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UFC 145 breakdown, betting odds and picks

Sports books like Jon Jones by a wide margin; bettors not as confident

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Justin M. Bowen

Jon Jones works out during UFC 126 open workouts Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011, at Mandalay Bay Events Center.

ATLANTA — Oddsmakers have a hard time imagining the fight living up to the anticipation when it comes to the UFC 145 main event between Jon Jones and Rashad Evans.

Sports books posted Jones as a -600 (risking $6 to win $1) favorite when the heated matchup was set three months ago, an unusually high betting line for a mixed martial arts bout of this magnitude. In 22 major UFC events since the beginning of 2011, only three have featured a headlining fight with odds as high as Jones vs. Evans.

The betting public loves Evans at that high of a price and has driven the number down to Jones -500, with Evans coming back at +400 (risking $1 to win $4). The Las Vegas Sun picks panel also indicates bettors could find value by backing Evans.

Two of the five prognosticators like Evans to pull off one of the biggest upsets in UFC history. They come to a consensus on six of the other 11 fights on the card, which airs at 7 Saturday night on pay-per-view after preliminary bouts on FX and facebook.

Check below for a breakdown, betting odds and picks from Las Vegas Sun’s Case Keefer (24-19 year to date), KSNV’s Kevin West (27-16), ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto (27-16), ESPN Radio’s Steve Cofield (25-18) and Las Vegas Sun’s Ray Brewer (20-23).

Rashad Evans

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 5’11''
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 12-1-1
  • MMA record 17-1-1
  • Out of:Boca Raton, Fla.
  • Betting line: +400

Jon Jones

  • Age: 24
  • Height: 6’4''
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 9-1
  • MMA record 15-1
  • Out of: Albuquerque, N.M
  • Betting line: -500

Light Heavyweight Championship Bout

Main Event

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Phil Davis at UFC on FOX 2.

Punch list: Evans’ best bet in this fight could be his wrestling. Although not as talented as Jones as a traditional wrestler, Evans has tailored that aspect of his game for mixed martial arts. He’s taken down every opponent in his career at least once. Holding the bigger Jones down will be the issue. Evans’s striking could also put Jones in danger. He’s already pulled one major upset at Phillips Arena in Atlanta by first-round knockout — beating Chuck Liddell four years ago.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Evans

Cofield: Jones

Last fight: Submitted Lyoto Machida in the second round at UFC 140.

Punch list: In a sport with as many variables as mixed martial arts, every fighter is beatable. But Jones is the closest thing to invincible because of how well-rounded he’s made his game. Jones comes from a wrestling background, competing at the collegiate level before dropping out. His 84-inch reach and creativity have made him a feared striker. And he’s submitted three of his last four opponents by choking them out.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Jones

Brewer: Evans

Okamoto: Jones

Che Mills

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 6’1”
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 14-4
  • Out of: Glouster, England
  • Betting line: +400

Rory MacDonald

  • Age: 22
  • Height: 6’0''
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 3-1
  • MMA record 12-1
  • Out of: Kelowna, British Columbia
  • Betting line: -500

Welterweight Bout

Co-Main Event

Last fight: Knocked out Chris Cope in the first round at UFC 138.

Punch list: With the pandemonium seemingly surrounding MacDonald’s every move, fans have forgotten about who he’s fighting in Atlanta. Don’t sleep on Mills. His 40-second knockout of Cope in his debut taught UFC viewers what those at British fight promotions already knew — that Mills is dangerous. He’s not the same fighter who failed to make it out of the elimination round of “The Ultimate Fighter” 9 — falling to eventual champion James Wilks — three years ago.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: MacDonald

Cofield: MacDonald

Last fight: First round TKO over Mike Pyle at UFC 133.

