UFC 65

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Two winners with Our UFC selections on Travis Lutter and Matt Serra at the “Ultimate Fighter Finale” last week, and we’ll try to keep the winning streak going as the promotion holds a PPV event–“UFC 65: Bad Intentions” at Sacramento’s Arco Arena.  Aside from the fact that they stole Jermain Taylor’s “Bad Intentions” nickname for this event, on paper it looks to be an excellent night of fighting with two very intriguing championship matches at the top of the card.  We’ll discuss each and give you my wagering selections in this article.  Lines will be posted on the undercard later this week, and that’s where the best wagering value is frequently found.  I’ll be sending the undercard plays on UFC 65 to Our free play mailing list this weekend, and if you want to receive them just drop me an email to [email protected]  The list is the best sOurce of free winning sports betting information anywhere–this past weekend Our free play list received college football releases on Georgia, Purdue and a NFL play on the Chicago Bears free of charge.


Canadian Georges St. Pierre tries to avenge his only career loss as he challenges for Matt Hughes’ UFC Welterweight Championship.  St. Pierre is listed as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist, but he’s an incredibly complete and well rounded fighter.  His versatility is evident in his 12 career MMA victories–5 by KO/TKO, 4 by submission and 3 by decision.  His only career loss–to Hughes–was via armbar submission and he attributes this to a “mental lapse” rather than a problem with his submission defense.  He was originally slated to face Hughes at UFC 63 in September after a split decision victory over BJ Penn, but a pulled groin muscle forced him to withdraw.  Penn took his place and was eventually KO’d by Hughes in round #3 after winning the first two frames in impressive fashion.

St. Pierre has been training in martial arts since the age of 7, when he took up karate after being threatened by a bully at school.  I’m sure that bully is keeping a low profile now.  After the death of his karate teacher, GSP switched to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and has also added wrestling and boxing to his training regimen since becoming a professional MMA fighter.  In a relatively short MMA career he’s already defeated an impressive list of fighters including the aforementioned BJ Penn, Frank Trigg, Paro Karysian and Sean Sherk.  At 25, he’s likely just entering his prime as a competitor.  His credibility as a fighter is clearly reflected in the wagering odds on this fight–Pinnacle lists Matt Hughes as only a -136 favorite.

Matt Hughes brings a 40-4 career MMA record into this fight, with only one of those losses–to BJ Penn in their first fight–coming since early 2001.  With impressive credentials as an amateur wrestler, Hughes is a monster on the ground but has become a very adept striker since entering MMA competition.  His career victory tally shows 18 by submission, 14 by KO/TKO and 8 decisions.  Hughes is also by all accounts freakishly strong for his size which, along with his wrestling skills, means that there’s simply no one at his weight that can overpower him.

A devout Christian and a family man who uses Hank Williams Jr’s “A Country Boy Can Survive” as his ring entrance music, Hughes might not be the most exciting personality in the sport but he’s about as tough of a competitor as you’ll find.  His most recent fight against BJ Penn is clear evidence of this–Penn dominated in the first and second rounds, and had Hughes locked into a triangle arm bar near the end of round two.  Hughes withstood the pain until the bell, and came out throwing lethal punches in round three leading to the “ground and pound” that ended the fight.

With nothing but respect for St. Pierre as a fighter, I just can’t see how he can win this matchup.  Despite the fact that he’s a very well rounded competitor, I’m not sure that he can do anything well enough to defeat Hughes at the top of his Game.  He certainly can’t win a fight on the ground, and Hughes is a tough enough customer that I have to give him the edge standing as well.  Hughes isn’t any more flashy in the ring than out of it, but he’s a double tough fighter with an insane pain threshold who always finds a way to win.  St. Pierre could be the heir apparent as the UFC’s top welterweight, and he’s the “trendy” pick by a lot of MMA observers but I’m not buying it.  Were he a bigger underdog in this matchup he might have some interest, but at -136 the value is all on the champion here.  This has the potential to be a classic, but Hughes finds a way to win yet again.



This is the semi-final match to the Hughes/St. Pierre main event, but is a very intriguing fight in its own right.  First, we’ve got the glaring height differential between the 6’8″ Sylvia, and the 5’9″ Monson.  Were this a boxing match, my handicap would end right here and I’d point to the Lennox Lewis beatdown of Mike Tyson as what happens when a “good big man” fights a “good little man”.  MMA, however, presents an entirely different dynamic and the nearly a full foot height advantage, while something to consider, isn’t the salient component of this fight.

Jeff “The Snowman” Monson could be the “anti-Matt Hughes”, at least based on his colorful background and personality.  He’s a downright frightening looking man, with a big bald head and a body full of tattoos.  He’s also a very intelligent and unique personality, most noted perhaps for his enthusiasm for anarchist politics.  Were there a written component to this matchup, he’d dominate Sylvia.  Monson is not only a college graduate but holds an actual Masters Degree in Psychology and had a successful career in the field before devoting himself to MMA full time.  Monson is definitely the only MMA fighter who lists an anarchist publishing company (AK Press) among his sponsors.

