Ben vs. ReX: UFC 123 Edition

With Bellator on hiatus, Friday mornings have gotten a little lonely around here. So I decided to reach out to Doug “ReX13” Richardson and see if he felt like reviving a classic feature on CagePotato, and engaging in some spirited debate on a few UFC 123-related topics that we didn’t get to cover in last week’s podcast. Will this be the beginning of a new era, or the raping of an old legacy? Read on and decide for yourself. And don’t forget to come back tomorrow night for our liveblog of Rampage vs. Machida!

Between Rampage, Machida, Hughes, and Penn, who would most deserve a title shot after a win on Saturday?

BG: Matt Hughes by a country mile. Hughes has already built up three-straight wins in his division — which sets him apart from the other headliners on the card who are all coming off of losses — and a win in his rubber match against Penn might generate interest in the revival of another big-money rivalry from the past: Hughes vs. GSP. (Yes, Georges would need to get past Josh Koscheck at UFC 124, but who are we kidding here?)

No matter who holds the 170-pound strap at the end of next month, it’s clear that the UFC’s welterweight division is short on exciting title challengers, while the light-heavyweight division almost has too many of them. Once the Mauricio Rua vs. Rashad Evans title scrap finally goes down, the winner of Jon Jones vs. Ryan Bader could legitimately be slotted in for a shot ahead of Jackson or Machida. Meanwhile, a Hall of Famer like Matt Hughes making another unlikely title run would be a lot more compelling than Jon Fitch or Jake Shields getting their dutiful turns at bat. In fact, Fitch and Shields should have to fight each other to establish the UFC’s Alpha Blanket before either of them get a whiff of championship gold.

RX: Wow, really? Country Breakfast was the first guy I eliminated. His last win over a guy under thirty years old was five years ago, and he hasn‘t shown any interest in actually fighting top 5 fighters at 170. Both Hughes and Penn are looking to win this fight so internet assholes like ourselves don’t start saying they’re washed-up bums.

That leaves us with Machida or Jackson — who deserves a shot more? Jackson does. Here’s a guy that has essentially been written off by most at this point. We’ve seen that Machida can be beaten by crowding him and forcing him out of his well-honed counterpunching style, but Rampage isn’t known for sticking to a gameplan. Things could get ugly. We’ve questioned everything about ‘Page except his citizenship status, and if he manages to solve The Riddle of the Dragon, I’ll firmly back his getting an immediate title shot. And by “immediate,” I mean put him on a plane and send him to whatever Brazilian hospital Shogun is convalescing in, falls count anywhere and Stockton Rules apply. Failing that, at least let him blast Rua’s physical therapist in the face.

What will be the best fight on the card, and what will be the worst fight on the card?

RX: The worst fight on the card is pretty obvious: Nik Lentz versus Tyson Griffin. If you don’t see “decision” written all over that fight, then please let me help you find your glasses, ma’am. Surely you haven’t forgotten about last time when Nik Lentzzzzzzzzzzzxasep[0yt54hy\\

Shit, sorry. What were we talking about? Oh yeah, best fight. For my money, the Premature Fight of the Night Award goes to Sotiropoulos-Lauzon. I’m expecting a fight with a little bit of boxing and takedown stuffing, followed by a furious finishing sequence on the ground. Sotiropoulos is one of the most well-rounded fighters out there, but Lauzon’s victory at UFC 118 was so impressive I’m tempted to describe him as “explosive.” If Lightweight weren’t so logjammed right now with guys lined up for a shot at the title, I’d expect this to produce the number one contender.

BG: I also expect Lauzon vs. Sotiropoulos to be a killer match — though I’m not going to ride Joe Lauzon’s nuts just because he smashed Gabe Ruediger, which most lightweights on the UFC’s roster would have been able to do. But there’s also the chance that Lauzon/Papadapolis could turn out to be one of those highly-technical games of human chess that Joe Rogan will need to keep reminding us to appreciate. A more guaranteed thriller will be Gerald Harris vs. UFC newcomer Maiquel Falcao. Falcao is an incredibly aggressive Brazilian gorilla juicehead knockout artist who finishes most of his opponents in the first round. And y’all already know what Harris does to Octagon newbies.

