Gambling Spotlight: UFC 123

In 1995, Tim Roth played Ted the Bellhop in the movie Four Rooms. The movie, directed by Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino, interweaves four separate stories with Ted as the unifying device. Ted must deal with a coven of witches in need of a sperm donation, a fantasy hostage situation between husband and wife, babysitting two children while running the rest of the hotel, and an offer to play the part of "hatchet man."

The four combatants in the featured bouts at UFC 123 bring their own unique tales into the event. Lyoto Machida attempts to bounce back not only from his first lost, but his first experience with involuntary unconsciousness. Quinton Jackson finds himself at a career crossroads: Has he given up on MMA for the allure of a life without the peripheral commitments of the fight game? Matt Hughes might be in his last marquee as his illustrious career inches closer to its final stop. And B.J. Penn once again finds fans questioning his prodigious nickname.

I guess that leaves Dana White to play the part of Ted.

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All photos by MMA Junkie.

Odds courtesy of Best Fight Odds.


Quinton Jackson

#4 Light Heavyweight
Former UFC LHW Champ


Lyoto Machida

#2 Light Heavyweight
Former UFC LHW Champ

32 Age 32
6'1" Height 6'1"
73" Reach 74"
30 - 8 - 0 Record 16 - 1 - 0
14 / 7 TKO / SUB 5 / 1
Wolfslair MMA Camp Black House
L - Evans (UD)
W - Jardine (UD)
W - W. Silva (TKO)

Last 3
L - Rua (TKO)
W - Rua (UD)
W - Evans (TKO)

"I don't want to kill him. It's a sport. I just hope he survives."

That's what Quinton Jackson said about Chuck Liddell heading into their rematch at UFC 71. Dripping with confidence. In peak physical condition. A rampage waiting to be unleashed.

So, his words leading up to his UFC 123 fight with Lyoto Machida lead me to question his mindset. Jackson seems more concerned with drawing an exciting fight out of the (now cliche) elusive Machida. He's gone as far as to say that he doesn't care if he wins or loses as long as he puts on an exciting fight.

Excuse me? Is this the same Quinton Jackson who has told us how much he hates losing all these years? Is this the same Quinton Jackson who would have rather avenged his loss to Forrest Griffin than challenge then-champion Machida? Is this the same Quinton Jackson who clawed endlessly for a rematch with Pride nemesis Wanderlei Silva?

Jackson's camp does little to quell fears that he has what it takes to beat Machida. He's been training in a "secret facility" somewhere in Orange County so he can be near his kids in Orange County. He doesn't appear to have brought in any new, high-level training partners, either.

But I'm most distressed by the hubris eminating from Jackson and his trainers. Tiki Ghosn seems to think that Jackson simply needs to wade through Machida's strikes and cut off the cage on his path to victory. Jackson himself has stated that Machida isn't going to surprise him with anything he hasn't seen in near 40 fights.

These sorts of things indicate an apathy surrounding the Jackson team. Jackson's camp is essentially planning to solve a Rubic's Cube by rotating the sides until they stumble onto the solution.

The Machida riddle isn't so easy to solve. Mauricio Rua needed to find the perfect spot on his temple in order to disrupt Machida's equilibrium before finishing with punches from mount. Jackson possesses enough power that he won't need to be nearly so precise to hurt Machida, but he'll need to find Machida first.

And we've already seen Machida stifle two fighters -- Rashad Evans and Tito Ortiz -- who bear some resemblance with Jackson. Evans and Ortiz share a "wrestleboxing" style with Jackson, though Jackson is a better boxer and worse wrestler than both. Ortiz shadowboxed for the first half of his fight with Machida, while Evans had his poor footwork habits expoloited before becoming an Internet MMA meme in the second.

There's been a pushback from Jackson backers this week, as we've seen the line on Machida drop from a high of -340 to the current best line of -230. I liked Machida against a motivated, in-shape Jackson, and I really like him against a Quinton Jackson who seems to have given up on competing at the highest level of MMA. Jackson's here to collect a paycheck, and you might as well too. I like Machida up to -300.



Matt Hughes

#9 Weltwerweight
Former UFC WW Champ


B.J. Penn

Former UFC LW Champ
Former UFC WW CHamp

37 Age 31
5'9" Height 5'9"
73" Reach 70"
45 - 7 - 0 Record 15 - 7 - 1
17 / 18 TKO / SUB 6 / 6
HIT Squad Camp B.J. Penn's MMA
W - Almeida (SUB)
W - Gracie (TKO)
W - Serra (UD)

Last 3
L - Edgar (UD)
L - Edgar (UD)
W - Sanchez (TKO)

Here's a really weird-sounding stat for you: B.J. Penn is 5-5 since returning to the UFC in 2006.

There are a lot of things going against Hughes in this fight. Penn is the better kickboxer. Penn is the better grappler. Penn is five years younger. Penn outfought Hughes over the 18 minutes they've been in the cage together. Penn doesn't have the wear-and-tear of 50 fights under his belt.

Hughes doesn't really compare well to the two men who have beaten Penn since their second fight at UFC 63 either. Hughes isn't the overwhelming athlete that Georges St-Pierre is. He can't challenge Penn standing like GSP can. He doesn't have the combination of strength and ability to overwhelm Penn physically.

Hughes also doesn't move with the swiftness of Frankie Edgar. He doesn't have the dynamic striking rhythm in his four limbs. He doesn't transition as quickly between striking and shooting.

I don't see any reason to worry about Penn's conditioning either. This is a three round fight. He looked fine through the first three rounds in both Edgar fights, and Edgar pushes a much harder pace than Hughes will in this fight.

Penn also has the confidence of having 1) beaten Hughes before and 2) knowing he had the second fight in hand until he wilted due to injury or running out of gas (whichever story you tend to believe).

The correct play on this fight was ravaging the opening Bodog line of +135 like a hyena starved for days without a meal. I still like Penn under -200. Hughes wins this fight only if Penn's performances against Frankie Edgar are the vanguard of a greater collapse in talent and ability. Penn's still in that golden peak between 27 and 33, and he doesn't have the shopworness of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira or Wanderlei Silva.


George Sotiropoulos

#10 Lightweight


Joe Lauzon


33 Age 26
5'10" Height 5'10"
71" Reach 70"
13 - 2- 0 Record 19 - 5 - 0
1 / 7 TKO / SUB 4 / 15
Fisticuffs Gym Camp Lauzon MMA
W - Pellegrino (UD)
W - Stevenson (UD)
W - Dent (SUB)

Last 3
W - Ruediger (SUB)
L - Stout (UD)
W - Stephens (SUB)

This should be fun. It's hard to see any distinct advantage for either guy on the ground. Standing, I think Sotiropoulos has better fundamental boxing. He likes to throw crisp, straight punches. He keeps it simple, but effective.

Lauzon should have the better wrestling, though. Both have effective takedowns, but Sotiropoulos is more prone to being put on the mat (though one has to wonder how interested he is in expending energy to defend). If the fight hits the floor, I expect Lauzon to be on top initially.

I think Sotiropoulos gets the better of the standing exchanges, and I don't think Lauzon has the top control to nullify the Aussie on the floor. I do think the fight will be close, though. I don't like a play at the current line, but follow the movement leading up to the fight and snatch a small flier on Lauzon if he creeps past +200.

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