UFC 98 Evans vs. Machida: Preview and picks

UFC 98 Evans vs. Machida: Preview and picks

UFC 98 Evans vs. Machida: Preview and picks
By Robert Rousseau

UFC 98 is a treat for MMA bettors.

The main event features two fighters with no professional losses vying for the UFC light heavyweight title. Champion Rashad Evans makes his first title defense against Brazilian Lyoto Machida at the MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday night.

Beefing up the card is the grudge match to end all grudge matches, pitting TUF coaches Matt Hughes and Matt Serra against each other.

Rashad Evans (13-0-1) vs. Lyoto Machida (14-0)

Evans (+170) will try to turn this fight into a blood-and-guts affair. His best option is to take Machida (-210) down and pound away. That will be difficult against Machida's outstanding takedown defense.  Evans could also try to work the clinch along the Octagon wall or stand up with Machida, hoping to land a big shot. However, that tactic hasn’t had much success against “The Dragon” in the past.

Evans could win here, but Machida is slick enough to foil his plans.

Pick: Machida via decision

Matt Hughes (43-7) vs. Matt Serra (16-5)

Matt Hughes (-260) has to get this fight to the ground because he won't win a striking battle against Serra. Once on the mat, he can avoid submissions and pound his way to a decision victory.

It's tough to count Serra (+200) out because he's surprised bettors before. However in the end, Hughes's 50 MMA fights and power should give him the advantage he needs.

Pick: Hughes via decision

Dan Miller (11-1) vs. Chael Sonnen (23-10-1)

Sonnen (+125) is the better wrestler, but Miller (-155) has the better submissions. On their feet, this is a close fight. Miller is one of those guys we're going to hear a lot about in the future.

Pick: Miller via submission

Sean Sherk (37-3-1) vs. Frank Edgar (9-1)

Both of these guys have solid technical striking, but Sherk (-310) is faster. And both fighters are ground-and-pound specialists, but Sherk has more experience.

Pick: Sherk via decision

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Re: UFC 98 Evans vs. Machida: Preview and picks

UFC 98 Predictions
by T.O. Whenham

It's time for another UFC event - UFC 98 takes place May 23 in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The story of this event isn't who is fighting, but rather who isn't. A superstitious person would assume that this card was cursed. The main event was supposed to be Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir, but that was delayed when Mir injured his knee. Quinton Jackson was tabbed instead to fight Rashad Evans. That was derailed when Jackson required arthroscopic surgery on his jaw. That's just the beginning of the long list of injuries. Josh Koscheck is out. James Irvin injured his knee. Yushin Okami did, too. Houston Alexander broke his hand. Like I said - cursed.

Despite all the problems, the card that we are left with isn't bad. It's not as publicly appealing as some UFC cards have been, and I expected viewership to be down as a result. Still, it provides plenty of intrigue and, hopefully, betting opportunities. Here's a look, with odds from Bodog:

UFC 98 Predictions

Main Event - Lyoto Machida (-210) vs. Rashad Evans (+170) -
This is a serious letdown compared to a unification match for the heavyweight title. It's not often you see the titleholder as the solid underdog. Machida is almost impossible to hit. He has a style that is completely his own, and he can avoid damage better than anyone in the sport. Depending on your viewpoint that is either incredibly impressive or terribly boring. Like Machida, Evans prefers to counterpunch than to be the aggressor. He's got a bigger punch than Machida when it lands, though. Because of the styles this is likely to be a methodical, strategic event. If Evans can land his punches then it will be over early. I don't expect him to be able to, though. Machida should be able to avoid the punches, get in a few of his own, and score some points. Machida has one huge advantage here - kicks. It's not even close on that front. Neither guy has lost before, but someone has to give here. I expect that we'll also see a change in champion.

Pick: Lyoto Machida.

Matt Hughes (-265) vs. Matt Serra (+205) - Ultimate fighting is at its best when the two fighters hate each other. That is certainly the case here. This fight was supposed to happen in December 2007, but an injury to Serra derailed that. Since then both guys have been crushed by Georges St. Pierre and have both seen their reputations plummet. Serra has hinted that retirement is near for him, and I fear that he has spent too much time eyeing that exit to be ready for this fight. Hughes is a methodical wrestler that should be too much for Serra to handle at this point. I'd love to take a shot at the underdog price, but I can't justify it here.

Pick: Matt Hughes.

Sean Sherk (-350) vs. Frank Edgar (+275) - Sherk was the UFC Lightweight Champion before he pulled a Manny Ramirez - tested positive for PEDs and claimed it was a mistake. He's trying to get back on top again and a win here could set him up against the winner of the BJ Penn-Kenny Florian fight at UFC 101. Edgar is incredibly tough, but Sherk is a little bit stronger and faster, and he has proven throughout his career that he is tough to beat. This one is going to last a long time because both guys have great stamina. The longer it lasts, the bigger the edge that Sherk has.

Pick: Sean Sherk.

Xavier Foupa-Pokam (-200) vs. Drew McFedries (+160) - Foupa-Pokam is coming back off of short rest, having lost a decision to Dennis Kang a month ago at UFC 97. That could be a concern, except he is facing an opponent that isn't nearly as good as Dennis Kang, the one he lost to. McFedries has the ability to score the big knockout, but he goes for it at the expense of everything else - defense, strategy, and so on. Foupa-Pokam is a muay thai specialist, and he can do a lot to make McFedries' life miserable.

Pick: Xavier Foupa-Pokam.

