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December 20, 2014

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UFC 128: Breakdown and Picks

UFC hopes this is its last trip to Newark, N.J., for a while. Although it’s been a staple of the annual schedule, UFC is hoping New York legalizes mixed martial arts so it can hold events at Madison Square Garden. If this is indeed the last New Jersey party for a while, the Prudential Center is going out in style. The main event is the most anticipated of the year so far featuring young star Jon Jones against established champion Shogun Rua. The co-main event is the first ever with a smaller weight class as Urijah Faber and Eddie Wineland meet in a bantamweight clash. Check below for the usual picks from Las Vegas Sun’s Case Keefer, ESPN Radio’s Steve Cofield and KSNV’s Kevin West. Also joining in for his debut is ESPN’s Brett Okamoto. West leads the way so far with a 19-13-2 record through three pay-per-view events this year. Cofield is an even 16-16-2, while Keefer trails at 15-17-2.

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 6’1''
  • Weight:205
  • UFC record 3-2
  • MMA record 19-4
  • Out of: Curitiba, Brazil
  • Betting line: +160

Jon Jones

  • Age: 23
  • Height: 6’4''
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 6-1
  • MMA record 12-1
  • Out of: Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Betting line: -190

Light Heavyweight Championship Bout

Main Event

Last fight: First round win via knockout against Lyoto Machida at UFC 113 for light heavyweight belt.

Punch list: If Shogun isn’t already a MMA legend, he’s as close as it gets. He’s a former PRIDE middleweight champion who has found similar success in the UFC after dropping his first bout in the organization. His other loss in UFC came to Machida, but it was a controversial decision that led to the immediate rematch and a quick knockout.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Rua

Cofield: Rua

Last fight: Second round win via submission over Ryan Bader at UFC 126.

Punch list: Jones said he thought he’d get a title shot in 2011, but no one expected it this quick. Jones jumped into injured teammate Rashad Evans’ slot after easily disposing of Bader in February. The Bader fight was the first time in nearly two years Jones’ opponent made it past the first round.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Jones

Okamoto: Jones

Urijah Faber

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 5'6''
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 24-4
  • Out of: Sacramento, Calif.
  • Betting line: -450

Eddie Wineland

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5’7''
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 18-6-1
  • Out of: Chesterton, Ind.
  • Betting line: +325

Bantamweight Bout

Co-Main Event

Last fight: First round victory via submission over Takeya Mizugaki at WEC 53.

Punch list: Faber takes his first step into the octagon after being WEC’s biggest star for years. Faber had more than a two-year run where he defended his WEC featherweight title five times. He’s moved down to bantamweight where he now says he feels most comfortable.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Faber

Cofield: Faber

Last fight: First round win via knockout over Ken Stone at WEC 53.

Punch list: Wineland is a feared striker, but Faber has already began questioning his grappling skills. He’s scored four straight knockouts and earned two Knockout of the Night awards in a row. He also has a knack for pulling off upsets, as he’s most well known for knocking out Antonio Banuelos in 2006 for the WEC bantamweight title.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Wineland

Okamoto: Faber

Jim Miller

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 5’8”
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 8-1
  • MMA record 19-2
  • Out of: Whippany, N.J.
  • Betting line: -240

Kamal Shalorus

  • Age: 38
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 7-0-2
  • Out of: Austin, Texas
  • Betting line: +190

Lightweight Bout

Last fight: Second round win by submission over Charles Oliveira at UFC 124.

Punch list: The younger Miller on the card is one of the handful of fighters stuck in the logjam at the top of the lightweight division. A six-fight winning streak would lead to a title shot in most weight classes, but not the crowded 155-pound division. But if Miller keeps winning, his time will come.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Miller

Cofield: Miller

Last fight: Split decision victory over Bart Palaszewski at WEC 53.

