UFC 135 predictions, preview and analysis

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UFC 135: "Jones vs. Rampage" is all set to go down tomorrow night (Sept. 24, 2011) live from the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.

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).

In the headlining bout, newly-crowned light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will try to establish his reign of 205-pound terror by overcoming the formidable punching power of division number one contender and former titleholder Quinton Jackson.

Does "Bones" have a chin? "Rampage" is going to do his best to find out.

In the co-main event, longtime mixed martial arts veteran and former welterweight kingpin Matt Hughes will try to add one more feather in his cap when he takes on welterweight bad boy Josh Koscheck.

Did the old dog learn some new tricks from his B.J. Penn bromance?

There will certainly be a lot to talk about on Sunday morning. 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.: Jon "Bones" Jones (13-1) vs. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (32-8)

Nostradumbass predicts: As the fair and balanced analyst that I am (cough), I always try to make a case for each fighter, no matter how remote, because this is MMA and anything can happen. Well, almost anything, because I don't see how Jackson gets it done in Denver.

You want to tell me he has a puncher's chance? Okay, I'll get on board, but you're not selling me on this idea that his boxing will pose any kind of threat to a guy whose reach makes Dhalsim look like a T-Rex.

What has "Rampage" done in the last few years?

Well, not much. He couldn't finish Keith Jardine, who went on to get knocked clean out in his next two fights. He couldn't finish Matt Hamill either, who was pounded into retirement just three months later by Alexander Gustafsson.

He did knock out Wanderlei Silva, but that's not really anything to brag about. Wandy gets knocked out at the touch of gloves at this point in his career. And did I mention his losses to Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida?

Jackson is too slow, too rigid and does not have the necessary ground game to keep himself from ending up in the same position that Brandon Vera and Vladimir Matyushenko found themselves in.

"Bones" looks unbreakable and I don't think I've seen a fight of his in recent memory that was even remotely competitive -- but he's not invincible.

No fighter is.

Having stood next to him in person I can tell you his legs are remarkably thin and any light heavyweight who knows how to throw nasty leg kicks -- and has the speed to get in and out of the red zone -- is going to give this guy the fits.

Unfortunately that fighter isn't Jackson, who will rely on his striking prowess to try and "test that chin." First he has to get close enough to hit and to be frank, I just don't see it happening.

Betting lines (as of Sept. 23): Jon Jones (-700) vs. Quinton Jackson (+450)

Prediction: Jones via technical knockout

170 lbs.: Josh "Kos" Koscheck (15-5) vs. Matt Hughes (45-8)

Nostradumbass predicts: Like Jackson, I can't build much of a case for Matt Hughes heading into "Mile High City." Not that Koscheck is some kind of world beater, but Hughes has just looked so putrid in recent years it's difficult to give him much of a chance to pull off the upset.

As far as his resume goes, I wasn't surprised that he got pasted by B.J. Penn, just as I don't want to put too much stock in his front choke over Ricardo Almeida before that. What really grinds my gears is the abomination he had against Renzo Gracie at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi.

He'll be 38 in less than a month and has over 50 professional fights to his name. Let's also not forget his time spent as an amateur wrestler and what we have here are tractor tires with a whole-lotta miles on 'em. It's over for Matt Hughes. It's been over for a while, actually, and that will never be more apparent than when he climbs into the cage tomorrow night.

I've heard the argument that the orbital bone fracture, suffered at the piston-like jab of Georges St. Pierre, will be in the back of Koscheck's mind in Denver. Since that's the best argument anyone's come up with against him winning, it's easy to see why he's still -600.

Just don't call him a "younger version of Hughes," because Koscheck never wore the belt and never beat GSP.

The bottom line is this: "Kos" will be faster, stronger and fresher when it's time to party. I predict a lot of cage-supported man-hugging until Hughes gasses late in the fight, which is the opening Koscheck will need to take him down and pound him out.

