Cagewriter - Mixed Martial Arts

Here's another go at it as we try to make some money on UFC 92. We were just 5-5 on The Ultimate Fighter 8 card but went 2-1 with our highlighted picks. It's been a nice 16-2 streak on the highlighted picks dating back to UFC 88 (UFC 88, UFN 15, UFC 89, UFC 90, UFC 91, TUF 8). By the odds, after the top three fights at UFC 92, there are a lot of lopsided matches on Saturday. Bettors beware! We'll see if we can find some dogs and safer favorites to lay some money down. Check out Dave Farra from RawVegas.tv and I breaking down the three marquee battles.

UFC 92 betting odds (Venetian Resort Hotel Casino). Official plays are in BOLD:


RASHAD EVANS v. FORREST GRIFFIN (-140) - UFC LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE

This could be a real chess match. Evans outwitted Chuck Liddell to pull off the biggest victory of his career. Griffin did the same in picking up the two biggest wins of his career against Shogun Rua and Quinton Jackson. Evans fights out of Jackson's Submission Fighting, the home of Keith Jardine, who scored a huge knockout win over Griffin at UFC 66. Jardine is different though because he was big enough to stand in front of Forrest and throw leather. Evans has to use more movement. So what does Griffin do? Randy Couture may have given us a little nugget the other day when he talked about Griffin's underrated jiu-jitsu game. I see Griffin going away from the stand-up and trying to use his size advantage on the ground in the same way he did against Rua, another small 205-pounder. We may see a five round battle or stoppage in the fourth or fifth if Evans is taking too much damage on the ground. PICK: GRIFFIN -140

FRANK MIR v. ANTONIO RODRIGO "MINOTAURO" NOGUEIRA (-400) - UFC INTERIM HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE

You have to beat Nogueira standing. There's only one guy in the world who is willing to risk top control against the Brazilian submission master and that's Fedor Emelianenko. Fighting under the Pride banner, Fedor got two hard-fought decision victories against Nogueira (VIDEO OF PREVIOUS FIGHTS) and did much of his work via ground and pound. So have you to ask yourself, can Frank Mir do major damage and potentially finish Big Nog on the feet? I just don't see it. Can Mir outwork and gas Nogueira? I just don't see it. That said, the odds are too high to play Nogueira at -400. If the line drops to -280 or -300, Nogueira may be worth the risk. Watch for Frank Mir's conditioning as well. If he looks trim, in the 240-252 pound range then it means Mir has trained hard. He was 257 for his loss against Marcio Cruz and 262 in his lackluster win over Dan Christison. Mir was a more ripped up 255 against Brock Lesnar. PICK: NOGUEIRA -400

The rest of the fight picks are after the jump.

Sports betting on MMA is simple to understand. When you see a minus number that is the amount you need to bet to win $100. The favorite is always a minus number. So the bigger the minus number, the bigger favorite. Anything over -300 is a huge favorite. Anderson Silva was an unreal favorite at -800 for his UFC 90 fight. The plus number is what you get if you a bet a dog for $100.

QUINTON JACKSON v. WANDERLEI SILVA (-140) - LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT

This is the show of the night. Where is Jackson's mind? Are the demons gone? He got crushed in two previous fights against Silva, his training has often been inconsistent and he had a ridiculous driving episode just five months ago where he essentially went off the deep end. Now he's ready to take on a guy who could be the light heavyweight champ by the middle of 2009? If he is right mentally, will Jackson go back to his roots - takedown/ground & pound? Too many ifs and this price is too ridiculous to pass up. PICK: SILVA -140

MIKE MASSENZIO v. C.B. DOLLAWAY (-180) - MIDDLEWEIGHT

This is an especially tough fight to pick for a UFC main card fight. We haven't seen enough of either to get an accurate gauge. Massenzio did make a nice debut at UFN 15 with a submission win over Drew McFedries. He does have a solid wrestling background at Rider. In fact, he and Dollaway met while C.B. was at Arizona State. So there shouldn't be any intimidation or grappling advantage for Dollaway. He may have an advantage standing. His kicks are hard and he does have a good submission game. Slight edge to Dollaway. PICK: DOLLAWAY -180

