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UFC 139: By the Odds

The UFC invades San Jose on Saturday night for an event at Strikeforce's longtime stomping grounds in the HP Pavilion, and at least on paper UFC 139 looks like one of the best fight cards of the year.

Oddsmakers have already had a look at the card and determined their favorites. Now it's our turn. Who knows, we might find a crazy underdog somewhere in here to carry us to the promised land.

Dan Henderson (+110) vs. "Shogun" Rua (-140)

In the past couple years it's seemed like you never know for sure which "Shogun" you're going to get until midway through the first round. Will he show up fierce and in shape, or soggy and slow? Fans have been willing to cut him some slack after injury layoffs, but a five-round battle with a grinder like Henderson could get ugly for the Brazilian if it makes it into the later rounds. If it remains a kickboxing match, you've got to like Rua's chances. But Hendo seems to have a special gift for turning what looks like a nice, technical bout on paper into a messy, nasty affair in the cage. The more rough and tumble it gets, and the longer it goes, the more this fight favors Henderson. If he can wear Rua out in the clinch and on the mat in the early going, this is a very winnable fight for him.
My pick: Henderson. At these odds, it's worth small action, but I wouldn't go big on the off chance that we saw a sharp "Shogun" or a Hendo who suddenly starts to look his age.

Wanderlei Silva (+115) vs. Cung Le (-145)

I have to imagine that if Le's acting aspirations hadn't already resulted in him losing a fight he should have won, the line on this would be considerably more lopsided. It's not that Silva's got no chance. Power is always one of the last things to go, though Silva's trademark aggression is high on that list as well. He could conceivably get in close and smash Le with a big hook, or snatch him up in a Thai clinch and knee him like he's "Rampage" Jackson and it's 2004 all over again. More likely though, Le will keep him at a distance with his kicks, sticking and moving all night long. Le might not be known for his knockout power, but these days, Silva isn't known for his ability to take much a shot. If Silva were somewhere north of a 2-1 underdog here, I could see taking the risk. But to get Dan Henderson odds on a fighter who is younger, but clearly further past his prime, that doesn't seem like such a good deal.
My pick: Le. I'll save it for the parlay, and a part of me will continue to hope I'm wrong, since I'm not sure I can handle seeing Silva get knocked out again. I also can't justify picking him, though.

Urijah Faber (-250) vs. Brian Bowles (+195)

I realize Faber is far more popular -- Bowles realizes it too, in case you're wondering -- but this seems a tad ridiculous. You're telling me that of all the fighters on the main card here, the biggest underdog is the guy who was champion of his division as recently as March of 2010, who has only lost one fight (via injury TKO, to the current champ), and who is facing a guy who has not held a belt since November of 2008, despite multiple chances to win one? I'm sorry, but I have to call shenanigans here. This is a much closer fight than the odds reflect. Faber deserves to be the favorite, and I understand why he's got the bigger fan following, but cool hair and an almost disturbingly laid-back attitude isn't enough to justify a line like this. In a straight-up pick, I'll take Faber. Even then, however, I won't feel totally confident in it. With a line this lopsided, I pretty much have to roll the dice on Bowles. If I didn't, I'd hate myself in the morning.
My pick: Bowles. He might look like Opie Taylor going up against Point Break-era Patrick Swayze, but it's not a beauty contest, people.

Martin Kampmann (+115) vs. Rick Story (-145)

If you ask me, this is the closest fight on this card. It could go so many different ways, and almost no outcome is unfathomable. Because of the unpredictable nature of this particular style match-up, my gut instinct is to stay away from it entirely. But then, that's not much fun, and it doesn't make for the most interesting of betting odds columns, either. With that in mind, I'll go with the guy who I think has the more diverse skill set, not to mention a little more experience against top-level opponents. That's Kampmann, but not by much. We're talking slim margins on this one, which is not something I like to bet on.
My pick: Kampmann. But if I were you, I'd opt to stay out of this one. Like Hemingway said of bicycle racing as compared to horse racing, this is one where you don't need to bet on it in order to enhance your enjoyment of it.

Kyle Kingsbury (-150) vs. Stephan Bonnar (+120)

Bonnar is a big, tough guy who's been around the block and earned the right to keep going around even now, when it's very clear that he'll never challenge for a title or even get closer than the announcer's table to one. But against Kingsbury he finds himself facing an opponent who's probably a little faster, a little stronger, and just generally more athletic. Kingsbury was very green when fans first saw him on TUF, but he's improved drastically since then and has four straight wins to show for it. Bonnar's no easy opponent for anyone in the light heavyweight division, and you can rest assured that's probably going to make you work for the full fifteen minutes, but if Kingsbury does what he's capable of this should be his fight.
My pick: Kingsbury. Another one for the parlay.

Quick picks:

- Miguel Torres (-340) over Nick Pace (+260). I suppose it's possible that Pace is on Torres' level. We just haven't seen any evidence of it yet.

- Danny Castillo (-300) over Shamar Bailey (+230).
No offense to Bailey, but Castillo probably faces tougher fights in the gym on a regular basis.

The 'For Entertainment Purposes Only' Parlay:
Le + Kingsbury + Torres + Castillo

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