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UFC 85: Preview and Predictions...By Jay Graziani

UFC 85: Bedlam
Saturday, June 7th, 3 PM ET
O2 Arena, London
Weigh-in: Friday, June 6th, live online

Another practically all-chalk card last time out, as favorites notched a 9-2 record at last month's UFC 84. Now, just two short weeks later, we are treated to one of the least compelling line-ups of the year, with a slate of 11 fights that has little, if any, potential to shake up the UFC ranks. "Bedlam", defined as a state of confusion, is the perfect name for this event, which has seen numerous significant changes in the fight line-ups. While notables such as Chuck Liddell, Mauricio Rua, and Rashad Evans graced the card at various times, injuries have left this card a skeleton of a UFC event. Broadcast from England, this pay-per-view will make for some lazy afternoon entertainment for North American fans, but little more.

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

Antoni Hardonk (6-4-0) vs. Eddie "The Manic Hispanic" Sanchez (8-1-0)
Current Odds: Hardonk -245; Sanchez +195

Hardonk bounced back from two straight losses to KO Colin Robinson in 17 seconds at UFC 80. Although Sanchez has faced weak competition, his only loss to date has been to Mirko Filipovic (a fight in which he was a 10-to-1 underdog). Sanchez stepped into this bout just 2 weeks ago when Hardonk's original opponent withdrew due to injury. Both are big heavyweights who like to battle on their feet, and this fight can really go either way. I'll lean towards Sanchez at plus-money until someone other than CroCop can beat him. Prediction: Sanchez, 3rd round TKO.

Paul "Relentless" Taylor (8-3-1) vs. Jess "The Joker" Liaudin (12-9-0)
Current Odds: Taylor -240; Liaudin +190

Taylor's career is quickly stalling following two straight losses, though he has a psychological advantage since beating Liaudin when they first met in 2003. Liaudin was on the wrong end of a Marcus Davis KO punch last time he entered the Octagon. This should be a close fight, with both fighters comfortable on the mat or in stand-up, and I see plenty of value in taking nearly 2-to-1 on Liaudin. Prediction: Liaudin by decision.

Luiz "Banha" Cane (7-1-0) vs. Jason "The Punisher" Lambert (23-7-0)
Current Odds: Cane +120; Lambert -150

In his UFC debut, Cane was dealt his first loss via disqualification for an illegal knee to the head. He'll look to get his career back on the right path with a win over Lambert, who looked good in his last fight against Wilson Gouveia until getting clocked by a left hook. Lambert should have the edge in striking, but may have trouble keeping this off the mat where the advantage is reversed. Prediction: Cane, 2nd round TKO.

Roan "Jucao" Carneiro (12-6-0) vs. Kevin Burns (5-1-0)
Current Odds: Carneiro -440; Burns +340

Carneiro was successful in his UFC debut, topping Tony DeSouza in the 2nd round and demonstrating his stellar ground game in the process. Burns is 5-1 against no-names for no-name promotions. Regardless, we've seen a lot of unknowns pull off surprising wins in the octagon, so laying the chalk may be unwise. Prediction: Carneiro, 1st round submission.

Matt "Handsome" Wiman (9-3-0) vs. Thiago Tavares (13-1-0)
Current Odds: Wiman +305; Tavares -405

Wiman looked decent during his stint on TUF 5, but has failed to step up the intensity against tougher competition, evidenced by his losses to Spencer Fisher and Roger Huerta, his only noteworthy opponents. Tavares was undefeated until losing a very close decision to Tyson Griffin. While Wiman has been hyped as an up-and-coming talent, he is running into a tough fighter who has a dangerous submission game and good Muay Thai from the clinch. I'll call for Tavares to win it, but the value, if any, lies with the underdog. Prediction: Tavares, 1st round submission.

Jorge "El Conquistador" Rivera (15-6-0) vs. Martin "The Hitman" Kampmann (15-2-0)
Current Odds: Rivera +200; Kampmann -250

Kampmann last tasted defeat all the way back in '04. He pulled out of a fight against Rich Franklin a year ago due to knee injury and hasn't stepped back into the ring since. He'd prefer to stand and punch it out, but is not out of his element on the mat either. Rivera is coming off a very impressive performance over the sagging Kendall Grove, but he has been hit-and-miss during his career, and has yet to notch a significant win in his belt. The more talented and consistent Kampmann takes this one early. Prediction: Kampmann, 1st round TKO.

