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UFC 172 Preview

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In his first 13 Octagon appearances, Jon 'Bones' Jones destroyed every opponent without ever getting put on his back. The only minor hiccups for Jones were a legit armbar attempt from Vitor Belfort and an evenly-fought first round against Lyoto Machida.

Other than those instances, Jones (19-1 MMA, 13-1 UFC) steamrolled his foes with a list of victims that included former light heavyweight champs like Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson, Rashad Evans, Machida and Belfort.

But in his last outing at UFC 165 against Alexander Gustafsson, Jones got all he could handle and then some. In fact, the 205-pound kingpin was in deep trouble several times in the second and third rounds. He was cut and bleeding in the opening stanza and by the time we got to the championship rounds, Jones was clearly behind on the scorecards and already looked as if he was en route to the hospital.

He would indeed make that trip to the hospital but not before showing the heart of the champion. Pushed to the brink of defeat for the first time in his career, Jones rallied in the fourth and fifth rounds to escape with a unanimous-decision victory (48-47 three times) over Gustafsson, who barely survived the fourth round after getting hurt by a spinning elbow to the head.

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Jones will get his next challenge from Glover Teixeira on Saturday night in the main event of UFC 172 in Baltimore, Maryland. Most betting shops have Jones listed as a -500 favorite, while Teixeira is a +375 underdog (risk $100 to win $375). The total for 'over/under' wagers is 3.5 rounds ('under' -150, 'over' +120).

Teixeira (22-2 MMA, 5-0 UFC) is a 34-year-old Brazilian who has outstanding wrestling skills and packs a heavy punch. Since joining the promotion after visa issues kept him out of the United States for three years, Teixeira has run his winning streak up to 20 straight fights. He hasn't tasted defeat since dropping a unanimous decision to Ed Herman in March of 2005. That's right, Teixeira hasn't lost in more than nine years.

His victims in the UFC have included Kyle Kingsbury (Round 1 arm triangle choke), Fabio Maldonado (doctor stoppage after Round 2, Sherdog's Beatdown of the Year for 2012), Rampage Jackson (UD), James Te Huna (1st-round guillotine, Submission of the Night) and Ryan Bader (first-round KO, KO of the Night).

This is clearly a huge step up in competition for Teixeira, who faced Jackson when he was past his prime. Beyond Rampage, Bader, with a 9-4 record in the UFC's light heavyweight division, is probably the best fighter Glover has faced. And Bader is only ranked ninth in the 205-poun loop.

Prediction: We finally saw that Jones is human in his last fight. Yes, he got the win but he took a brutal beating from 'The Mauler.' Has the hype finally gone to Jones's head too much for him to escape the cage with a victory over Teixeira? Possibly. Do I think Jones most likely wins? Yes. But from a betting standpoint, do I think it's worth rolling the dice with a small play on Teixeira for a return in the +380 range? Absolutely. In the co-main event, Phil 'Mr. Wonderful' Davis (12-1-0-1 MMA, 8-1-0-1 UFC) will welcome Anthony 'Rumble' Johnson back to the UFC after a stint in the minor leagues. Most spots have Davis installed as a favorite in the -230 range, while Johnson is a +185 underdog at most spots. The total is 2.5 rounds ('over' -125, 'under' +105).

Davis has won three consecutive fights and his lone defeat in the Octagon came to former champ Rashad Evans back on Jan. 28 of 2012. Davis has a number of tremendous victories on his resume, including scalps of Brian Stann, Gustafsson, Tim Boetsch, Little Nog and Machida. He has terrific size, great wrestling from his All-American days at Penn St. and his striking continues to improve.

But Johnson (16-4 MMA, 7-4 UFC) will undoubtedly have the advantage on the feet, as he powerful hands and dangerous kicks in his repertoire. Johnson was sent packing by the UFC after missing weight multiple times when he was trying to compete at 170 and 185.

Now 'Rumble' is at light heavyweight and he had no problems making weight on Friday. Since leaving the UFC, Johnson has won six straight fights in three different promotions, including a win over Andrei Arlovski, the former UFC heavyweight champ who was re-signed by the UFC on Thursday.

Prediction: If Davis can get the victory, he'll have only one person in front of him (Gustafsson) in the line to get a title shot. That puts pressure on him in this fight, but he certainly handled pressure well in beating Machida down in Brazil his last time out. But I think Johnson is at his best right now, finally fighting at the weight he's comfortable at. And I also like Johnson's striking better and he's got the underdog odds. Therefore, I'll call for the upset.

In a middleweight scrap, Luke Rockhold (11-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC) will take on Tim Boetsch as an enormous favorite. As of Friday afternoon, most books had Rockhold listed as a -900 'chalk,' while Boetsch (17-6 MMA, 8-5 UFC) was available at +600 on the comeback (risk $100 to win $600). The total is 1.5 rounds ('over' -155, 'under' +135).

Rockhold is the former Strikeforce middleweight champ who is making his third Octagon appearance. In his debut, he lost by first-round KO to Vitor Belfort via headkick. But Rockhold responded his next time out by beating Costas Phillipou by body kick midway through the first round. The finish earned him KO of the Night honors.

Boetsch has gone 5-2 since dropping down to the 185-pound loop. He won his first four fights at middleweight, including a stunning comeback victory over Yushin Okami by way of a vicious third-round knockout. Boetsch had been thoroughly dominated by Okami in the first two stanzas of their UFC 144 bout in Japan, but he rallied by catching Okami with a flurry of right-hand uppercuts.

But Boetsch's four-fight winning streak was snapped by Phillipou (third-round KO) and then he dropped a UD to Mark Munoz. In his last outing, however, Boetsch got back into the win column with a split-decision victory over C.B. Dollaway.

Prediction: This inflated price is baffling to me. Only fighters like Anderson Silva, Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey get listed at chalky prices in this range. This is not a mismatch. Is Rockhold more likely to win? No doubt about it. But does he win nine out of 10 times? Hell no! This is a no-brainer. Small play for me on the massive underdog. Remember, Boetsch cashed huge underdog tickets in wins over Hector Lombard (+300) and Okami (+380).

Other fights on the card include a lighweight matchup between Jim Miller (-200) and Yancy Medeiros (+170), a flyweight scrap between Joseph Benavidez (-450) and Timothy Elliott (+325) and a lightweight showdown between Takanori 'The Fireball Kid' Gomi (-210) and Isaac Vallie-Flagg (+180).

  
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