UFC 135 staff picks

Is Jon Jones really that much better than Quinton “Rampage” Jackson? Is Matt Hughes really over the hill? Can Nate Diaz exact revenge for his brother on Takanori Gomi? Will Travis Browne remain undefeated? Can Mark Hunt continue his climb back from six straight losses?

Find out the answers to all these questions now as the ( staff weighs in with their thoughts and predictionss on each of the “UFC 135: Jones vs. Rampage” main card bouts.

Jon Jones (13-1) vs. Quinton Jackson (32-8)

Odds: Jones -550, Jackson +375

JOE GUGELMAN: The sportsbooks here in town have Rampage at as much as a 7-to-1 underdog. I think that’s absolutely insane. Those are the same odds that Frankie Edgar was at when he faced BJ Penn for the first time. I thought that was ridiculous then as well, but as we all know, betting lines are about hype more than anything, and Jones has that in spades. Nonetheless, he deserves to be a favorite (somewhere in the 3 or 4 to 1 range), and if I end up placing a bet on this fight (unlikely…I hate huge spreads like this with these 4oz gloves), it’ll be on him. That being said, I will be jumping around my living room if Quinton can get it done and get one more run with the belt, as Jones has PLENTY of time left in his career to hold either this or the HW belt for an extended time. We all know Rampage has the power to hurt him (and he looked very fit and motivated on the Countdown show), but can he break through that Pterodactyl-like wingspan of Jones and touch his chin? I don’t see it happening. Jones by TKO (Elbows).

KELVIN HUNT: Jon Jones (c) vs. Quinton Jackson-I think Rampage will give Jones a much tougher fight than many are expecting..stylistically he’s a tougher fight than Shogun because he has much better takedown defense and power in his hands. I think this one will come down to conditioning…Jones has never been past the third round….Rampage hasn’t done it since 2008…but if Rampage is in shape he could pull off the upset. However, I have to go with Jones as he has looked unstoppable and Rampage hasn’t looked that impressively lately. Jones via TKO….Ground and Pound.

JOSH CROSS: With each new Rampage fight there is still speculation if the old Rampage will show up or not. Well, I think that it’s pretty apparent that the old Rampage is not going to show up. Jones has shown that he is dangerous no matter where the fight goes and Rampage is about to experience that first hand. The old Rampage isn’t going to show up, this fight won’t go to decision, and Jones will remain the champ. Pick: Jones via TKO

RICHARD MANN: Jones still leaves himself open for straight punches on the feet. Those are the kind of punches at “Rampage” can really throw. However, Jackson does not throw enough volume to win rounds these days, and Jones’ wrestling will be the story of this fight. The champion should be such a huge favorite, but this is not an easy fight. A win here will go a long way in establishing his budding legacy. Jones by decision.


JACK BRATCHER: If Quinton Jackson connects on Jon Jones’ chin he could end this fight with one shot. But the fact that Jones is faster and more agile than Jackson will likely prevent that from happening. I expect Jones to light Rampage up with leg kicks. Jones has said he has studied Rampage’s fights over and over, and anyone who has done that knows he rarely checks leg kicks. I honestly don’t see Rampage having much of a chance in this fight. He’s too  much of a plodder and he’s too one-dimensional. Two things will certainly happen in this fight: Rampage will get put on his back and Jones will win.

Matt Hughes (46-8) vs. Josh Koscheck (17-5)

Odds: Hughes +400, Koscheck -600

JOE GUGELMAN: I’m not going to bother analyzing this one. There are some interesting things to talk about with this matchup (wrestling, long layoffs, Kos taking the fight on short notice) but I’m going to simply listen to what Georges St. Pierre told me to my face earlier this month, and pick Koscheck by early stoppage. I mean really, who am I to claim to know more than the #2 pound-for-pound fighter in the world? Koscheck by Rd 1 KO.

KELVIN HUNT: I think Koscheck wins this fight relatively easy as he’s a younger version of Hughes and more athletic. Hughes could win via submission by catching Koscheck with a guillotine on a takedown attempt or something crazy like that…otherwise I like Koscheck via TKO.

JOSH CROSS: I think age is going to be the deciding factor in this fight. Both Hughes and Koscheck have similar styles, but I think Koscheck will be able to move quicker than Hughes will no matter where the fight goes. Pick: Koscheck via TKO.

RICHARD MANN: Koscheck really is Hughes 2.0. He is a better wrestler and a better striker. He should have very little trouble keeping the fight on the feet and landing some crushing blows. Hughes’ only real chance is his sneaky submission game. However, Koscheck should have more than enough experience to defend. Koscheck by TKO.

BRIAN FURBY: Josh Koscheck.

JACK BRATCHER: The odds on this fight are pretty spot on. Koscheck will likely knock out Hughes. Hughes has pretty decent stand-up except for his footwork. His footwork is practically non-existent. Kos is too fast and hits too hard. There’s a rare chance Hughes could submit Kos if it goes to the ground, but there’s a much better chance Kos will knock him out. Hughes was dominant when he had better wrestling than everyone but those days are over. Kos by TKO.

Ben Rothwell (31-7) vs. Mark Hunt (6-7)

Odds: Rothwell -350, Hunt +250

JOE GUGELMAN: Rothwell has been out for a while, so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of shape he comes into this fight in. If he doesn’t completely gas and get caught with a big strike, I expect him to get a finish of his own, and maybe even retire Hunt from serious competition. Rothwell by TKO.

