UFC 123 staff picks

The staff assemble once again to deliver thoughts and predictions for “UFC 123: Rampage vs. Machida” which takes Saturday night, Nov. 20, in Detroit, Mich.

The main event features a battle between two former UFC light heavyweight champions, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida. And in the co-main event, former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion B.J. Penn faces off with UFC Hall of Famer and former welterweight champion Matt Hughes.

Here is how the 2010 Pro MMA Now staff pick standings currently look as we near year’s end:

  1. Richard (100-55) 65%
  2. Jack (98-57) 63%
  3. Buhl (34-20) 63%
  4. Denny (68-43) 61%
  5. Furby (87-68) 56%

Quinton Jackson (30-8) vs. Lyoto Machida (16-1)

Quinton Jackson +185 vs. Lyoto Machida -235

BRIAN FURBY: Unless Jackson catches Machida early a la Shogun, I don’t see him winning this fight. Regardless of Rampage sticking to a stricter diet this time and being better prepared, he isn’t going to be faster than Machida, and is going to have a very hard time hitting him. The fans are all waiting to see how Machida is going to bounce back from a devastating KO loss, and he’s going to bounce back big. Machida wins by TKO in Round 2.

DENNY HODGE: They say styles make fights, and it will likely be proven in this battle of former champions. “Rampage” will have his hands full with the style and elusiveness of Machida, not to mention Jackson’s aggressive, stalking style, plays right into Machida’s strengths. That being said, I see Machida avoiding the power punches of Jackson, and working angles to pick him apart on his feet. Machida by TKO.

RICHARD MANN: From a technical stand point, Lyoto Machida should be the favorite. Quinton Jackson’s classic boxing stance is designed to let him roll with punches and counter. Machida comes forward in spots and does not leave himself open for counter punches. Also, long-time MMA fans have seen how “Rampage” fights when he is not motivated. He has seemed distance and disconnected coming into his fight, and that is usually a harbinger of a poor performance. Machida by decision.

JOHN BUHL: Rampage is capable of closing the distance and landing a big overhand right, similar to what Shogun did to win the title from Machida. But at this point there are too many questions about how he’ll perform. He’s still susceptible to leg kicks and Machida’s patient (some might say boring) style means Rampage will have to move forward and probably leave himself open to counters, Machida’s specialty. I’ll take Machida in a close decision.

JACK BRATCHER: Machida’s footwork will be the key in this fight. His ability to move in and out is going to make the difference in this fight. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rampage looked for the takedown in order to stop Machida’s movement. He won’t get it though. And Rampage’s gameplan will likely turn into one of trying to plod toward Machida and catch him coming in. He won’t be able to land the big shots he needs and Machida will likely stop him sometime in the second round via TKO. In addition to working with Steven Seagal, Machida spent time training at AKA working on his wrestling with Cain Velasquez. Rampage has a puncher’s chance, that’s about it.

B.J. Penn (15-7-1) vs. Matt Hughes (45-7)

B.J. Penn -190 vs. Matt Hughes +155

BRIAN FURBY: Anyone else think this is going to turn out like Hughes vs. Renzo Gracie? I think Hughes will be pressing forward, but since these two seem to be all buddy buddy now, I’m wondering how much real action there will be. We’ll see some flurries, but I really don’t expect any big action. Regardless of that, I find the result hard to pick, and I’ve seen the oddsmakers have it about even as well. Both guys are going to strike a fair amount as opposed to utilizing their substantial ground games, and Hughes may have BJ’s number in their third meeting. Hughes wins by unanimous decision.

DENNY HODGE: B.J. Penn is one of my favorite fighters and I rarely pick against him, and I’ll stick to my routine in this one. Yes, Hughes looked impressive against Almeida, but Almeida is no Penn. It’s almost impossible to figure out which Penn will show up from fight to fight, but I believe he will be up for this one, but it will not be easy. Hughes will put pressure on Penn and make him fight, and fight he will, all the way to a decision. Penn by decision.

RICHARD MANN: If B.J. Penn comes out with the same gameplan he had against Frankie Edgar, he should win. He is still light years ahead of Matt Hughes in the striking department. If he can avoid takedowns, he should have little trouble standing in front of Hughes and touching his face. Penn by decision.

