UFC 124 staff picks

Welcome to the ( staff picks for UFC 124. When putting this article together, one of the big things that struck me were the lopsided odds on the main event between Georges St-Pierre and Josh Koscheck. Not only did all but one oddball on our staff pick St-Pierre to win, but the bookmakers have him at -425, while Koscheck is at +325. That is a sweet payoff for anyone brave enough to lay down some money on Koscheck.

There are some other big fights on this card too. Stefan Struve taking on the still undefeated Sean McCorkle has some interesting implications at heavyweight. Thiago Alves vs. John Howard is an important fight for both guys for different reasons, and Joe “Daddy” Stevenson vs. Mac Danzig will move one of them closer to breaking into the lightweight top-10.

If you want to try your luck at predicting the fights be sure to enter our UFC 124 pick-em contest for a chance to win a Jaco prize pack!

Lightweight bout: Mark Bocek vs. Dustin Hazelett

Dustin Hazelett (12-6) vs. Mark Bocek (8-3)

Dustin Hazelett -105, Mark Bocek -135

DENNY HODGE: Hazelett has been up and down in his UFC career, and when he is up, he is one of the slickest guys in the game with his submission game, but coming off back-to-back losses, he desperately needs a win. This will mark his debut at 155, and at it will be interesting to see how he handles the weight cut against the very tough Bocek. Bocek went the distance with Jim Miller in his last bout, and he will push Hazelett over the entire 3 rounds as well, but won’t be able to gain any type of advantage over Hazelett when the fight hits the ground. Hazelett by decision.

RICHARD MANN: For the second fight in a row, Dustin Hazelett has been matched up with a terrible style match up. Mark Bocek is a quality grappler who is not likely to get caught in a submission. He should also have little trouble getting takedowns against Hazelett. Bocek by decision.

JOHN BUHL: Both guys have great submissions, so it comes down to who can do more damage striking and whether Hazelett feels comfortable at 155 for the first time. I think Hazelett has the skills to win this matchup, but I don’t feel like I can bet on a guy over six feet tall dropping to lightweight before knowing how he handles the weight cut. Bocek by decision.

BRIAN FURBY: Time for Hazelett to get back in the win column. They’re putting him up against a guy who has solid submission skills of his own and striking that won’t dominate Hazelett’s. Hazelett by submission in Round 2.

JACK BRATCHER: After two losses against better strikers, the UFC has given Hazelett a Christmas present. He gets to play the ground game with Bocek and will finish it in the first or second round via submission and on Dec. 25 he will leave out a glass of milk and some homemade chocolate chip cookies for Santa.

Welterweight bout: T.J. Grant vs. Ricardo Almeida

Ricardo Almeida (12-4) vs. T.J. Grant (16-4)

Ricardo Almeida -180, T.J. Grant +150

Grant is a submission guy with 12 of his 16 wins coming by sub, but he needs to be careful if he is going to hunt for a sub victory against the very dangerous ground game of Almeida. Almeida has to be itching to come back from a pretty bad submision loss to Matt Hughes, but I think that Grant is going to outwork him en route to a decision victory.

RICHARD MANN: This might sound strange. In the shower, I like to think about submissions. The biggest division between submission artists is grapplers who can forced submission game on opponents and grapplers who can catch people when they make mistakes. Shinya Aoki is forcer.. Almeida is the catching type. Grant should be able to push Almeida against the cage or get takedowns. On top of that, he will be the better striker. Grant by decision.

JOHN BUHL: This certainly looks like a win for Almeida on paper, but I have a funny feeling Grant’s overall MMA game will frustrate Almeida and allow him to win a decision.

BRIAN FURBY: If Almeida is on top of his game, Grant is going to find himself in trouble fairly early. Alemeida’s submission game dwarfs Grant’s sub defense. Almeida by submission in Round 2.

JACK BRATCHER: Another battle between two great submission fighters, but Almeida is certainly of a higher caliber. Grant will have the advantage on the feet though. Almeida has the much better resume and has put away plenty of big names. Ameida by third round submission.

Middleweight bout: Joe Doerksen vs. Dan Miller

Dan Miller (12-4, 1 NC) vs. Joe Doerksen (46-13)

Dan Miller -280, Joe Doerksen +210

DENNY HODGE: Everybody knows that those Miller boys are some tough cats. Doerksen is as durable as they come, and has fought just about everwhere against everybody. Miller will push the pace in this one, and will outwork Doerksen, and I don’t see either guy KO’ing the other, so another decision is on tap. Miller by decision.

