UFC 134 Rio: Main Card Breakdown, Predictions and Gambler's Guide
Rio de Janeiro is on a roll.
This card is stacked from top to bottom, and offers up five exciting main card fights:
- Luiz "Banha" Cane vs. Stanislav "Stucky" Nedkov (LHW)
- Ross "The Real Deal" Pearson vs. Edson "Junior" Barboza (LW)
- Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira vs. Brendan "The Hybrid" Schaub (HW)
- Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Forrest Griffin (LHW)
- Anderson "The Spider" Silva vs. Yushin "Thunder" Okami (MW Championship)
In addition to the main card fights, there will be two preliminary fights on Spike TV and five more streaming live on Facebook. This is sure to be a great night for fight fans.
Without further ado, let's get to the fights...
All odds provided by Bodog.eu. I take no responsibility for anyone's crippling gambling habits.
Luiz Cane vs. Stanislav Nedkov
Cane (L) and Nedkov (R)
Luiz "Banha" Cane (-200) vs. Stanislav "Stucky" Nedkov (+160)
The first main card fight brings us the UFC debut of Bulgarian fighter Stanislav Nedkov. With a perfect 11-0 record, Nedkov has been trying to make his debut for over a year now. He was supposed to have fought Rodney Wallace and Steve Cantwell, but injuries prevented both fights.
Though Nedkov has faced decent talent, and looks good on paper, I expect him to be outmatched against Cane. Cane has faced stiff competition in the UFC Octagon and is a dangerous fighter. He is a very active striker with strong take-down defense, and has solid BJJ should he need it. He also has several inches on Nedkov and looks to be in better shape. I expect him to keep this on the feet and pick Nedkov apart.
From a gambling point of view, at +160, Nedkov might seem like a decent underdog to take a flyer on, but I think this line is actually understated—you won't get enough return for the risk. I can see the case for throwing Cane into a parlay, but it's probably best to just leave this one alone.
Fight Pick: Luiz Cane
Edson Barboza vs. Ross Pearson
Pearson (L) and Barboza (R)
Edson "Junior" Barboza (-325) vs. Ross "The Real Deal" Pearson (+250)
This fight should be a thriller, and is my front-runner for Fight of the Night.
Both Barboza and Pearson are very skilled strikers. Barboza is a Muay Thai specialist with a professional kickboxing record of 25-3, while Pearson is a Taekwondo black belt. I doubt that either man has any interest in bringing this fight to the ground, though Barboza's jiu-jitsu would likely give him the advantage, should it become a grappling match.
The distinct stand-up styles that will be on display should make this a fantastic fight to watch. Pearson is a very active striker that likes to throw punches in bunches and is typically able to dish out more damage than he takes. Barboza, on the other hand, an incredibly tall and long lightweight with a 75" reach, likes to utilize a more kickboxing-centric approach, combining punches and vicious leg kicks with more regularity.
Pearson will need to close the distance and get inside Barboza's range to really pose a threat, which is no easy task. Look for Barboza to keep Pearson outside and hammer away with his violent kicks.
From a gambling point of view, Pearson's +250 makes him an attractive underdog—you are getting the right return for the risk here, but it is certainly not a line to throw your money at. Were I putting money on this fight, I'd throw Barboza into a two fight parlay.
Pick: Edson Barboza
Bet: Barboza in a parlay
Brendan Schaub vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Nogueira (L) and Schaub (R)
Brendan "The Hybrid" Schaub (-225) vs. Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira (+185)
This Heavyweight matchup pits a young up-and-comer in Schaub against a storied veteran in Nogueira.
After losing to Roy Nelson in The Ultimate Fighter 10 finale, Schaub has gone on a four-fight winning streak, beating notable veterans Chris Tuchscherer, Gabriel Gonzaga and Mirko "Cro Cop".
Nogueira, on the other hand, is looking to rebound from a loss to current Heavyweight champ, Cain Velasquez. He has recently said that he was finally able to train pain-free for a fight, so he should come out in great shape.
