UFC 88 Picks and Predictions

By Nicholas Bailey (

Wagering on sporting events can be a great way to add a little excitement to your viewing, to find out whether or not you actually know what you’re talking about when you analyze the sport, and to use all that time you spend on forums and websites to make a little money. However, gambling is also a great way to see incredible amounts of your money disappear with literally nothing to show for it. Gambling problems have ruined lives, relationships, and families. So bet with care.

Although it should go without saying, I take absolutely no responsibility for money you may lose based on following my picks and predictions. You are responsible for your own destiny. However, feel free to send me a portion of any money you may gain from my recommendations.

I make no claims of being an expert. I’m nothing more than a moderately successful amateur. If you think what I say is accurate, go ahead and wager alongside me. I will be keeping a public bet record alongside my public prediction record. My primary sportsbook is, although I am looking to expand that for line shopping. I have no business relationship with any sportsbook (guys, call me).

For people just beginning to get interested in MMA wagering, a wonderful place to start is Performify’s Guide. You’re basically throwing money away if you don’t read and understand the sections on value betting and bankroll management, no matter how good you are at predicting fights.

Another important resource is the wonderful tool for line shopping is BestFightOdds.

As always, feel free to leave comments, email me, or contact me on forums if you have any questions or comments.

Rashad Evans vs. Chuck Liddell
Not a lot to say about this match. Rashad can only win two ways. If Chuck has gotten old overnight, Rashad will get the takedowns and beat him up. Failing that, if Rashad has improvd dramatically, he’ll outwork and simply out-hustle Chuck (who has a terrible workrate), using head movement and unpredictable attacks to avoid getting knocked out, edging him out for a close decision. Rashad doesn’t have a lot to offer standing up, he won’t be able to take down Chuck with regularity, and he has limited gas. If Rashad doesn’t come at Chuck aggressively, he’ll simply let the fight slip away from him and get roughed up a little. If Rashad does try to dominate the fight, he’ll eat a big shot and go to sleep.

Chuck Liddell by KO, round 2.

The odds for this fight are currently:
-285 Chuck Liddell
+225 Rashad Evans

Chuck is too old and has lost too much recently for me to like him at those odds. However, Rashad is so limited and such a poor style matchup in this fight that I wouldn’t be comfortable with money on him either.

Rich Franklin vs. Matt Hamill

First of all, I don’t expect Rich to suffer too much from blowing up to 205. He’s always been a very large, powerful guy, and with the amount of time he’s had to prepare for this fight, I expect him to look about the same size as Matt.

Hamill’s standup gets a lot of credit because he roughed up Michael Bisping on the feet. I don’t think he can repeat that feat here, for several reasons. First of all, Hamill simply physically overwhelmed Bisping, from his punching power to just his driving takedowns. Secondly, Bisping, while a talented striker, does not have big one-shot KO power. Bisping is the kind of fighter that chips away and accumulates damage through strikes and flurries. This means that someone as big and powerful as Hamill can wade through his shots in order to slug it out and land big punches. Granted, this isn’t a foolproof strategy, as Tim Boetsch found out—you have to land those punches. Boetsch simply did not connect on his power shots, whereas Bisping was able to work a good jab and connect with it regularly, but had to back off and couldn’t follow it up with harder shots, because Hamill would always be wading in with hammers.

Rich, while not gifted with the finesse and technical acumen of Anderson Silva, has undeniable power in his strikes and the accuracy to make most of them count. Hamill is simply too easy of a target to win standup exchanges with the former champ, and is in for a severe beating on the feet. While Hamill is the better wrestler, Franklin’s striking will make it hard for him to set up his takedowns within a reasonable distance, and Franklin is a good enough wrestler to stop desperate shots from way outside. Even if Hamill should drag Rich down with brute strength, Franklin is a far superior submission fighter, and could threaten from his back and otherwise restrict Hamill’s ability to mete out punishment. The only way for Hamill to win is to control the fight for all three rounds. Franklin could possibly submit him, could outpoint him on the feet for a decision, or could wear him down and knock him out. Hamill’s gas has been a problem in the past, and Franklin’s conditioning is never in question. This is a big advantage to Franklin, given that Hamill is going to have to blow out large amounts of energy every time he takes Rich down and every time he has to control him. I expect Franklin to beat Matt up, until Hamill is finally so gassed and beaten he has nothing left, at which point Rich will finish him off.