RICHARD MANN: At this point in his career, Joe Doerksen is not a UFC-caliber fighter. Although, he has acquitted himself well in recent fights. Dan Miller has all the physical tools, but he has trouble implementing his skills. He would really benefit from a solid game-planning coach. With that being said, Miller should have very little trouble finishing Doerken. Miller by TKO.

JOHN BUHL: Finally, a fight I feel comfortable picking. At best the striking is even and Doerksen is an experienced grappler. But Miller is the younger, fresher, more athletic of the two and has some nasty choke holds. Miller by second round submission.

BRIAN FURBY: This fight should mark yet another exit from the UFC for Doerksen. Miller’s sub game is better than Doerksen’s sub defense. Dan Miller by sub in Round 1.

JACK BRATCHER: Both these guys are great submission fighters and Joe Doerksen is ultra-experienced. Miller had a string of tough losses but rebounded nicely in his last fight. Doerksen is coming off a submission loss to CB Dollaway, a fight by the way, I don’t think Miller would lose. Miller via decision.

Heavyweight bout: Stefan Struve vs. Sean McCorkle

Stefan Struve (20-4) vs. Sean McCorkle (10-0)

Stefan Struve -160, Sean McCorkle +130

DENNY HODGE: I’ve picked enough decisions so now it’s time to change it up. Struve seems to enjoy coming back from a beating to win, and the Internet war between these two have been epic. McCorkle isn’t fighting an old out of shape Hunt in this bout, and will have a lot of trouble with the reach of Struve. Struve will be head hunting in this one. Struve by KO.

RICHARD MANN: It is still hard to judge the ultimate troll, Sean McCorkle. His record consists of a bunch of lower-level wins and the grounding of Mark Hunt. However, he has shown an aptitude for getting fights to the ground and working from the top position. Struve has a respectable game off his back, but he is not physically powerful enough to deal with a guy like McCorkle. McCorkle by decision.

JOHN BUHL: I don’t think we’ve had this much combined height in one cage since Tim Sylvia fought Gan McGee way back when. Another tough fight to pick. Struve probably has the better striking of the two, but not a ton of KO power. On the ground, McCorkle should have the advantage, though Struve is no slouch there. I don’t think Struve is too difficult to take down, but he also isn’t shy about letting loose on the feet. I wouldn’t be surprised to see McCorkle get the win, but I think Struve has gutted out enough wins to find a way through here. Struve by decision.

BRIAN FURBY: This one should be an entertaining heavyweight clash. McCorkle has thrown out some odd pre-fight trash talking, but we all know that won’t help him in the cage. Stefan Struve by TKO in Round 2.

JACK BRATCHER: Two fights ago McCorkle fought Jonahtan Ivey. Although he’s 10-0, the level of competition is quite a bit different from the guys Struve has been fighting and beating. Struve is very durable and the older this young man gets and fills out, the more dangerous he’s going to become. I like Struve’s boxing. Anyone that can stand and trade with Paul Buentello and come out on top is A-OK in my book. Struve via TKO, third round.

Lightweight bout: Joe Stevenson vs. Mac Danzig

Joe Stevenson (31-11) vs. Mac Danzig (19-8-1)

Joe Stevenson -300, Mac Danzig +220

DENNY HODGE: Both guys need a win, but Danzig needs it more than just about anybody, as he has dropped 4 of his last 5. Stevenson seems to be rejuvenated, and although Danzig is a tough and durable guy, I believe that Stevenson is going to dominate this one. Stevenson by TKO.

RICHARD MANN: Both of these guys need a win. Stevenson should come out with a better game plan. If he uses some wrestling, he should be able to get on top and work from there. Danzig struggles when he can’t control where the fight takes place. Stevenson by decision.

JOHN BUHL: Two former TUF winners both in need of a victory. Danzig has lost four of his last five (though the Wiman stoppage was questionable) and Stevenson is only 2-3 over a similar stretch. Both guys have solid but not overwhelming boxing and very good grappling. The only difference between these two is Danzig is a little bit taller. I threw a dart at the wall and it landed on Stevenson’s picture, so that’s who I’m going with. My gut feeling is his wrestling is a tiny bit better. Stevenson by split decision.

