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UFC 89: Preview and Predictions...By Jay Graziani

UFC 89: Bisping vs. Leben
Saturday, October 18th, 9 PM ET/PT (tape delay) on SpikeTV
National Indoor Arena, Birmingham, England
Weigh-in: Friday, October 17th, 11 AM ET, live on
Current odds from

Per Eklund (13-3-1) vs. Samy "The Dog" Schiavo (10-5-0)
Current Odds: Eklund -205; Schiavo +165

Eklund last fought in January when he lost to Sam Stout via decision in his first turn in the Octagon. Schiavo made his UFC debut at Fight Night 13, where he couldn't make it out of the first round against Clay Guida. This is an uninteresting fight where I'll lean towards the underdog at what seems like generous odds. Prediction: Schiavo, 2nd round TKO.

David Baron (16-2-0) vs. Jim Miller (11-1-0)
Current Odds: Baron +165; Miller -205

Both of these fighters are making their UFC debuts after finding success jumping between smaller promotions. Both are ground fighters, but I'll give a slight edge to Baron based on his more extensive experience against tougher opponents. Prediction: Baron, 1st round submission.

Sam "Hands of Stone" Stout (13-4-1) vs. Terry Etim (10-2-0)
Current Odds: Stout -300; Etim +240

Stout is now 2-3 in the UFC after a recent decision loss to Rich Clementi. Etim also fell at the hands of Clementi just a month later, giving him his second consecutive loss since beating Matt Grice in his UFC debut. Stout is the better puncher, but Etim will have the edge on the ground. Assuming he doesn't try to slug it out with Stout, Etim has a good shot of bringing home the upset with a submission win where Stout is most vulnerable. Prediction: Etim, 3rd round submission.

Jess "The Joker" Liaudin (12-10-0) vs. David Bielkheden (12-6-0)
Current Odds: Liaudin +110; Bielkheden -140

Liaudin is dealing with back-to-back losses, though the most recent was a split decision against Paul Taylor. He has since moved down in weight to take a shot at the lightweight division. Bielkheden was submitted by Diego Sanchez in his UFC debut, though he has great jiu-jitsu and will look to keep this fight on the ground and work for submissions. Liaudin will have trouble keeping this standing up where he has the advantage. Prediction: Bielkheden, 1st round submission.

Shane Carwin (9-0-0) vs. Neil "Old Skool" Wain (4-0-0)
Current Odds: Carwin -700; Wain +500

Carwin knocked out Christian Wellisch in under a minute to make a splash in his UFC debut. He has yet to see the second round in any of his professional fights, but faces Wain who has also finished all of his fights in the first round. Expect a frenetic pace and lots of hard hitting, but Carwin's size advantage gives him an overwhelming edge in what should be a quick fight. Nonetheless, I can't justify laying the heavy chalk here. Prediction: Carwin, 1st round TKO.

Dan "The Outlaw" Hardy (19-6-0) vs. Akihiro "The Japanese Sensation" Gono (28-12-7)
Current Odds: Hardy +285; Gono -355

Hardy is making his UFC debut, having cut his teeth in minor promotions including Cage Warriors, where he still holds a title. He has won 8 of his last 9 over the past two years, has good striking, and is more experienced than it might seem. Gono is a PRIDE veteran who submitted Tamdan McCrory in his UFC debut, though he hasn't fought since that win nearly a year ago. Gono holds a significant edge on the mat, but Hardy is worth a look in the underdog role with his KO potential. Prediction: Hardy, 2nd round TKO.

Paul "Tellys" Kelly (7-0-0) vs. Marcus "The Irish Hand Grenade" Davis (14-4-0)
Current Odds: Kelly +235; Davis -295

Kelly decisioned Paul Taylor in January, his last turn in the Octagon as well as his UFC debut. Davis fought a hard battle with Mike Swick before falling in a decision loss, his first defeat since 2005's TUF 2 finale. Davis will have the edge in standup, though Kelly will not be afraid to trade punches. Kelly would prefer to work his ground-and-pound, and he has a good chance to pull off the upset if he can keep this one on the mat. While we haven't seen enough out of Kelly to get a good read on him, he's worth a lean at the long odds. Prediction: Kelly, by decision.

Paul "Relentless" Taylor (9-3-1) vs. Chris "Lights Out" Lytle (25-16-5)
Current Odds: Taylor +280; Lytle -350

Lytle took highly-regarded Josh Koscheck to a decision in his last fight despite losing, second loss in his last three fights. Taylor is reeling, losing two straight before struggling to a decision win over Jess Liaudin in his last outing. Lytle holds the experience edge and better ground game, though he has often underperformed in big fights. Taylor has struggled since entering the UFC, and this may be the last we see of him. Lytle's showing against Kos can't be downplayed, and he should be able to maneuver himself to a submission stoppage. Prediction: Lytle, 2nd round submission.

Rameau "The African Assassin" Sokoudjou (5-2-0) vs. Luiz "Banha" Cane (8-1-0)
Current Odds: Sokoudjou -120; Cane -110

Cane made quick work of Jason Lambert after being disqualified in his UFC debut against now-contender James Irvin. Sokoudjou is 1-1 in the UFC and, despite his shallow record, is considered by many to be a top 10 light heavyweight. While he has fought top contenders, his experience is still limited and his only real claim to fame is his upset of "Minotoro" Nogueira (who was a 16-to-1 favorite) back in the days of PRIDE. Sokoudjou has yet to earn the respect he's been given, but is priced much too short here. Prediction: Sokoudjou, 2nd round TKO.

Keith "The Dean of Mean" Jardine (13-4-1) vs. Brandon "The Truth" Vera (9-2-0)
Current Odds: Jardine +140; Vera -170

Both of these fighters are looking to reinvigorate their Light Heavyweight title aspirations after being derailed in recent bouts. Jardine has lost two of his last three, but can't be taken lightly with recent wins over Chick Liddell and current champ Forrest Griffin. Vera was once considered a top heavyweight contender, but came off back-to-back losses to look utterly unimpressive in a decision snoozefest over Reese Andy at light heavyweight. Look for this one to end early as Jardine pushes the pace en route to a knockout. Prediction: Jardine, 2nd round TKO.

Michael "The Count" Bisping (16-1-0) vs. Chris "The Crippler" Leben (18-4-0)
Current Odds: Bisping -200; Leben +180

Bisping is off two straight 1st round TKO wins since losing to current champ Rashad Evans and is moving down to middleweight. He entered the UFC with much hype and still has only one loss, though he struggled against Matt Hamill in a narrow decision victory. Bisping was originally slated to face Leben at UFC 85, but that bout was postponed due to Leben's arrest and incarceration for DUI. Leben is only 3-3 in his last 6, and has only a single fight in the last year. Bisping has been stymied by wrestlers, but Leben shouldn't pose that same threat and Bisping's size advantage will give him a decided edge in standup. Prediction: Bisping, 1st round TKO.

Picks (2008: 21-18 +2.30 units; Best Bets: 6-3, +1.15 units)
David Bielkheden-140
Rameau Sokoudjou -120
Keith Jardine +140 (Best Bet)
Michael Bisping -200 (Best Bet)

Opinions (2008: 26-24 +7.95 units)
Samy Schiavo +165
David Baron +165
Terry Etim +240
Neil Wain +500
Dan Hardy +285
Paul Kelly +235
Chris Lytle -350

Jay Graziani

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