Punch list: The 22-year old, considered the top prospect in MMA, doesn’t only want to be a champion. MacDonald wants to be the pound-for-pound best champion. A lot of fighters make similar claims, but it’s worth listening to MacDonald. He’s looked that strong and has no weaknesses. Seven seconds is the only separation between the Canadian and an undefeated record. But he’s come back stronger, winning two in a row, since a final-minute defeat to Carlos Condit at UFC 115.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: MacDonald

Brewer: MacDonald

Okamoto: MacDonald

Ben Rothwell

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 6’4’’
  • Weight: 263
  • UFC record 1-2
  • MMA record 31-8
  • Out of: Milwaukee
  • Betting line: +200

Brendan Schaub

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 6’4’’
  • Weight: 247
  • UFC record 4-2
  • MMA record 9-2
  • Out of: Denver
  • Betting line: -250

Heavyweight Bout

Pay-Per-View Fight

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Mark Hunt at UFC 135.

Punch list: The end of 2011 was as disappointing for Rothwell as it was for Schaub. “Big Ben” became exhausted in Denver’s high altitude during his last fight, which allowed Hunt to surge by him with a lopsided decision win. The performance was so poor that Rothwell, as high as a 5-to-1 favorite against Hunt, had to fear for his job. The UFC ultimately spared him, but it wouldn’t be as easy with another defeat.

Staff picks:KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Schaub

Cofield: Schaub

Last fight: First-round knockout loss against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 134.

Punch list: These last eight months haven’t gone according to plan for Schaub. He’s endured a long layoff since Nogueira shocked him in Rio de Janeiro last August. Schaub was nearing title contention with four straight wins before the upset. His athletic ability — Schaub spent time in the NFL — is his greatest asset.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Schaub

Brewer: Schaub

Okamoto: Schaub

Michael McDonald

  • Age: 21
  • Height: 5’9''
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 3-0
  • MMA record 14-1
  • Out of: Modesto, Calif.
  • Betting line: Even

Miguel Torres

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 5’9''
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 2-1
  • MMA record 39-4
  • Out of: Montreal
  • Betting line: -130

Bantamweight Bout

Featured Contest

Last fight: Knocked out Alex Soto in the first round at UFC 139.

Punch list: A buzz has grown surrounding McDonald because of the way he’s dominated early in his UFC career. The youngster gets his first marquee bout here and will likely want to stay on the feet and slug it out against Torres. McDonald’s only career loss came to UFC veteran Cole Escovedo three years ago. He avenged the defeat with a knockout, one of eight in his career.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Torres

Cofield: Torres

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Nick Pace at UFC 139.

Punch list: The longtime WEC bantamweight champion feels he’s better now than he was when he reigned over the 135-pound division. A concern, however, is that he’s only finished one of his last seven opponents. A stoppage against McDonald might be enough to get Torres a title shot against the winner of Urijah Faber vs. Dominick Cruz III this summer. Torres’ biggest advantage over McDonald is his submission game.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: McDonald

Brewer: Torres

Okamoto: Torres

Eddie Yagin

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 5’7’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 0-1
  • MMA record 15-5-1
  • Out of: Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Betting line: +550

Mark Hominick

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 3-2
  • MMA record 20-10
  • Out of: London, Ontario
  • Betting line: -750

Featherweight Bout

Pay-Per-View Fight

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Junior Assuncao at UFC 135.

Punch list: “The Filipino Phenom” spent his UFC debut trapped. Assuncao used his wrestling to take Yagin down and hold him there. The strategy frustrated Yagin, who finds a better stylistic matchup this time around. Hominick’s strength is his kickboxing, meaning he’ll look to engage Yagin.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Hominick

Cofield: Hominick

Last fight: First-round knockout loss to Chan Sung-Jung at UFC 140.

Punch list: Because this event was originally scheduled for Montreal, six Canadians are on the card. Hominick is the most well-known. He’s also coming off of the worst loss. “The Korean Zombie” recorded the second fastest knockout in UFC history against Hominick in December. Hominick was a massive favorite in the fight, much like he is against Yagin.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Hominick

Brewer: Hominick

Okamoto: Hominick

John Alessio

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 5’10’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 0-3
  • MMA record 34-14
  • Out of: Las Vegas
  • Betting line: +260

Mark Bocek

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 6-4
  • MMA record 10-4
  • Out of: Montreal
  • Betting line: -340

Lightweight Bout

Pay-Per-View Opener

Last fight: Defeated Ryan Healy by unanimous decision at Score Fighting Series 4.

