UFC 90 Picks and Predictions

By Nicholas Bailey (nbailey@mmaratings.net)

The biggest fights on this card are a tale of two replacements. First you have Cote, replacing a much more deserving (and interesting) Yushin Okami after Okami suffered a hand injury in July, and the recently streaking Cote stepped up as the sacrificial lamb.

The second replacement was a surprisingly late one for the level of talent involved. With Diego Sanchez injured, killing what was previously the most exciting fight on the card, Josh Koscheck has shown some serious cojones in stepping up against welterweight wrecking machine Thiago Alves, on very short notice. Koscheck says he was already in training for a fight in December, and will be ready to go, but I question the wisdom of fighting someone the caliber of Thiago Alves on short notice.

From top to bottom this card is full of champs, contenders, and hot prospects, which is pretty exciting. It even has some good betting odds, so maybe I can repair my currently tattered prediction record and public wagering history.

Middleweight champ Anderson Silva (-630) vs. Patrick Cote (+480)


Sadly this is a very uninteresting main event. Cote only recently developed any kind of ground game, can’t wrestle very well, and only recently sharpened up his standup to be technical in the slightest. Cote brings a decent muay thai game, good power, and a phenomenally tough chin into the octagon. That’s all he has to work with against the champ. Unfortunately that chin is most likely just going to prolong his punishment.

Anderson Silva. We know him, we love him. He is head and shoulders above everyone that steps into the ring with him, to the point where he can play around with, dance, and generally clown upon the former king of the division. On the feet he’s too talented, too fast, too powerful, and too accurate. He can’t wrestle that well, but Cote doesn’t benefit from taking the fight to the ground, as Silva can probably submit him.

Long story short, this fight will only be notable if Cote scores the upset. While anytime you have professional athletes in the ring throwing blows, someone could get knocked out, I think the most likely upset scenario is if Cote somehow causes an injury to one of Silva’s bum knees. Anderson Silva by KO round 1.

At -630, the odds are very long against Silva. However, those odds are fair should Anderson win only about 86% of the time. Since I don’t think Cote wins this fight more than 1 time in 10, I have made a multi-unit play on this line, as well as making it a basis for several Parlays I have put together. I’m especially confident in this pick because there’s very little variability in the style matchup. Cote is simply not a multidimensional fighter, so you don’t have to worry about unexpected events in any respect except for the striking.

Thiago Alves (+135) vs. Josh Koscheck (-160)

This is a much more exciting fight. Alves is coming off his career-making knockout of former welterweight khan Matt Hughes, and Koscheck is trying to re-ignite his promise after a humiliating out-pointing at the hands of current kingpin Georges St. Pierre.

Against Alves, Hughes basically sleepwalked through the fight until Thiago put him to bed for good. He couldn’t get comfortable on his feet, was desperate for the takedown, and basically got thrown off far too often. When he did get the takedown, he struggled to advance position and had difficulty keeping Alves from getting back up. While Kos will similarly be hurt by being unable to setup his takedowns with strikes, I expect him to find takedowns with more success than Hughes did, since he’s faster, more athletic, and a better wrestler too. Kos has a much different top game than Hughes, so Alves may have a bit more trouble. He simply looks to do damage and beat his opponent up, as his teammate Jon Fitch did so well to Alves back at Ultimate Fight Night 5. However, Kos is not Fitch. His takedowns are much faster and sharper, but his grappling is much more rudimentary and his grind isn’t as fierce. Kos bloodied up Chris Lytle, but Lytle did very little to protect himself. Even if Alves ends up underneath Kos, the struggle to hold him there while still defending submissions will keep Josh from dishing out too much damage.

On the feet, Josh has improved his striking a lot, but that might work to his disadvantage. He has improved and his athleticism helps him a ton, but he still strikes like he’s hitting a heavy bag and falls over every time he throws a headkick. He isn’t creative or flowing; he’s very formulaic and predictable. That is very bad news against someone who can counterstrike as powerfully as Alves. Against their shared opponent, Chris Lytle, Josh struggled whenever they exchanged, while Alves was able to start picking him apart within the first few exchanges, countering Lytle’s initial combination the third time he threw it, landing a big shot and opening a bigger cut. Furthermore, when Kos got tagged hard against Hazelett and Lytle, his instinctive reaction in both cases was to throw wild punches in return, either to hurt his opponent in return or force them to back off. Against Alves that kind of flailing will just result in a finish.

While Alves’ leg kicks could both be great for taking away Kos’ speed and power in his takedowns and hand over legs for easy takedowns, I don’t expect to see them used early and often in the fight. Against both Karo and Hughes the normally extremely aggressive Alves was much more passive and threw very few leg kicks. Of course, he ended up knocking them both out. I think Alves will make Koscheck desperate on the feet, avoid or stand up out of the takedowns Kos manages, and eventually catch him with something permanent. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time Alves caught someone with a knee on the way in. The man is nasty. He has tremendous power in his punches, leg kicks, and of course knees, and he times them very well, exploding into any window of opportunity. Alves by KO round 2.

