UFC 126 from Vegas: Silva/Belfort and Franklin/Griffin Highlight Card

UFC 126, Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas, NV
Saturday, February 5, 2011, 7:00 pm Eastern, Pay-per-view television

Rick franklin vs Forrest Griffin and Anderson Silva vs Vitor Belfort highlight the UFC 126 card from Las Vegas Saturday night

Traditionally, UFC’s show the night before the Super Bowl is one of the best cards of the year. UFC 126 is no different. The main event is the UFC Middleweight title bout between Champion Anderson “The Spider” Silva and challenger Vitor Belfort. The second to last fight is almost a co-main event with Silva and Belfort. Forrest Griffin takes on Rich “Ace” Franklin in a light heavyweight match. Other matches on the main card include light heavyweights Ryan Bader vs Jon Jones, welterweights Jake Ellenberger vs Carlos Eduardo Rocha, and bantamweights Miguel Torres vs Antonio Banuelos. Some say this could be the strongest UFC card since UFC 100. Here are the odds for the 5 main fights courtesy of bodog.

Miguel Torres (-500) vs Antonio Banuelos (+300), Three Round Bantamweight Bout

Torres is a former WEC champion but lost two fights in a row to Brian Bowles and Joseph Benevidez. He is 38-3 in his career. He won his last fight by submission against Charlie Valencia. Banuelos is 18-6 in his career. Though Banuelos is a heavy underdog, he has a similar style to Bowles and Benevidez. All three are good at stand-up fighting and wrestling, a style Torres sometimes struggles against. The winner of this match has a good shot at getting a title shot later this year against UFC Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, or at the very least a chance to face #1 contender Urijah Faber. Banuelos has the skills to pull off the upset, but he must be able get in close to Torres to set up takedowns and boxing. Those skills have worked for him in the past. Torres can’t get into a slugfest with Banuelos or he will lose. Prediction: Torres by submission.

Jake Ellenberger (-260) vs Carlos Eduardo Rocha (+200), Three Round Welterweight Bout

Ellenberger has been scheduled to fight Jon Fitch twice but both times the fight fell through. Ellenberger and Fitch are very similar to each other, fighting style-wise and the only difference between them is Ellenberger is a better striker. Rocha is 9-0 in his MMA career, but has only one UFC fight under his belt. It was impressive though with a kneebar submission move over The Ultimate Fighter season 11 finalist Kris McCray at UFC 122. Though Rocha is undefeated, he really hasn’t faced the strongest competition so far. His opponents have a combined record of 31-44-5. He certainly hasn’t faced any one as talented as Ellenberger. George St. Pierre dominates the Welterweight division and has destroyed the other top competitors in this division. The winner of this Ellenberger-Rocha fight might be in line to get a title shot as the division needs some fresh blood. Ellenberger also has more experience than Rocha and that experience will be the difference. Prediction: Ellenberger wins a close fight either by decision or ref stoppage

Jon “Bones” Jones (-280) vs Ryan “Darth” Bader (+220), Three Round Light Heavyweight Bout.

This could be the fight of the night. Jones has been fighting out of his mind recently and is supposed to be the next big thing among Light Heavyweights. These two young fighters have very impressive numbers so far. Bader is 12-0 and Jones is 11-1. Bader has been compared to Tito Ortiz if Ortiz had striking ability. Bader beat Antonio Rogerio Nogueira by decision at UFC 119 last year. Jones is 6’4″ and almost impossible to takedown. Despite his size he is very quick and coordinated. Bader must try to get into a mat wrestling match, as he can’t go toe-to-toe with the powerful Jones. Bader needs to be careful getting into a clinch because Jones can strike out of nowhere with his hands and feet. This fight could go either way. If Bader can survive the initial onslaught of Jones, and score a takedown then his chances improve immensely. Prediction: Jones wins a split decision.

Rich “Ace” Franklin ( -165) vs Forrest Griffin (+135), Three Round Light Heavyweight Bout

This is a match-up between two former champions, and the winner could get another title shot either late this year or early 2012. Griffin is 17-6 in his career, while Franklin is 28-5. Griffin is only 31 but Franklin is 37. Both are very similar to each other. They rely more on stand-up fighting and jiu-jitsu than takedowns and grappling. Neither came from a wrestling background, but are two of the best conditioned athletes in UFC. They are also both very smart when it comes to planning and strategy. Bettors should keep in mind that Griffin is not a natural light heavyweight. He normally carries 20 pounds more than 205 between fights  and always has to drop weight before each fight. The two are pretty evenly matched in the ground game, so the difference will be who can gain the upper hand while standing. Franklin probably won’t be able to get into a ground and pound situation with Griffin. Griffin is two inches taller than Franklin and will have the advantage in a clinch. I think this fight goes the distance. Prediction: Go with the slight underdog Griffin in a close decision.

Anderson “The Spider” Silva (-260) vs Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort (+200) , Five Rounds for the UFC Middleweight Title

These two were at the weigh-in at this fight Friday afternoon. There appeared to be genuine tension between the two if not outright hatred as they stared each other down. It did not appear to be staged to build interest in the fight. The Champion Silva is going for his 8th consecutive successful title defense. The 35 year old Brazilian is 27-4 in his career. Belfort, his opponent is also from Brazil. The 33 year old is 19-8 in his career. Belfort excels in all areas of MMA except for wrestling. Though Belfort is mostly known for his brutal knockouts that appear on highlight reels all the time, he also has explosive power and great submissive skills as well. Silva hasn’t fought since UFC 117 in August. In that event Silva needed a comeback against Chael Sonnen to continue his UFC record 12 match winning streak. Belfort beat Rich Franklin in a stunning first round ref stoppage last year. He has been a little inconsistent in his career which started when he was 19 years old. Some called Belfort the Mike Tyson of MMA because of their youth, dominance, and aggression. Silva’s main weakness is modest wrestling skills. Belfort needs to attack early. The longer the fight goes on, the more it favors Silva. Silva can easily adjust from a southpaw stance to a right stance. Belfort’s best chance to win is to go for takedowns and submissions, but he prefers to go for the knockout. Predictions: Silva wins by knockout in the 2nd or 3rd.

It should be a great card in anticipation of the Super Bowl. Our sports handicappers are red hot and are releasing winners every day.

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