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UFC 69: Preview and Predictions...By Jay Graziani

UFC 69: Shootout Saturday, April 7, 10 PM ET Houston, TX

Weigh-in: Friday, April 6, 2-4 PM

The UFC seems to be settling into a pattern of a high-profile event followed the next month by a fairly mild event. UFC 69 doesn't have a lot of UFC superstars, but it does have some pretty compelling match-ups of relative newcomers. Coincidental with the return of "The Ultimate Fighter" on Spike TV (whose 5th season debuted Thursday night), this card features quite a few TUF veterans.

Last month, I mentioned that UFC favorites have been slight long-term winners against the closing line. UFC 68 followed the same trend with favorites going 7-2 overall. Even considering the major upset of Renato Sobral (lined at -450), favorite bettors still edged out a small profit of 0.2 units on the night based on CRIS' closing lines.

Here's a preview of Saturday night's fights, with lines from CRIS.

Josh "Bring the Pain" Haynes (7-7-0) vs. Luke "The Silent Assassin" Cummo (4-4-0) Current Odds: Cummo -155, Haynes +135

Haynes is a TUF 3 alumnus, losing in the finals to Michael Bisping. All 7 of his credited wins have come by submission, while he has only been submitted once in his career. He is looking for his first UFC win, having lost to both Bisping and Rory Singer. Cummo is a TUF 2 veteran, losing to Joe Stevenson by decision in a close finale. Cummo is primarily a striker. He has gone 1-1 in UFC Fight Nights since his TUF appearance, both of which also went to decision. While Haynes hasn't been all this impressive, he certainly has shown heart in the ring and the style matchup should favor him. Prediction: Haynes by decision.

Marcus "The Irish Hand Grenade" Davis (10-3-0) vs. Pete "The Secret Weapon" Spratt (15-7-0) Current Odds: Davis -330, Spratt +280

Davis is another TUF 2 contestant. He has an extensive boxing background and was highly regarded before retiring to pursue mixed martial arts. He lost to Melvin Guillard in the undercard of the TUF 2 finale and fought in some smaller promotions before returning to UFC and winning his last 2 fights. Spratt is a TUF 4 veteran who has plenty of ring experience. He beat Robbie Lawler at UFC 42 and was offered a title shot that he declined. Spratt is a good striker and this fight should be an exciting stand-up match with plenty of punching, which would favor Davis. Prediction: Davis, 2nd round KO.

Thales Leites (9-1-0) vs. Pete "Drago" Sell (7-2-0) Current Odds: Leites -270, Sell +230

Leites is primarily a submission fighter who last fought on the undercard of the TUF 4 finale, losing his first MMA bout in a decision to Martin Kampmann. Sell's moment in the spotlight came after he defeated Phil Baroni in a huge upset in UFC 51. He has lost both of his UFC fights since then, including a stint on TUF 4. Both of his losses have come by strikes, although it is debatable whether Leites will be able to capitalize on that. Nonetheless, Sell is likely outclassed here. Prediction: Leites, 2nd round submission.

Brad Imes (5-2-0) vs. Heath "The Texas Crazy Horse" Herring (26-12-0) Current Odds: Herring -275, Imes +235

Imes will have a size advantage, but his fighting background is limited. He has fought twice in the UFC (including the TUF 2 finale), but has lost both matches. Herring lost his UFC Debut on Fight Night 8, but has fought some of the best fighters in MMA during his career in K-1 and PRIDE. Herring's experience should give him a substantial edge. Prediction: Herring, 1st round TKO.

Alan "The Talent" Belcher (9-2-0) vs. Kendall "Da Spyder" Grove (7-3-0) Current Odds: Grove -155, Belcher +135

Beclher is primarily a striker who has fought on two UFC undercards. His only two losses have come by decision. Grove was the TUF 3 Middleweight champion and is undefeated in the UFC. Both fighters will look to stay on their feet and pound it out. Grove has been impressive so far, and probably will show a lot of improvement on the technical side, having spent the past 9 months training with Tito Ortiz and Team Punishment. He should come out looking a lot sharper than previous matches, and with his 4" height advantage he should be able to use his reach to control the fight. Prediction: Grove, 3rd round submission. Yushin Okami (19-3-0) vs. Mike "Quick" Swick (10-1-0) Current Odds: Swick -125, Okami +105

Okami is a ground-and-pounder who fought an amazing 7 times in 2006, including 3-0 in UFC bouts. Swick has put together a 10-1 record, and is currently on a 5-match winning streak since fighting in the UFC. He was a participant in the original Ultimate Fighter series, where he lost in the semifinals to Stephan Bonner. I think the style matchup favors Okami, as he should be able to get the fight to the floor and pound out a win. Prediction: Okami, 3rd round TKO.

Diego "Nightmare" Sanchez (17-0-0) vs. Josh "Kos" Koscheck (8-1-0) Current Odds: Sanchez -210, Koscheck +180

This is probably the most anticipated bout on the card. Sanchez is a fan favorite as the TUF Season 1 Middleweight champion, although he now fights at welterweight and is undefeated in his MMA career. Sanchez defeated Koscheck by split decision during TUF. Koscheck is the superior wrestler, and while Sanchez won the first matchup, these fighters are fairly evenly matched. The sharp money seems to be on Koscheck, and for good reason. Prediction: Koscheck, 1st round submission.

Roger "El Matador" Huerta (16-1-1) vs. Leonard "Bad Boy" Garcia (9-1-0) Current Odds: Huerta -610, Garcia +485

Garcia is a submission fighter making his UFC debut. He's primarily a submission fighter and has compiled an impressive record against mostly weak opponents. This is only the second time he has stepped in the ring since 2003, his last fight being over a year ago. Huerta's last match was against John Halverston at UFC 67 and ended with a TKO win 19 seconds into the first round. Huerta is an exciting fighter who is a step above Garcia, and he should take this match easily. Prediction: Huerta, 1st round TKO.

Georges "Rush" St-Pierre (13-1-0) vs. Matt "The Terror" Serra (8-4-0) Current Line: St-Pierre -1200, Serra +800

St-Pierre is stepping into the ring for his first title defense since upsetting Matt Hughes in UFC 65. Serra is the TUF 4 Welterweight Champion, and this title bout was a result of winning that tournament. Serra has had a mostly unspectacular MMA career, even though he has been fighting since 1999. He is mostly a ground fighter, and three of his four losses have gone to the scorecards. St-Pierre is also experienced, having fought many MMA notables in his career. His only loss was at the hands of Matt Hughes, a loss he avenged in his last bout to become UFC Welterweight champion. St-Pierre should have a significant reach advantage and is the more well-rounded fighter, although I can't advocate backing him as a 12-1 favorite. The value likely lies with Serra - if he can get the fight to the ground, he may be able to bring his significant submission experience into play. We will side with a wager on Serra, however unlikely the win is. Prediction: St-Pierre, 3rd round KO.

Picks (YTD: 1-2 -3.00 units):

Heath Herring -275 Kendall Grove -155 (Best) Josh Koscheck +180

Opinions (YTD: 3-3 -3.5 units)

Josh Haynes +135 Marcus Davis -330 Thales Leites -270 Yushin Okami +105 Roger Huerta -610 Matt Serra +800

Jay Graziani

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