UFC 128 predictions, preview and analysis

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UFC 128: "Shogun vs. Jones" is all set to go down tomorrow night (March 19, 2011) live from the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.

MMAmania.com will provide LIVE updates with blow-by-blow, round-by-round commentary of the main card action on fight night, which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view (PPV).

UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Mauricio Rua is back from an extended layoff due to injury ready to defend his 205-pound strap against surging division number one contender Jon Jones.

Will "Shogun" be able to quell the uprising of the dynamic young phenom? Or will "Bones" break the title reign of the former PRIDE star?

Also in action is "The California Kid," Urijah Faber, trying to make a case for his shot at the 135-pound belt when he clashes with former bantamweight champion Eddie Wineland.

And lots of star power usually equals lots of firepower.

I've also included the current betting lines for each fight so you can get a feel for what the money has to say about the chances of each combatant.

Now, enough with the formalities ... let's get cracking:

205 lbs.: Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (19-4) vs. Jon "Bones" Jones (12-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: All kidding aside, this has been my hardest prediction to date. I've literally been wrestling with this one for days (no pun intended) because there are so many variables that can affect the outcome of this contest.

I think the deciding factor in this fight is which "Shogun" we get when they close the cage door. A healthy and well-trained Rua wins this fight, I have no doubt about it, but the Brazilian can't beat "Bones" unless he's 100-percent from top to bottom and I'm not convinced he is.

Knee surgery to a Muay Thai fighter is like Tommy John surgery to a baseball pitcher. Yeah, theoretically you come back as good or better than before you got hurt, but we all know you lose a little of the "stuff" following any surgery.

And this isn't Rua's first time under the knife.

I also have to wonder aloud how well he's been able to train for the wrestling -- and keep in mind these are all the same questions I had for the Evans fight as well. My biggest fear is the bum knee kept him out of the cage long enough to hurt his conditioning, because the Shogun we saw in the Mark Coleman fight is dead meat in Newark.

But before I write his eulogy I will note he has several ways to win this fight. I remember seeing Jones at an event last year and I was astonished at how skinny his legs were. I know people joke about it but it has to be seen to be believed.

And didn't Rua just register the most devastating leg kick ever recorded?

"Well, Jones has an 85-inch reach" boasts the Bones army, prior to suggesting that any Rua leg kick will be countered with a punch to the face, to which I then suggest they pick up a copy of Muay Thai 101 and flip to the pages about avoidance and disruption.

It's like geometry yo, it's all in the angles.

I'm also getting a lot of that crap about the Jones mystique and "unorthodox style," which sounds a lot like the mystique and unorthodox style of Lyoto Machida -- right before he got KTFO by his fellow Brazilian.

And don't pretend you weren't on the front lines of "The Dragon" marching band because we all got sucked into that hype. This is sports and that my friends is what's called collateral damage.

Anyway, Jones is very dangerous, but let's take a long, hard look at his opponents. Matt Hamill? Brandon Vera? Vladdy Matyushenko? He absolutely brutalized everyone of them and even made Ryan Bader look like a guy they pulled out of the crowd on fight night, but as it's been said before, there is a huge talent gap between Bader and Rua.

Do I think Jones can manhandle Shogun?

I do. His size and frame are so difficult to adjust to. But I've also seen the youngster make a few fundamental mistakes on the ground -- and you can ask Kevin Randleman what happens when you gorilla slam Rua to the floor.

Suddenly those long limbs don't seem like such an asset.

It wouldn't surprise me to see Jones come out and crush Rua, nor would I be shocked to see Shogun submit Bones on the ground or catch him upright on the feet. Unfortunately I have to pick one or the other and if 100 plausible scenarios present themselves, I'm going with the fighter I like best.

As a former PRIDE mark, it's gonna be Shogun. Just please don't mention Forrest Griffin's name or I might have to come back and change my pick for the 47th time.

Betting lines (as of March 18):

Rua: +160 ((Bet Now))

Jones: -200 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Rua via technical knockout

135 lbs.: Urijah "The California Kid" Faber (24-4) vs. Eddie Wineland (18-6-1)

Nostradumbass predicts:  Faber -450? That might be a mistake. I don't think he loses on Saturday night but I do think this fight's going to be a lot closer than many people think.

Eddie Wineland isn't exactly a household name, and those who do recognize him probably do so from his casket match against Ken "Tomb" Stone at WEC 53 back in December. Ouch. He also happens to be a former bantamweight champion and by his own admission a "corn-fed hillbilly from Indiana."

And the last time Faber fought a backwoods brawler (Brown) he was turned into creamed corn.

Still, I think Faber gets it done in "Brick City." He doesn't appear to have hampered any of his abilities by dropping a weight class (as evidenced by the near-death experience of Takeya Mizugaki at WEC 52) and aside from the deuce to Brown, his only other loss in the past six years was a five-rounder to Jose Aldo.

Not too shabby.

As far as a prediction, I just think Faber is more well-rounded and has more ways to win. If he can avoid getting comfortable on his feet and mix it up, he should be able to bait Wineland into a submission.

However, if he spends too much time trying to throw leather, he may find out the hard way that Wineland held the 135-pound belt for a reason.

He also lost it for a reason, and I see "The California Kid" by rear naked choke somewhere in the latter part of the fight.

