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UFC 134 predictions, preview and analysis

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UFC 134: "Silva vs. Okami" is all set to go down tomorrow night (August 27, 2011) live from the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Remember: 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, Anderson Silva seeks to continue his reign of terror over the middleweight division in defense of his title against longtime contender Yushin Okami.

Who wins this rematch over five years in the making?

Speaking of rematches, former light heavyweight champions Forrest Griffin and Mauricio Rua are all set to square off for a second time in the co-main event of the evening. Was "Shogun" rusty and injured the first time out or was Forrest simply the better fighter?

And can Brendan Schaub convince the powers that be he's ready for a heavyweight title shot by knocking off Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira on his home turf?

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 competitor.

Had enough of the potatoes? Good, let's get to the meat.

185 lbs.: Anderson "The Spider" Silva (30-4) vs. Yushin "Thunder" Okami (26-5)

The General predicts: Ah, the Anderson Silva fight. Every time he walks to the cage, a feeling of dread and eager anticipation wash over fight fans the world over while Dana White sits suspended in a state of perpetual panic. Why? Because sometimes "The Spider" isn't interested in his prey on any particular day.

From the sounds of it, he's not exactly intrigued with a rematch against Yushin Okami.

That could be because he was curb-stomping the Japanese judo player in their first fight back in 2006 at "Rumble on the Rock 8." An illegal upkick knockout leading to a disqualification loss for Silva was an merely an annoyance to the Brazilian; nothing more. It was obvious who the better man was that night.

So what's changed in the last five years?

Not a damn thing. Silva has destroyed nearly everyone who's been dumb enough to accept a fight against him since that night. Those he didn't dismantle were lesser competitors the champ felt unchallenged by and decided to have some fun at the expense of.

Okami fought and defeated some solid competition but he also faltered in big money fights against Rich Franklin and Chael Sonnen, two previous Silva victims. His resume and a lack of options, though, have led him back here for one more dance with "The Spider." 

I think he'll find his venom just as deadly as five years ago.

To me, this fight is less about whether or not Silva will win and more about how he decides to go about it. White may have given him an opponent he doesn't care for but he did so while setting him up as the main event of the first UFC trip to Brazil since the late 90s.

And while White may have dismissed the idea of Silva headlining the UFC on FOX 1 show on Nov. 12, you have to think it's at least possible he was blowing smoke to throw the hounds off the trail. If Silva wins impressively and without taking much damage, it could be possible.

Fortunately, that's Anderson's M.O. and he'll want to put on an exciting performance for his native people in lieu of an elaborate dance routine.

No disrespect to Yushin, he may eventually have his day. Tomorrow won't be it.

Betting lines (as of Aug. 26): Anderson Silva (-500) vs. Yushin Okami (+400)

Prediction: Silva via knockout

205 lbs.: Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (19-5) vs. Forrest Griffin (18-6)

The General predicts: Unlike the fight that will succeed it, fans have actually been clamoring to see this rematch for the past four years and for good reason. "Shogun" was injured and rusty headed into the first contest, with a leaky gas tank holding him back. 

The result was a third round submission win for Griffin, leading to the goofiest victory celebration in Octagon history. 

Rua's been claiming a renewed vigor to his training and a determination he was severely lacking the first time around. He says he wasn't quite mentally prepared for that fight and it showed in his performance. 

Are we so sure his mental state is in an ideal place after the events of the past year, though?

This is a guy that won the title and was immediately put on the shelf for almost a year so he could get yet another surgery to fix up his faulty knees. When he finally did feebly walk his way down to the cage, Jon Jones whipped his ass so bad his manager got a black eye.

You want to tell me that run of luck hasn't messed with his fighting mentality? Combine that with the seeds of doubt planted in his head from getting choked out by Forrest back in '07 and my math skills aren't the best but that adds up to trouble, folks.

Let's flip the coin, though. Say he comes out aggressive and feeling confident, back to his old Chute Boxe killer ways. He's working his Muay Thai, lands a few solid leg kicks and connects with a right hook. The oddsmakers nod in approval, confident they made the right choice.

Then Griffin takes every bit of his 230-pounds of beef and squashes "Shogun" like a bug. Literally grabs him up, trips him to the floor and goes dead weight. I don't care how much you've been working on your cardiovascular endurance, you're breath won't be long for your lungs if you're expending all your energy fighting off guard passes and punches to the dome.

That's why I think we're headed for a repeat of four years ago. Griffin wears Rua down throughout the course of the fight before the Brazilian wilts. By that point, Forrest will have quieted the crowd enough that we'll hear the smack when "Shogun" taps.

Betting lines (as of Aug. 26): Mauricio Rua (-240) vs. Forrest Griffin (+200)

Prediction: Griffin via submission

265 lbs.: Brendan "The Hybrid" Schaub (8-1) vs. Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira (32-6-1)

The General predicts: Hero's come and hero's go but it's never easy watching them die, especially when it's long and slow. Such is the case with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, whose decline started with a knockout loss to Frank Mir in Dec. 2008.

