Ben: I cannot in good conscience pick against Jones until he actually legitimately loses a single fight in the UFC—sorry Matt Hamill fans that DQ "win" doesn’t count. Jon Jones is the Aaron Rodgers of the UFC, he's in your lineup every week, and he is quarterbacking your fantasy picks or your parlay to victory. Training in Brazil, Machida has been doing some interesting training to prepare for his fourth UFC championship fight , but he will still be outgunned by the 24-year-old superstar.
Bobby: I hate to parrot what Ben said, but as I pointed out in my in-depth look at the main event yesterday, picking against Jon Jones looks very much like a sucker decision until proven otherwise. MMAth is never a sure-fire way to gauge a fight in an A beat B, B beat C, so A will beat C sense, however that doesn't mean you can't still take things from common opponents. Against Lyoto Machida, Mauricio Rua showed that he belonged back in the cage with the best in the world when there were previously questions about if he'd lost the touch. Whether you gave Rua the first bout or not, it was competitive, and in the rematch he blitzed Machida. Against Jones he looked roughly as effective as I'd expect myself to be in a street fight, which is to say he looked confused, helpless, and broken in body and mind by the time it reached its merciful end.
What's the most surefire lock since Rickson by armbar?
Ben: Jon Jones is my top lock for UFC 140. Like Anderson Silva and GSP (well before he blew out his knee twice), you just HAVE to put the champ down as your top-lock because he has looked so dominant. There is no end in sight to his growth as a fighter—out of nowhere he pulled a slick guard-into-triangle transition against Rampage Jackson at the end of a round.
Coincidentally, the only two men to have bested Machida in the UFC are also the last two men Jon Jones have convincingly dominated in the UFC. "MMA Math" tells us that Machida should go do down just as hard as the last two opponents on Jones’s resumé.
Bobby: Three answers in and this has been a Jonny Bones love fest, so I'll throw a curve ball here and avoid the obvious true lock and go for somebody a little less popular on the books who I think is in a great position to notch a win -- Mark Bocek. Of late, Bocek has only been bested twice in the UFC, dropping decisions to top-contenders Ben Henderson and Jim Miller. Against Henderson Bocek proved unable to maintain top positions against the stronger fighter, while Miller earned the win by using subs and sweeps in the first round and superior striking in the third. Lentz is a good wrestler but I expect the deceptively strong Bocek to be able to find himself on top, where Lentz lacks the offense guard work of Miller to keep the BJJ black belt off guard. Bocek could well lock up a sub here, but if not has all the tools to grind out a dominant decision.
Everybody loves an upset. Who you got?
Ben: Lyoto Machida. It’s a bit paradoxical to say that Jon Jones is the "lock of the night" and name his opponent a viable underdog, but hear me out. Lyoto Machida is a former UFC champion and, baseball fans will feel me on this comparison, he is a "five tool" fighter. Machida has punches, kicks, clinch-work, takedowns and submissions. Machida has much experience against high-level UFC competition.
During the fight, as Jones probes with standing strikes from a distance, Machida will evade and look to counter. Machida could become the first guy to land some effective offense against the young champion.
Here’s a fun drinking game for you while watching Saturday’s main event—take a shot every time Goldberg or Rogan say "slip ‘n rip" after a Machida counter punch. Take an even bigger drink if Machida, your fun livin-on-the-edge underdog pick, comes through.
Bobby: While I will be steering clear of the main event for my upset pick, I will be sticking to the main card and recommending the Nogs' dogs as solid underdog picks. On the one hand you have Big Nog facing off against Frank Mir in the co-main event, while the fight prior fight sees Little Nog take on Tito Ortiz. While there has been some movement as the fights approach, both fights are offering a little more or less than 2-to-1 payouts on the dogs and the similarities don't end there.
In both bouts in a straight pick 'em I'd recommend sticking to the favorites, however against the odds there is value to be had. All four fighters represent, to varying degrees, enigmas where it's hard to tell exactly what we'll get out of them. At the end of the day, when you're getting double your investment back on a bout where there's a reasonable chance both that the favorite will underwelm and the underdog will exceed expectations, it's worth a look. Consider a play on Big Nog or Tito.