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UFC 86: Preview and Predictions...By Jay Graziani

UFC 86: Jackson vs. Griffin
Saturday, July 5th, 10 PM ET
Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas
Weigh-in: Friday, July 4th, 7 PM ET, live on

The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Las Vegas this weekend after a fairly lackluster event in London last month. UFC 86 marks the traditional face-off between coaches of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series, in this case a light heavyweight championship bout between current champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and fan-favorite Forrest Griffin. Five lightweight bouts round out the card to bring some clarity to that division.

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

Corey "The Real Deal" Hill (2-0-0) vs. Justin Buchholz (7-2-0)
Current Odds: unavailable

Corey Hill didn't get to fight in his TUF 5 finale, pulling out due to rib injury, but displayed some raw yet unpolished talent during the show. He is extremely lanky, 6'4" and fighting at only 155 lbs.,and should be able to use his long reach to his advantage. That is somewhat neutralized against a-tall (6'0") opponent in Bulchholz. Buccholz's UFC debut in January was spoiled by a triangle choke from Matt Wiman. Prior to that fight, he worked his way up through smaller promotions to Icon and then EliteXC. Buchholz will likely prefer to take this to the ground, but Hill showed good execution in stuffing takedowns during his UFC debut at Fight Night 10. Hill also has a better wrestling background than many would expect and can handle himself on the ground. Hill will have had a year to refine his skills since going pro (and since most of the tape on him), and I expect him to be very dangerous in this fight. Prediction: Hill, 2nd round TKO.

Melvin "The Young Assassin" Guillard (21-7-2) vs. Dennis Siver (11-5-0)
Current Odds: unavailable

The "young" assassin has sure had his share of action in his short 25 years on Earth - 30 fights' worth, to be exact. However, he has few quality wins and is coming off a 2-fight UFC losing streak via losses at the hands of Joe Stevenson and Rich Clementi, the latter seeing Guillard as a 5-to-2 favorite. Guillard is strong in the wrestling and striking departments, but his jiu-jitsu leaves much to be desired, having not notched a submission victory in over 5 years, yet being submitted 6 times in his seven losses in that span Siver is a disappointing 1-2 in the Octagon, most recently losing to Gray Maynard. Guillard is much more talented in both stand-up and the ground game, and barring a crucial mistake, should roll to an easy win. Prediction: Guillard, 1st round KO.

Jorge Gurgel (12-3-0) vs. Cole "Magrino" Miller (13-3-0)
Current Odds: Gurgel +115; Miller -145

Miller is a TUF 5 veteran, collecting a 2-1 record in the Octagon since. Gugel's 5 forays into the Octagon have all gone the distance, giving him a 3-2 record in decisions. Gurgel has kept a light schedule, fighting only twice per year since his reality show run (on TUF 2), but his jiu-jitsu is top notch and should pose a real problem to his much less experienced opponent. Gurgel's inability to finish is a concern, but I'll lean his way in the underdog role. Predcition: Gurgel by decision

Gabriel "Napao" Gonzaga (8-3-0) vs. Justin "The Insane 1" McCully (8-3-2)
Current Odds: Gonzaga -600; McCully +400 (Bodog)

Gonzaga, recent (and brief) UFC heavyweight contender, has now been relegated to "May not be broadcast" fights. He has dropped two straight since the head-kick to Mirko "Crocop" Filipovic that sent his stock skyrocketing. He matches up well size-wise with McCully, who won in his UFC debut against Antoni Hardonk in April. Gonzaga has the edge in every aspect, but you have to be a cautious laying big chalk on a guy in the midst of a losing streak. Prediction: Gonzaga, 1st round submission.

Tyson Griffin (11-1-0) vs. Marcus" Maximus" Aurelio (16-5-0)
Current Odds: Griifin -350; Aurelio +280

Griffin is coming off three straight decision wins in the Octagon. He is definitely one of the poster boys for the lightweight division, but hasn't yet had the big win necessary to catapult him to a title shot. Aurelio has won his last two since migrating from PRIDE and dropping his UFC debut to Clay Guida. Both are skilled, well-rounded fighters, but Griffin takes the talent edge and is your likely winner. Prediction: Griffin, 2nd round submission.