He's fought just twice since then; an Aug. 2009 win over a geriatric Randy Couture and a Feb. 2010 knockout loss to Cain Velasquez, who would parlay that victory into a title shot, which he won convincingly.

It's not just those two losses that paint a picture of destruction in the waning years of "Minotauro's" career. It's the fact that he's so banged up from all his years in the fight game. You could put his opponent, Brendan Schaub, through a pinball machine with 30 quarters and he'd be healthier than "Big Nog" by the time he got out. 

That's why the old Pride dog is in trouble in this fight.

Nogueira's jiu-jitsu is otherwordly, sure. But he's spent more time rolling in hospital beds over the past year than mats down at Black House. Not to mention, he actually has to get the fight to the floor to work that legendary jits. How do you propose he does that?

Outside of Schaub slipping on a nonexistent Brazilian banana peel, it's not going to happen.

That means we're looking at an older, slower jiu-jitsu player standing for three rounds opposite a younger, faster knockout hound, who's hungry to impress so he can make a legitimate case for a division title shot.

Because the next rung up the "legend killer" ladder is who? Mark Coleman? No one -- not even Schaub -- wants to see that.

I get sucked into Nogueira's story just as easy as anyone. I love a feel good tale of a persistent man with an indomitable fighting spirit, always battling back from the brink of defeat to claim victory, just as much as you.

But I'm a realist, and I won't ignore the cold, hard fact staring me right in the face. It's been one hell of a run but it's over.

Betting lines (as of Aug. 26): Brendan Schaub (-250) vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (+210)

Prediction: Schaub via knockout

155 lbs.: Edson Barboza (8-0) vs. Ross "The Real Deal" Pearson (12-4)

The General predicts: File this one under "guaranteed slobberknocker." I can just picture Dana White and Joe Silva at UFC headquarters spitballing on making this fight. "We need a fight with two guys who are going to STAND-N-BANG for three rounds. Not promise it and not deliver, but legit make it happen in the cage," says White. "But one of them has to be Brazilian."

Silva then asks, "What about that undefeated budding contender with the cool name?" And here we end up with Edson Barboza, a badass Muay Thai champion who's building a pile of bodies marked with broken legs and caved in faces.

He's 8-0 and he's flashy, which makes him a sexy pick and it's easy to get sucked into a game like that. So does his opponent give me a reason not to?

His foe is Ross Pearson, an English Ultimate Fighter (TUF) winner and Taekwondo black belt that loves to trade punches, no matter who he's up against. That could be due to his severely lacking in the wrestling department, but either way, it's a good indicator of what to expect tomorrow night.

Unfortunately for "The Real Deal," that plays right into Barboza's hands.

On a card filled with compelling match-ups this one stands out as an early contender for "Fight of the Night." That bonus money should help ease Pearson's pain when he's limping home with his second loss in three fights.

Betting lines (as of Aug. 26): Edson Barboza (-320) vs. Ross Pearson (+260)

Prediction: Barboza via decision

205 lbs.: Luiz "Banha" Cane (11-3) vs. Stanislav Nedkov (11-0)

The General predicts: I don't know what it's like to have to live up to any sort of hype. When I got hired here at MMA Mania, there was no big post announcing as much with everyone pushing me as the next big thing. And that if I didn't drive traffic and raise hits significantly, I would be considered a failure.

Thankfully, I didn't have to cope with that kind of pressure. Luiz Cane, on the other hand, knows all too well what that's like. His story is exactly that, actually.

He knocks out the majority of his opposition, looks good doing it and gets labeled the next big thing in the light heavyweight division. Expectations are high and he's thought to be on the title track, ready to break into the upper tier.

Then he runs into a brick wall named Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and all that goes away. Laying another egg in his next performance was the worst scenario imaginable and he did that anyway, getting taken out in short order by Cyrille Diabate.

Back to square one.

As are as his Octagon career goes, that's where Stanislov Nedkov is now. This guy was signed over a year ago and he's been riding the pine ever since. It's not been for lack of trying, as a combination of bad luck and poor timing have led to his extensive inactivity.

And that's where he's going to run into problems.

Cane may have fallen off the contender wagon with consecutive first round knockout losses but he did score one of his own this past March against Eliot Marshall. And I'm sorry, but I just can't pick against a pumped up Brazilian fighting at home against a rookie Bulgarian in enemy territory making his debut in the world's largest fight promotion after a year on the sidelines.

Betting lines (as of Aug. 26): Luiz Cane (-210) vs. Stanislov Nedkov (+175)

Prediction: Cane via knockout

That's a wrap, folks.

Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of UFC 134: "Silva vs. Okami."

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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