BRIAN FURBY: Danzig is a vegan. I don’t like that. You can be an animal rights activist without being a douche/vegan. I won’t go as far as to declare him to be an asshat, but I will not be picking him to win.
Joe Daddy by submission in Round 2.

JACK BRATCHER: Joe Stevenson will most likely send Mac Danzig back to the King of the Cage with this win. Although Joe lost a decision in his last bout to rising star George Sotiropoulos, he does seem to be where he needs to be. He hasn’t fought in nearly ten months but looks happy to be in the gym and is definitely in the camp that is going to help him the most. Stevenson via decision.

Lightweight bout: Jim Miller vs. Charles Oliveira

Jim Miller (18-2) vs. Charles Oliveira (14-0)

Jim Miller +110, Charles Oliveira -140

DENNY HODGE: Miller take two. The second half of the Miller brothers will be facing off against the fast rising and undefeated Charles Oliveira. Oliveira is going to give Miller fits on the feet, and with Miller’s best chance of winning being with take downs and a grinding ground game, Miller could find himself threatened by the submission game of Oliveira. Miller will take the chance and will put Oliveira on his back to avoid a stand up battle that he will lose. Oliveira will be the guy that submits Miller from his back during one of the ground battles.

RICHARD MANN: The hype train for Charles Oliveira is practically unstoppable at this point. However, I can’t get the vision of him getting taken down in grainy YouTube videos off my mind. Miller should be able to win this fight. In order to do so, he needs to make it an ugly fight and avoid submissions from the top. I think Miller will make it interesting, but he will win it. Miller by decision.

JOHN BUHL: I like Jim Miller. He’s a good wrestler and all-around grappler with solid striking. But I don’t know that he has any particular strength he can always rely on if he gets in trouble. Miller could have trouble striking with the taller Oliveira and the Brazilian isn’t easy to take down. This is a pick ’em match up, but I’m taking Oliveira by decision.

BRIAN FURBY: Going to be some fireworks here. My pick for Fight of the Night, hands down. The odds are about even in this one, Miller is coming off a 5 fight win streak and Oliveira is undefeated. I called Oliveira to beat Escudero and I think he’s going to do the same here with Miller, but it won’t come easy. Charles Oliveira wins by split decision.

JACK BRATCHER: Very interesting match-up. Miller’s only loss in the Octagon is to the current number one contender Gray Maynard. He does have a tendency to go to decisions, whereas Oliveira has only been to a decision once. Oliveira submitted the very hard to submit Efrain Escudero, but Miller is a different beast. Miller by decision.

Welterweight bout: Thiago Alves vs. John Howard

Thiago Alves (17-7) vs. John Howard (14-5)

Thiago Alves -300, John Howard +220

DENNY HODGE: This one should be crazy. Both guys talk about their Muay Thai skills, and I think Alves is coming in hungry to prove that he is the man with the superior “art of eight limbs”, and will punish Howard with leg kicks, forcing Howard to rethink his game plan, deciding instead to put Alves on his back. That is no easy task, and Alves is just going to be too much for “Doomsday”. Alves by TKO.

RICHARD MANN: It is amazing how quickly the momentum of a guy like Thiago Alves can evaporate. A pair of losses will have most people thinking you’re retired in the MMA world. Alves is still a quality offensive and defensive striker. He is also a load to takedown for everyone but Georges St. Pierre. Howard hits with a lot of power, but like most strikers in MMA, he leaves himself open for big counters. Alves by decision.

JOHN BUHL: Great fight here between two talented strikers. We all know about Alves’s issues making weight and although he’s one of the biggest fighters in the 170 division, Howard isn’t exactly small. I definitely think Howard has a chance in this fight, but Alves has been in there with the tougher competition and should find a way to win as long as he isn’t too drained from the weight cut.

BRIAN FURBY: This is a big step up for Howard, and with both fighters coming off losses, they have something to prove. Alves may prove too explosive for Howard, but Howard’s striking is solid. Probably going to be a loss for Howard, but a good showing against a ranked welterweight. Thiago Alves wins by unanimous decision. (Bonus points – if Alves has, in fact, stuck with Mike Dolce to help prep his weight for the fight, this will be the first time in a while that Alves makes weight without a problem).