Punch list: He’s the only fighter on the card who can say he first fought in the UFC 12 years ago. Alessio challenged welterweight champion Pat Miletich at UFC 26 in 2000, losing by second-round submission. He’s back for his third stint in the octagon now, filling in for an injured Matt Wiman on short notice. Alessio is also the only Las Vegas-based fighter on the main card.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Bocek

Cofield: Bocek

Last fight: Unanimous decision win against Nik Lentz at UFC 140.

Punch list: UFC President Dana White’s former jiu-jitsu coach is one of the toughest outs in the 155-pound division. He has two losses in the last three years, but they came against champion Ben Henderson and top-five ranked Jim Miller. Both were razor-thin decisions. Bocek will hold a wrestling advantage over Alessio, a fellow Canadian veteran.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Bocek

Brewer: Bocek

Okamoto: Bocek

Chad Griggs

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 6’3’’
  • Weight: 234
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 11-1
  • Out of: Tucson, Ariz.
  • Betting line:+175

Travis Browne

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 6’7’’
  • Weight: 255
  • UFC record 3-0-1
  • MMA record 12-0-1
  • Out of: Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Betting line: -225

Heavyweight Bout

FX prelim

Last fight: First round submission (punches) victory over Valentijn Overeem at Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum.

Punch list: A full-time firefighter with the Tucson Fire Department, Griggs’ MMA success has come out of nowhere. He toiled on the regional circuit before Strikeforce signed him two years ago. He went undefeated in the UFC’s now-sister promotion, pulling off upsets against Overeem and Bobby Lashley. He hasn’t lost in five years, with every one of his wins credited to his striking.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Browne

Cofield: Browne

Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Rob Broughton at UFC 135.

Punch list: “Hapa” now trains full-time at Greg Jackson’s gym in Albuquerque, leaving behind his team at Alliance MMA in San Diego to move to the desert. Browne’s best attributes are his heavy hands, which have accounted for nine knockouts in 13 career fights. He believes he has the ability to challenge for the heavyweight title — and soon.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Browne

Brewer: Browne

Okamoto: Browne

Stephen Thompson

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 6-0
  • Out of: Simpsonville, S.C.
  • Betting line: -300

Matt Brown

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 6-5
  • MMA record 13-11
  • Out of: Columbus, Ohio
  • Betting line: +240

Welterweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: First-round knockout victory over Dan Stittgen at UFC 143.

Punch list: Don’t ask Thompson about the last time he lost a fight. He doesn’t remember. Between kickboxing and MMA, “Wonderboy” has now won 69 consecutive bouts. He’s never lost as a professional. Thirty wins have come by knockout, including a memorable one in his UFC debut when he floored Stitgen with a kick across the face.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Brown

Cofield: Thompson

Last fight: First-round knockout win against Chris Cope at UFC 143.

Punch list: “The Immortal” hopes he’s rounding into a new phase in his career. Entering 2011, he was on a 0-3 streak but the UFC decided to keep him around because of his exciting style. He’s gone 2-1 since, knocking Cope into oblivion and also beating John Howard with relative ease. But, in between the wins, he had no answers for Seth Baczynski in a poor performance at UFC 139.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Thompson

Brewer: Thompson

Okamoto: Brown

Anthony Njokuani

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 6’0”
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 1-2
  • MMA record 15-6
  • Out of: Las Vegas
  • Betting line: -175

John Makdessi

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 2-1
  • MMA record 9-1
  • Out of: Montreal
  • Betting line: +145

Lightweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: Split decision loss to Danny Castillo at UFC 141.