Punch list: Yet another WEC import, Shalorus hopes he continues to turn heads in UFC. The Iran native came out of nowhere to go 3-0-1 in his two-year WEC career.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Miller

Okamoto: Miller

Nate Marquardt

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 6’0''
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 9-4
  • MMA record 33-10-2
  • Out of: Denver, Colo.
  • Betting line: -360

Dan Miller

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 6’0''
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 5-3
  • MMA record 13-4
  • Out of: Whippany, N.J.
  • Betting line: +280

Middleweight Bout

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Yushin Okami at UFC 122.

Punch list: UFC threw Marquardt into the UFC 122 main event less than a month after his previous fight. That’s why it’s hard to knock his stock down much with the decision loss in what was supposed to be a bout to determine the top middleweight contender.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Marquardt

Cofield: Marquardt

Last fight: Split decision victory over Joe Doerksen at UFC 124.

Punch list: The local boy was tossed onto the main card last week for Yoshihiro Akiyama, who stayed home in Japan after the earthquake. Miller has won two in a row, but dropped three straight the last time he was near the top of the division.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Marquardt

Okamoto: Marquardt

Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic

  • Age: 36
  • Height: 6’2’’
  • Weight: 220
  • UFC record 3-2
  • MMA record 27-8-2
  • Out of: Zagreb, Croatia
  • Betting line: +190

Brendan Schaub

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 6’4’’
  • Weight: 240
  • UFC record 3-1
  • MMA record 8-1
  • Out of: Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Betting line: -240

Heavyweight Bout

Last fight: Third round loss by knockout to Frank Mir at UFC 119.

Punch list: Are Cro Cop’s best days behind him? It seems like the former Croatian Parliament member proves people wrong whenever they ask that. He has only lost two straight once in his career.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Schaub

Cofield: Schaub

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Gabriel Gonazaga at UFC 121.

Punch list: Schaub has looked elite in three fights since losing to Roy Nelson in The Ultimate Fighter Season 10 finale. The former University of Colorado fullback feels he destined to threaten the top heavyweights in the world someday.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Schaub

Okamoto: Schaub

Luiz Cane

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 6’2’’
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 3-3
  • MMA record 11-3-1
  • Out of: Sao Paolo, Brazil
  • Betting line: -165

Eliot Marshall

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 6’3’’
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 3-1
  • MMA record 8-3
  • Out of: Boulder, Colo.
  • Betting line: +135

Light Heavyweight Bout

Last fight: First round loss by knockout to Cyrille Diabate at UFC 114.

Punch list: After working his way near the top of the 205-pound division, Cane has lost two straight. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt hopes to get back to his roots and force Marshall to tap out.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Cane

Cofield: Cane

Last fight: First round win by submission over Chris McNally at Nemsis Fighting: MMA Global Invasion.

Punch list: Marshall has received a second shot in UFC. The season 8 alum of “The Ultimate Fighter” had four bouts in the organization, but was cut following a split decision loss to Vladimir Matyushenko last year.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Marshall

Okamoto: Cane

Edson Barboza

  • Age: 24
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 7-0
  • Out of: Jupiter, Florida
  • Betting line: -270

Anthony Njokuani

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 6’1’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 14-4
  • Out of: Las Vegas
  • Betting line: +210

Lightweight Bout

Last fight: Third round win via knockout over Mike Lullo at UFC 123.

Punch list: Watch closely because at this pace, Barboza could turn into something special. The youngster looks the part of a future contender at 155 pounds and has finished all seven of his professional fights — five of them in the first round.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Njokuani

Cofield: Barboza

Last fight: Second round knockout victory over Edward Faaloto at WEC 52.

Punch list: Njokuani got back to winning in his final WEC appearance after losing two straight. He’s a powerful striker with a Muay Thai background he plans on employing to slow Barboza.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Barboza

Okamoto: Barboza

Ricardo Almeida

  • Age: 34
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 6-4
  • MMA record 13-3
  • Out of: Hamilton, N.J.
  • Betting line: -170

Mike Pyle

  • Age: 35
  • Height: 6’1’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 3-2
  • MMA record 20-7-1
  • Out of: Las Vegas
  • Betting line: +140

Welterweight Bout

Last fight: Unanimous decision win over T.J. Grant at UFC 124.

