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UFC 123: By the Odds

In at least one way, UFC 123 is already a disappointment. To me, anyway.

I would have thought that when you put Lyoto Machida – a fighter known for drinking his own urine – together with "Rampage" Jackson – a fighter known for his played out bad breath jokes – we would have had comedy gold by now. I would have thought the combination of necessity and opportunity would help break some new ground in the field of bad breath jokes. Sort of like the polio vaccine, only much, much less helpful to society.

No such luck so far. Guess that means we'll have to put our hopes in the fights themselves to entertain us. Let's start with a look at how oddsmakers think Saturday night's event will play out, along with some suggestions on where they might be wrong.

Lyoto Machida (-280) vs. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (+220)

After losing to Rashad Evans last May, Jackson admitted that ring rust may have been a factor. Then he spent six months on the shelf before his next fight, so he must not be too terribly worried about it. Machida is the favorite mostly for stylistic reasons. He won't stand right in front of Jackson and trade power shots, and when you look at Jackson's recent wins you mostly see a bunch of guys who have tried to do just that. Machida will be in and out, hither and thither all night long. Will this frustrate an already frustratable Jackson? Maybe, but he still only needs one good punch to change his fortunes.
My pick: In straight-up picks, I'll go with Machida, but if we're talking about value for your money, Jackson at +220 is the best underdog pick on the card.

Matt Hughes (+145) vs. B.J. Penn (-175)

The last time these two fought, Penn's legendary takedown defense was overcome by his even more legendary tendency to get suddenly tired. Okay, that's an oversimplification, but still. Hughes kept the pressure on, which is what Hughes does, and by the third round Penn had become a fraction of the fighter he was in the first, which is what Penn does, or at least what he did back in 2006. These days his conditioning seems in order and it's his motivation we question. Hughes? He's still Hughes, just a little older and a touch slower, which might make all the difference if he can't get this to the mat when he wants to.
My pick: Penn. He shows up in shape these days, and he knows he needs this win. If he can stop the takedown consistently Hughes will run out of ideas. With these odds, though, I'd save it for a parlay.

Gerald Harris (-265) vs. Maiquel Falcao (+205)

At first glance, the 25-3 Brazilian who goes by the nickname "Big Rig" seems like a solid underdog bet. But even after watching YouTube highlight videos where he head stomps people to the soaring sounds of a power ballad, you have to ask yourself, 'Yeah, but how will he do against a quality American wrestler?' We don't know the answer to that, just like we don't know if the bright lights of the UFC will freak him out in his first fight. What we do know is that Harris will slam you into a frozen zombie state, and he will be trying for it from the first minute to the last.
My pick: Harris. Falcao might be worth small action, but you'll have only yourself to blame if the guy you know almost nothing about turns out to be exactly who the oddsmakers thought he was.

Phil Davis (-650) vs. Tim Boetsch (+450)

Boetsch is commonly billed as a wrestling-based fighter with raw caveman power, but oddly enough, he does not have a great track record against other wrestlers. Matt Hamill, Jason Brilz, and Vladimir Matyushenko all have victories over him, and none of them have Davis' college wrestling credentials. Oddsmakers know this, which is why they've labeled this fight a mismatch of Strikeforce proportions. Still, it's not Bobby Lashley-Wes Sims over here, so there's a chance, however small, that Boetsch could catch Davis with something.
My pick: Davis. The odds make it silly to even think about putting money down, but there's just no way I see "Mr. Wonderful" losing this fight. Save it for your parlay.

George Sotiropoulos (-260) vs. Joe Lauzon (+200)

At first glance, it seems as if an experienced, talented fighter like Lauzon deserves to be closer than a 2-1 underdog against a guy whose impressive six-fight UFC win streak includes a lot of unimpressive opponents. Then you stop and ask yourself, what does Lauzon do significantly better than Sotiropoulos? Not jiu-jitsu, and not striking. Probably not even Octagon control. He's tough and he's well-rounded, but so is Sotiropoulos, who also just seems a little bit better in every area.
My pick: Sotiropoulos. Of all the 2-1 underdogs on the main card, I like Lauzon's chances the least. He's a good guy and a solid all-around fighter, but sometimes that's just not enough.

Quick picks:

- Dennis Hallman (+125) over Karo Parisyan (-155). Parisyan's win over Ben Mortimer in July means almost nothing, and even then he had to have his fight moved the opener because of his anxiety issues. I fear he's still not well, and that will show against a vet like Hallman.

- Brian Foster (-145) over Matt Brown (+115). For too long Brown has relied on toughness first and technique second. It's catching up with him lately, and will continue to do so against the hard-hitting Foster.

- T.J. O'Brien (+130) over Paul Kelly (-160). O'Brien's size and submissions game will edge out Kelly's experience in the Octagon.

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