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UFC 102: Preview and Predictions...By Jay Graziani

UFC 102:Couture vs. Nogueira
Saturday, August 29th, 10 PM ET, live on pay-per-view
Rose Garden Arena, Portland OR
Weigh-in: Friday, August 28th, 7 PM ET, live on
Current odds from

Marcus "Maximus" Aurelio (18-7-0) vs. Evan Dunham (8-0-0)
Current Odds: Aurelio -150; Dunham +120

Aurelio briefly departed the UFC after suffering back-to-back decision losses; he won two in a row in small promotions to earn his return to the undercard as a replacement for the injured Matt Veach. Dunham is an up-and-comer from the Xtreme Couture gym who debuted in the UFC by handing Per Eklund a first round TKO. Despite Dunham's exciting win, we haven't seen enough of him to think he could handle a veteran like Aurelio. Prediction: Aurelio, 2nd round submission.

Nick Catone (6-1-0) vs. Mark "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" Munoz(5-1-0)
Current Odds: Catone +175; Munoz -215

Catone has appeared twice on UFC Fight Nights, splitting for a 1-1 record in the Octagon. Munoz's UFC debut was spoiled by a brutal right head kick from Matt Hamill that saw Munoz leave in a neck brace. Both come from wrestling backgrounds, and while Munoz has the better standup, it's hard to bet on a guy who was nearly decapitated his last time out. Prediction: Catone, 2nd round TKO.

Tim "The Thrashing Machine" Hague (10-1-0) vs. Todd Duffee (4-0-0)
Current Odds: Hague +165; Duffee -205

Hague's debut saw him submit Pat Barry after a lucky takedown saved him from Barry's striking. Duffee is making his UFC debut despite a mere four fights under his belt, all TKO wins. Hague looked far from impressive his first time out, but I'll give his experience the benefit of the doubt in the underdog role. Prediction: Hague, 1st round TKO.

Justin "The Nsane 1" McCully (9-4-2) vs. Mike Russow (11-1-0)
Current Odds: McCully +215; Russo -275

McCully is 2-1 within the Octagon, with decision wins over Eddie Sanchez and Antoni Hardonk, and a submission loss to Gabriel Gonzaga. Russow is making his UFC debut after winning seven straight, five of them by first round submission. Russow has no fights against top heavyweights, but his ground skills and size should give him enough to handle McCully. Prediction: Russow, 1st round submission.

Gabriel "Napao" Gonzaga (10-4-0) vs. Chris "The Crowbar" Tuchscherer (17-1-0)
Current Odds: Gonzaga -365; Tuchscherer +295

Gonzaga has put together a pedestrian 2-2 record since losing his bid for Randy Couture's heavyweight title, most recently a first round TKO loss courtesy of Shane Carwin. Tuchscherer made his way out of smaller promotions by putting together a 17-1 record, in the process managing to not face a single fighter of note. The battle-tested Gonzaga's great ground game gives him a favorable style matchup over Tuchscherer's wrestling and size advantage. Prediction: Gonzaga, 1st round submission.

Ed "Short Fuse" Herman (15-7-0) vs. Aaron "A-Train" Simpson (5-0-0)
Current Odds: Herman -125; Simpson -105

Herman bounced back from two straight defeats to decision David Loiseau, while Simpson TKO'ed Tim McKenzie in his UFC debut to bring his win streak to five, all by knockout. Simpson brings an excellent wrestling pedigree despite his limited experience. Both fighters are replacements coming in on three weeks' notice, so neither will have had much time to gameplan. Simpson's wrestling will test Herman's takedowns and ground-and-pound, but Herman's experience will prove to be the deciding factor. Prediction: Herman, 1st round submission.

Brandon "The Truth" Vera (10-3-0) vs. Krzysztof "The Polish Experiment" Soszynski (18-8-1)
Current Odds: Vera -205; Soszynski +165

Vera is 2-1 since moving down to light heavyweight, and though he lost a narrow decision to Keith Jardine, he struggled in needing a decision to defeat Reese Andy in his division debut. Soszynski has rattled off six straight wins, including his first three appearances in the Octagon, and looks to be a serious contender in a deep weight class. Vera continues to underperform relative to his talent and Soszynski at plus-money is a good option. Prediction: Soszynski, 3rd round TKO.

Nate "The Great" Marquardt (28-8-2) vs. Demian Maia (10-0-0)
Current Odds: Marquardt -190; Maia +150

Maia has looked fantastic while building his undefeated 10-fight record, 8 of which have come by submission. While Maia has won his last two by first round submission, the battle-tested Marquardt should pose a much more formidable challenge. Maia has only had to answer the second round bell three times in his career, and Marquardt will benefit by taking Maia deep into the fight. At these odds, though, the talented Maia is worth a look. Prediction: Maia, 2nd round TKO.

Chris "The Crippler" Leben (18-6-0) vs. Jake Rosholt (5-1-0)
Current Odds: Leben -150; Rosholt +120

Leben last saw action at UFC 89, where he lost to Michael Bisping and was subsequently suspended for a failed drug test. He's lost three of his five fights spanning the last three years, and his "off-field" incidents, including a DUI incarceration, seem to be playing havoc with him mentally. Rosholt brought a 5-0 record into the UFC only to lose his debut to Dan Miller via guillotine choke. Rosholt's a great wrestler, but a little green; and with Leben's career against the ropes, look for him to deliver an inspired effort for the win. Prediction: Leben, 1st round TKO.

Keith "The Dean of Mean" Jardine (14-5-1) vs. Thiago Silva (13-1-0)
Current Odds: Jardine -140; Silva +110

Jardine has lost three of his last five, including two first-round KO losses. Jardine has only finished two fights in his UFC career, with his last stoppage coming nearly two years ago. Silva, meanwhile, has only seen the 2nd round once in his last 10 appearances, and has a sole loss against the undefeated current champ, Lyoto Machida. Jardine's chin has to be called into question after these recent losses, and while Jardine's odds will improve the further this fight goes, Silva's history of quick finishes spells trouble for Jardine. Prediction: Silva, 2nd round TKO.

Randy "The Natural" Couture (16-9-0) Vs. Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira (31-5-1)
Current Odds: Couture -190; Nogueira +150

Despite Couture's legend as a hall-of-famer, he has only put up a 3-3 record in the past 5 years, without a single win against an elite opponent. Nogueira hasn't impressed in his 3 UFC fights since migrating from PRIDE, but he has an extensive resume and has 13 years of youth on Couture. Fan money follows Couture, and this is a good spot to play contrarian with a world-class fighter. Prediction: Nogueira by decision.

Picks (2009): 17-22 -12.8 units; Best Bets: 4-4 -1.65 units
Marcus Aurelio-150
Ed Herman -125
Krzysztof Soszynski +165
Demian Maia +150
Chris Leben -150
Thiago Silva +110
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira +150 (Best Bet)

Opinions (2009): 25-34 -16.8 units
Nick Catone +175
Tim Hague +165
Mike Russow -275
Gabriel Gonzaga -365

Jay Graziani

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