Josh "Kos" Koscheck (10-2-0) vs. Chris "Lights Out" Lytle (25-15-5)
Current Odds: Koscheck -300; Lytle +240

Since being stymied in his title shot against Georges St-Pierre, Koscheck made short work of Dustin Hazelett, and is still among the top contenders in the welterweight division. Lytle, despite plenty of appearances, hasn't made much of his chances and continues to grind out fights against mid-level opponents. The talent edge and style matchup favor Koscheck, and this should be just a stepping stone on his way to another title opportunity. Prediction: Koscheck, 2nd round TKO.

Joe "Daddy" Stevenson (28-8-0) vs. Gleison Tibau (15-5-0)
Current Odds: Stevenson -205; Tibau +165

The 5th of these PPV's matchups in the lightweight division pits former contender Joe Stevenson against up-and-coming Gleison Tibau. Stevenson last saw the Octagon in January, losing a one-sided fight to now-champ BJ Penn. Tibau was moving up the ranks with 3 straight UFC wins before dropping a unanimous decision to Tyson Griffin. Both fighters are ground specialists, and while Stevenson deserves to be in the favorite role, this fight is a little closer than the odds would allow, calling for a lean towards the underdog. Prediction: Tibau, 3rd round submission.

Patrick "The Predator" Cote (12-4-0) vs. Ricardo "Big Dog" Almeida (9-2-0)
Current Odds: Cote +110; Almeida -140

Cote is on a 3-fight UFC win streak since his loss to Travis Lutter at the TUF 4 finale. In the meantime he won (and still holds) the middleweight title in TKO, Canada's largest MMA organization. He'll hold the edge in stand-up but will struggle on the ground with Almeida's superior jiu-jitsu, attested to by his 4 Brazilian National Championships among other honors. Almeida amassed an 8-2 record in PRIDE, UFC, and Pancrase events from 2000 through 2004 before retiring to establish his own gym. He made his return this February at UFC 81, where he submitted Rob Yundt in just over a minute. His time off and age are negatives, and Cote's ground game is underrated, meaning he may be able to weather the storm when on the mat. I'll lean towards youth and the better stand-up. Prediction: Cote, 2nd round TKO.

Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (28-6-0) vs. Forrest Griffin (15-4-0)
Current Odds: Jackson -265; Griffin +215

As usual, the TUF reality-show run on Spike TV is followed up by the battle of the coaches. While Forrest receives more than his share of praise, we unfortunately have not always seen the best of him in big fights. He fell short in two of his biggest, against Tito Ortiz and Keith Jardine, bringing him to 3-2 in his last five. He fought a stellar fight against highly-regarded Mauricio Rua last September, but that was as a 3-to-1 underdog, and one has to wonder if he can repeat that level of performance. Rampage, meanwhile, has been tested extensively. Recent wins over Chuck Liddell and Dan Henderson have cemented his place in the division, but, ironically, his last loss was to the same Mauricio Rua stopped by Griffin. This will come down to who sets the pace of the fight, and Griffin should come in with an effective game plan that may allow him to pull off yet another upset. We've seen Griffin make huge strides in technique with each subsequent fight, and if he continues to step it up, he should be well-positioned for the win as a decent underdog. Prediction: Griffin, 3rd round TKO.

Picks (2008: 14-12 +2.25 units; Best Bets: 4-2, +2.00 units)
Corey Hill
Melvin Guillard
(Odds will be inserted when they become available for the above)
Forrest Griffin +215
Josh Koscheck -300

Opinions (2008: 21-14 +10.85 units)
Jorge Gurgel +115
Justin McCully +400
Tyson Griffin -350
Gleison Tibau +165
Patrick Cote +110

Jay Graziani

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