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UFC 92: Preview and Predictions...By Jay Graziani

UFC 92: The Ultimate 2008
Saturday, December 27th, 10 PM ET
MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
Weigh-in: Friday, December 26th, 7 PM ET
Current odds from

Dan "The Viking" Evensen (10-3-0) vs. Pat "Get Hype" Barry (3-0-0)
Current Odds: Evensen +185; Barry -225

Evensen was KO'ed by Cheick Kongo in his UFC debut. He has no real big-fight experience, despite accumulating a decent record in minor promotions. Barry has a sparse MMA record through the CombatUSA promotion, but also holds an 18-6 kickboxing record. Both will look to strike early, though Barry should get the better of the standing exchanges. Evensen holds the size and reach advantage, but Barry should be able to pick him apart with strikes before he finds himself in any danger. Prediction: Barry, 1st round TKO.

Ryo "Piranha" Chonan (15-8-0) vs. Brad "Bad" Blackburn (12-9-1)
Current Odds: Chonan -170; Blackburn +140

Blackburn is 5-2 since his stint in the IFL, including a win in his UFC debut over James Giboo at Fight Night 14. Chonan's a mere 1-1 since coming over from PRIDE and DEEP, both fights going the distance. Chonan has the experience edge against tougher opponents, and Blackburn's striking will not be enough for him to contend here. While Chonan has looked lackluster, he's still far ahead talent-wise. Prediction: Chonan by decision.

Matt "The Hammer" Hamill (4-2-0) vs. Reese "Riptide" Andy (7-2-0)
Current Odds: Hamill -385; Andy +315

Hamill has lost only twice, but in the only two bouts that have really mattered in his career. He was unable to finish a rather tepid Michael Bisping in that split decision loss, and has often been unable to capitalize on the mat. His wrestling and strength edges will largely be negated by Andy, who, despite his collegiate wrestling credentials, ended up on the losing side of a decision to Brandon Vera in a very disappointing UFC debut. Hamill has been surprisingly one-dimensional and may struggle in what looks to be a tough match-up for him. Prediction: Andy, 3rd round TKO.

Antoni Hardonk (7-4-0) vs. Mike "The Juggernaut" Wessel (6-0-0)
Current Odds: Hardonk -345; Wessel +275

Hardonk KO'ed Eddie Sanchez his last time out to give him a 2-fight winning streak since his loss to Frank Mir. Wessel holds an unblemished record, but only through tiny MMA promotions. Both are big, strong strikers, so look for this to end early. I'll lean towards the underdog with a puncher's chance. Prediction: Wessel, 1st round TKO.

Yushin "Thunder" Okami (22-4-0) vs. Dean "The Boogeyman" Lister (11-5-0)
Current Odds: Okami -400; Lister +320

It's surprising to see Okami on the "may-not-be-televised" undercard, as he's won 6 of his last 7 and had a title fight lined up against Anderson Silva before pulling out due to injury. His only loss in that span was a close decision to Rich Franklin, though his ground and pound attack may have limited effectiveness against Lister, who is quite comfortable working from his back. Lister has a long list of MMA and grappling accolades, and has never been knocked out or submitted in competition. This may spell trouble for Okami who has often struggled to finish elite opponents. It's worth noting that Okami has only been finished once himself, a TKO back in 2003. Nonetheless, Okami's strength won't be enough to keep him out of trouble for a full 15 minutes against a wily Lister. Prediction: Lister, 3rd round submission.

Cheick Kongo (12-4-1) vs. Mostapha al Turk (6-3-0)
Current Odds: Kongo -305; al Turk +245

Al Turk is coming from Cage Rage, where he put together a decent 6-1 record since 2004 and left behind a heavyweight title to fight in the UFC. Kongo is known for his kickboxing, though his fights have been snoozefests lately. Al Turk has a decent submission background and should be favored when the action is on the mat. While Kongo's standup is better on paper, it hasn't been consistent enough to make him a play as this large of a favorite. Prediction: Kongo, 1st round TKO.

Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva (32-8-1) vs. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (28-7-0)
Current Odds: Silva -120; Jackson -110

Silva ended a 3-fight losing streak by KO'ing Keith Jardine in the 1st round of their May battle. That brought Silva's record to 1-1 since his Octagon debut. Rampage lost his title to Forrest Griffin in July and two weeks later went on a rampage of his own on the streets of Newport Beach. The aftermath of that incident, including charges possibly as severe as murder, have yet to be played out. On top of that, Jackson split with longtime trainer and manager Juanito Ibarra. These fighters have faced off twice before in PRIDE, with Silva taking both victories by knee strikes. Has Rampage figured out how to defend Silva's Muay Thai? More importantly, is he mentally 100% after his outside-the-Octagon problems? We've seen plenty of both fighters, and there's no reason to think this will end any differently than it has in the past. Prediction: Silva, 1st round TKO.

CB "The Doberman" Dollaway (7-1-0) vs. Mike "The Master of Disaster" Massenzio (11-2-0)
Current Odds: Dollaway -160; Massenzio +130

Dollaway's only loss came at the hands of Amir Sadollah at the TUF 7 finales. He has a strong amateur wrestling background but has had limited experience in the cage. Massenzio has only a single UFC bout under his belt, a 1st round submission of Drew McFedries at September's UFC Fight Night. He also has an amateur wrestling background and decent submissions. These two have met before in collegiate wrestling, a match that saw Dollaway emerge victorious. Dollaway's TUF background gives him the name recognition making him a little too expensive to bet in a fight that's fairly close on paper. Prediction: Dollaway, 2nd round TKO.

Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira (31-4-1) vs. Frank Mir (11-3-0)
Current Odds: Nogueira -360; Mir +290

This marks the traditional "Battle of the Coaches" after each season of The Ultimate Fighter reality show. Nogueira is one of the few PRIDE fighters to avoid the UFC jinx, as he's gone 2-0 since migrating over. With only 4 losses over a nearly 10-year career, Minotauro has to be considered the cream of the crop of heavyweights in MMA. When Mir last stepped into the Octagon, he ruined Brock Lesnar's debut with a kneebar in the 1st, though Mir is only 3-2 since recovering from a motorcycle accident in 2004. The winner of this match will face Lesnar in a title unification bout. Mir's typical jiu-jitsu advantage will be worthless here, and Nogueira is just the much better all-around fighter, though I can't solidly back him at such large odds. Prediction: Nogueira, 3rd round submission.

Forrest Griffin (16-4-0) vs. Rashad "Sugar" Evans (12-0-1)
Current Odds: Griffin -130; Evans +100

Griffin hasn't lost in 2 years, picking up 3 wins and the UFC light heavyweight title over that span. Evans is coming off a shocking KO over Chuck Liddell, although it's doubtful his stand-up will win it for him here. Rashad will need to employ his wrestling skills for the victory, though Forrest will likely prove more troublesome on the ground than his previous opponents. Evans has had trouble finishing fights with 7 of his 13 bouts going to the scorecards. He'll have a difficult time finishing Griffin and a decision victory seems unlikely. We know Forrest can go the distance, as he claimed the title with a 5-round decision over Rampage Jackson. At a minimum, Griffin should be able to grind out a win on the scorecards, if he doesn't manage to finish it early. Prediction: Griffin by decision.

Picks (2008: 25-23 -5.45 units; Best Bets: 8-7 -1.40 units):
Pat Barry -225
Reese Andy +315
Dean Lister +320
Wanderlei Silva -120 (Best Bet)
Forrest Griffin -130 (Best Bet)

Opinions (2008: 35-30 +20.00 units):
Ryo Chonan -170
Mike Wessel +275
Cheick Kongo -305
CB Dollaway -160
Minotauro Nogueira -360

Jay Graziani

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