technique compared to the athletic explosion needed from a freestyle wrestler or the reflexes necessary to maintain a lengthy career for a striker. Henderson stood toe-to-toe with a much bigger, stronger, and faster Quinton Jackson for 25 minutes which should give every indication that he can still hang with the cream of the sport's crop.

Franklin's position hangs a little more precariously as his only ventures into big fight waters have ended with his lights turned off. It's fair to mention those losses come to pound-for-pound kingpin Anderson Silva and the buzzsaw (to borrow a term from our friends at Deadspin) known as Lyoto Machida, but a loss to Henderson validates the "gatekeeper" tag pinned on him after the second Silva loss.

This fight could unfold in a number of different ways. Maybe Henderson ground 'n' pounds Franklin to a TKO. Perhaps Franklin slaps on a surprise armbar. We could see Henderson land that dynamite right or Franklin punish Dan's body with an arsenal of strikes. I expect a grueling battle of attrition regardless of the result.

In contrast to other prognosticators who's opinion I respect, I do like Henderson in the fight. I feel his ability to control where the fight goes and his stronger resistance to being finished will be the deciding factors. I also predict he'll wade through Franklin's standup in order to work his clinch game.

I put a small play on Henderson when the line opened at -125, and I don't plan on piling any more action on it. I still recommend a small play at that price, though I can't fault anyone for siding with Franklin at any positive number.

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Mark Coleman

Former UFC HW Champ
UFC 10 Champion
UFC 11 Champion
2000 Pride OWGP Champion

vs.

Mauricio Rua

#9 Light Heavyweight
2005 Pride MWGP Champion

+320 (BOOK/5D) Best Line -365 (DOG)
44 Age 27
6'1" Height 6'1"
15 - 8 - 0 Record 16 - 3 - 0
4 / 8 [T]KO / SUB 13 / 1
Team Hammer House Training Camp Universidade da luda
L - Emelianenko (SUB)
W - Rua (TKO)
W - Voorn (SUB)
Last 3 Fights L - Griffin (SUB)
W - Overeem (KO)
W - Nakamura (UD)

This fight brings these two together for a "long awaited" rematch stemming from a post fight brawl that erupted after their February 2006 meeting.  Each man enters this bout with questions hanging overhead.  Rua returns from two surgeries that repaired a ruptured ACL and looks to redeem himself after a poor performance against Forrest Griffin.  Coleman comes off over two years of inactivity.  In addition, he holds a 2-3 record in the last 5 years.  His three losses have all come from top heavyweights (Emelianenko twice and Filipovic once), but his only legitimate victory is over scrub Milco Voorn.

I believe Shogun will come into this fight on a healthy knee.  Training videos have surfaced that show him planting and pivoting on his knee without hesitation.  He appears to be on schedule for a typical rehab from ACL surgery.  Coleman should be healthy coming into this bout.  He suffered an injury leading up to his fight with Brock Lesnar (claiming a torn MCL).  I've read no reports of a surgery so he presumably has been able to heal it with rehab alone.

Rua has a mistaken reputation as a dangerous striker.  While there's truth in the statement, his real skills lies in his mat work and ground 'n' pound.  Still, his standup poses a ton of problems for someone like Coleman who lacks any sort of ability outside of his wrestling. 

And therein lies Coleman's only avenue towards victory - wrestling.  He will have to keep the fight on the floor and maintain a dominant position for fifteen minutes and win a decision (or break his arm again).  This poses significant problems.  For starters, Coleman is slow as molasses at 44.  He lacks the explosive push that a freestyle specialist needs to maintain consistent success on his doubles.  Second, if you watch the Filipovic and second Emelianenko fights, you see Coleman abandon the takedown game after his opponents prove they can defend the against them.  I don't believe Coleman will have continued success with his wrestling, and while Rua might not be as scary a striker as Filipovic or Emelianenko, he's certainly good enough on the feet to demolish Coleman.

I like Rua up to -500 in this fight, though the closer you get to that number the easier it is to pass on.  Perception is reality in this fight - the UFC is giving Rua a semi-relevant and interesting tuneup.  Barring a repeat of the first fight's freak injury, Shogun will take this however he wants.

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Jeremy Horn

vs.

Rousimar Palhares

+350 (DOG) Best Line -390 (5D)
33 Age 28
6'1" Height 5'8"
80 - 18 - 5 Record 8 - 2
19 / 49 [T]KO / SUB 1 / 6
Elite Performance Training Camp Brazilian Top Team
L - Lister (SUB)
L - Marquardt (SUB)
W - McGee (UD)
Last 3 Fights L - Henderson (UD)
W - Salaverry (SUB)
W - Acacio (SUB)

Betting Rousimar Palhares involves laying some heavy chalk, but for good reason. Jeremy Horn has all but given up the notion of being a competitive professional fighter, showing up for fights out of shape and without any sort of drive to win. Instead, he seems more motivated by the luster of a paycheck and the opportunity to keep his name in the mix to promote his school.