JOHN BUHL: Hughes certainly looks comfortable heading into this fight, no longer feeling the pressure of chasing the title. BJ, on the other hand, probably knows how badly he needs a win after two straight losses and people already once again questioning his dedication and preparation despite an impressive run at lightweight up until Frankie Edgar tripped him up. But from their first fight and even the first half of the second fight — before Penn gassed and/or injured himself — BJ was picking Hughes apart. As Hughes said, his style is nothing like Edgar’s, and despite the size disadvantage, I think Penn takes it via third round TKO after fighting off a few takedowns and winning the boxing exchanges.

JACK BRATCHER: Penn is the much better striker. Although Hughes recently won a fight via TKO over Renzo Gracie, Renzo’s striking is even worse than Hughes’s. Hughes will try to get the takedown and will not succeed. Penn will eat him up on the feet with speed and technique as it turns into a boxing match. First or second round TKO via BJ Penn.

Aaron Simpson (7-1) vs. Mark Munoz (8-2)

Aaron Simpson +115 vs. Mark Munoz -145

BRIAN FURBY: I look at this one as two wrestlers deciding to spend way too much time striking. That said, Munoz is the better wrestler, and when it comes time to hit the ground, he’ll prevail.. Munoz wins by unanimous decision.


RICHARD MANN: A lot of people will probably be excited for this match up between great college wrestlers. However, this fight is a pretty open-and-shut case. Munoz has not been able to adapt his wrestling to MMA. On top of that, Munoz suffers from Goulet-chin syndrome. Simpson hits with a lot power and should end the fight early. Simpson by TKO.

JOHN BUHL: A pretty even matchup between two great wrestlers with improving stand-up, but both seem to need improvement putting their entire MMA game together. I’ll take Munoz by split decision because…well no reason in particular, but I think he has heavier hands.

JACK BRATCHER: This one is a toss up. These guys are good friends, two great wrestlers. Both coming off losses. Munoz coming off a split decision loss to Yushin Okami who is now fighting for the title. And Simpson is coming off a TKO loss to Chris Leben. I know Munoz trains with some excellent fighters and I think he is probably the better wrestler. I’ll take Munoz by decision.

Gerald Harris (17-2) vs. Maiquel Falcao (25-3, 1NC)

Gerald Harris -280 vs. Maiquel Falcao +210

BRIAN FURBY: Goncalves is on a 7 fight win streak, Harris is on a 10 fight win streak. Harris has way too much power and will overwhelm Goncalves early. Harris wins by TKO in Round 1.

DENNY HODGE: Looking at just the stats on Goncalves would make a lot of people think about picking Goncalves. With 28 fights, going 25-3 in those fights, Goncalves has won 23 of his 25 fights in the first round, but his resume of wins is not all that impressive. Harris on the other hand, is on a 10 victory win streak, and is 3-0 in the UFC. Goncalves will come out fast looking for the big power punch that could end it quickly, but Harris will put an end to that plan quickly, firmly planting “Big Rig” on his back, and utilizing some ground-and-pound for an early finish of his own. Harris by TKO.

RICHARD MANN: When this fight was announced, plenty of folks were pumped up about a new Brazilian fighter with a big glossy record. However, the record is made up of mostly filler. Members of the Brazilian-MMA media were not even sure Falcao deserved a shot. This should be another victory for the always-improving Gerald Harris. Harris by TKO.

JOHN BUHL: Big step up in competition for Falcao and Harris has been on a roll of late. Harris by third round TKO via wrestling and ground and pound.

JACK BRATCHER: Falcao makes his big show debut against a “Hurricane” of power. Look for Harris to put the Brazilian Chute Boxe fighter on his back, nullifying his Muay Thai, and pounding on him into either a late TKO or decision victory.

George Sotiropoulos (13-2) vs. Joe Lauzon (19-5)

George Sotiropoulos -230 vs. Joe Lauzon +180

BRIAN FURBY: My call for Fight of the Night. There are going to be a lot of submission attempts in this one, for sure, and I think Joe Rogan’s head might explode trying to call all of the action. The oddsmakers have Sotiropoulos a favorite, but I like Lauzon in this one. I’ve always been a fan of Lauzon, and I got a kick out of Lauzon’s recent comments on Sotiropoulos’s choice of leg/knee/compression shorts/ankle wear. All kidding aside, these guys are going to go at it hard for three rounds, and this is my at-least-one-split-decision-per-card fight. Joe Lauzon wins by split deicision.

