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UFC 74: Preview and Predictions...By Jay Graziani

UFC 74: Respect
Saturday, August 25, 10 PM ET
Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas
Weigh-in: Friday, August 24, 7 PM ET (covered by ESPNEWS and

After a long run of closely spaced events, the UFC took the summer off - at least the months of July and August. And although the early summer brought us a run of surprising upsets, both UFC 72 and UFC 73 were completely swept by the favorites. The matchmaking this time, however, is a bit more even. This card looks like one where the underdogs may come out ahead on the night.

Here's a preview of Saturday night's fights, with current odds from

Clay "The Carpenter" Guida (21-8-0) vs. Marcus "Maximus" Aurelio (14-4-0)
Current Odds: Guida -130; Aurelio +100

Guida put on an exciting show in his last appearance, a split-decision loss to Tyson Griffin. Aurelio is making his UFC debut, coming off 2 consecutive losses in PRIDE. Aurelio last stepped into the ring almost 10 months ago, so the long layoff may be cause for concern. Both bring impressive ground games and this should be a technical battle reminiscent of the Griffin-Guida fight. This matchup is about a coin-flip, so I will lean towards Aurelio at a pick. Prediction: Aurelio, 1st round submission.

Frank Mir (9-3-0) vs. Antoni Hardonk (5-3-0)
Current Odds: Mir -155; Hardonk +125

Former heavyweight champion Mir has not looked impressive since coming back from a motorcycle injury in 2004 - he is 1-2 since, with his only win coming by decision. But Hardonk has rarely looked spectacular in his short career versus mostly journeyman opponents. Mir's experience and edge in the submission game make him a decent play against a fairly weak opponent. Prediction: Mir, 1st round submission.

Renato "Babalu" Sobral (27-7-0) vs. David Heath (7-1-0)
Current Odds: Sobral -225; Heath +185

Sobral is on a bit of a cold streak, having dropped his last two ventures into the octagon. Heath was dealt his first MMA loss by Lyoto Machida at UFC 70. Heath is well rounded and a little undervalued as an up-and-comer against a more well-known opponent. I'll roll the dice with Heath as a good-sized underdog. Prediction: Heath, 2nd round KO.

Ryan Jensen (11-1-0) vs.Thales Leites (11-1-0)
Current Odds: Jensen +235; Leites -295

Neither of these fighters has had much MMA experience, with most of their fights coming in small promotions against relative unknowns. Leites is the more talented fighter, but laying 3-1 is outrageous - Jensen is well rounded and could keep Leites off his submission game. Prediction: Jensen, 1st round KO.

Patrick "The Predator" Cote (10-4-0) vs. Kendall "Da Spyder" Grove (8-3-0)
Current Odds: Cote +205; Grove -265

Cote took his first UFC win against Scott Smith back in February, bringing his record to 1-4 in UFC events. Grove is undefeated in the UFC (3-0) and, as usual, has an incredible edge in reach -- a whopping 7". Grove has looked sloppy at times though, and Cote should be able to use his power to his advantage. Prediction: Cote, 2nd round KO.

Kurt "Batman" Pellegrino (10-2-0) vs. Joe "Daddy" Stevenson (27-7-0)
Current Odds: Pellegrino +225; Stevenson -285

Pellegrino is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist and a UFC up-and-comer. Nine of his 10 wins were finished in the first round.. Stevenson is "The Ultimate Fighter 2" champion. "Daddy" is the rightful favorite, but Pellegrino is worth a shot at better than 2-1. Prediction: Pellegrino, 1st round submission.

Josh "Kos" Koscheck (9-1-0) vs. Georges "Rush" St-Pierre (13-2-0)
Current Odds: Koscheck +200; St-Pierre -260

Koscheck has looked great in the UFC to date, though his opposition has generally been subpar. His wrestling is off the chart and recently his standup has been improving. St-Pierre has fought perhaps one of the toughest sets of opponents of any UFC fighter, and last lost to Matt Serra in one of the year's biggest upsets at UFC 69, losing the welterweight championship. This fight is closer than the line indicates, and Kos may just walk out with the win here. Prediction: Koscheck, 2nd round submission.

Roger "El Matador" Huerta (18-1-1) vs. Alberto Crane (8-0-0)
Current Odds: Huerta -450; Crane +300

Crane is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion and is 8-0 in minor MMA promotions. Huerta is perhaps one of the most exciting fighters today and is undoubtedly a class ahead of Crane. Huerta should easily walk away with this one, but the steep price is enough to pass on this fight. Prediction: Huerta, 1st round KO.

Randy "The Natural" Couture (15-8-0) vs. Gabriel "Napao" Gonzaga (8-1-0)
Current Odds: Couture +105; Gonzaga -135

While I don't think Gonzaga deserves a shot at the title, I don't think Couture deserves to hold it either. Couture is giving up 16 years and 20+ pounds against a very good grappler. I laid the chalk on Sylvia the last time Couture fought, and I didn't think Sylvia was that great. I'll fade Couture once again for my best bet. Prediction: Gonzaga, 1st round TKO.

Picks (YTD: 12-9 -1.25 units; Best Bets: 3-2, +0.75)
Frank Mir -155
David Heath +185
Patrick Cote +205
Kurt Pellegrino +225
Josh Koscheck +200
Gabriel Gonzaga -135 (Best Bet)

Opinions (YTD: 16-16 -3.35 units)
Marcus Aurelio +100
Ryan Jensen +235
Roger Huerta -450

Jay Graziani

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