Since I predict Alves to win outright, at underdog odds of +135, I’m wild about him. Kos can’t be counted out, due to his athleticism, but he doesn’t have a good way to finish this fight, and Thiago has several that are a danger from bell to bell. This is a play for a unit and several parlays for me.

Fabricio Werdum (-850) vs. Junior dos Santos (+600)

Cigano isn’t a total can and has real skills, but this fight is basically a placeholder until Werdum can get his title shot. Cigano is nobody in the division, and hasn’t shown anything that would make one think he could beat Werdum. Oddsmakers don’t want you to have anything to do with this fight, and you shouldn’t. The only bright spot is that maybe Werdum will be able to flex his standup game, and we can see if he’s progressed beyond throwing slap haymakers. Werdum by TKO round 1.

Tyson Griffin (+210) vs. Sean Sherk (-260)

The most interesting aspect of this matchup will be whether Tyson Griffin can force another highlight-filled fight and win fight of the night yet again, or if Sherk’s style will prevail and we’ll see another compelling, although not electrifying, demonstration of wrestling, ground control and guard passing. Tyson better hope this is fight of the night, because he’s not going to get any win bonuses.

Tyson is a wrestling-based all-rounder. He can strike a bit, although that’s probably the weakest part of his game. He has good wrestling, strong submission defense, and great physical power for the division. Sean Sherk is a shark. He’s hyper-evolved to execute one game extremely effectively. He is an absolute rock of muscle, and has some of the most dominant wrestling, if not the most dominant, at 155lbs. He matches that with superb control and positioning, extreme cardio, and a wealth of fight experience. He’s also never, in his career, finished a single fighter that was tough OR good on the ground (aside from a very young and inexperienced Karo Parisyan). Tyson is also not much of a finisher, lacking the kind of firepower in any aspect of the game to put away top fighters.

I think Sherk can outwrestle Tyson at least as well as Frankie Edgar did, and maintain stronger control. If Tyson can get his stumpy little legs under him, he may be able to power to his feet and initiate a scramble, where he excels. Should Tyson get to his feet, he will find himself being outboxed by Sherk’s tiny T-rex arms. Sherk has very good boxing, although he really lacks the ability to hurt his opponents with his hands. Tyson simply won’t be able to put together the strikes to outpoint Sherk or hurt him. Sean Sherk By Decision.

I think that -260 is about a fair line for Sherk here, since Tyson does have the physical power to explode into an opportunity if he should see one, but if Sherk starts drifting back towards the -200 he opened at on some books, I would recommend a play on him there.

Rich Clementi (+200) vs. Gray Maynard (-240)

An interesting clash of the old and the new, as well as styles. Rich Clementi is a former journeyman fighter that has reinvented himself and made a career resurgence by cleaning out the dregs of the UFC Prelim pool. Gray is undefeated, but has less than a sixth of the number of fights Clementi has. Nevertheless, his last victory is the most impressive either fighter has, with the dominant wrestling-based decision over highly-touted wrestler Frankie Edgar. While beating Edgar is impressive, I think it’s important to remember that Edgar was basically hand-tailored to lose to Maynard’s style, being massively outsized and offering nothing more than wrestling, where Maynard could meet him head-on and dominate him.

Stylistically, this is a much more interesting matchup, as Clementi is a moderate threat on the feet as well as with submissions, but cannot compete with respect to wrestling. This fight will take place in the location, and at the pace Maynard decides. Considering how badly he gassed at times on the Ultimate Fighter, Maynard may seek a slow pace, although he seemed to cruise straight through the fight with Edgar.

Clementi has won wrestling and control-based decisions in his last two fights, so he may be running into a wall here, but given his skills in Gray’s weaker areas, Gray’s inexperience, and Gray’s past gas problems, I would say Clementi represents a very live dog in this fight. Maynard is most likely going to be able to control him for three rounds, but it’s going to be a competitive fight, and Rich simply has more ways to finish the fight than Gray. Gray Maynard by Decision.

At the underdog odds of +200 or more, I like a play on Clementi here. He simply has a lot going in his favor if he can find a way around the elephant of Gray’s strength and wrestling.

Thales Leites (-445) vs. Drew McFedries (+365)

We know what Drew McFedries brings to the table. He’s a striker with an aggressive, power-hitting style, that is one of the hardest hitters at 185. He isn’t a particularly good wrestler, and his submission defense is very porous. Leites is a phenomenal jiu-jitsu guy that gets by on the feet by being very tough and a hard hitter.

Leites has gassed out late in his fights, but still been able to perform. Drew hasn’t been outside of the first round, win or lose, in his UFC career, and I don’t see why this fight will be any different.

Leites fans should be excited for another arm-triangle victory for Thales, but they should be concerned with the fact that Leites’ primary defense on the feet is his chin. While a chin may beat a slugger in boxing, in MMA it’s never good to test your beard against big hitters. While McFedries does have that ‘punchers chance’ with his scary power, Leites is rightly the overwhelming favorite in this fight because he has a very solid and dangerous top game and is generally a much higher-quality fighter. Thales Leites by Submission Round 1.

