UFC 130 predictions, preview and analysis

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UFC 130: "Rampage vs. Hamill" is all set to go down tomorrow night (May 28, 2011) live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Remember: 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 9 p.m. ET (with Facebook and Spike TV "Prelim" fights beginning at 6:30 and 8:00 p.m. ET, respectively).

It's "Hammer" time.

When news first broke that original UFC 130 headliners Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard were removed from the Memorial Day Weekend event, the mixed martial arts community let out a collective groan.

Then UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones was instructed to help build hype accidentally let the cat out of the bag and hinted that "Rampage" Jackson could be next in line to challenge "Bones" for the 205-pound title -- if he can overcome the suffocating wrestling attack of Matt Hamill in the recently re-worked main event.

/groaning.

There's also an intriguing heavyweight throwdown between part-time friends and full-time grappling rivals Frank Mir and Roy Nelson. Who moves one step closer to title contention and who goes to the back of the line?

And expect Brian Stann to make a statement about his place among the 185-pound elite when he locks horns with former Sengoku straphanger Jorge Santiago.

It's a solid "Sin City" line-up no matter how you slice it.

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:

King of Predictions

205 lbs.: Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (31-8) vs. Matt "The Hammer" Hamill (10-2)

Nostradumbass predicts: What's surprised me about this main event match-up is how quick people are to dismiss Matt Hamill as a credible threat, not just to Jackson, but to anyone in the light heavyweight division. "Rampage" wears a chain around his neck, howls inside the cage and bullies wimpy reporters. The rubes seem to like that kind of stuff.

But if we dig a little deeper we'll see a mixed martial artist who's struggled as of late. True, he's only suffered two defeats in eight trips to the Octagon, but he's also gone to the scorecards in five of his last six fights. That's a pretty significant number for a fighter who is billed as a power puncher.

Yes, he revoked Wanderlei Silva's license to remain conscious, but the Brazilian is probably one solid punch away from eating his pamonha through a straw. And it never looks good when you're one of the only people who hasn't knocked out Keith Jardine.

And do we need to bring up the Forrest Griffin debacle?

The point is I haven't seen anything in the last three years that convinces me Rampage is still elite. He was a big deal in 2007. Then again, so was Comet C/2006 P1. And I don't see how he loses to Rashad Evans only to vault back up the rankings because he squeaked past a gun-shy Lyoto Machida -- in a fight a lot of people think he lost.

So does that mean Matt Hamill is the better fighter? Tomorrow night he will be.

If you asked me to pick a fight where I knew for certain that Jackson was in shape, well prepared and 100-percent motivated, I pick him against almost anyone in the division. But when was the last time he met that criteria?

Hamill on the other hand has a chance to take his career to the next level and I know he's been training under the tutelage of Duff Holmes like it's the fight of his life.

It is.

He can beat Jackson if he does what he did against Tito Ortiz. I'm not suggesting that Tito and Rampage are on the same level, they aren't, but that's the strategy he needs to employ. Yes, I believe Hamill has underrated hands, but this is not the time or place to prove you can hang with the big boys.

This is Wrestlemania.

"The Hammer" only needs two rounds of blanketry to win this fight. If he decides to keep it upright to "feel him out," Jackson will knock his head into the fourth row. But if he comes in with a single-minded purpose and just continues to shoot and drive his foe to the mat, he'll sweep the judges scorecards.

Easily.

I think he sticks to the gameplan and gets it done.

Betting lines (as of May 27): Quinton Jackson (-260) vs. Matt Hamill (+220)

Prediction: Hamill via unanimous decision

265 lbs.: Frank Mir (14-5) vs. Roy "Big Country" Nelson (15-5)

Nostradumbass predicts:  Mir we go again. I have nothing against the former heavyweight champ, but he's like an airplane beverage cart, clogging up the 265-pound aisle and preventing anyone from getting through in either direction.

Is Frank Mir ever going to wear the strap again? Not as long as Shane Carwin is in front of him in line. And I still don't think he beats Brock Lesnar in a rubber match, assuming the ailing TUF 13 coach has the guts to resume his fight career.

Still, he probably gets past Roy Nelson.

I say "probably" because this fight is a classic "pick 'em." They both have great jiu-jitsu and heavy hands. Unfortunately they both also have a history of performing inconsistently. Mir canceled Cheick Kongo but then let Carwin play Whac-a-Mir in his very next appearance.

And those fights were sandwiched between a loss to Lesnar and a win over Slow Cop.

Nelson made himself look good to the newer UFC fans by proving Kimbo Slice couldn't stomach a real fighter prior to separating the "Hybrid" and razing the "Skyscraper." But let's not forget he's also the last man Andrei Arlovski beat, which four fights (and three sleepers) later almost seems like an insult.

I can give "Big Country" a pass for enduring the best Junior dos Santos had to offer, but I cannot forgive decision losses to Ben Rothwell and Jeff Monson.

What this boils down to is a fight that I think disappoints. Expect a lot of long-distance haymakers, lots of fence hugging and a stalemate on the ground. It won't be the sedative that was Mir vs. Filipovic, but I'm not predicting fireworks either.

I hope I'm wrong.