While Schaub probably should win this fight, it is anything but a guarantee, especially if Nogueira can manage to bring this fight to the ground. With 20 of his 32 career victories coming by submission, Nogueira is a huge threat to Schaub on the ground, but it won't be easy to get this fight off of the feet. Schaub has great defensive wrestling and certainly wants to keep this standing, so he can utilize his fantastic boxing.
If Schaub can keep this standing, I expect to see him win by knockout, or, at the very least, a one-sided decision. If, however, Nogueira can drag Schaub down into "deep water", this could become a very tough battle. When all is said and done, I think we'll see youth and athleticism win out.
From a gambling point of view, I actually like Nogueira at +185. I think that he does have a very legitimate chance at winning this if he can impose his will on Schaub, but it won't be easy. This one depends on your confidence in Nogueira.
Pick: Brendan Schaub
Bet: If anything, Nogueira straight up.
Mauricio Rua vs. Forrest Griffin
Rua (L) and Griffin (R)
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (-270) vs. Forrest Griffin (+210)
The penultimate main card fight pits two former Light Heavyweight champions against each other in a sure to please rematch.
Coming off of his brutal loss to Jon Jones, Rua will certainly be looking to make a statement in front of the home crowd and make his case for another shot at the title. Griffin, interestingly enough, has expressed zero interest in making a run at Jones' belt, and seems to have lost his previous fire.
In their 2007 fight, Griffin was able to survive an early onslaught and eventually caught Rua in a Rear Naked Choke. I expect that this fight will play out fairly similarly. Rua will look to come out hot and out-strike Griffin, while Griffin will need to survive the early minutes and try to wear Rua out. Some believe Griffin's lack of drive will work against him, but he is a very game fighter and is never one to back down from a challenge.
The result of this fight will hinge on who can force their game plan on the other. If Rua can keep Griffin in the middle of the cage and force a kickboxing match, he should be able to win the day. I think, though, that Griffin will be able to stay tough early and use his size to force Rua up against the cage and probably onto the ground where he will beat Rua up.
From a gambling point of view, I will throw money on Griffin at +210 all day, every day. This line is way overstated, and if you are only going to make one bet on this entire card, this is the one to take. In no universe is Griffin a two to one dog.
Pick: Forrest Griffin
Bet: Whatever you can afford on Griffin. If you are going to parlay Barboza, this is the bet I'd tie it to.
Anderson Silva vs. Yushin Okami
Silva (L) and Okami (R)
Anderson "The Spider" Silva (-625) vs. Yushin "Thunder" Okami (+425)
The main event of the night pits the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Anderson Silva, against the "best fighter to come out of Japan", Yushin Okami, in a rematch of Silva's 2006 loss to Okami.
Before I get into the fight, allow me to quickly set the record straight. First, Kazushi Sakuraba is the best fighter to ever come out Japan. You can read a great article about why here. Secondly, Okami didn't beat Silva; Silva was disqualified.
Now, on to the fight at hand. There is zero doubt about what Okami wants to do here. He wants to follow Chael Sonnen's blueprint for defeating Silva—take him down, control him, beat him up and, most importantly, avoid a submission.
Unfortunately for Okami, he just isn't good enough to do it. Don't get me wrong, I think Okami is a very good fighter. He's a huge middleweight, a very talented judoka and has beaten some really tough guys, but he isn't the one who will dethrone Silva. He doesn't fight with enough urgency and will be too willing to stand with Silva.
Silva, in front of a Brazilian crowd, will almost be fighting more against the ghost of Sonnen than he will be against Okami. Nothing would be better for Silva in this fight than a brutal knockout, which, if Okami tries to trade with Silva, we will undoubtedly see. If Silva gets taken down, I expect him to be able to sweep or scramble his way back onto his feet, or he could always look for a submission from his back. The best in the world will find a way. I have no doubts.
From a gambling point of view, just stay away from this. You could take a small flyer on Okami, but I don't think he has a legitimate chance, and Silva is too big of a favorite to put into a parlay.
Pick: Anderson Silva