Punch list: Few fighters in the UFC are more exciting than Njokuani. His kickboxing is electric, but he lacks in other areas. Wrestling was Njokuani’s undoing against Castillo. But it was a controversial decision that could have gone either way. Njokuani felt like he should have gotten the nod, which probably sparked motivation for this training camp.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Njokuani

Cofield: Makdessi

Last fight: Lost to Dennis Hallman by first-round submission at UFC 140.

Punch list: Bravo to this matchmaking, as Makdessi is the rare opponent who could potentially match Njokuani’s stand-up prowess. “The Bull” looked like a legitimate prospect at 155 pounds before Hallman easily took him down and applied a rear-naked choke last December in Toronto. The loss inspired Makdessi to get physically stronger.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Njokuani

Brewer: Njokuani

Okamoto: Njokuani

Efrain Escudero

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 3-3
  • MMA record 18-4
  • Out of: Tempe, Ariz.
  • Betting line: +145

Mac Danzig

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 4-5
  • MMA record 20-9-1
  • Out of: Los Angeles
  • Betting line: -175

Lightweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Jacob Volkmann at UFC 141.

Punch list: Escudero is best known for winning the eighth season of “The Ultimate Fighter”. He became the first “TUF” champion to get cut from the UFC after missing weight at an event, but made his way back to the octagon as a late replacement in the Volkmann bout. No one wants to lose their dream job twice, which could happen if Escudero falls again in Atlanta.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Danzig

Cofield: Danzig

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Matt Wiman at UFC on Versus 6.

Punch list: Danzig is best known for winning the sixth season of “The Ultimate Fighter”. Since winning the guaranteed UFC contract on the reality show, Danzig’s time in the octagon has been hit-or-miss. He impressed in wins over Mark Bocek, Justin Buchholz and Joe Stevenson but also went on a three-fight losing streak at one point.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Escudero

Brewer: Escudero

Okamoto: Danzig

Chris Clements

  • Age: 36
  • Height: 5’10”
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 10-4
  • Out of: London, Ontario
  • Betting line: -225

Keith Wisniewski

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5’11’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 0-2
  • MMA record 28-12-1
  • Out of: Hobart, Ind.
  • Betting line: +175

Welterweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: Third-round TKO victory over Rich Clementi at Score Fighting Series 4.

Punch list: “The Menace” is a striker who trained under the late Shawn Tompkins for most of his career. Every one of his wins have come by knockout. Clements has faced five UFC veterans on the Canadian regional circuit, going 2-3 with wins against Clementi and Jonathan Goulet.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Clements

Cofield: Clements

Last fight: Second round TKO loss to Josh Neer at UFC on Versus 6.

Punch list: Wisniewski’s return to the octagon ended prematurely when he suffered a deep cut above his left eye. He was on his way to defeat against Neer anyway, but a fighter is never happy about losing a bout to a doctor stoppage. Wisniewski was on a six-fight winning streak before dropping the contest to Neer.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Clements

Brewer: Clements

Okamoto: Clements

Maximo Blanco

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’7’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 8-3-1
  • Out of:Yoshida, Japan
  • Betting line: -370

Marcus Brimage

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 5’4’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 4-1
  • Out of: Coconut Creek, Fla.
  • Betting line: +280

Featherweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: Second-round submission loss to Pat Healy at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov.

Punch list: Like Brimage, Blanco wants to stand and trade punches. The Venezuelan-born, Japanese-raised fighter, who drops to featherweight from lightweight for the first time in Atlanta, might want to use his amateur wrestling background more against Brimage. Only two of Blanco’s fights — one win and one draw — have ever gone to decision.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Blanco

Cofield: Blanco

Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Stephen Bass at “The Ultimate Fighter” 14 finale.

Punch list: Brimage molded his fighting style after his hero, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. That means, in a perfect world, the Birmingham, Ala., native would always strike with opponents and ignore the other parts of MMA. He’s found a lot of success against fighters willing to stand in the pocket across from him, but bowed out of the “TUF” 14 tournament after encountering wrestler Bryan Caraway in the quarterfinals.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Brimage

Brewer: Brimage

Okamoto: Blanco

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