The UFC arrives in the Middle East for the first time in its 16-year history with UFC 112 at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Two title fights and a tilt between legends will take place center Octagon for the UFC’s first open-air event. Here are our picks for Saturday nights fights with odds courtesy of bodog – FIGHT! is currently 38-15 with its picks in 2010.
UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva is arguably the best striker in mixed martial arts. He puts his gold up for grabs for a sixth time—a win gives him the all-time record for title defenses—versus arguably the best submission fighter in the sport in fellow Brazilian Demian Maia.
Maia’s lone loss in 12 contests was a brutal knockout at the hands of Nate Marquardt at UFC 102 last August. He rebounded with a decision over Dan Miller at UFC 109 in February, fast-tracking him to the title after Vitor Belfort withdrew from a shot at Silva due to injury. With eight victories by way of submission, Maia’s world-class jiu-jitsu can tangle “The Spider,” a black belt under the Nogueira brothers, en route to victory.
Silva’s willingness to throw risky strikes along with Maia’s efficient body-lock takedown game may find the champion on the mat where the San Paulo native is a favorite; however, the gap in Maia’s striking is far greater than the advantage he holds on the mat over Silva.
FIGHT! Pick: Silva
UFC Lightweight Champion B.J. Penn challenges New Jersey native Frankie Edgar to take his belt. Penn’s only hang-ups inside the Octagon have been against tireless wrestlers and Edgar is one of them. “The Answer” is quick in every aspect in the fight and swift in transitions. Coupled with his resilience, it may be the formula to keep “The Prodigy” from his third consecutive title defense.
Edgar cuts angles and moves his head well when throwing his fast hands—all traits Penn hasn’t seen in the Octagon, necessities to survive the Hawaiian’s brick hands. The key for Ricardo Almeida’s understudy is whether he can employ anti-jiu-jitsu when the fight hits the mat. It’s been done before—and Edgar has the best chance at 155-pounds to do so—yet Penn’s surprising takedowns and phenomenal submission game eventually catch Edgar.
FIGHT! Pick: Penn
A clash of the sport’s defining legends, former UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Hughes attempts to dispose of vale tudo visionary Renzo Gracie. Hughes already defeated one Gracie—Renzo’s cousin Royce—with a first round technical stoppage at UFC 60 three years ago. Once a 170-pound juggernaut, Hughes has only appeared adequate in recent outings, earning a unanimous decision over Renzo Gracie black belt Matt Serra at UFC 98 11 months ago.
Meanwhile, Gracie hasn’t competed since a February 2007 DQ win over Frank Shamrock. Gracie’s familiarity with the host country and his friendship with Abu Dhabi royalty renders him with de-facto home field advantage. What he’ll give up in size he’ll more than make up for with his trademark gameness—a trait drawn out of Hughes, who has openly contemplated retirement, over the last few years. A grappler’s fight, Hughes’ neutralizing game will do less over a 15-minute contest than Gracie’s fervent style.
FIGHT! Pick: Gracie
Kendall Grove’s unforgiving reach is best suited standing against former Oklahoma State University wrestler Mark Munoz. “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” doesn’t let up easy on the mat, so stamping out “Da Spyder” is likely despite an experience deficit.
FIGHT! Pick: Munoz
A four-time All-American wrestler from Penn State University, Phil Davis burst into the UFC with a dominating performance over former WEC Light Heavyweight champion Brian Stann at UFC 109 this February. His pace and pressure will overwhelm a fellow undefeated prospect in Alexander Gustafsson.
FIGHT! Pick: Davis
FIGHT! Pick: Silva Resulting Outcome: CORRECT
BJ Penn (-800) vs Frankie Edgar (+500)
FIGHT! Pick: PennResulting Outcome: INCORRECT
Matt Hughes (-450) vs Renzo Gracie (+300)
FIGHT! Pick: GracieResulting Outcome: INCORRECT
Kendall Grove (+125) vs Mark Munoz (-155)
FIGHT! Pick: Munoz Resulting Outcome: CORRECT
Phil Davis (-500) vs A. Gustafsson (+325)
FIGHT! Pick: DavisResulting Outcome: CORRECT