Punch list: He’s one of the prized pupils of notable jiu-jitsu coach and fighter Renzo Gracie. Almeida has come back strong after taking four years off to start his own gym, going 5-2 since 2008.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Pyle

Cofield: Almeida

Last fight: Unanimous decision win over John Hathaway at UFC 120.

Punch list: The veteran feels he’s in the middle of a renaissance late in his career. Many saw him as fodder for the young and upcoming Hathaway in his last fight, but Pyle derailed Hathaway’s rise with superior grappling.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Pyle

Okamoto: Pyle

Kurt Pellegrino

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 7-4
  • MMA record 21-5
  • Out of: Point Pleasant, N.J.
  • Betting line: +150

Gleison Tibau

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 6’0”
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 7-5
  • MMA record 31-7
  • Out of: Coconut Creek, Fla.
  • Betting line: -180

Lightweight Bout

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to George Sotiropoulos at UFC 116.

Punch list: Pellegrino was on a four-fight win streak before losing to Sotiropolous last summer. Even worse news came after the bout when he found out he tore his ACL and would be out for a prolonged period. Pellegrino will try to shake off the rust against Tibau.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Tibau

Cofield: Tibau

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Jim Miller at UFC Fight Night 22.

Punch list: Tibau is a veteran who has stuck around the UFC for five years, a victory in itself. He’s a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, but hasn’t submitted an opponent in more than two years.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Pellegrino

Okamoto: Pellegrino

Joseph Benavidez

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5’4’’
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 13-2
  • Out of: Sacramento, Calif.
  • Betting line: -340

Ian Loveland

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 14-7
  • Out of: Portland, Ore.
  • Betting line: +260

Bantamweight Bout

Last fight: Second round win via submission over Waggney Fabiano at WEC 52.

Punch list: The only two losses on Benavidez’s record came at the hands of bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. He holds notable wins over Miguel Torres and Rain Yahya and is among the best in the 135-pound class.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Benavidez

Cofield: Benavidez

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Tyler Toner at The Ultimate Fighter season 12 finale.

Punch list: Loveland took his last fight on short notice and turned heads when he was far superior to Toner. The wrestler has won seven straight bouts, dating back four years.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Benavidez

Okamoto: Benavidez

Erik Koch

  • Age: 22
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 11-1
  • Out of: Milwaukee, Wisc.
  • Betting line: -175

Raphael Assuncao

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 14-3
  • Out of: Atlanta
  • Betting line: +145

Featherweight Bout

Last fight: First round win by knockout over Francisco Rivera at WEC 52.

Punch list: Koch has a lot of power, which is no surprise considering he trains with well-known MMA coach Duke Roufus. Koch went 3-1 in WEC, with the only loss coming to rising star Chad mendes.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Assuncao

Cofield: Koch

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over LC Davis at WEC 52.

Punch list: Assuncao is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and BJJ instructor on the side of his fighting career. He’d like to bring the fight to the ground quickly to try to negate Koch’s reach advantage.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Koch

Okamoto: Koch

Nick Catone

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 2-2
  • MMA record 8-2
  • Out of: Sacramento, Calif.
  • Betting line: -250

Costantinos Philippou

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 5’11’’
  • Weight: 195
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 7-1
  • Out of: Long Island, N.Y.
  • Betting line: +260

Catchweight Bout (195)

Last fight: Split decision win over Jesse Forbes at UFC Fight Night 20.

Punch list: Catone had the option to cancel this fight and wait for another opponent after Dan Miller bolted for the main card. Catone decided he wanted to fight, even if it was against a bigger guy.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Catone

Cofield: Philippou

Last fight: Majority decision over Uriah Hall at Ring of Combat 34.

Punch list: Philippou is a Renzo Gracie student and Ricardo Almeida teammate. He jumped onto the card at the last minute because he was already licensed by the New Jersey state athletic commission.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Philippou

Okamoto: Catone

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