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UFC 101: Preview and Predictions...By Jay Graziani

UFC 101: Declaration
Saturday, August 8th, 10 PM ET, live on pay-per-view
Wachovia Center, Philadelphia
Weigh-in: Friday, August 7th, 4 PM ET, live on
Current odds from

Jesse "The Ox" Lennox (10-1-0) vs. Danillo "Indio" Villefort (9-2-0)
Current Odds: Lennox +170; Villefort -210

Lennox has bounced around a number of promotions, most recently the WEC, and has a sole loss stemming from his only fight in the IFL. Villefort is likewise migrating from the WEC and has extensive jiu-jitsu and judo training stemming from his native Brazil. While neither has much top-tier experience, I'll give Villefort, with his submissions, the solid matchup edge over Lennox's wrestling base. Prediction: Villefort, 2nd round submission.

George Sotiropoulos (9-2-0) vs. George Roop (9-4-0)
Current Odds: Sotiropoulos -425; Roop +325

Despite appearing on TUF 6, Sotiropoulos is just now making his pay-per-view debut, stepping down in weight class since withdrawing from a fight against Karo Parisyan due to injury. Roop, a TUF 8 alum, is stepping in for an injured Rob Emerson on just 2 weeks notice after winning a split decision in May. This is a tough fight to handicap, considering Sotiropoulos hasn't fought in 16 months and Roop is fighting on very short notice, but I will lean towards Sotiropoulos who has yet to be beaten in the Octagon and is coming down in weight. Prediction: Sotiropoulos, 1st round submission.

Matthew Riddle (2-0-0) vs. Dan Cramer (1-0-0)
Current Odds: Riddle -190; Cramer +150

Both of these fighters are as green as they get, with a total of only three professional fights to their names after both appeared on TUF7. Riddle brings a wrestling background, but Cramer's jiu-jitsu edge and striking give him a shot at the upset. Prediction: Cramer, 1st round TKO.

Thales Leites (14-2-0) vs. Alessio "Legionarius" Sakara (13-7-0)
Current Odds: Leites -400; Sakara +300

Leites is coming off an uninspiring decision loss to champ Anderson Silva, and may be fighting for his UFC career after that poor showing despite his excellent record. Sakara's a poor 4-4 since entering the UFC in 2005 and has fallen to every high-quality opponent he has faced. Sakara hasn't fought in a year and faces a highly motivated opponent with a decent track record, and Leites' ground game should be too much for Sakara to handle. Prediction: Leites, 1st round submission.

Tamdan "The Barn Cat" McCrory (11-2-0) vs. John "Doomsday" Howard (11-4-0)
Current Odds: McCrory -195; Howard +155

McCrory has been inconsitent in the Octagon, sporting a 3-2 record, but has shown flashes of brilliance and has been able to leverage his unusual size. Howard took a very close split decision over Chris Wilson in his UFC debut as a 3-to-1 underdog. Howard hasn't really been tested, and his significant reach and height disadvantages make him a very risky bet. Prediction: McCrory, 2nd round TKO.

Shane "Sugar" Nelson (12-3-0) vs. Aaron Riley (27-11-1)
Current Odds: Nelson +135; Riley -165

This is a rematch of a UFC 96 fight that was stopped prematurely in Nelson's favor at 44 seconds into the first round, one of the most unwarranted stoppages in UFC history. I leaned towards Riley as a 5-to-2 favorite in that fight, and see no reason to switch sides now that Riley's a shorter favorite. Prediction: Riley, 2nd round TKO.

Josh "The Dentist" Neer (25-7-1) vs. Kurt "Batman" Pellegrino (13-4-0)
Current Odds: Neer -210; Pellegrino +170

Neer has been in and out of the Octagon, fighting in 2005, 2006, and 2008 with stints in minor promotions in between. Nonetheless, he's only 4-4 in his UFC career and faces Pellegrino who has gone 5-3 inside the Octagon. Pellegrino will hold the edge on the ground, while Neer should prefer to keep it standing. I'll go with the style matchup and take a shot with the ground fighter in the underdog role. Prediction: Pellegrino by decision.

Kendall "Da Spyder" Grove (10-5-0) vs. Ricardo "Big Dog" Almeida (10-3-0)
Current Odds: Grove +135; Almeida -165

Grove has looked decent, though inconsistent, since his TUF3 run, putting together a 5-2 UFC record. Almeida came back from a self-imposed retirement to go 2-1 in his comeback, with a loss against the talented Patrick Cote. Grove's reach and striking should be big advantages, but he may be in trouble against Almeida's tough jiu-jitsu if a significant amount of the fight is spent on the mat. Predicition: Almeida, 3rd round submission.

Amir Sadollah (1-0-0) vs. Johny Hendricks (5-0-0)
Current Odds: Sadollah -125; Hendricks -105

Sadollah has but a single win to his name, a submission of heavily favored CB Dolloway in the finale of TUF7. He's had to pull out of two fights since that win over a year ago, and now looks to continue his winning ways against Hendricks, who brings with him a 5-0 overall record (including 2-0 recently in the WEC) and a strong amateur wrestling background with a mix of heavy striking. Sadollah has shown some talent and has exhibited some good jiu-jitsu in his limited experience, but it looks like Sadollah's getting a little too much public support from TUF7 fan money. Prediction: Hendricks, 2nd round TKO.

Anderson "The Spider" Silva (24-4-0) vs. Forrest Griffin (16-5-0)
Current Odds: Silva -360; Griffin +290

A lopsided decision over Thales Leites brought Silva's winning streak to 9, setting a record for consecutive victories in the UFC. Griffin won 3 in a row, culminating in a title victory over Quinton Jackson, only to fall to Rashad Evans in his first title defense. Silva has seemed vulnerable at times, and the relentless Griffin may have some value at this number, despite not having fought since December. Prediction: Griffin, 3rd round TKO.

BJ "The Prodigy" Penn (13-5-1) vs. Kenny "KenFlo" Florian (11-3-0)
Current Odds: Penn -255; Florian +205

Penn is coming off a beating at the hands of Georges St-Pierre, and steps back down to lightweight to defend his title in that division. Florian is a deserving title contender, winning his last 6 to boost his UFC record to an impressive 9-2. Though Penn lost to Georges St-Pierre as a short underdog, he was moving up in weight and facing one of the elite athletes in the UFC. Florian's unique mix of crisp elbows and solid jiu-jitsu give him a chance for the victory, but the odds are a bit short to go against the very talented Penn. Prediction: Penn, 4th round TKO.

Picks (2009): 14-20 -11.5 units; Best Bets: 4-4 -1.65 units
Dan Cramer +150
Thales Leites -400
Kurt Pellegrino +170
Ricardo Almeida -165
BJ Penn -255

Opinions (2009): 22-29 -14.75 units
Danillo Villefort -210
George Sotiropoulos -425
Tamdan McCrory -195
Aaron Riley -165
Johny Hendricks -105
Forrest Griffin +290

Jay Graziani

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