Monson is a lot more than a colorful character, however–he’s one of the world’s best submission wrestlers, and has a brown belt in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu.  He won the prestigious Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Grappling Tournament in 1999.  He’s got a 22-5 career MMA record, with 13 of those wins coming by way of submission.  He enters this match on a 16 fight winning streak and no losses since 2002, when he dropped a decision to tough Forrest Griffin.  Two of his losses came early in his MMA career with another two against top notch opposition (Ricco Rodriguez, who was one of the top guys in the sport at the time, and UFC light heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia).

Tim “The Maine-iac” Sylvia is a monstrous figure in or out of the ring at 6’8″ 260 pounds.  He was discovered by MMA trainer Pat Miletich while attending a UFC event in Atlantic City, NJ (UFC 28).  Sylvia’s raw talent–with some background in boxing and grappling–was enough of a foundation for Miletich, and under his tutledge has enjoyed considerable success in the sport.  He’s known for having extremely good takedown defense, and he’ll definitely need it against a human bulldozer like Monson.

There’s an old boxing saying that “styles make fights” and the complete contrast in styles makes this a fight in which anything can happen.  At its essence, its pretty simple–if Sylvia can keep the fight standing, he’ll win.  If Monson can take Sylvia down, he’ll win.  That all remains to be seen, of course, but we’ve got a few clues based on the previous fights of both men.

The first question concerns Monson’s ability to take Sylvia’s powerful punches.   There’s some evidence to suggest that he got a pretty good chin.  He’s certainly got the right physical build for it, with a big head and short neck.  He’s only got one loss by KO/TKO, that to Ricco Rodriguez who at the time was a top tier fighter and one of the most powerful strikers in the sport.  That loss came in the third round, meaning that he made it quite a while against one of the best standup fighters in the sport at the time.  A loss to Chuck Liddell is also instructive–Monson went the distance in that fight against “The Iceman”, who’s considered to have some of the heaviest hands in MMA.

The next question concerns Sylvia’s ability to defend against submissions, which is clearly Monson’s forte.  Both of Sylvia’s career losses were to submission–to Andrei Arlovski and Frank Mir.  The Mir loss is very problematic in my estimation.  While Mir wasn’t always the flabby and lethargic fighter he is now, he’s always been known as a fighter unable to take a punch.  To his credit, he’s always been regarded as having an encyclopedic knowledge of submissions.  The problem for Sylvia here is that Monson may be an even better submission fighter than Mir, and he’s definitely a much tougher fighter than Mir.

Sylvia is noted for having good takedown defense, but a look at his opponents reveals very few quality grapplers and ground fighters to test it.  Andrei Arlovski is a solid ground fighter, though he prefers to fight standup.  The last quality groundfighter he fought–Muay Thai/BJJ specialist Assuerio Silva–took him the distance.  Silva didn’t really have the power to do much with his much larger opponent, however, and Sylvia won by unanimous decision.  The rest of Sylvia’s recent foes are all primarily standup fighters.

Finally, I’ve got questions about Sylvia’s competitive desire.  The only top tier fighter he’s fought in the past three years is Arlovski, who beat him once.  In the last matchup between the two Sylvia didn’t look particularly impressive and benefited from Arlovski’s tentative Gameplan as much as anything.  That Arlovski didn’t make any effort to get the fight to the ground is downright puzzling, particularly since he wasn’t making any headway throwing punches with Sylvia standing up.  The apologist would say that Sylvia can only fight the opponents put before him, and the UFC heavyweight division has been pretty barren of late.  Sylvia, however, hasn’t shown much interest looking for challenges elsewhere either.  Though he’ll gladly call out PRIDE heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko whenever he’s interviewed he recently turned down a very lucrative offer for a matchup against the Russian fighting god.  Perhaps he figured that being UFC heavyweight champion is a more lucrative career move than taking a big paycheck for an almost certain loss against the consensus best MMA fighter on the planet, but in any case it doesn’t suggest that he’s interested in testing himself against the best competition available.

So lets return to the height differential–in boxing, where the object is to punch your opponent above the waist, a height differential is impossible to overcome.  In MMA, this isn’t the case.  I’d go so far as to suggest that Monson’s shorter stature might actually be an advantage in fighting the sort of fight he needs in order to win.  With his lower center of gravity, it makes it harder for Sylvia to sprawl to avoid a takedown.  It also means that to hit Monson, Sylvia will be required to throw punches at strange angles.  Were it boxing, of course, he could just create the spacing he wants with an active jab.  In this case, however, Monson will be looking to take Sylvia down at every opportunity meaning that the taller fighter will have a difficult time keeping the spacing to his advantage.  And should the fight go to the ground, Sylvia’s long arms and legs are just bigger targets for a submission master like Monson.

This could be the biggest challenge of Sylvia’s career, and I’m not sure he even realizes it.  again, the complete contrast in styles between the two fighters mean that literally anything could happen but I’m looking for the upset here.  Sylvia’s takedown defense will be tested to its limits by the powerful Monson, and if he gets taken to the ground I’m of the opinion that he’s going to get submitted.  Monson is a smart enough guy to not make the mistake that Arlovski did and fight Sylvia’s fight.  Monson has a very good chance of walking out of the octagon as UFC heavyweight champion.  From a wagering standpoint, this is a much closer fight than the betting odds suggest and we’ll gladly take a position on the big underdog in hopes he can take the fight to the ground where few in the world can beat him.

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