His last two fights have been particularly embarassing. Nathan Marqaurdt unceremoniously trounced him at UFC 81. Dean Lister, recently released from the UFC and lauded on the internet, defeated an uninspired Horn by guillotine at the Ultimate Fighter 7 Finale. Palhares brings more to the table than the one-dimensional Lister with powerful, if unrefined, striking and a strong chin if his fight with Dan Henderson is any indication.

Palhares has value up to -500. It's hard to imagine any avenues leading to a Horn victory. His skillset falls right into Palhares's hands. Horn is a good jiu jitsu player, but will have trouble with a stronger and more dynamic grappler. He brings next to no danger standing, and doesn't have any sort of size or speed advantage to win a decision.

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Alan Belcher

 

vs.

Denis Kang

#21 Middleweight

+235 (5D) Best Line -245 (BOOK)
24 Age 31
6'2" Height 5'11"
13 - 5 - 0 Record 31 - 10 - 3
7 / 3 [T]KO / SUB 12 / 15
Remix MMA Training Camp American Top Team
W - Herman (SD)
L - Day (TKO)
W - Starnes (TKO)
Last 3 Fights W - Eastman (TKO)
W - Young (KO)
L - Mousasi (SUB)

This fight has given me this most trouble out of any on the card. Which Denis Kang will we get: the rising star who went on a 21 fight undefeated streak from 2003-2006 or the fallen fighter that passed the prospect torch to Gegard Mousasi? Will Alan Belcher's height advantage come into play? Does Belcher's UFC experience give him a psychological edge in Kang's Octagon debut?

To address the last question first, I don't believe Kang will have any significant problems adjusting to the UFC atmosphere. He has mounds of international experience, and unlike other incoming veterans, doesn't appear to have the pressure of a company push received by the likes of a Quinton Jackson or "Shogun" Rua.

The other two issues leave me more perplexed. Kang's streak includes impressive wins over Akihiro Gono and Murilo Rua, but he made critical mistakes in recent fights with Mousasi and his KO loss to Yoshihiro Akiyama. Kang also lacks size (though he packs on muscle well at the weight), and will be dwarfed by Belcher and other division monsters like Anderson Silva and Nathan Marquardt.

Kang is miles ahead of Belcher as a mixed martial artist, and the line reflects that. Belcher poses a dangerous threat on the feet given his Muay Thai background, but has shown to be defensively deficient in recent fights with middle-of-the-road fighters like Kalib Starnes and Jason Day.

I originally liked Belcher's side when the line opened and ended up taking a half-unit flier on him at +235, but the more I play the fight in my head, the more I feel like I'm gambling. Belcher hasn't shown much outside of flashy offensive displays, and I'm not confident he has the kind of power that Akiyama floored Kang with. Stay away unless you need a degenerate fix, in which case follow my lead with Belcher. (LATE NOTE: I ended up squashing my original play and have a unit exposed on Kang at -245.)

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Marcus Davis

#13 Welterweight

vs.

Chris Lytle

#19 Welterweight

-145 (5D) Best Line +135 (DOG/BOOK)
35 Age 34
5'10" Height 5'11"
15 - 4 - 0 Record 26 - 16 - 5
5 / 8 [T]KO / SUB 4 / 18
Team Sityodtong Training Camp Integrated Fighting Academy
W - Kelly (SUB)
L - Swick (UD)
W - Liaudin (KO)
Last 3 Fights W - Taylor (UD)
L - Koscheck (UD)
W - Bradley (TKO)

Lytle and Davis both promise to come out and trade with one another.  This bodes well for fans and potentially Lytle and Davis's pocketbooks, but the soft collusion bothers me to an extent.

Davis should have the upper hand in a straight Brawl with Lytle.  In Lytle's last matchup with Paul Taylor at UFC 89, Taylor landed quick and compact strikes throughout the fight.  Lytle took the decision with his size and strength advantage while throwing an overwhelming barrage of power shots. 

Davis, however, has much crisper kickboxing and much more KO power than Taylor.  Lytle won't be able to get away with the same strategy he used in that fight.  Instead, he'll have to bully Davis in the clinch and put Davis on the floor.  Unfortunately, that runs in stark contrast to what's been said in all pre-fight media.

If I had confirmation that Lytle would fight smart, I would have no problem recommending a one or two unit play on him.  Without that guarantee and with all indications that he'll bang with Davis, I recommend passing unless you can get Lytle at +125 or better or Davis at -115 or better.

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