DENNY HODGE: Lauzon always comes to fight, and Sotiropoulos has showed marked improvement each time he has stepped into the Octagon, not to mention he is 6-0 in the UFC. Lauzon will have the slight advantage on the feet, but Sotiropoulos has shown improvement in his stand up, but will likely use it to set up take downs which will turn out to be the difference in a very close fight. Sotiropoulos is dangerous on the ground, but will not catch Lauzon sleeping for a submission, but will edge Lauzon on the cards. Sotiropoulos by decision.

RICHARD MANN: Originally I thought all the love for George Sotiropoulus was because people were prisoners of the moment. However, now that moment is actually six-fight winning streak in the UFC. Lauzon is not much of a wrestler, so Sotiropoulus should be able to control where the fight takes place. If Sotiropoulus can get top position, he should have no problem staying there and winning the fight. Also, people who complain about Sotiopoulus’ wardrobe should watch “Project Runway” on Lifetime channel. Heidi Klum complains about clothes for the whole hour. Sotiropoulus by decision.

JOHN BUHL: Another tough fight to call. Lauzon has pretty solid boxing and great grappling, but Sotiropolous has beaten the better competition and I think he’ll find a way to win. Sotiropolous via decision.

JACK BRATCHER: When Joe is on, he is on, and looks unstoppable. He looked brilliant against Gabe Ruediger in his last fight. But Sotiropoulos is no Ruediger. Sotiropoulos continues to find a way to win and his record speaks for itself, remaining undefeated in the UFC after six fights. This could be fight of the night. Lauzon is nearly impossible to submit but I think Sotiropoulos teaches him a lesson in this one with a third round submission as Joe’s cardio starts to fade.

Brian Foster (14-5) vs. Matt Brown (11-9)

Brian Foster -140 vs. Matt Brown +110



RICHARD MANN: Matt Brown likes to come out and throw. He doesn’t have very good defense or power. Brian Foster has been known to put a few dudes on roller skates. On top of that, he is a physical wrestler. The bad news for Brown is that he is going to lose. The good news is that he is immortal and living forever means you can always find a cougar. Foster by TKO.

JOHN BUHL: No doubt that Foster can put a hurting on people if he gets them down and starts dropping bombs. But Brown is a tough SOB and can throw some serious leather. On the feet it’s Brown’s fight and on the mat Foster has the advantage. I hate picking against Brown against a non-elite fighter, but I think Foster will do enough work with his wrestling. Foster by decision.

JACK BRATCHER: Brown’s back is against the wall here. If he loses this fight, it’s pretty much guaranteed he will get his pink slip. And I’m not talking about the kind from Victoria’s Secret. Brown is tough as they come and I think he’s going to do what it takes to win this fight. And that means keeping it on the feet and out-striking Foster. Brown’s takedown defense should be good enough to keep it standing and get the job done. Brown by decision.

Tyson Griffin (14-4) vs. Nik Lentz (19-3-2)

Nik Lentz +165 vs. Tyson Griffin -210

BRIAN FURBY: Tyson Griffin


RICHARD MANN: Most people love to hate Nik Lentz. However, I am not one of those people. From the way people talk about him, you would think the guy is 0-5 in the UFC. He is actually 3-0-1. Winning fights is what matters in sports. Professional wrestling and hot dog eating exist for the beer-chugging masses. Griffin will win this fight, because he is a better athlete and wrestler. However, he could stand to learn a few things from Lentz. If Griffin could gameplan like Lentz, he might not have that ugly loss to Takanori Gomi on his record. Griffin by decision.

JOHN BUHL: Griffin has fallen on hard times, but I think he can bounce back against Lentz, who doesn’t have as much of a well-rounded game. Griffin by decision.

JACK BRATCHER: It’s almost unbelievable to think Tyson Griffin is on the verge of getting cut. And he’s got his work cut out for him against Lentz who is on a tremendous 10 fight win streak (with two draws thrown in).  However, Griffin is I think just a bit of a step up for Lentz and Griffin should be able to fend him off. Griffin should be able to out-strike him for one of his patented decision victories.

Phil Davis (7-0) vs. Tim Boetsch (12-3)

Phil Davis -600 vs. Tim Boetsch +400



RICHARD MANN: I can already see the blog comments that say, “Phil Davis should take a step up in competition,” because he is going to outclass Tim Boetsch. However, Davis is still green and Boetsch represents another tough-guy test for the former Penn State Alll-American. Davis by submission.