Betting lines (as of May 27): Frank Mir (-130) vs. Roy Nelson (+110)

Prediction: Mir via split decision

265 lbs.:Travis "Hapa" Browne (10-0-1) vs. Stefan "Skyscraper" Struve (24-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: Stefan Struve is the type of fighter that gets one of those future billings that is starting to get old: "You know, when this kid gets a lil' bit older and starts to pack on another 15-20 pounds of muscle, he's going to be a real force to be reckoned with!"

Well here's a little newsflash for the mediums staring at their balls: "Skyscraper" is seven fights into his UFC career, we don't have time to sit around and watch him grow -- especially if the promotion absorbs the Strikeforce heavyweight roster.

You start shuffling those guys in and there's nowhere to go but out, figuratively and literally.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves, because this is a very winnable fight. Struve has demonstrated that he's got something you can't teach: heart. He's been busted up, beaten up and manhandled in a couple of fights but still came back for the win. Unfortunately as gusty as those performances are, they illustrate just how easily he can be hit.

I think he loses this fight because like his defeats to Junior dos Santos and Roy Nelson, Travis Browne doesn't leave much margin for error. He hits you, you go down.

Okay, the Cheick Kongo fight was an abomination, but what fight with him isn't?

"Hapa" is a merciless striker with a ton of power and I don't know if Struve can weather the storm long enough to make something happen.

Look for the Hawaiian to come out with a patient but forward-moving attack that initiates a paint-by-numbers defense from the Dutchman, who won't have enough time to get into a comfort zone -- until he's sleeping midway through the opening frame.

Betting lines (as of May 27): Travis Browne (-145) vs. Stefan Struve (+125)

Prediction: Browne via technical knockout

170 lbs: Thiago "Pitbull" Alves (18-7) vs. Ricky "Horror" Story (12-3)

Nostradumbass predicts: I used to dread making any kind of prediction for Thiago Alves prior to the event weigh-ins, just because it was impossible to predict which "Pitbull" was going to exit the doghouse. Would he be the muscular menace who would rather pay 20% of his purse and outweigh his opponent by 30 pounds on fight night? Or the starving Brazilian who looked like he just boarded a train to Auschwitz?

Against John Howard, he was neither.

In fact, if that's the Alves that tips the scales later tonight, you can stick a toothpick in Ricky Story and it will come out clean, because he's done. The Alves who manages his weight and trains properly beats anyone in the 170-pound division not named Georges St. Pierre.

His leg kicks could fell a sequoia, he's as strong as a heavyweight and he can dish out three rounds of punishment without even batting an eyelash. Let's hope for his sake the Howard fight was the rule and not the exception.

Because this "Story" is not over just yet.

After stumbling against John Hathaway in his Octagon debut, he's lived up to his nickname by stringing together five consecutive wins. He is without question one of the division's brightest prospects. Unfortunately his record speaks for itself.

Not to discredit his competition, but the biggest name he's faced is Jake Ellenberger. And split decision wins over Jesse Lennox and Nick Osipczak are definitely red flags when you compare them to Thiago's resume, which is littered with top welterweights like St. Pierre, Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck.

I don't want to label this a mismatch, because it isn't, but I'm trying to envision a scenario where Story out-works, out-wrestles or out-strikes Alves -- and I'm coming up empty.

Then again, you might want to check back with me after the weigh ins.

Betting lines (as of May 27): Thiago Alves (-210) vs. Ricky Story (+175)

Prediction: Alves via technical knockout

185 lbs.: Brian "All American" Stann (10-3) vs. Jorge Santiago (23-8)

Nostradumbass predicts: I know rooting for Brian Stann has become the patriotic thing to do during a Memorial Day Weekend pay-per-view event, but I think it's still a bit early to anoint him the next king of the middleweights. His recent destruction of Chris Leben, while impressive, is getting way more attention than it should.

"The Crippler" had a legendary chin dating back to his days as an original TUF guy, but now he's not much more than a zombified punching bag who's continued to deteriorate over the course of his career. That's why I can't go crazy about Stann just yet, though he's definitely shown promise.

What he needs to do is demonstrate a well-rounded game and not just his patented Rock 'em, Sock 'em offense, especially tomorrow night. Knockout power is great, but once you get over that mid-card hump and start swimming with the sharks, heavy hands just aren't enough.

Santiago will prove that tomorrow night.

The well-traveled veteran was chased out of the UFC with his tail between his legs, but he's been able to find himself overseas and anyone who's followed his exploits in Sengoku can recognize his maturity as a fighter.

And he hasn't just been recycling cans.

Trevor Prangley, Kazuo Misaki and Mamed Khalidov aren't top ten fighters, but they aren't exactly flipping burgers in between fights either.

I like Santiago in this fight because I believe he's the more complete fighter. The knockout is a very credible threat and I don't have to tell him that, but I think he can weather an early storm and outwork the aggressive Marine who will likely lose some of his steam as the fight rolls on.

I predict Stann takes a dominant first round but begins to fade early in the second, allowing Santiago to turn on the jets and steal the split decision win.

Betting lines (as of May 27): Brian Stann (-145) vs. Jorge Santiago (+125)

Prediction: Santiago via split 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 130: "Rampage vs. Hamill."

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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