Fabricio "Vai Cavalo" Werdum (10-3-1) vs. Brandon "The Truth" Vera (8-1-0)
Current Odds: Werdum +145; Vera -175

Vera was making waves in the UFC heavyweight division until dropping a decision to Tim Sylvia in a challenge for the heavyweight title, his first loss. Immediately prior to that, he defeated current contender and ex-champ Frank Mir in just 69 seconds. He has a strong wrestling background with a mix of excellent Muay Thai, leading to the majority of his wins coming via KO or TKO. Werdum has excellent ground-game credentials and BJJ experience, and is coming off a win over Gabriel Gonzaga, bringing him to 1-1 in the octagon. Vera will have the definite advantage in stand-up, and should be able to at least hold his own on the ground. Prediction: Vera, 3rd round TKO.

Nate "The Great" Marquardt (26-7-2) vs. Thales Leites (12-1-0)
Current Odds: Marquardt -170; Leites +140

Marquardt bounced back from his title-shot loss to Anderson Silva by handily defeating BJJ expert Jeremy Horn at UFC 81. Leites was originally scheduled to be his opponent that night before pulling out due to a hand injury, the second postponed fight between these two. Leites has not fought since UFC 74, a victory over Ryan Jensen. He has little experience against elite opponents, with his toughest challenge so far resulting in a decision loss to Martin Kampmann at the TUF 4 finale. His lack of competition as well as an extensive layoff and injury concerns could be an issue. Marquardt's grappling is excellent, and he has only been submitted twice in a long career, but Leites specializes in jiu-jitsu as well. Leites struggled in standup against a much less experienced opponent, so both fighters will be most comfortable on the mat, though Marquardt might hold the advantage there as well. Prediction: Marquardt, 2nd round submission.

Marcus "The Irish Hand Grenade" Davis (14-3-0) vs. Mike "Quick" Swick (11-2-0)
Current Odds: Davis -105; Swick -125

Davis has been on the winning end of 11 straight, a streak stretching back to 2005. His last was a 1-minute TKO of Jess Liaudin at UFC 80, bringing him to 6-1 inside the octagon, though he gets surprisingly little respect in the mainstream MMA media. His boxing experience leads him to favor a stand-up attack, though he has a number of submission victories as well. Swick bounced back from a decision loss to Yushin Okami to defeat Josh Burkman in January. Swick is a kickboxer by training and has a slight reach advantage in this fight. This is also just Swick's second fight since moving down to middleweight. I'll go with who I see as the better fighter at even odds. Prediction: Davis, 3rd round TKO.

Michael "The Count" Bisping (15-1-0) vs. Jason "Dooms" Day (17-5-0)
Current Odds: Bisping -370; Day +300

Both of these fighters are coming off April wins, so neither has had much time to prepare for this match. Day looked impressive in his UFC debut, effectively utilizing strikes in a 1st round TKO of Alan Belcher as a good-sized underdog. He's well-rounded, but his credentials are less than stellar, with few bouts against quality opponents. Bisping has received mixed reviews, but the fact remains that he has only a single split decision loss to his name. This is his second match since coming down from light heavyweight, and while he has struggled against top-level wrestlers, it's doubtful that Day will be able to exploit that. Bisping should dominate this matchup, but laying nearly 4-to-1 is a bit rich for my tastes. Prediction: Bisping, 2nd round TKO.

Matt Hughes (42-6-0) vs. Thiago "Pitbull" Alves (14-3-0)
Current Odds: Hughes -210; Alves +170

Alves is on a 5 bout win streak since losing to contender Jon Fitch nearly two years ago, including a recent TKO over Karo Parisyan. He has good stand-up and an impressive jiu-jitsu background, but is facing a tough match-up in the always-dangerous Hughes, who has fallen out of favor since dropping two of his last three, both to welterweight phenom Georges St-Pierre. Prior to those losses he won 19 of his last 20, and he later avenged that blemish by defeating BJ Penn. Hughes is falling out of contention due to his age, but he is still a legend in the octagon and his wrestling ability should present serious problems to Alves if he can avoid prolonged stand-up action. While this may not live up to the normal excitement of a headline PPV fight, it should be an entertaining battle between a man on his way up and one on his way out. I'm not ready to write off the old guard just yet, though Hughes may have trouble getting the stoppage. At this price, I'll lean slightly towards Alves. Prediction: Hughes by decision.

Picks (2008: 13-8 +5.85 units; Best Bets: 4-2, +2.00 units)
Eddie Sanchez +195
Jess Liaudin +190
Luiz Cane +120
Brandon Vera -175
Marcus Davis -105

Opinions (2008: 16-13 +2.40 units)
Kevin Burns +340
Matt Wiman +305
Martin Kampmann -250
Nate Marquardt -170
Michael Bisping -370
Thiago Alves +170

Jay Graziani

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