Rich Franklin by TKO, round 3.

The current odds on this fight are:
-255 Rich Franklin
+205 Matt Hamill

I was able to get on Rich at -225, which I felt was favorable enough to merit a large play. -255 is marginal, but still merits a small play.

Karo Parisyan vs. Yoshiyuki “Zenko” Yoshida

Like the Henderson vs. Toquinho fight, this matchup pits a veteran fighter who is a “known commodity” against a talented foreign import. Will Karo bounce back from his emasculating defeat by Thiago Alves, or will he continue to slide into irrelevance? Prior to that loss, Karo coasted to three decision wins almost entirely through his improved, but still unspectacular striking skills.

In the UFC, Karo’s weakness has always been that he’s not a strong finisher (in fact he’s only stopped one opponent in his UFC career). The fact that he doesn’t really beat his opponents up badly or make strong submission threats means that his opponents have a full three rounds to fight Karo and find a way to get ahead of him. Karo is very durable though, so most of his fights turn into wars.

Karo’s greatest skill, his judo, has appeared much less dominant in his recent fights. Gone are the high-amplitude throws spiking opponents onto their heads whenever Karo gets hooks, replaced with occasional trips that lead to tepid ground and pound from the guard. Despite all his shortcomings, Karo remains a stern test because of his aggression and toughness. He’s the kind of fighter than can break a man’s will, staying in his face until he folds under the pressure.

Zenko is a ‘hybrid’ Judoka who, unusually for a Japanese fighter, has lots of experience fighting in a cage and throwing elbows (in GCM’s Cage Force). He’s truly an all-rounder, with good standup, excellent ground and pound, and good submission offense as well. For a Judo player, he seems to end up on his back more than he should, but he has a good ability to scramble or threaten with submissions, restricting the amount of damage he takes. Furthermore, he has the power and aggression in his striking on the feet and on the ground to finish fights, a lethal combination when you have the judo skills to put your opponents in bad positions.

Zenko is a good deal taller than Karo, and throws cleaner, straighter punches, so I expect him to be able to out-point Karo there and keep his distance. Zenko’s judo will largely nullify Karo’s takedown attempts, but if Karo really commits and drives hard, I think he’ll be able to get a few takedowns. Karo’s biggest problem is an inability to secure control once he’s completed a takedown. On the ground, I think Karo will be too busy trying to keep Yoshida from getting up and defending Yoshida’s submissions to land any significant blows and accumulate damage. Should the positions be reversed, I think Yoshida’s top-game offense will be good enough to beat Karo up and keep him in a defensive mindset, wearing him down for a decision.

This is simply a bad style matchup for Karo—he’s facing a fighter that is equally talented in his specialty, yet slightly more well-rounded and more physically gifted. It’s a very close fight, but I think Yoshida will edge out a decision.

Yoshiyuki Yoshida by decision, 29-28.

The currently available odds for this fight are:
+190 Yoshiyuki Yoshida
-240 Karo Parisyan

Since this is a close, 50/50 fight, I think Yoshida is obviously a good play here. Stay far away from Karo at -240. Especially given his recently developed pre-fight nerves and panic attacks I was able to get on Yoshida at +225 when the lines opened.

Dan Henderson vs. Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares

This is the most interesting fight on the card, in my opinion. Dan Henderson is a well-known commodity. He can bang. When he is calm, his wrestling is top-notch. He has a phenomenal chin and is very difficult to finish in any manner. That makes him a perfect measuring stick for a up-and-comer like Toquinho.

Palhares is a BTT fighter with the ground skills one would expect from that camp. He is short for a middleweight at 5’8”, but he makes up for that in width, being built like the hulk. His strength reportedly exceeds even his appearance. That amount of pure physical power, combined with a penchant for heelhooks, means that his opponents can find themselves with a knee injury in a matter of moments. He’s like a cross between Masakazu Imanari and a gorilla; the bulky Brazillian dives for leglocks impressively from almost any position, and has the agility to lock them on in mid-air. His wrestling makes great use of his strength as well, mostly driving trips or lifting his opponents from a very low body clinch. While is striking is rudimentary, he unsurprisingly has power in his hands that his opponent will need to respect.