It’s attractive to look and see someone who can win a fight at any point with a knockout at +350, but really McFedries needs much longer odds to be worth a play, since he’s so badly outgunned.

Spencer Fisher (-345) vs. Shannon Gugerty (+275)

Shannon Gugerty is a grappler with a great submissions rate, but a record full of the quality of fighters you’d expect from an up-and-comer, consisting mostly of inexperienced guys and club fighters. He’s on a streak now, but he’s lost to the only two fighters he’s fought with double-digit numbers of fights. Spencer Fisher is much more of a known commodity, a versatile and aggressive striker with some decent submissions and terrible takedown defense.

This should be a pretty exciting fight, and I would recommend no betting on it, so just get some popcorn and enjoy! Spencer Fisher by TKO round 2.

Matt Horwich (+275) vs. Dan Miller (-325)

This battle of IFL veterans is a showcase fight, as well as a entrance test, for grappling prospect Dan Miller. Like his brother Jim last weekend, faces a journeyman grappler that he should be able to outgrapple. If Jim can put Horwich away early, then maybe he’ll be ready to fight some of the mainstays of the UFC Prelims, like Alessio Sakara. Otherwise, he’ll need to be nurtured and developed for a bit longer, as he’s still a developing talent. Dan Miller by submission round 2.

Marcus Aurelio (+160) vs. Hermes Franca (-180)

Perhaps the most compelling of the undercard matchups here, this fight will rehabilitate one of these former contenders. Both guys are probably just glad they aren’t facing a top position grappler. Franca has strung together a couple of losses by fighting wrestlers that could take him down and avoid his tactic of “pretending to be asleep for a round and a half and then exploding into a single armbar attempt before gassing terribly and giving up on the fight” and Aurelio has lost 3 out of his last six fights to wrestlers that could work away in his guard.

Aurelio is the better pure jiu-jitsu player in this fight, and could most likely work an aggressive game and win the fight if he could regularly score dominant position. Franca is a good enough grappler to be relatively safe in Aurelio’s guard, although I don’t expect him to get much going there. The big difference in this fight will be striking. Aurelio was outstruck by Clay Guida, which doesn’t speak highly of his skills as a boxer. Furthermore, he seemed content to let that fight drift away from him on the feet. Franca isn’t a sharp and technical striker, but he does have chops, and he certainly has power in his winging haymakers and his knees, and should be able to easily outscore Aurelio’s lukewarm standup skills. Aurelio is a very tough guy, so unless he takes a shot right on the button, it will be very difficult to hurt him.

Both of these guys have a tendency to gas. With Franca it’s always a question of how seriously did he train, and Aurelio does horrible things to his body in order to cut weight, which hurts him later in fights. So this fight may be decided by ‘who gasses first’ although I see this as a wash between the two.

Both of these fighters receive top-dollar pay but are developing mid-card records due to being given tough fights. I’m sure Dana will be glad to be able to renegotiate with the loser. I think Franca will just be too much on the feet for Aurelio, making him expend energy and take risks to get takedowns, where the fight will stall out and nobody will score significantly, making the standup action the deciding factor in the fight. Hermes Franca by decision.

I think that at -180 and better Hermes is a solid bet, as Aurelio’s ability to submit from his back is usually over-valued.

Josh Burkman (-220) vs. Pete Sell (+180)

Josh Burkman is a very physically gifted guy that has just never been able to put it all together in MMA. Pete Sell is a tough, strong guy that is supposed to be a submission expert, fights like a slugger, and hasn’t submitted anyone since Phil Baroni.

Burkman has lost to submission several times, so at first glance you might expect him to do so again, but if you look at the people who have submitted him, you can see they’re pretty high-level guys. Burkman is tough to finish in any way, having a very good chin on top of solid wrestling, great physical power, and submission defense that can use those gifts. On the feet he tends to throw nothing but big power shots, gassing himself out quickly, but Sell has gone down to those kinds of shots throughout his career, and I don’t expect the dehydration of cutting to 170 for the first time will do him any favors in that respect. Josh Burkman by TKO round 2.

From a betting perspective, there’s slight value in Burkman if his lines drop back to -200 or better. Not enough for a straight bet, but I’ve included him in a few of my small parlays.

My Straight Plays:
3u on Anderson Silva at -600 to win .5u
1u on Rich Clementi at +225 to win 2.25u
1u on Thiago Alves at +130 to win 1.3u

My Parlays:
.25u on Clementi and Franca to win .88u
.25u on Alves, Silva, and Clementi to win 1.78u
.25u on Alves, Silva and Franca to win .77u
.33u on Alves, Burkman, and Silva to win .98u
.08u on Alves, Silva, Clementi, and Franca to win .93u

Anderson Silva here also represents the first leg of a variety of Parlays involving different combinations of Quinton Jackson, Rodrigo Nogueira, Joe Stevenson, Forrest Griffin, and Rich Franklin winning their respective fights.

General Public Prediction Record
Public Bet History

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