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Against All Odds: UFC 97

Saturday evening’s UFC 97 card is loaded with match-ups that could result in a betting man having an extremely successful night. We all know that there are no sure things in mixed martial arts but I wanted to take a closer look at some of the potential spoilers on tomorrow nights card.

For those of you that may be unfamiliar with exactly what these numbers mean or how they work, I’ll give you a really quick break down. Basically, the guy in the negative range is the favorite with the fighter in the positive being the underdog.

The number behind the negative means that you would have to bet that amount on the favorite to win back $100. Let’s take the Liddell vs. Shogun bout for example. You would have to bet $200 on Liddell, the favorite, to win $100. So you keep your original $200 and win $100 for a total of $300.

The number that follows the positive is the amount of money that you would make if you put $100 on the unlikely winner. So if you bet $100 on Shogun, you would win $160 and get your original $100 back for a total of $260.

The odds referenced were taken from Bodog’s Sportsbook on Friday afternoon to give as accurate a reflection of the current odds as possible.

With that out of the way, come along as we look a little closer at some of the bouts that have the potential to make or ruin Saturday night for many of those that like to put there money where their mouth is.

Anderson Silva (-625) vs. Thales Leites (+425)

The feared middleweight champion is a huge favorite to tie the UFC records for most consecutive title defenses and consecutive wins in the octagon, and for good reason. Silva is one of the most complete and dominant champions the UFC, or the sport of mixed martial arts for that matter, has ever seen. Sure, Silva’s last bout against Patrick Cote was his least impressive title defense to date, but if anything we are likely to see a more determined and aggressive Anderson on Saturday, which is a very scary thought. The oddsmakers are fully aware of this, and honestly, between the -600 to -700 range feels about right for Silva.

However, there has been a lot of talk lately about the style it would take to beat Silva and even though it’s a long shot, Leites may possess the much sought after formula. I know that Silva recently beat a jiu-jitsu black belt in Travis Lutter, but let’s be real, Leites is a whole different type of beast. I know, I know, he was pretty thoroughly beaten in the winning effort against Nate Marquardt who was overwhelmed by Silva, and MMAth and all of that, but styles make fights, and Leites style has the potential to make this fight. He showed a jaw of iron in his bout with Marquardt, and although it’s not impossible for Silva to knock anyone out, it’s not going to be as easy to flatten the durable Brazilian grappler as many may think.

Leites’ striking is not his strong point by any means but I feel like he is capable enough on the feet and with his wrestling to possibly take the fight to the mat at some point. The Spider is far from a fish out of water on the canvas but this will without a doubt be the position where Leites has the best possibility at pulling off the miracle upset. It’s not likely that anyone is going to knock Silva out anytime soon and I feel like most will agree that if someone is going to dethrone the current middleweight king, it will be by submission. It’s not likely, but it’s also not as if Silva has never been forced to tap out in the past.

Silva is absolutely likely to prove the oddsmakers correct with an impressive victory over Leites on Saturday night, but let us just keep in mind, no man is invincible.

Chuck Liddell (-200) vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (+160)

These odds are definitely a reflection of Shogun’s extremely questionable gas tank going into this fight based on his most recent two highly criticized performances against Forrest Griffin and Mark Coleman where his cardio looked far from superb. The criticism was without a doubt not without warrant as the Pride FC grand prix tournament champion has looked like a shell of his former self since his debut with the UFC.

Let’s just assume that Shogun really has addressed his endurance level for this fight, and is completely prepared to go three fast paced rounds, should Liddell still be that much of a favorite going into this bout? The former UFC light heavyweight champion hasn’t exactly looked like his once dominant self in his most recent bouts either to be honest. Shogun has shown a diminished level of cardio while Liddell has displayed an ability to be caught and knocked out in two of his last four bouts, it’s a trade off.

I personally feel like a different, more prepared Rua will be showing up on Saturday night in a bout that he is well aware of the potential consequences to his career. Furthermore, I really don’t feel like this fight is going to be the long, drawn out war many are anticipating. This one would be lucky to make it out the second round.

Fast and furious is how this light heavyweight showdown is likely to unfold and while not guaranteed by any means against a former champion as dangerous as Liddell, there is a very good chance that Shogun could end up making some risk takers a pretty penny at UFC 97.

Krzysztof Soszynski (-155) vs. Brian Stann (+125)

I find the fact that Soszynski is coming into this bout as the favorite to be a little curious to say the least. I’ll admit, I don’t think either of these guys hold an enormous advantage over the other, but I definitely don’t feel as Stann should be considered any sort of under dog in this match-up.

Soszynski should hold an advantage in the submission department but Stann is a fully capable wrestler and should be able to keep the fight on the feet for the most part.

The power in Stann’s fists will give him the edge on the feet and let’s be sure to remember that the veteran of the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter has been stopped by strikes on four separate occasions during the course of his career, and twice by men that I don’t feel are nearly as dangerous as Stann on the feet.

Don’t call it an upset if the former WEC champion ends up in the win column after this one is said and done.

Luiz Cane (-340) vs. Steve Cantwell (+260)

Can I just say that this is by far the most overlooked fight on the card. Not that either fighter will be in line for a direct shot at the title with a victory, but because of the bout’s incredible potential to be the Fight of the Night. Both men are big league bangers with durable chins, and in a combined total of nineteen professional bouts, neither man has seen the judges scorecards. You have to love that.

Cane is a pretty large favorite in this bout and I’m not so sure that those odds are as close to the reality of things as they should be. Cane has knocked out nearly every man he has faced, and while I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Cantwell is immune to the dangerous Brazilians bombs by any means, he showed that he has a jaw of granite in his slugfest victory over Brian Stann in August of 2008.

One area of Cane’s arsenal that we have yet to see much of has been his ground game. Cantwell is a strong wrestler and it is not beyond him to eventually drag Cane to the canvas at some point. We saw in Cantwell’s recent arm splintering victory over Razak Al-Hassan in December that he definitely possesses the tools to get the job done on the ground and it would be interesting to see his game plan unfold in a bout that he absolutely has a good chance of pulling off the upset in.

Cheick Kongo (-350) vs. Antoni Hardonk (+275)

I don’t think a lot of people have taken Hardonk’s evolution as a mixed martial artist into consideration in this bout. Sure, he was out wrestled in a losing effort to Justin McCully in his UFC debut and wound up losing to a refocused Frank Mir immediately following that performance but the dangerous K-1 veteran has put together a string of impressive victories since those setbacks to his career and has grown tremendously since his previous defeats in the octagon.

Kongo’s edge in wrestling should still be enough to earn him the victory at UFC 97 but make no mistake, if he decides to try his luck on the feet against Hardonk for an extended duration of time it will be his undoing. Hardonk is the best striker in the UFC’s heavyweight division, period.

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