For an Olympic wrestler, Dan Henderson sure ends up on his back, in poor positions, far too often. He tends to get wild with his windmilling power punches, and often finds himself far out of position. This will work to his disadvantage against someone who can explosively capitalize on any opening. Dan realizes he wants nothing to do with Palhares on the ground, and has said that his gameplan is to force a standup fight and strike. Perhaps Dan could offer some helpful advice on gameplanning to Jason Lambert (more on that later). If Dan can indeed force a standup fight, the only outcome a reasonable person could expect is that he will wear down and beat up Palhares, likely stopping him in the second after a big right hand or five. However, Dan being Dan, I expect him to forget this plan within a minute of starting the fight. Palhares will seek to close the distance, and it’s simply ingrained in Dan’s bones to clinch with and take down someone that gets that close to him. Even if Dan simply grabs Toquinho to stop a takedown, Palhares will likely roll for a leglock with Dan still standing.

With Dan’s greatest weakness in this fight being his tendency to get wild and out of position, Toquinho as a number of ways to lose the fight. The most obvious is that if Toquinho fails to force a ground fight in some way. Should that happen, Toquinho’s standup is lacking, especially his ability to avoid shots, and Henderson is going to beat him up badly on the feet or knock him out. Furthermore Palhares is an explosive, power-centric fighter that has won most of his fights early, rarely going outside of the first round and often getting a submission within two minutes. If he cannot put Dan away, and has to keep exerting himself in big powerful efforts, he will likely gas out badly by the middle of the second round, especially given the nerves that have to come with fighting a big-name opponent on such a huge stage so early in his career. Still, I think Dan will simply be unprepared for the submission offense Palhares has.

Rousimar Palhares by heel-hook, round 1.

The current odds on this fight are:

-210 Dan Henderson
+170 Rousimar Palhares

Due to the level of uncertainty in this fight, I am uncomfortable making any bets at these odds. However, the line is moving against Palhares, and if he moves to +200 or above, I will see it as a great play.

Martin Kampmann vs. Nate Marquardt

This is another fabulous match-up. The winner of this fight will be put into a pool with Demian Maia, the winner of Toquinho/Henderson, and Yushin Okami, with the winners of the match-ups made from that pool likely being the next challenger for Anderson Silva’s belt.

Kampmann is a skilled kickboxer who doesn’t have a lot of KO power. He has good, not great, wrestling, and seems to be very proficient with submissions. He’s also a bit undersized for the division. Marquardt is a slugger on the feet, with good power and excellent defense, although he lacks the technical acumen to go toe-to-toe with elite strikers. His wrestling is great, and his grappling is world-class, although he focuses much more on control and submission defense than on finding ways to win the fight. Marquardt, if he feels it necessary, is capable of slowing a fight down to an almost imperceptible pace with his fantastic control. Not the most interesting, but it’s certainly impressive. Marquardt is also quite the physical specimen, always appearing to be in top shape, physically overpowering his opponents, and fighting hard from bell to bell.

In terms of divisional rankings and skill, these fighters are very close to each other. However, when it comes to the style matchup, they are world’s apart. Marquardt has the defense and toughness not to get blown out on the feet by the low-powered strikes of Kampmann. Marquardt has a big advantage in terms of physical power, and is a better wrestler to boot, so he chooses where the fight will take place. Against most opponents, Kampmann makes up for his average wrestling by slapping on sneaky submissions, but he will be very hard pressed to find a way to finish Marquardt on the ground. Unless Marquardt does his wildman routine again and just senselessly fouls Martin over and over again, he should control every round of this fight.

Nate Marquardt by decision, 30-27.

The current odds on this fight are:

+115 Martin Kampmann
-145 Nate Marquardt

I was able to get on Marquardt at -125 when the line opened, which merited a large play. Given the style matchup, I feel that -145 is also a safe bet for a decent size play.