KELVIN HUNT: Rothwell via TKO.

JOSH CROSS: While it has been more than a year since Rothwell’s last fight, I really doubt that ring rust will be an issue in this fight. Hunt has a major issue with getting submitted, and I see that problem continuing for him during this fight. Rothwell might stand with Hunt briefly, but I think Hunt will ultimately get taken down and finished. Pick: Rothwell via Submission.

RICHARD MANN: A lot of people have started describing Hunt as a relic of a previous era. However, he was never a serious MMA fighter. His earlier victories over “Cro Cop” and Wanderlei Silva were both big wins, but also both split decisions. Even in the kickboxing world, he only had to beat Adam Watt, Jerome Le Banner, Stefan Leko and Francisco Filho to win the 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix. Rothwell may not be a world beater, but he should have enough to bully Hunt up against the fence and take a decision. Rothwell by decision.


JACK BRATCHER:  Ben Rothwell should have the advantage standing and on the ground. Hunt has about a puncher’s chance in this one. To be safe Rothwell could just put Hunt on his back and this fight is over. Rothwell looks to be in phenomenal shape and he’s been quoted as saying he feels like he is 0-0 coming in to this fight. In other words, he feels like a new man. Rothwell via TKO.

Nate Diaz (13-7) vs. Takanori Gomi (32-7)

Odds: Diaz -260, Gomi +200

JOE GUGELMAN: I’ve got to believe this is the fight that Nate Diaz gets back on track. After the launching Rory McDonald put on him, and the grapplehump laid on him for the first two rounds (before in my opinion basically finishing the fight with an “illegal knee” to a “downed” opponent….hate that fingertip rule) against Stun Gun, he’s finally back down to his appropriate weight of 155. I know he hates cutting weight, but I think he hates losing fights even more, so I expect him to use his reach and superior boxing technique to survive an early onslaught by Gomi and start turning the tide. I see the fight hitting the canvas at some point in the second, and I think Nate makes quick work of him there, in the same way his brother did in my all time favorite fight. Although maybe not with a Gogoplata. PS: Unless Rampage is able to drag Jones into an unlikely war, I’ll be really surprised if this isn’t Fight of the Night. Nate Diaz by Submission.

KELVIN HUNT: Diaz via submission.

JOSH CROSS: I really don’t think Diaz should have much trouble finishing Gomi in this fight. The main thing Diaz will need to watch out for are Gomi’s punches, but that shouldn’t be much of a problem for Diaz as long as he uses his speed and reach advantage wisely. When the fight inevitably goes to the ground I think Diaz will be able to submit Gomi just like Clay Guida did earlier this year. Pick: Diaz via Submission.

RICHARD MANN: Due to his lack of wrestling, the welterweight division was no place for Diaz. He is finally back down to his natural weight. For whatever reason, Gomi likes to swing for the fences early and then gas out. This is the perfect style to lose to one of the Diaz brothers. Diaz is not going to be knocked out, so he will be there throwing punches in the later rounds when Gomi is weakened. Diaz by decision.

BRIAN FURBY: Takanori Gomi.

JACK BRATCHER: Leave it to Furby to the be the odd man out. I really like this fight and it could be fight of the night. Diaz loves to stand and slug it out. When he fights fast technical strikers he sometimes has trouble. But Gomi’s punches are often wild and with Diaz’s more traditional boxing the Stockton black belt should be able to pick Gomi apart on the feet. It will be interesting to see how the high altitude might affect Gomi in this one too. Diaz should win either via submission or decision.

Travis Browne (11-0-1) vs. Rob Broughton (15-5-1)

Odds: Browne -375, Broughton +275

JOE GUGELMAN: Browne looked absolutely devastating in his last fight against Stefan Struve, but struggled somewhat against Cheick Kongo before that, avoiding a loss only by way of Kongo having a point deducted for holding onto his shorts. Broughton is less known in the states, with a majority of his fights taking place over in the UK. He has 5 submission victories under his belt (out of 15 total wins), but I don’t see this fight spending much time on the feet. Considering what he’s had to overcome (he was born with his feet on backwards), it’d be a nice story, but I just see Browne going on a bit of a run after the momentum he picked up in felling a giant, and think he’ll start off the PPV broadcast with a KO. Browne by KO.

KELVIN HUNT: Travis Browne via TKO.

JOSH CROSS: The outcome of this fight could be determined by how long it goes. In his fight with Cheick Kongo, Browne showed that he has endurance issues the longer a fight lasts. So if he isn’t able to finish Broughton early, I think Browne will be vulnerable in the later rounds. That being said, I think Browne is good enough to finish Broughton early before his cardio can play a role in the outcome. Pick: Browne via TKO.

RICHARD MANN: Browne hits really hard. It took Broughton two rounds to finish James Thompson. In MMA’s heavyweight division most guys slug until one guy falls down. In this fight, that will likely be Broughton. Browne by TKO.

BRIAN FURBY: Travis Browne.

JACK BRATCHER: Browne said this fight is a step down for him in name only. I disagree. I think it’s a step down in skill and in name. Broughton has decent wrestling for a Brit but it won’t be enough to stop Browne. Now that Browne is at Roufusport, I imagine his striking will just continue to get better and better. Browne wins via first round (T)KO.

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