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UFC 98: Preview and Predictions...By Jay Graziani

UFC 98: Evans vs. Machida
Saturday, May 23rd, 10 PM ET, live on pay-per-view
MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
Weigh-in: Friday, May 22nd, 7 PM ET, live on
Current odds from

"Diamond" Dave Kaplan (2-2-0) vs. George Roop (8-4-0)
Current Odds: Kaplan +130; Roop -160

Kaplan was a clown during his TUF reality show run and hasn't shown much in the Octagon, fighting only once since 2006 and losing his last two. While he has a wrestling background, his strength is in standup and he will struggle getting within the reach of his much taller opponent. Roop, Kaplan's castmate on TUF, also likes to stand and trade though he doesn't have a great history of finishing fights. Neither looked good in their Octagon debuts, but I will count on Roop stuffing takedowns and keeping Kaplan at bay long enough to edge out a win. Prediction: Roop by decision.

Yoshiyuki "Zenko" Yoshida (10-3-0) vs. Brandon Wolff (7-3-0)
Current Odds: Yoshida -500; Wolff +350

Yoshida was carried out of the cage after less than a round against Josh Koscheck at "Fight for the Troops", despite looking impressive in Cage Force and his UFC debut against "War Machine" Jon Koppenhaver. That loss was not only his first in 10 fights, but it also relegated him from possible welterweight contender to mere undercard fodder. He faces fellow "Troops" fighter Brandon Wolff, who also tasted first-round defeat, in his case at the knees of Ben Saunders. While you have to wonder about a fighter's mental state following a big knockout, Yoshida's the far better fighter and should dominate from start to (early) finish. Prediction: Yoshida, 1st round TKO.

Krzysztof "The Polish Experiment" Soszynski (17-8-1) vs. Andre Gusmao (5-1-0)
Current Odds: Soszynski +130; Gusmao -160

Soszynski was in the Octagon just a month ago to face Brian Stann at the last UFC pay-per-view, a fight he ended by 1st round kimura. On a card full of injuries, he's stepping in here for an injured Houston Alexander. Gusmao hasn't fought since August, when he was handed the first blemish on his record by Jon Jones. Gusmao looked good in IFL, but hasn't shown he can step up to the next level of competition and Soszynski looks to be underestimated by the oddsmakers. Prediction: Soszynski, 2nd round TKO.

Phillipe "The Filipino Assassin" Nover (5-1-1) vs. Kyle Bradley (13-6-0)
Current Odds: Nover -345; Bradley +275

Nover lost a decision in the championship of TUF 8 despite entering as a heavy favorite. Bradley is 0-2 in the Octagon sporting a first round, 33 second TKO at the hands of Chris Lytle and a 2nd round TKO by Joe Lauzon. This is the third consecutive tough matchup for Bradley, but I'll take his experience and punching power against an overrated Nover who looked weak in standup last time out. Prediction: Bradley, 1st round TKO.

Pat "HD" Barry (4-0-0) vs. Tim "The Thrashing Machine" Hague (9-1-0)
Current Odds: Barry -315; Hague +255

Barry won by 1st round TKO in his UFC debut against Dan Evensen. Hague is a beast at 6'4", 265 lbs., but all his wins have come at a lower level of competition, mostly in King of the Cage events. Barry has great kickboxing that he has proven works against bigger men; look for it to prevail again. Prediction: Barry, 1st round TKO.

Brock Larson (25-2-0) vs. Chris "The Professor" Wilson (14-5-0)
Current Odds: Larson -310; Wilson +250

Larson, a WEC standout, has a 2-1 UFC record dating back to 2005, most recently choking out Jesse Saunders at Fight Night 18. He's standing in here as a replacement for the injured Josh Koscheck. Wilson also has a 2-1 Octagon mark, with all three going to decision. Larson's ground game provides him a style edge; that plus his experience gives him a decided advantage. Prediction: Larson by decision.

Sean "Muscle Shark" Sherk (33-3-1) vs. Frank "The Answer" Edgar (9-1-0)
Current Odds: Sherk -310; Edgar +240

Sherk bounced back from a title loss to BJ Penn by beating Tyson Griffin by decision. Before Sherk, Griffin's last loss came to none other than Frankie Edgar, who has gone 4-1 since entering the UFC in 2007. Both come from wrestling backgrounds, though Sherk has the advantage in power. Sherk is getting on in years at 35, and Edgar has a good shot at these long odds. Prediction: Edgar by decision.

Dan Miller (11-1-0) vs. Chael Sonnen (21-10-1)
Current Odds: Miller -155; Sonnen +125

Miller is 3-0 in the UFC and has won 9 straight overall, including a decision over Matt Horwich at UFC 90. Sonnen lost his UFC revival bout to Demian Maia via submission and is a late replacement for Yushin Okami in this fight. While fighting on only 3 weeks notice, Sonnen had a good run in the WEC and this fight looks like a potential upset. Prediction: Sonnen, 3rd round TKO.

Drew "The Massacre" McFedries (7-5-0) vs. Xavier "The Professor X" Foupa-Pokam (20-10-0)
Current Odds: McFedries +140; Foupa-Pokam -170

McFedries has lost 3 of his last 4 and none of his fights have seen the 2nd round since 2003. Foupa-Pokam lost to Denis Kang by unanimous decision in his UFC debut just a month ago. Both are aggressive strikers so look for this to be a knock-down affair. McFederies' experience against tougher competition and his opponent's short layoff give him a solid shot at the upset. Prediction: McFedries, 1st round TKO.

Matt Hughes (42-7-0) vs. Matt "The Terror" Serra (9-5-0)
Current Odds: Hughes -250; Serra +200

Hughes fought only once in 2008, a loss to Thiago Alves, so he hasn't stepped into the Octagon in nearly a year. Hughes has slowed down in recent years, but he still has yet to be defeated in the Octagon by anyone named anything other than Penn, St. Pierre, and now Alves. Serra has only 14 fights to his name, despite being 34 years old and competing for nearly a decade. This is only his second fight in as many years, a split series against Georges St. Pierre. Hughes' biggest weaknesses, his age and inactivity, are also liabilities for Serra. The better overall fighter wins this one, and, at least on paper, that's easily Matt Hughes. Prediction: Hughes, 2nd round TKO.

"Suga" Rashad Evans (13-0-1) vs. Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida (14-0-0)
Current Odds: Evans +190; Machida -240

Evans was lucky to beat Forrest Griffin, as he was behind on the scorecards before a fatal slip by Griffin let Evans rain punches down from top position. Prior to that, Evans caught Chuck Liddell leaving his chin exposed, fought Michael Bisping to a boring split decision, and took Tito Ortiz to a draw. Doesn't seem exactly like the pedigree of a current UFC champion. Evans lost the standup battle to Forrest Griffin, and Machida will use that to even greater advantage. The Dragon's stand-up has been fantastic and his takedown defense has been off the charts. His only downside has been his inability to finish fights, but his patient style has allowed him to control the pace of his fights from start to finish. Two fighters undefeated in 28 combined bouts sounds like a formula for a great fight, but look for this to be a one-sided and possibly boring affair. Prediction: Machida by decision.

Picks (2009): 5-14 -12.4 units; Best Bets: 1-2 -1.75 units
Krzysztof Soszynski +130 (Best Bet)
Frank Edgar +240
Drew McFedries +140
Matt Hughes -250 (Best Bet)
Lyoto Machida -240

Opinions (2009): 9-23 -19.95 units
George Roop -160
Yoshiyuki Yoshida -500
Kyle Bradley +275
Pat Barry -315
Brock Larson -310
Chael Sonnen +125

Jay Graziani

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