JACK BRATCHER: Both guys are coming off losses. Alves is coming off back to back losses, but I see him rebounding in this one. Howard is a great guy but this is the biggest fight of his career. Thiago has proven he can hang with and take out the big names, Howard has not yet proven that. “Pitbull” is used to the big fights and I see this going to a decision win for Alves.

SUSAN CINGARI: I am taking Alves. Besides being a great fighter, I think Alves has learned from a lot from his last fight and has committed himself to cutting weight this time, by following the Dolce Diet. He knows he has to win this fight and I don’t think he will let the fans or Dana White down.

Welterweight Title Fight: Georges St-Pierre (champion) vs. Josh Koscheck

Georges St-Pierre (20-2) vs. Josh Koscheck (15-4)

Georges St-Pierre -425, Josh Koscheck +325

DENNY HODGE: Koscheck has tried to get in the head of St. Pierre for months, and during the filming of TUF 12, he was nonstop in his verbal attacks. The champion always flashed a smile and refused to engage in a verbal battle, but GSP has admitted that despite his appearance of a cool demeanor, he was raging inside. As confident as Koscheck tries to look coming into this one, I think he will fall into a paralysis when the fight starts. His hesitation will cost him, and if he doesn’t come out with guns blazing, he is in trouble. GSP will fight smart as always, but will look for a dominant win if the opportunity presents itself, but this one will likely go the distance. GSP by decision.

RICHARD MANN: The UFC deserves credit for manufacturing excitement for a rematch of an open and shut fight. Everyone saw how easily Georges St. Pierre took down Josh Koscheck in their first fight. Koscheck struggled to get takedowns as well. This fight will be the same as most of St. Pierre’s fights except in this one he will have the striking advantage took. With that being said, I will be rooting for Koscheck. I have been a fan of his since his wrestling days. St. Pierre by decision.

JOHN BUHL: I’m not going to fall into the trap of over-analyzing this matchup. Three years ago Koscheck tried to claim GSP was weak mentally, coming off of his TKO loss to Matt Serra. To his credit, Koscheck used his wrestling to win one of the three rounds. However, as much as some people like to trumpet Koscheck’s punching power, St. Pierre out-struck him by mixing in leg kicks and showed that in an MMA context, he can wrestle with anyone. Even if Koscheck has improved since that last fight, GSP is a tactical master and will keep Koscheck off balance, on the feet or on the mat. I think Koscheck’s best chance is that he irritated GSP enough to cause him to take the fight personally and to come out over-aggressive and make a mistake. But I’m not willing to bet on it. St. Pierre by 4th round TKO.

BRIAN FURBY: I hope GSP knocks the blonde of off Koscheck’s hair. Unless Koscheck can somehow push the pace enough to make GSP fight to win instead of fighting to just hang on to the belt, it is going to be a long five rounds. However, I think Kos is going to want to push GSP to try to catch him off guard and GSP will eventually find the opening he needs. GSP by TKO in Round 2.

JACK BRATCHER: Can Koscheck land the big kabosh to steal the glory of Canada’s golden boy, in front of his home crowd no less? For that very reason Koscheck may want to think twice about the ramifications of upsetting 25,000 screaming Canadians! If I was gambling on this fight, I would pick Koscheck because of the high payoff if he won. St-Pierre says he wants to KO Koscheck and Freddie Roach picked GSP to win with a left hook knockout. There are quite a few pro fighters picking Koscheck. The only thing Koscheck can seemingly beat GSP in is a homerun derby. And although he could certainly land some big punches and finish Georgie, I’m going to pick St-Pierre by decision. Okay, I’ve changed my mind. Somewhere within five rounds, I just see Koscheck landing the big punch that’s going to hurt St-Pierre. St-Pierre has been talking like he wants to stand with him. Of course, that could just be to get in Koscheck’s head. St-Pierre is very smart and we’ve seen him out-smart Koscheck on The Ultimate Fighter. But Kos should have his wrestling game back on track since they first met and I think he hits a lot harder. I’m picking Koscheck by third round TKO.

SUSAN CINGARI: I am taking GSP. I think it will be closer than people expect it to, since Koschek has put in a lot of time improving his skills since the last fight with him. But I just can’t see GSP losing in his home town.

*All fight lines provided by

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