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UFC 77: Preview and Predictions...By Jay Graziani

UFC 77: Hostile Territory
Saturday, October 20th, 10 PM ET
US Bank Arena, Cincinnati, OH
Weigh-in: Friday, October 19th, 4 PM ET (covered by ESPNEWS and

UFC 78 saw the underdogs spring back to life, with big upsets of Shogun Rua and Chuck Liddell, and a few controversial decisions to boot. This weekend's Ultimate Fighting Championship features two former champions as underdogs at the top of the card, one a title fight and the other with major title implications.

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

Matt "The Real One" Grice (8-1-0) vs. Jason Black (21-3-1)
Current Odds: Grice +280; Black -350

Black, while out of the Militech camp, has been unimpressive, losing his UFC debut to Thiago Tavares at Fight Night 10. Besides a 1-1 mark in PRIDE, his impressive-looking career record was built in the minor leagues. Grice was handed his first loss by Terry Etim at UFC 70, but his wrestling should be enough to grind out a win as a surprisingly large underdog. Prediction: Grice by decision.

Josh "The People's Warrior" Burkman (8-4-0) vs. Forrest "The Meat Cleaver" Petz (13-4-0)
Current Odds: Burkman -315; Petz +255

Burkman hung tough against Karo Parisyan at UFC 71, lasting the distance in a decision loss to a highly-regarded opponent. Petz, fighting for the first time on a pay-per-view UFC card, should have the edge in stand-up but has lost to worse fighters. Burkman's ground game should finish this one early. Prediction: Burkman, 1st round submission.

Demian Maia (5-0-0) vs. Ryan Jensen (11-2-0)
Current Odds: Maia -210; Jensen +170

Jensen just fought in the Octagon in August, losing to Thales Leites. Maia is fresh to the UFC and relatively unknown, having built a 5-0 record in small promotions based on his extensive Jiu-jitsu knowledge. Tough to wager on a newcomer, but Maia is a deserving favorite. Prediction: Maia, 2nd round submission.

Jason "The Athlete" MacDonald (19-8-0) vs. Yushin Okami (20-4-0)
Current Odds: MacDonald +190; Okami -240

With two talented middleweights, this is a surprising choice to be placed on the undercard. Okami is dominant on the ground, having wrestled Rich Franklin to a decision loss, his first defeat in 5 UFC fights. MacDonald was on the fast track to the top in the UFC before being beaten down by Rich Franklin in UFC 68. Both are experienced and well-rounded, and while Okami certainly has the edge, MacDonald is a little undervalued at almost 2-to-1. Prediction: MacDonald, decision.

Alan "The Talent" Belcher (10-3-0) vs. Kalib Starnes (8-1-1)
Current Odds: Belcher +100; Starnes -130

Both are up-and-comers who have had some good moments. Starnes debuted on TUF 3, losing to Kendall Grove due to injury. Belcher is 2-2 in the UFC, most recently beating Sean Salmon. These fighters are close in talent and the line is about right, so I'll lean towards the underdog. Prediction: Belcher, 1st round KO.

Eric "Ravishing Red" Schafer (7-2-2) vs. Stephan "American Psycho" Bonnar(10-4-0)
Current Odds: Schafer +280; Bonnar -340

Shafer is 1-1 in the UFC, most recently having lost to undefeated Michael Bisping, and having fought no other tough competition in his career. This seems like an easy stepping stone for Bonnar, in his second fight since facing a drug suspension. Prediction: Bonnar, 1st round KO.

Alvin "Kid" Robinson (8-2-0) vs. Jorge Gurgel (11-2-0)
Current Odds: Robinson +130; Gurgel -160

Robinson got beat up by Kenny Florian in his UFC debut, although he had put together an impressive record in smaller promotions. Gurgel is fighting on his home turf as a Cincinnati native and training partner of Rich Franklin. Both are experienced in Jiu-Jitsu, and this should be a close fight, so I'll lean to the underdog. Prediction: Robinson, 2nd round submission.

Tim "The Maine-iac" Sylvia (23-3-0) vs Brandon "The Truth" Vera (8-0-0)
Current Odds: Sylvia +150; Vera -180

Sylvia holds a huge size advantage here, 6 inches and over 30 pounds, and while discounted by many MMA fans, has been on top of the UFC's heavyweight division twice before. The retirement of Randy Couture means the winner of this fight will likely get a shot at the Heavyweight championship early next year. While Sylvia's skills are often questioned, particularly on the ground, he was able to work over established grappler Jeff Monson. Vera has an edge on the ground, but might be outclassed in stand-up. Sylvia also was hampered by back problems against Couture, something that seems to be well in the past now, by all reports. While Vera is undefeated, he has yet to face any real elite competition, and might struggle here, particularly since he has not fought in over a year. Sylvia is attractive as an underdog, especially if he focuses on keeping his size to his advantage. Prediction: Sylvia, 1st round KO.

Rich "Ace" Franklin (22-2-0) vs. Anderson "The Spider" Silva (19-4-0)
Current Odds: Franklin +180; Silva -220

Franklin has come back strong since his first loss to Silva, gaining victories over two tough opponents in Jason MacDonald and Yushin Okami. Franklin had some definite weaknesses in his muay thai game that Silva exploited in their last fight, though Franklin has had plenty of time to work on correcting those. Silva is still undefeated in UFC, with 3 of his 4 fights ending by 1st round knockout, and is widely regarded as the top middleweight in the world. Look for Franklin to avenge his loss with an excellent showing in front of his home crowd, and at a fairly high number this is a strong betting opportunity. Prediction: Franklin, 3rd round submission.

Picks (17-18 -9.90 units; Best Bets: 4-4, -0.60 units)
Matt Grice +280
Tim Sylvia +150
Rich Franklin +180 (Best Bet)

Opinions (22-19 -5.45 units)
Josh Burkman -315
Demian Maia -210
Jason MacDonald +190
Alan Belcher +100
Jorge Gurgel -160
Stephan Bonnar -340

Jay Graziani

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