Yes, Griffin vs. Lentz is the obvious choice for most unwatchable fight of the night, but keep in mind that both of these guys are fighting for their jobs, and Lentz has probably been specifically warned to be more exciting or else after his 15-minute Jon Fitch-impression at UFC 118. Maybe the mutual-desperation will translate into a passionate fight. Karo Parisyan, on the other hand, was never that exciting even in his prime, and he could easily spend all three rounds clinching with Dennis Hallman. Luckily, neither of those fights are scheduled for broadcast, so we probably won’t have to see them unless they turn out well.

Considering UFC 123’s betting odds, what’s the smartest bet you could make here? (Parlays count.)

BG: If you’ve read my recent Gambling Addiction Enabler columns, you know that I shouldn’t be allowed within 500 feet of giving anybody wagering advice. My problem is that the safe bets don’t interest me. Putting small money on favorites, chipping together a profit event by event? Forget it — if it’s not dangerous, it’s not fun. That’s why I gravitate toward the underdogs — like the streaking Matt Hughes, who’s a +150 ‘dog against BJ Penn, or Dennis Hallman who’s sitting at +140 against the totally unpredictable Karo Parisyan. Or sometimes I’ll see how many favorites I can realistically stack together in a single bet. (Did you know that if you set up a five-way parlay with Lyoto Machida, Phil Davis, George Sotiropoulos, Gerald Harris, and Paul Kelly, you could quadruple your investment? True story.)

Well, for once I’m going to learn from my mistakes. Nothing fancy this time, just a two-man parlay with a couple of fighters who hold all the advantages. I think Rampage Jackson is far too predictable and one-dimensional to avoid being eaten alive by Lyoto Machida. I like Sotiropoulos and Harris to win, but a bet on George (-220) is slightly more profitable than a bet on Gerald (-250) so we’ll go with the Australian. At BetUS, a $20 parlay on Machida + Sotiropoulos will return a profit of $19.73 — pretty close to even money. I can get my thrills elsewhere.

RX: Aw, you’re tearing me apart, Lisa. Seriously, why is it when we try to predict fights, you get all “safe bets are good” and “quadruple money? Eff that.” Dude, balls. Chicks dig ‘em.

Good call on Hughes, though. The bookies are apparently under the impression that BJ Penn is going to work Matt Hughes all over the cage; take their money. Penn had the fire five or six years ago — remember when he murdered poor Caol Uno? — but he’s just not driven enough. He looked apathetic in his second loss to Frankie Edgar, and couldn’t even be bothered to put on a few pounds of muscle for a fight at welterweight. Meanwhile, Hughes is enjoying a resurgence picking on aging BJJ black belts, he has all the tools needed to win, and comparing his conditioning to Penn’s requires using fucking exponents and shit. Plus, I hear he’s undergoing Hormone Replacement Therapy, which grants superhuman powers to mere mortals.

I suggest adding Hughes to your parlay with Machida and Munoz, then season to taste with either another safe bet (Davis or Sotiropoulos) or your choice of upset (Falcao or Lauzon). For shits and giggles, I put in a six man Machida-Hughes-Falcao-Davis-Sotiropoulos-Munoz parlay, and a hypothetical fifty bucks would net just over $1400. So bet your child support on it. (Unless you’re Aaron Goddamn Rampey, in which case: get at me, bro, we’re going to Vegas!)

This weekend’s StrikeForce card: great event this weekend, or greatest event this weekend?

RX: LOL, there’s a SF show for realz? Geez, I wish there were some sort of decision-making matrix I could consult; Deathly Hallows Part 1 is out.

BG: Let me make it real simple, ReX — Which do you prefer, magical high-school boys or bear-face hand-tattoos? That’s what I thought. See you at the multiplex.