Dan Miller (-155) vs. Chael Sonnen (-125) - Dan Miller is looking to get himself a middleweight title shot, and at 11-1 he's not that far off of one. Sonnen is a replacement fighter, and he's not that well matched up. He's more than competent, but he can be slow at times, and he doesn't always seem focused on his task. Miller should be able to easily exploit those shortcomings, and that makes him a bargain at this price.

Pick: Dan Miller.

Brock Larson (-325) vs. Chris Wilson (+250) - Wilson doesn't have as many wins as he should at this point in his career, but he has never shied away from facing good competition. He faces another good one here. Larson is frighteningly aggressive, and he can take a punch as well as anyone. I'd like to pull for Wilson, but I'm not sure that he has what it takes to get to Larson. Larson stands a better shot at earning the KO, and if it goes the distance he's more likely to have scored the points. The chalk-fest continues.

Pick: Brock Larson.

Pat Barry (-500) vs. Tim Hague (+300) - With prices like this all you can do is assess whether they are reasonable. In this case it is. Barry is a young heavyweight on the rise. He's smaller than some heavyweights, but he more than makes up for it in ability - the guy can really kick. Barry has a real future.

Pick: Pat Barry.

Phillipe Nover (-500) vs. Kyle Bradley (+300) - Again, does this price make sense? Not this time. Nover is a solid fighter off to a good start to his career, but his hype has set him up with unreasonable expectations here. Bradley has more experience and he is a much better boxer. Nover deserves to be favored, but not nearly by this much. That means that there is real value on Bradley.

Pick: Kyle Bradley.

Andre Gusmao (-150) vs. Krzysztof Soszynski (+120) - Gusmao seemed to be a man on the rise last year before a bad loss at UFC 87. Soszynski is a submission specialist that hasn't lost in five. This fight is pretty close, but I like the underdog here - especially at his price.

Pick: Krzysztof Soszynski.

Yoshiyuki Yoshida (-500) vs. Brandon Wolff (+350) - Both guys are coming off bad losses last time out. I expect that trend to continue for Wolff. Yoshida is faster and stronger, and he'll be looking to end this one early via submission.

Pick: Yoshiyuki Yoshida.

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Re: UFC 98 Evans vs. Machida: Preview and picks

Machida is a worthy favorite
By Brobury Sports

Despite boasting a near flawless 18-0-1 record and owning the UFC light heavyweight belt, “Suga” Rashad Evans is the +170 underdog in his headline fight this Saturday night.

The challenger and favorite, Lyoto Machida (-210) has also never experienced a defeat, racking up a 14-0 record throughout his MMA career. The 30 year old Brazilian is coming off an extremely impressive first round knockout victory over fellow countryman Thiago Silva in January.

The challenger is a well rounded fighter owning black belts in both Shotokan Karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Although karate usually doesn’t impress MMA aficionados, Machida’s unorthodox style and elite technical striking make him an extremely difficult opponent to prepare for. The question whether Machida has a weakness has yet to be answered.
   
Since winning The Ultimate Fighter’s second season, Evans has improved on just about every fight culminating in a December third round TKO over then champion Forrest Griffin. Known early on for his elite wrestling skills, “Suga” has developed into a more than capable striker; just ask UFC legend Chuck Liddell who was knocked out by Evans last September.

It is difficult to predict where this fight will end up. It will probably be in Evans’ best interest to abort his much improved stand up and get this fight to the ground where he can match his grappling skills against Machida’s jiu-jitsu. Machida, on the other hand, will use his very unique style to try to neutralize the extremely athletic Evans. The champ will have a very difficult time landing any powerful blows if he decides to go toe to toe.

PREDICTION: Machida wins by decision

The highlight of the under card features two former welterweight champions. UFC all time great Matt Hughes gets back into the octagon against Matt Serra. These two were rival coaches in TUF a couple seasons back but their fight was put on hold due to an injury to Serra.

Currently the hefty -325 favorite, Hughes is getting plenty of love from handicappers despite the fact that the 34 year old has lost three out of his last four fights.

Serra (+250) has not fought since April 2008 when he lost his belt to current champion Georges St-Pierre. Also 34 years old, Serra has some of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the welterweight division.

With Serra’s jiu-jitsu and Hughes’ dominating ground and pound, there is no way this fight does not end up on the mat. Hughes is definitely bigger and stronger but is no where near the fighter he was a few years back. If Serra stays patient and can avoid Hughes’ heavy hands and elbows, he could catch a frustrated Hughes with a submission.

PREDICTION: Serra by submission in the 3rd Round

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Re: UFC 98 Evans vs. Machida: Preview and picks

Dennis Macklin

Sean Sherk at Frank Edgar
Prediction: Sean Sherk

This battle of "BIG" little men could very well turn out the best matchup of the UFC 98 card. Sean "Muscle Shark" Sherk 37-3-1 (-350)has been in the wars since 1999 and his only losses (Hughes, GSP, Penn) are to the MMA's elite. Sherk is a workout fanatic so he doesn't figure to gas in a three rounder against tough guy eight years his junior. Frankie Edgar 9-1 (+275) burst on the scene with a 2007 win over Tyson Griffin and has also dominated veterans Spencer Fisher and Hermes Franca. His lone loss was to Gray Maynard who is similar in style to Sherk. Edgar is exciting to watch but doesn't match up well against Sherk who does all the same things well as Edgar. Both fighters would prefer to take it to the mat and in the end, Sherk's experience and strength win the day as the Muscle Shark gets the duke by unanimous decision.

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