Kurt Pellegrino vs. Thiago Tavares

Tavares is a phenom coming off a brutal face-melting knockout loss at the unlikely hands of Matt Wiman. I really want to know what Wiman was on in that fight, because he looked like a completely different fighter and had a ridiculous amount of confidence, simply putting on a shocking performance. Still, Tavares has the gifts to make a huge splash at lightweight, if he can bounce back. He’s a great wrestler, a fabulous submission grappler, and has excellent striking skills as well. He’s extremely young and has time to bounce back from that loss.

Pellegrino is a talented, well-rounded gatekeeper for this division. However, he’s overmatched here. Anything Kurt can do, Tavares can do better. Kurt usually wins fights via submission, and the chances of him submitting Thiago are almost nil. I have a feeling this is a loser-leaves-UFC match, and I expect Kurt will be the one leaving. The only worry for Thiago would be if he were to wear himself out with his constant aggressive attacks, and open himself up to being finished in the third. While Tavares has the skills and Kurt the lack of concentration for this fight to end in a submission, I think it’s more likely that Kurt loses a decision after being soundly outclassed.

Thiago Tavares by decision, 30-27.

There are no odds released for this fight yet, but given Tavares recent defeats, I expect them to be fairly close. If you are confident that the Wiman fight was a fluke, then Thiago would be a smart bet at anything close to even. I will update this as odds are released.

Update: Tavares is at -245. Apparently bettors are not at all concerned about his loss to Wiman. Personally, I am, and I am staying away from this fight, even with Pellegrino at +195.

Tim Boetsch vs. Mike Patt

Mike Patt is a submission specialist coming into this fight as a late replacement for James Lee. Boetsch has made his UFC career as a late replacement that is always game, first filling in against David Heath and impressively dismantling him before the infamous ‘barbarian toss’ finish, then being overwhelmed by Matt Hamill. While he’s very unrefined, Boetsch makes up for that by throwing a wide variety of strikes and putting power into all of them. He gassed badly against Matt Hamill after failing to connect with any of his shots. Hopefully he’s used the additional time to improve his conditioning.

Patt’s only had a few weeks to prepare for the fight, although he did fight on August 15. His problem in this fight is that Boetsch is a very strong wrestler with dangerous standup, while Patt is going to want to fight on the ground. If Patt gets into a brawling exchange with Boetsch, Tim is going to have another highlight knockout in short order.

Tim Boetsch by KO, round 1.

There are no lines out on this fight, but I don’t expect it to have much value to bettors. Late replacements are usually lined up as large underdogs, and Boetsch is raw enough that he’s not an absolute lock to win this fight.

Update: As expected, there’s not a lot of value here. Tim is at -345 and Patt at +275. If you’re a degenerate that has to bet, Patt might be acceptable as a bet that Boetsch will never develop cardio or punching accuracy.

Matt Brown vs. Dong Hyun Kim

This is a mismatch plain and simple. Matt Brown is a banger. That’s what he brings to the table, and that’s basically all he has to offer. Mr. Stun Gun is a talented and well-rounded fighter adept in every facet of the game. Furthermore, he’s a great ratings draw in Korea (I can promise you that he will not be an unaired preliminary there), so you can expect him to continue to get favorable matchups.

It’s difficult to predict exactly how this fight will end. Brown’s submission defense is questionable enough that Kim, usually happy to simply pound away at his opponents, could find space to submit him. Kim also has the technical acumen to starch him on the feet. However, I think the most likely outcome is that Kim uses his judo to throw Brown into a vulnerable position, and simply beats him down for a TKO.

Dong Hyun Kim by TKO, round 1.

There are no available lines for this fight, but I would put the fair line somewhere around -300 for Dong Hyun Kim.

Update: Kim is at -275, Brown at +215. I think that’s accurate. and for the record, I’m now expecting a submission.

Roan “Jucao” Carneiro vs. Ryo “Triumph United” Chonan

Chonan is coming off a hand injury, a humiliating loss to Karo Parisyan, and a layoff of nearly a year. Roan Carneiro is coming off a shocking submission loss to unheralded blue belt eye-poker Kevin Burns. In a vacuum, one would expect this fight to go much like the Parisyan fight did for Ryo. Chonan doesn’t fight well off his back, and has trouble avoiding getting put there. He is especially poor when he is fighting opponents that can physically overwhelm him and dominate him on the ground. Roan can do that.