Betting lines (as of Sept. 23): Josh Koscheck (-600) vs. Matt Hughes (+400)

Prediction: Koscheck via technical knockout

155 lbs.: Nate Diaz (13-7) vs. Takanori "The Fireball Kid" Gomi (32-7)

Nostradumbass predicts: Continuing with the above theme of "guy who used to matter versus guy who almost did," Takanori Gomi will try to pretend he can actually hang with the remaining UFC lightweights.

He can't.

But I don't want to blame his decline on the Octagon, because he fell off long before Zuffa came calling. His struggles were well documented in fights under the Sengoku banner and other Japanese organizations and while he's a powerful puncher, the idea of him knocking out Nate Diaz seems pretty far-fetched.

He's certainly got the power to do it, folding Tyson Griffin into Origami just over a year ago, but you could tell in his decisive losses to Kenny Florian and Clay Guida he just doesn't look comfortable striking inside the cage, something Nate Diaz has done with great success.

Unfortunately the Stockton native struggles against big, strong wrestlers, but Gomi doesn't want to take this thing south anyway -- if for no other reason than to keep Nate from trying to finish what brother Nick started back in 2007.

That means this one plays out on the feet, where Diaz peppers him with those weird looping shots while staying away from the haymaker. I don't predict a particularly exciting fight, but "The Fireball Kid" is going to fizzle out and land somewhere on the other side of the unemployment line on Sunday morning.

Betting lines (as of Sept. 23): Nate Diaz (-250) vs. Takanori Gomi (+190)

Prediction: Diaz via unanimous decision

265 lbs.: Travis "Hapa" Browne (11-0-1) vs. Rob "The Bear" Broughton (15-5-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: What's interesting about this card is that it has to sell on the star power of its names, because the match-ups, at least on the pay-per-view portion of the fight card, aren't that competitive.

MMA is always good for an upset or two but on paper most of these fights aren't even close. Travis Browne vs. Rob Broughton is no exception.

While I normally enjoy flaming Brits, this isn't a smear campaign against "The Bear," but he just hasn't shown me he belongs at heavyweight. Sounds like a silly argument against a guy who has won five straight, but keep in mind Broughton is 6'2" and weighs in close to 260.

In today's heavyweight landscape, that's not gonna cut it.

Browne towers over him and distributes the weight much better. I expect his reach to be a major factor and while no one will accuse him of being Speedy Gonzales, he'll be much faster than his British foe on fight night.

I predict Broughton will live up to his moniker and roar out of the gate, trying to bully and paw at the Hawaiian in a beary bumrush -- one that gets him put on his keister early in the opening round.

Betting lines (as of Sept. 23): Travis Browne (-450) vs. Rob Broughton (+300)

Prediction: Browne via knockout

265 lbs.: "Big" Ben Rothwell (31-7) vs. Mark "The Super Samoan" Hunt (6-7)

Nostradumbass predicts: I like Mark Hunt. But then again, who doesn't? He's got a great personality, hits hard and loves to scrap. He also has the ground game of a newborn calf. That's what makes this fight against Ben Rothwell so frustrating because it's a winnable fight.

He just has to knock "Big" Ben out before he gets taken down.

I can't imagine a fighter of Rothwell's intelligence (or experience) is going to be proud enough to stand and bang. Not against a former K-1 World Champion. And why should he? Six of Hunt's seven losses are by tapout, something Rothy's done 11 times in his career.

He's also 15-2 dating back to 2005, with his only losses coming to one current UFC Heavyweight Champion in Cain Velasquez and one former UFC Heavyweight Champion in Andrei Arlovski.

I just don't see how Rothwell loses this fight.

He would have to abandon any and all semblance of a gameplan and just go out and trade leather. If he does, it's nighty-night. If he sticks to the script, he can probably tie a ribbon on this thing late in the opening frame.

I'm picking the latter.

Betting lines (as of Set. 23): Ben Rothwell (-340) vs. Mark Hunt (+260)

Prediction: Rothwell via submission

That's a wrap, folks.

Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of UFC 135: "Jones vs. Rampage."

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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