MARSHALL ART previews tonight's UFC 144 event in Saitama, Japan with a bumper card headlined with the clash for the UFC Lightweight Championship between Frankie Edgar and Benson Henderson.

While great as a spectacle, highly-anticipated fights also come with trouble of  identifying a clear winner, so some of these fights are marginal and you should check your bets accordingly.

Main Event: Frankie Edgar vs. Benson Henderson, UFC Lightweight Championship

Over the last week I’ve been wavering on what to back in this fight. My initial thought was to go with a decision, but at 4-11 I’m not entirely convinced it’s a value market. I still think it’s a likely scenario; Edgar has fought four times since April 2010 and Henderson five, with each finishing just one of these fights. Nonetheless, I just can’t recommend betting on the decision. I had a large wager on Edgar/Maynard II to go to the judges and the first round was a rather traumatic experience.

The more I think about it, Edgar seems to be good value. With just one (avenged) loss on his record, it’s certainly hard to bet against him. Aside from the obvious size and strength differential (balanced by Frankie’s speed and cardio) he’s a little better than Henderson in every area bar, possibly, the ground game. Even then I don’t see Henderson being able to do a better job than Maynard and Penn keeping him down.

  • Go for Frankie to win outright (10-13, Ladbrokes), but don’t expect the win to come too easily; that’s just Edgar’s prerogative.

Co-Main Event: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Ryan Bader
I had written up this fight detailing how Bader doesn’t have a lot to offer Rampage after recent defeats and how the talk of Rampage retiring shouldn’t make too much difference … but that was until Rampage weighed in 6lbs overweight.

Doctors told the 33-year-old earlier this week that he was not fit to compete but while he didn't disclose the nature of the injury, Jackson insisted he's improved over the last few days and while he dropped from 232 pounds to 211, he couldn't cut any more before the weigh-in on Friday.

  • This whole bout is up in the air now and too many unpredictable factors mean it's not worth the risk.

Main Card: Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon

In lieu of Rampage, this fight has the next best value on the card. Anyone who saw Pettis’ fight with the aforementioned Henderson will be aware of his talent. His skill set is very easy to define; he’s better than most of the weight class in most areas, and his cardio is probably unmatched bar the champ.

Joe Lauzon is a more complex character; a man who can go from outstanding to awful from one fight to the next, and occasionally from one round to the next. I put this down to two severe faults in his game. For one, his cardio is dire for a lightweight. His record plays this out; all but one of his losses have come after the first round, and 15 of his 21 victories have been inside the opener.

Aside from that, his best moments come when his opponent has a severe deficiency in some aspect of MMA. Lauzon has one exceptional attribute, his submissions, with everything else being merely acceptable. He has a tendency to go all out to finish in the first few minutes; this may compound his problems.

So Lauzon has awful cardio and is best when he can pick on an opponent’s weakness. So how does he beat Pettis? The short answer is: I’m not sure he can. As I said, outside of a miracle, Pettis has will be running rings around him by the time round two begins. Of course Lauzon has a chance to finish him early, but you can say that in any fight; that’s just the nature of the sport.

  • What I can give you is the most likely outcome: Pettis gets the fight to the later rounds before taking a clear victory. (2-5, Skybet/various)

Main Card: Yushin Okami vs. Tim Boetsch

They’ve given Okami a gentle fight after his complete decimation at the hands of Anderson Silva. Boetsch doesn’t have much going for him in this fight; he may be a big middleweight, but Okami is reputed to have monstrous strength for his size. Boetsch isn’t great in any area and Okami has the best wrestling in the divison outside of Chael. Fortunately, I can’t see Okami managing to finish either.

  • Look for Okami to grind out a decision victory (4-5, Ladbrokes).

TONIGHT'S BETS: Whatever you do, keep Edgar as a single – there’s enough risk involved in that fight already. Double up Pettis with Okami by decision (Just over 6-4, Ladbrokes).


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