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UFC 103: Preview and Predictions...By Jay Graziani

UFC 103: Franklin vs. Belfort
Saturday, September 19th, 10 PM ET, live on pay-per-view
American Airlines Center, Dallas
Weigh-in: Friday, September 18th, 4 PM ET, live on
Current odds from

Rob "The Saint" Emerson (9-7-0) vs. Rafael dos Anjos (11-4-0)
Current Odds: Emerson +100; dos Anjos -130

Emerson tore off 7 fights without a loss until being choked out by Kurt Pellegrino in February, his only fight in the past 13 months. He's filling in here for an injured Matt Wiman. Dos Anjos made his UFC debut in November and promptly lost two straight. While dos Anjos looked solid in defeat against the always tough Tyson Griffin, Emerson has surprised before in the underdog role. Prediction: Emerson by decision.

Vladimir "The Janitor" Matyushenko (22-4-0) vs. Igor Pokrajac (21-5-0)
Current Odds: Matyushenko -280; Pokrajac +220

Matyushenko last saw Octagon action nearly 6 years ago, spending the meantime in a number of promotions including IFL and Affliction. The ex-Soviet wrestler has won 9 of his last 10, the sole loss coming to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, and he was IFL light heavyweight champion before that promotion's collapse. Pokrajac also holds an impressive recent record, winning 11 of his last 12, fighting primarily in Croatia and training in the CroCop Squad gym. Both fight from wrestling bases, so this may be a slow affair with The Janitor's talent giving him the eventual edge. Prediction: Matyushenko by decision.

Eliot "The Fire" Marshall (7-1-0) vs. Jason "Hitman" Brilz (17-1-1)
Current Odds: Marshall +115; Brilz -145

Marshall has won two straight since a subpar showing on TUF 8, though he looked less than impressive his last time out in a decision over Vinny Magalhaes that could have gone the other way. Brilz last tasted defeat over 8 years ago, accumulating a 12-0-1 record since. Brilz will certainly want to take this to the mat, and despite Marshall's submission skills, Brilz has proven to be potent on the ground. Prediction: Brilz, 3rd round TKO.

Rick "The Horror" Story (7-3-0) vs. Brian Foster (12-3-0)
Current Odds: Story -140; Foster +110

Story was decisioned by John Hathaway in his UFC debut in a close, if unmemorable, fight. Foster is just coming up from the minors, winning 5 of his last 6 fights with none of them even reaching the second round. Story is fighting on a mere 2 weeks notice after injuries caused the fight card to undergo some major adjustments. Both come from wrestling backgrounds, and though Story has the better standup, he's not worth making a play on due to his poor showing last time and the short prep time for this bout. Prediction: Story, 1st round TKO.

Rafaello "Tractor" Oliveira (9-1-0) vs. Nik "The Carny" Lentz (16-3-1)
Current Odds: Oliveira -275; Lentz +215

The Brazilian-born Oliveira was set to face fellow ex-Affliction fighter Dan Lauzon in what would have been both's UFC debut. Instead, Nik Lentz is stepping up on about 3 weeks notice. Lentz has twice as many fights as Oliveira despite a slightly shorter career. Neither has much of a fight history to look at with all their action coming in minor promotions. While Oliveira has the better pedigree, Lentz's wrestling may keep him out of trouble on the ground and give him a chance to win it in standup. Prediction: Lentz, 2nd round TKO.

Jim Miller (14-2-0) vs. Steve Lopez (12-1-0)
Current Odds: Miller -435; Lopez +335

Miller's 3-1 since debuting in the Octagon, with the lone mar on his record a decision loss to Gray Maynard. He was scheduled to face the now injured Thiago Tavares, but instead steps into the Octagon against UFC-newcomer Steve Lopez. Fighting his way through minor Midwest promotions, Lopez managed to go 13 fights with just a single decision loss. Miller, though, is more than a step above in both talent and experience. Predcition: Miller, 1st round submission.

Drew "The Massacre" McFedries (8-5-0) vs. Tomasz "Gorilla" Drwal (16-2-1)
Current Odds: McFedries -110; Drwal -120

McFedries needed only 37 seconds to knock out Xavier Foupa-Pokam, though that was his first victory in three tries. Drwal likes to punch as much as McFed and is coming off two straight first-round TKOs. This could be a short fight, but McFedries' history gives him a good shot in what should be a stand-up brawl. Prediction: McFedries, 1st round TKO.