Betting lines (as of March 18):

Faber: -450 ((Bet Now))

Wineland: +325 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Faber via submission

155 lbs.: Jim Miller (19-2) vs. Kamal Shalorus (7-0-2)

Nostradumbass predicts: You had to know this one was coming. Yep, it's the official Nostradumbass upset pick of the week. That's not to suggest I make one every Friday, but that has a nice ring to it.

Anyway, this bout was doomed from the start.

Jim Miller should have fought George Sotiropoulos to determine the next 155-pound title contender. Both enjoyed similar success inside the Octagon and it probably would have been a great fight. Unfortunately Joe Silva did not agree with his almighty Dumbness and instead paired them up in matches that stylistically, don't favor either fighter.

And we saw what happened to "Sots" down under.

Miller isn't 19-2 by accident, but his two losses came to Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard (by decision) because they were better wrestlers and outworked him to take the unanimous decision.

Kamal Shalorus is a better wrestler than Jim Miller.

That's about all he can do better than him but as we've seen time and time again in MMA, sometimes that's all you need. Good wrestling (most of the time) trumps just about everything.

The key ingredient here is gameplan.

I'm not suggesting Shalorus tries to annihilate his opponent's balls like he did to Jamie Varner, but he needs to shoot and score ad nauseam and rack up those points. If he wants to stay upright and throw that hook then it's going to be anyone's guess, but I think his mission is to take it south.

He just needs to avoid playing around in Miller's guard any longer than absolutely necessary.

Betting lines (as of March 18):

Miller: -260 ((Bet Now))

Shalorus: +200 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Shalorus via split decision

185 lbs.: Nate "The Great" Marquardt (30-10-2) vs. Dan Miller (13-4)

Nostradumbass predicts: I know a lot of talk coming into this fight surrounds the short notice change in opponents. Dan Miller stepped in for a distraught Yoshihiro Akiyama and had little time (literally days) to prepare for Marquardt.

But does it matter?

I'm not sure Miller wins this fight even with a full training camp. I know he's coming off back-to-back wins but his most recent performance against Joe Doerksen wasn't overwhelmingly impressive.

It's hard to knock a guy that doesn't ever seem to get a fair shake. He lost his daughter prior to the Chael Sonnen fight at UFC 98 and his son was in critical condition when he fought Michael Bisping at UFC 114. Now he has his opponent changed last minute and there's a marked difference between fighting Nick Catone and Nate Marquardt.

With that in mind, expect a long night for Miller.

In a lot of ways, he's just like his opponent. He's got a terrific ground game, decent hands and a dependable gas tank. Unfortunately everything Miller is good at, Marquardt is just a little bit better. I also think the "Great" size and strength difference will be a major factor here in the clinch.

Expect a lopsided unanimous decision win for Marquardt and while he says he doesn't care what Dana White or the critics say, he's got something to prove after the Okami loss and he knows it.

I predict he'll be aggressive and control the cage for the better part of three rounds while Miller struggles to stay afloat.

Betting lines (as of March 18):

Marquardt: -300 ((Bet Now))

Miller: +220 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Marquardt via unanimous decision

265 lbs: Brendan "The Hybrid" Schaub (7-1) vs. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (27-8-2)

Nostradumbass predicts: Brendan Schaub wants to be somebody, badly enough that he started calling out three-quarters of the heavyweight roster in hopes of getting a "name" for his next fight. Well, as far as names go, "Cro Cop" is about as big as it gets.

But can we slow down with the whole "I am the future" bit?

I think Schaub is talented and he probably wins this fight, but I'm not ready to anoint him as the second coming just yet. He's got a great camp (Jackson's), a great sparring partner (Carwin), but the proof is in the pudding. And I have a hard time getting excited over a three-fight winning streak that consists of names like Tuchscherer, Gormley and Gonzaga.

Tush is 1-3 inside the Octagon and Gorms was 0-2 and is now Octa-gone.

Gonzaga? Pulled a Jorge Gurgel and abandoned his jits for some chop-socky and like Gurgel, it got him released. So I'm not putting a whole lot of stock in his recent success and let's not forget that prior to his shooting gallery he was staring at the lights against Roy Nelson.

And yet I'm still picking him.

Is there really any reason to side with Cro Cop at this stage of his career? He was put to sleep by Frank Mir at UFC 119 (just like everyone else who watched that fight) and his biggest accomplishment in the past five years was a UFC 115 submission win over Pat Barry that was so haphazardly applied it looked like an episode of bum fights.

What else can we say?

He battered Anthony Perosh at UFC 110, yes, but the Aussie is a natural light heavyweight and took the fight on five minutes notice. And gouging out the eyes of Mustapha Al-Turk isn't exactly a resume builder, especially when he went on to get flattened by Junior dos Santos later that year.

Schaub is younger, quicker and more importantly, motivated.

I know Filipovic is reading from the teleprompter when he tells us he's in the best shape of his life and training harder than ever and blah, blah, blah, because I've followed his career for a long time and it's the same spiel every time.

My official prediction for this fight? Cro Cop will show up, wave to the crowd, lose by unanimous decision and collect his paycheck.

If you want to see a fight-ending left high kick, turn off the UFC 128 pay-per-view and go rent an old PRIDE DVD.

Betting lines (as of March 18):

Schaub: -280 ((Bet Now))

Filipovic: +210 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Schaub via unanimous decision

That's a wrap, folks.

Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of UFC 128: "Shogun vs. Jones."

What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.

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