MOSTAPHA AL TURK v. CHEICK KONGO (-330) - HEAVYWEIGHT

Kongo really is the sleeper of the division with limitless potential. His knees and kicks are excellent. The huge hole in his game was wrestling but it appeared that he worked on it exclusively before his win over Dan Evensen. Al Turk is a striker from Cage Rage who really has no business being in there with a guy at Kongo's level. We warn you guys about lines in excess of -300 but we'll risk it. PICK: KONGO -330 

DEAN LISTER v. YUSHIN OKAMI (-300) - MIDDLEWEIGHT

This looks like another big mismatch. Lister is excellent with his submissions but his stand-up is mediocre at best and his gas tank is usually on empty by the middle of the second round. Okami is huge for the weight, has a good motor and is solid on the feet. Once he has top control, you're in trouble. We'll fire on another big favorite. This could be a disasterous night if Lister pulls a submission out of his keester. PICK: OKAMI -300

MIKE WESSEL v. ANTONI HARDONK (-400) - HEAVYWEIGHT

Wessel (6-0), a former strength coach at the University of Arkansas, is a slugger who is making his UFC debut. He only goes 6-foot but possesses power at 250 lbs. Hardonk will want this to stay on the feet. That gives Wessel, who says he's definitely not a jiu-jitsu guy, a shot. This could be a quick one possibly producing Knockout of the Night. PICK: WESSEL +300

REESE ANDY v. MATT HAMILL (-220) - LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT

There's some dog value in this one too. Andy didn't get the win against Brandon Vera in his UFC debut but he more than held his own and wasn't thrown around by Vera, who is a very good wrestler. Hamill's wrestling is supposed to be at another level. Frankly, he should be a 205 version of Matt Hughes in his prime. But if he can't get Andy to the ground or chooses to slug as he so often does, do you feel safe taking Hamill? I don't. Clearly, he should've tried to take down Rich Franklin in every round of their fight. He didn't. Maybe he's finally learned the lesson. I have to see it before I believe it. Hamill will probably win a wrestling match but this price is too high. PICK: ANDY +180

BRAD BLACKBURN v. RYO CHONAN (-160) - WELTERWEIGHT

Blackburn's record is a bit deceiving at 15-9-1 because his resume pretty solid with wins over Jay Hieron, Chris Wilson and Rory Markham plus quality losses to Roger Huerta and Brandon Melendez. Is Chonan better than all five of those fighters mentioned? Maybe. Chonan has been in there with some amazing fighters (Karo Parisyan, Hayato Sakarai, Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson, Carlos Newton, Ricardo Almeida, Paulo Filho) and more than held his own. He needs to impress UFC brass in this one to stay around. PICK: CHONAN -160

DAN EVENSEN v. PAT BARRY (-160) - HEAVYWEIGHT

This is pro MMA fight No. 14 for Evenson. Barry started MMA this year in May so why is he such a big favorite? The guy is a highly-regarded kickboxer (seven K-1 fights) who has worked on his MMA recently with Stephan Bonnar, Ben Rothwell and Eric Schafer. Hopefully Schafer has been able to shore up the holes in Barry's ground game. This is a good matchup for the 29-year-old Barry. Evensen, 6-3, 250, is more of a slugger. He should expect lots of uppercuts and kicks from the 5-11, 230 Barry. PICK: BARRY -160

NOTE: Cage Writer will be live cageside on Saturday night with updates after each fight. Fight fans can also listen to the Yahoo! Sports/ESPNRadio1100 UFC 92 live post-fight show at the MGM Grand. Click here to listen on Saturday from 10:30-Midnight.

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