The monkey wrench in the works is the Kevin Burns brain fart and the way Jucao quit against Jon Fitch. Were those aberrations or is that going to be the story of the rest of his career? Either way, I don’t think Chonan hits hard enough to make him quit, and isn’t aggressive enough with submissions to catch him in a brain fart. Carneiro will simply take down and overwhelm Chonan with his size and jiu-jitsu.

Roan Carneiro by decision, 30-27.

Although lines for this fight are not up at my sportsbook, the odds on bodog are:

-105 Roan Carneiro
-125 Ryo Chonan

When this fight was scheduled for UFC 85, I was on Jucao very heavily as similar odds. I still feel he is a good bet, but I feel there is too much uncertainty around him now to risk large sums. -105 is a good play for a unit or so.

Update: I have 2 units on Carneiro at -110

Jason Lambert vs. Jason MacDonald

Jason MacDonald is managing a very quick turn around after his submission loss to Demian Maia at UFC 87, replacing an injured Jason Day. Jason Lambert is dropping to 185 pounds after going 1-3 (all knockouts) in his last four fights at 205 pounds. A real battle of the Jasons, this one. Both of these fighters are one dimensional, but talented enough at that one dimension to belong in the UFC. Macdonald is an excellent submission specialist with mediocre wrestling and slow standup. He also seems a bit fragile, collapsing under damage like Rich Franklin put on him. However, he has real stopping power in his submissionsm (80% of his wins are submission stoppages), and should give Lambert fits on the ground.

Jason Lambert was a fireplug at a very thick 205 pounds and 5’10”, and even at the lower weight class I expect him to bring a lot of power. On the feet he throws haymakers from his waist, leaving himself dangerously open to straight counter punches, which has cost him his last two fights. He’s a strong wrestler and does best when he’s ground and pounding opponents, where he can use his compact build and excellent power to inflict heavy damage quickly, without worrying about getting knocked out by counters.

On paper, Lambert should have this fight in the bag. If he just uses his wrestling to force a standup brawl, he should be able to hurt MacDonald quickly with his powerful punches, and simply absorb any offense MacDonald throws his way. Lambert can also utilize his stubby limbs to do extreme damage in a clinch if MacDonald tries to take him down. However, Lambert has consistently failed to fight the smart fight in the past. In fact, he’s said that because of MacDonald’s ground skills he’s looking forward to a ground war. Lambert has a very dominating top game, based more around wrestling than jiu-jitsu, and his complete lack of a neck makes it very difficult to choke him as he’s coming in for the takedown.

MacDonald’s biggest weakness is that he reacts very poorly to damage, either on the feet or on the ground. While in pure grappling exchanges, he is dangerous enough to threaten someone like Demian Maia, his game falls apart when he’s taking shots. Therefore, even given that Lambert won’t be as powerful as he used to be, and may suffer from making the cut to 185 for the first time, I expect him to be able to simply overwhelm MacDonald with damage and win the fight.

Jason Lambert by TKO, round 2.

There are currently no lines out on this fight. While I think Lambert should be favored, he has the uncertainty surrounding him because of the new weight class and his tendency to get overexcited and leave himself exposed. If MacDonald is a significant underdog, he may be worth a small play.

Update: Each fighter is at -115. I think Lambert is good up to -130, maybe beyond. Stylistically it’s the perfect fight for him and the worst for Macdonald. The question is the weight cut. I have 2u on Lambert at these odds.
Update 2: Lambert jumped to +150 and I put down another 1.66 units. Great bet if you have ain faith in Lambert’s ground and pound or Macdonald’s inability to soak up damage.

Wrap Up

Zuffa is trying to make a big splash in Atlanta, and this card is brimming with talent. I expect that the results of many of these fights will have fight fans buzzing for weeks about all the hot new prospects. September is going to be a great month for MMA.

My Plays
3.33u on Franklin at -225
3.33u on Marquardt at -125
1.33u on Yoshida at +225
2u on Carneiro at -110
2u on Lambert at -115
1.66u on Lambert at +150

Public Bet History
General Public Prediction Record

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