Efrain "Hecho en Mexico" Escudero (11-0-0) vs. Cole "Magrinho" Miller (15-3-0)
Current Odds: Escudero -170; Miller +140

Escudero not only sports an 11-0 record, but also holds the title of TUF 8 champion. Miller is a fellow reality contestant who has gone 4-1 since his run on TUF 5. Both are excellent ground fighters, but Miller should have an exploitable edge in standup if he can manage to keep the fight off the mat. Prediction: Miller, 1st round TKO.

Tyson Griffin (13-2-0) vs. Hermes "The Unreal" Franca (19-7-0)
Current Odds: Griffin -315; Franca +255

Griffin is 6-2 the past 3 years, and despite being unable to finish a fight (his last 7 went to the scorecards) he has notched Fight or Submission of the Night Honors in 6 of those 8 appearances. Franca is a former WEC lightweight champion, but holds only a 1-1 record since falling to Sean Sherk in a bid for the UFC Lightweight title. Both are well-rounded, experienced fighters who have only been stopped a total of once between them. The high odds justify a value play on Franca. Prediction: Franca by decision.

Josh "Kos" Koscheck (12-4-0) vs. Frank "Twinkle-Toes" Trigg (19-6-0)
Current Odds: Koscheck -420; Trigg +320

Kos has struggled to get back on track since his failed bid for Georges St-Pierre's Welterweight title, losing 2 of his last 3. His last fight saw him TKO'ed for the first time in his career when he walked into a huge uppercut courtesy of Paulo Thiago. Trigg hasn't fought in the UFC in over 4 years, leaving on a sour note with back-to-back losses to Matt Hughes and Georges St-Pierre. He's won four straight in other promotions, with the most recent three victories coming by decision. Both are excellent wrestlers and overall fighters, but Trigg is on the decline and Koscheck has the edge despite his recent history of poor showings. Prediction: Koscheck by decision.

Martin "The Hitman" Kampmann (15-2-0) vs. Paul "Semtex" Daley (21-8-2)
Current Odds: Kampann -350; Daley +280

Kampmann was supposed to battle Mike Swick for top-contender status in the welterweight divsion. Unfortunately, Swick has bowed out due to injury and Daley finds himself in the unenviable position of facing an elite cage veteran in his UFC debut, and on just two weeks notice to boot. Daley has plenty of experience, but not against the kind of opponents that would prepare him for Kampmann. Prediction: Kampmann, 1st round TKO.

Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic (25-6-2) vs. Junior "Cigano" Dos Santos (8-1-0)
Current Odds: Filipovic +100; Dos Santos -130

CroCop entered the UFC to much fanfare, only to lose two in a row to make for a short-lived Octagon stint. After a short hiatus where he won bouts in both DREAM and K-1, CroCop returned to the UFC to dismantle Mustapha al Turk this past June. Dos Santos has two first-round TKOs under his belt since signing with UFC, victories over Stefan Struve and Favricio Werdum. The real question is: has CroCop's time passed? While dos Santos looks to be a very talented up-and-comer, he's not ready to face an in-his-prime CroCop, if that fighter shows up. The old CroCop would win handily; a CroCop performance like in the Octagon circa 2007 is, unfortunately, something to worry about. Yet Filipovic should still have a few good fights left in him, especially when he can be had as an underdog. Prediction: Filipovic, 1st round TKO.

Rich "Ace" Franklin (25-4-0) vs. Vitor "Phenom" Belfort (18-8-0)
Current Odds: Franklin -130; Belfort +100

Franklin is 2-1 since moving up from middleweight, including a 195-lb. catchweight decision over Wanderlei Silva. Despite his recent successes, he doesn't seem like quite the same fighter since a pair of brutal losses to Anderson Silva. Belfort's last visits to the Octagon were at UFC 49 and UFC 51, consecutive losses to Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz. While Belfort was certainly a "phenom" when he won his first fight at age 19, his recent efforts have been uninspired and he doesn't semm ready for the level of competition Franklin has to offer. Prediction: Franklin by decision.

Picks (2009): 19-27 -16.45 units; Best Bets: 5-4 -0.15 units

Cole Miller +140
Hermes Franca +255
Martin Kampmann -350
Mirko Filipovic +100 (Best Bet)
Rich Franklin -130 (Best Bet)

Opinions (2009): 27-36 -16.8 units

Rob Emerson +100
Vladimir Matyushenko -280
Jason Brilz -145
Rick Story -140
Nik Lentz +215
Jim Miller -435
Drew McFedries -110
Josh Koscheck -420

Jay Graziani

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