After a shocking series of upsets at last week's Strikeforce event, I'm going to (hopefully) do a better job calling UFC 99.
It's a pretty good card, not stacked on star power, but full of competitive matchups for the most part.
As always, lines taken from Bodog, and presented as decimals; 1.73 means 1.00 will give profit of 0.73 + original 1.00.
+Successful amateur and professional boxer; 40-5 amateur record, 12-5 professional record
+K-1 kickboxer, finishing with a 16-7 record, and wins over many K-1 champions
+Hits extremely hard
-Zero submission game
-Striking has been becoming primitive, relying on left high kick more than combinations
-Many injuries, leading to much inactivity over the last year
+Shoots for take-downs well
+ADCC Europe winner
+Persistent in trying for take-downs
-No submission wins, despite being a submission wrestler
Even in Cro Cop's horrible state that started in 2007 and continued throughout 2008, it is hard to see him losing to al-Turk, who really does not offer anything dangerous at this point. It's hard to see this going any way other than similar to the Kongo/al-Turk fight.
Mirko's sprawl may not be what it was, since Overeem tossed him in their fight, but al-Turk is not Overeem. If Mirko has trained and has recovered for the most part from his injuries, he really should take this without breaking a sweat.
In case you haven't figured out, I'm backing Cro Cop, even the 'new' Cro Cop. I know that it's risky betting on the favorite, but really, how does Cro Cop lose?
Mirko enters at 1.20; al-Turk, a massive underdog at 4.00.
Spencer "King" Fisher vs. Caol "Uno Shoten" Uno (155 lbs./70 kg)
+Highly aggressive striker
+Good off back
-Guard is open to ground and pound
+ADCC grappler with wonderful submission defense +Decent boxing technique
+Excellent take-down defense
-Leaves himself open in the stand-up
Mitsuhiro Ishida (2008)
Uno is a better wrestler and grappler than Fisher and would have been a sure favourite to win this fight a few years ago. Even now he still could easily take Spencer down and get the submission.
He is the first and only person to submit Ishida, who was considered one of the "unsubmittables" of MMA, so he has the skills to sub Fisher.
Uno has passable stand-up, enough to survive with Fisher if he fights smart and doesn't get bull-rushed, but likewise, Fisher BJJ is also at a level where he should not get subbed as easy as that—a number of his wins are by submission.
If he doesn't fight smart, Fisher could take him out decisively with strikes.
Uno by submission. Wrestling Fisher down, wearing him down with GnP, and submitting him, Round Two.
Oddly enough, Fisher is heavy favorite at 1.48, while Uno is the big underdog at 2.70.
Dan "The Outlaw" Hardy vs. Marcus "The Irish Hand Grenade" Davis (170 lbs./77 kg)
+Professional boxing experience
+Good chin and recovery time;never KO'd
-Striking defense can get sloppy
-Does not excel at wrestling or grappling
+Hard and fast Muay Thai
+Light on his feet
+Has some Tae Kwon Do incorporated into his striking
-Jiu Jitsu blue belt
-No offensive wrestling
This will be a real stand and banger, of that I have no doubt.
Marcus Davis has a professional boxing record of 17-1-2, has a terrific chin, and punches hard. His ground game and wrestling are not good enough for him to want to do anything other than strike.
Same thing with Hardy, a BJJ blue belt. He has a background in Tae Kwon Do, good Thai boxing, and became interested in MMA because of training with Shaolin monks.
Both hit hard, so it's going to be an uncertain bet either way. Neither have ever been knocked out.
After seeing Lytle vs. Davis and Taylor vs. Davis, it's certain that Davis has a rock solid chin.
I think Davis will win via heart and chin; their striking is on a pretty close level, and it could end with one punch, so it'll probably be something like this that decides the outcome.
Davis is huge favorite at 1.47, and Hardy is a big underdog at 2.75. With a brawl like this, Hardy may be a good play.
Mike "Quick" Swick vs. Ben "Killa B" Saunders (170 lbs./77 kg)
+Good boxing/Thai boxing
+Good wrestler with good shoots
+Good takedown defense
-Not excellent at anything
-Very few submissions
+Excellent Thai Boxing with a lethal Muay Thai clinch +Decent Jiu Jitsu
-Primarily a range fighter; does not look comfortable exchanging up close
-No head movement, and can be hit
Saunders has excellent kicks for long range and an even better Muay Thai clinch for very close range, but may have a weakness at the range in between, where punches are exchanged.
Swick is a pretty well rounded striker/wrestler/grappler, without excelling in any field.
I believe if Saunders can keep it standing then it should be his fight, but if not, he'll end up dropping a unanimous decision. Saunders is a purple belt at BJJ, so he should at least be able to survive on the ground without suffering a TKO.
I think the ground games are too evenly matched for a submission in this one, but if there is a TKO I think it will come from the younger, unbeaten man in Saunders.
It's hard to choose. If Swick takes Saunders down, he could keep him there for a while, winning a decision on the way, but standing, I say Saunders has a big advantage.
I'm going with Saunders by TKO, Round Three.
Little value with Swick, at 1.47, but Saunders enters with a good price at 2.75.
Cheick Kongo vs. Cain Velasquez (265 lbs./120 kg)
+6'4", long reach
+Good combination of Muay Thai and Savate
+Powerful, technical striker
-Very average wrestler
-Frequently hits opponents with groin shots
-No submission skill
Kongo is a very tall, very muscular striker, but he won't out-muscle Velasquez. Velasquez is a much better wrestler than Herring, who controlled Kongo on the ground pretty well, and his GnP is considerably better than Herring's as well.
Kongo's sprawl is always improving, but has it improved enough to stop Velasquez' shots? Doubtful. Kongo will need to stay out of range and score a fast knockout. Probably try to limit kicks and clinching—unless it's to deliver a low blow.
Velasquez should steamroll Kongo for his sixth consecutive (T)KO. Expect it to look like Herring/Kongo only with more GnP.
Having said that, with Kongo at 2.25, and Velasquez at 1.56, I'm not sure it's worth backing Cain at those odds.
Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva vs. Rich "Ace" Franklin (195 lbs./89 kg)
+Brutal punching power
+Vicious killer instinct
+Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt
-One dimensional striker whose only offense consists of hooks
-Chin appears to have been weakened by so many brutal KOs
-Not a good wrestler
Keith Jardine (2008)
Kazuyuki Fujita (2006)
Ricardo Arona (2005)
Quinton Jackson x2 (2004, 2003)
Kazushi Sakuraba x3 (2003, 2001, 2001)
Dan Henderson (2000)
+Very good sprawl
+Solid and powerful kickboxing
+Never been subbed; Brazilian Jiu Jitsu brown belt
-No offensive wrestling
-Takes time to find striking rythym
People sometimes discredit Franklin's chin. This is a folly. He took a beating from Anderson and Machida before he went down. If he had a bad chin, he would have been out when Henderson hit him in the opening minutes of their fight.
Wanderlei, I don't think the same can be said for. Ever since the Cro Cop left high kick, his chin has not been looking good. A single punch from Henderson and Rampage were all that were needed to put his lights out.
Franklin will probably make use of this fact, using his technical kickboxing to score more blows and take advantage of Silva's suspect chin, and try to avoid eating a hook like the one that floored Jardine.
I'll take Franklin by Third Round TKO, due to Wand's chin being shot and not really having any proper Muay Thai—all he throws is hooks.
Franklin is strong favorite at 1.69, while Wanderlei enters at 2.15. I am still taking Franklin on this one.