UFC 73: Stacked Saturday, July 7, 10 PM ET ARCO Arena, Sacramento, CA Weigh-in: Friday, July 6, 7 PM ET (covered by ESPNEWS and UFC.com)
UFC 72 brought the run of underdogs in recent UFC PPVs to a crashing halt. Favorites swept the somewhat disappointing card, although many feel Clay Guida was robbed and both Yushin Okami and Hector Ramirez came in with puzzlingly ineffective game plans. The UFC 73 matchups are much improved from the previous few events, featuring two title bouts and a horde of big-name talent.
Here's a preview of Saturday night's fights, with current odds from Belmont.com:
Mark Bocek (4-0-0) vs. Frank "The Answer" Edgar (6-0-0)
Current Odds: Bocek +190, Edgar -240
This is a battle of two undefeated up-and-comers in the MMA world. Both have put together short records in lesser promotions. Bocek is an accomplished grappler, with three of his four wins coming via first round submission. Frankie Edgar is a wrestler whose only UFC experience is beating Tyson Griffin by unanimous decision back in February during UFC 67, Griffin's only loss to date. While Edgar is the better fighter on paper, Bocek has yet to be tested and I would avoid weighing a single decision against Griffin too heavily in Edgar's favor. Slight lean towards Bocek as a decent underdog. Prediction: Bocek, 2nd round submission.
Chris "Lights Out" Lytle (22-14-5) vs. Jason "The Gizzard" Gilliam (9-1-0)
Current Odds: Lytle -450, Gilliam +300
Lytle has had little success in the UFC, going only 2-6 in the octagon but getting a lot of fights under his belt in other promotions. Gilliam stepped in just a week ago in place of an injured Drew Fickett, and is moving up in weight for this bout at welterweight. Gilliam has little chance here, but the line is a bit steep to make a play on this fight. Prediction: Lytle, 2nd round submission.
Diego "The Octopus" Saraiva (9-4-1) vs. Jorge Gurgel (10-2-0)
Current Odds: Saraiva +190, Gurgel -240
Both are submission fighters and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts, with a combined 17 submission wins between them. Gurgel was a contestant on TUF2 and now trains with Rich Franklin. Saraiva's four losses have all come by decision. This should be a very technical bout, although I expect Gurgel's superior standup to be the difference. Prediction: Gurgel, 2nd round submission.
Mike Nickels (5-1-0) vs. Stephan "American Psycho" Bonnar (9-4-0)
Current Odds: Bonnar -600, Nickels +400
Both fighters are reality-show alumni, with Bonnar appearing on the debut season of TUF and Nickels following in season 3. While Bonnar has gotten a lot of attention and is a fan favorite, he is only 3-3 in the octagon, losing twice to Forrest Griffin and once to Rashad Evans, all by decision. This is also Bonnar's comeback fight after a 9-month suspension for a positive steroids test. While Bonnar is a well-deserved favorite, there are enough question marks about him for me to take a shot with Mike Nickels at what I see as a generous price due to Bonnar's name recognition. Prediction: Nickels, 1st round submission
Heath "The Texas Crazy Horse" Herring (27-12-0) vs. Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira (29-4-1)
Current Odds: Herring +525, Nogueira -825
Nogueira is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert, former PRIDE champion, and currently one of the top heavyweights in the world. Herring should have a size/reach advantage and is a well-rounded fighter. These fighters have met twice before in PRIDE, with Nogueira winning both - once by 2nd round submission, and once by unanimous decision. Nogueira will likely win the third as well, but Herring's size and experience gives him a puncher's chance and worth a gamble at huge odds. Prediction: Nogueira, 3rd round submission.
Hermes Franca (18-5-0) vs. Sean "Muscle Shark" Sherk (31-2-1)
Current Odds: Franca +215, Sherk -275
Franca has been on an incredible run, winning his last 8 fights, including winning and successfully defending the WEC Lightweight Championship. His last loss came back in 2005, but his opposition since has been less than elite. Sherk's only 2 losses have come against former champions Georges St. Pierre and Matt Hughes. He has not fought since winning the title back in October due to a torn rotator cuff. Sherk's experience and superior ground game should give him the edge. Prediction: Sherk, 2nd round TKO.
Rashad "Sugar" Evans (10-0-0) vs. Tito "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" Ortiz (15-5-0)
Current Odds: Evans -115, Ortiz -115
Evans is a light heavyweight contender who is undefeated in MMA competition. Ortiz has stepped out of the spotlight lately due to his rematch loss to Chuck Liddell. Ortiz gets the experience advantage, having been in MMA since 1997 and having fought a virtual who's who of MMA fighters. Both have excellent ground games and conditioning, and this should be a battle. Tito's size advantage and experience should give him the edge and is worth a wager as a pick 'em. Prediction: Ortiz, 2nd round TKO.
Alvin "Kid" Robinson (8-1-0) vs. Kenny "KenFlo" Florian (5-3-0)
Current Odds: Robinson +235, Florian -295
Robinson is a newcomer to the UFC, but not to MMA; he has accumulated 8 submission wins against just 1 TKO loss in smaller events, and is experienced in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Florian is a TUF1 contestant, though he is just 4-2 in the UFC and appeared on only one pay-per-view event (a failed bid for the Lightweight Championship against Sean Sherk last October). Florian hasn't faced a whole lot of tough competition and both fighters are accomplished BJJ practitioners. Robinson is worth a lean here as a newcomer at nice odds. Predicition: Robinson, 1st round submission.
Nate "The Great" Marquardt (25-6-2) vs. Anderson "The Spider" Silva (18-4-0)
Current Odds: Marquardt +130, Silva -160
Marquardt is an accomplished BJJ fighter and 7-time Pancrase champion. Silva is the UFC Middleweight Champion and has only one loss since 2004, a disqualification against Yushin Okami. I give the style edge to Marquardt's BJJ, though Silva is also accomplished in BJJ and Muay Thai. This is a close match and I will lean towards the underdog in what looks to be a toss-up fight. Prediction: Marquardt, 3rd round submission.
Picks (YTD: 11-7 -0.25 units; Best Bets: 3-2, +0.75)
Mike Nickels +400
Heath Herring +525
Sean Sherk -275
Tito Ortiz -115 (Best Bet)
Opinions (YTD: 14-13 -2.35 units)
Mark Bocek +190
Chris Lytle -450
Jorge Gurgel -240
Alvin Robinson +235
Nate Marquardt +130
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