JOHN BUHL: It’s still early in Davis’s career and he’ll need to rely on his wrestling in this fight. Boetsch also wrestled in college and might be able to neutralize his ground game. But against Matt Hamill, Boetsch got worked over and I think Davis will take him down and grind out a decision win.

JACK BRATCHER: Boetsch was released from the UFC last year but fought his way back with three straight wins and won his first fight back in the UFC against Todd Brown. He’s already fought and won three fights this year and he’s pulling off submission victories now too, something we didn’t see much of in the past. Having said that Phil Davis is going to put Boetsch on his back and win a decision.

Edson Mendes Barboza (6-0) vs. Mike Lullo (8-1)

Edson Mendes Barboza -550 vs. Mike Lullo +375

BRIAN FURBY: Edson Mendes Barboza


RICHARD MANN: Unlike a lot of Brazilian prospects, Edson Barboza has already proved himself in one of the best U.S. feeder shows, Ring of Combat. Lullo is coming in short notice and has not faced this level of competition. Look for some powerful striking from Barboza. Barboza by TKO.

JOHN BUHL: I probably would’ve taken Edson Mendes Junior (or Barboza, if you want to go by the promo material) even before Darren Elkins injury, but with Mike Lullo stepping up on REALLY short notice, I think the vicious Muay Thai practitioner will get a first round TKO. Junior (Barboza) takes it.

JACK BRATCHER: Lullo is quite the accomplished submission fighter, having a gogoplata win earlier this year and riding a eight fight win streak, six by submission. Barboza is a striker. Both making their UFC debut here. Barboza is the heavy favorite to win. Lullo could take him down with his wrestling and get himself a decision or submission, but Barboza should be able to fend off the submission, and keep it on the feet. I’m going to go with Barboza via TKO.

Karo Parisyan (19-5, 1 NC) vs. Dennis Hallman (49-13-2, 1 NC)

Karo Parisyan -165 vs. Dennis Hallman +135

BRIAN FURBY: Karo Parisyan


RICHARD MANN: This fight has a legitimate chance to produce quality unintentional comedy. Hallman runs out of gas in the middle of the first round. Parisyan has never been called a cardio machine and usually has his trouble before the fight even starts. I expect Parisyan to experience very little trouble, but at the same time impress very few people. Parisyan by decision.

JOHN BUHL: If Parisyan is back to being himself, and it looks like it in interviews, I think he’ll take care of Hallman. Parisyan by decision.

JACK BRATCHER: Hallman is coming off a win over Ben Saunders and Parisyan makes his UFC return having submitted Ben Mortimer in Australia in his last fight. This is a very interesting match-up and I really hope we get to see it. Lets hope Karo shows up and doesn’t panic. I still question Karo’s mental state. He’s going to be a nervous wreck – like Barney Fife high at a strip club. Some interesting stats to note: Neither fighter has ever been submitted. Karo has no (T)KO victories. Hallman has 38 submission victories. – I’ve always liked Hallman, ever since he defeated Matt Hughes twice. I’m leaning toward Hallman in this one. There’s too many questions surrounding Karo and I think Halllman is ready to make the most of his UFC return.Who am I kidding here…. Karo by decision.

Paul Kelly (10-3) vs. T.J. O’Brien (16-3)

Paul Kelly -165 vs. T.J. O’Brien +135



RICHARD MANN: Guys who get submitted by Marcus Davis do not belong in the UFC, and Paul Kelly has done just that. He comes into this fight as the favorite since T.J. O’Brien is making his UFC debut. O’Brien has not fought a lot of high-level competition. However, his list of submission victories mean he should at least be able to duplicate the efforts of Davis. O’Brien by submission.

JOHN BUHL: O’Brien has an impressive number of submission wins, but Kelly will probably nullify his sub attempts. I’ll take Kelly by second round TKO via ground and pound.

JACK BRATCHER: O’Brien has a unique build. He has long strong muscles and when you get in his guard you are in a world of trouble. He has the second most wins in MMA history via triangle (12). He has 19 fights so far with 16 wins — every one of them ended in a submission.The Englishman Paul Kelly is coming off a loss to Jacob Volkmann and he may just be crazy enough to go to the ground with O’Brien who has not a single decision on his record after 19 fights. The only thing I’m a little concerned about is this being O’Brien’s debut; but I’m still picking him. O’Brien by submission — now go check out my interview with O’Brien from earlier in the week.

*All betting odds provided by

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