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UFC 115: By the Odds

I can't recall any fighter in recent memory who's gotten as much praise as Chuck Liddell has simply for getting in shape prior to UFC 115.

Don't get me wrong, it's impressive to see the brand new body he's built for himself at age 40. At the same time, this is a pro athlete we're talking about. Getting himself in good shape is part of the job requirements, and abs alone have never won a fight.

It's tempting to think that there's a fountain of youth to be found in the gym, but the question for Liddell is whether he can still take a shot and keep coming. There was a time when that was a given. More recently, it almost seems as if any clean shot will drop him.

Is that the kind of thing he can overcome with improved conditioning? Seems doubtful. The good news for Liddell is he's never more than one looping right hand away from victory. All he needs to do is stay upright long enough to land it.

Chuck Liddell (-115) vs. Rich Franklin (-115)

Say what you will about whether this fight really means anything, but as the line reflects, it's at least a very even, interesting fight on paper. Here we have two very different styles, so it really becomes a question of what kind of fight you expect it to become: a straight-up slugfest, or a tactical affair? Franklin has to know that he's no match for Liddell's power, or so you'd hope. If somehow he doesn't respect Liddell's ability to turn his lights out, it probably won't take long for him to realize his error in painful fashion.

My pick: Franklin. If he plants his feet and starts trading with Liddell he's in trouble, but if he stays on the move he can exploit the speed difference.

Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (+145) vs. Pat Barry (-175)

If you're tempted to take the underdog bet on Cro Cop, allow me to first pose a question: which Cro Cop are you betting on? The one from 2006, the guy who was a stone cold destroyer of worlds? Yeah, we haven't seen him in the Octagon yet. Maybe a resurrection is coming, but I wouldn't bet on it.

My pick: Barry. He's one of the few heavyweights in the UFC who can beat Cro Cop in a pure kickboxing match, and that's bad news for a declining great.

Paulo Thiago (-300) vs. Martin Kampmann (+240)

Surprised to see Thiago a 3-1 favorite in this fight? You're not alone. I agree that he has the edge, but this fight is nowhere near a gimme for him. We know Thiago can be outwrestled, even if it seems doubtful that Kampmann is the guy to do it.

My pick: I still like Thiago's chances, but at these odds Kampmann is a decent underdog worth small action.

Ben Rothwell (-165) vs. Gilbert Yvel (+135)

If you love to see two big guys fighting with a sense of urgent desperation, this is the bout for you. In a pure kickboxing match, Yvel would have the edge. Too bad this is MMA. Rothwell can put him on his back whenever he wants, and once there Yvel is quite helpless.

My pick: Rothwell. Even if he stands and trades I like his chances to drop Yvel, who hasn't looked good in a while.

Carlos Condit (-105) vs. Rory MacDonald (-125)

MacDonald is still so young that it's hard to know exactly what he might be capable of. At an age when most guys are preoccupied with finding a way to buy beer and meet girls, he's fighting in the UFC. There's always a chance for inexperience to prove a hindrance for someone in his situation, especially against a savvy fighter like Condit.

My pick: MacDonald. It's going to be a close one, but I think MacDonald will surprise a few people with a submission win.

Tyson Griffin (-215) vs. Evan Dunham (+175)

The way Griffin's been fighting lately, he's a nightmare opponent for almost anyone in the lightweight division. He can put you on your back or punch you in the face, and worrying about both makes it hard to mount an offense of your own. Dunham's trained with him enough at Xtreme Couture, so you can bet that he's well aware of what he's up against.

My pick: Griffin. His experience and wrestling ability will make the difference, and Dunham will get a painful but useful lesson.

Mac Danzig (-125) vs. Matt Wiman (-105)

If not for some lackluster recent performances, Danzig would likely be a heavier favorite. He has all the tools to beat Wiman, so it's just a question of whether his mind is in the right place.

My pick: Danzig. I think he's finally got his head together, and that's bad news for Wiman.