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UFC 144 breakdown, betting odds and picks

Frankie Edgar favored over Ben Henderson in lightweight title fight

Any doubts about UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar are beginning to subside.

Edgar was an underdog in each of his first three championship bouts but comes in as a slight favorite for his second fight in a row in Saturday’s UFC 144 main event from Saitama, Japan.

Sports books list Edgar at -130 (risking $1.30 to win $1), with challenger Ben Henderson coming back at even money. All five members of the Las Vegas Sun picks panel expect Edgar to beat Henderson.

They also agree unanimously on two other fights. Both are on the pay-per-view portion of the card, which begins at 7 p.m., after FX airs four preliminary bouts at 5 p.m.

Check below to find a breakdown, betting odds and picks from KSNV’s Kevin West (24-7), ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto (22-9), Las Vegas Sun’s Case Keefer (19-12), ESPN Radio/Cagewriter.com’s Steve Cofield (19-12) and Las Vegas Sun’s Ray Brewer (15-16) on all 12 fights.

Ben Henderson

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’9''
  • Weight: 156
  • UFC record 3-0
  • MMA record 15-2
  • Out of:Glendale, Ariz.
  • Betting line: Even

Frankie Edgar

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5’6''
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 9-1-1
  • MMA record 14-1-1
  • Out of: Toms River, N.J.
  • Betting line: -130

Lightweight Championship Bout

Main Event

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Clay Guida at UFC on FOX 1.

Punch list: Henderson is an even more accomplished wrestler than Edgar. He was an All American multiple times at Dana College in Nebraska. Combined with his ability to get out of submission attempts — which has earned him the nickname “Bendo” — the fight taking place on the ground would probably serve Henderson best.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Edgar

Cofield: Edgar

Last fight: Fourth round TKO victory over Gray Maynard at UFC 136.

Punch list: Edgar started as a wrestler. He wrestled at Clarion University in Pennsylvania and went on to coach at Rutgers. But “The Answer” now has a boxing game that arguably no one at 155 pounds can match. His foot speed is impeccable, as seen by the way he jabbed and hooked Maynard to defeat after early trouble last October.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Edgar

Brewer: Edgar

Okamoto: Edgar

Ryan Bader

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 6’2”
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 6-2
  • MMA record 13-2
  • Out of: Tempe, Ariz.
  • Betting line: +220

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 6’1''
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 7-3
  • MMA record 32-9
  • Out of: Irvine, Calif.
  • Betting line: -280

Light Heavyweight Bout

Co-Main Event

Last fight: First round knockout victory over Jason Brilz at UFC 139.

Punch list: My, how fast everything can change in mixed martial arts. Bader looked like he had taken a significant step back in his career with consecutive submission losses to Jon Jones and Tito Ortiz. Seventy-seven seconds with Brilz later, and the Reno native is back in a marquee 205-pound bout.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Jackson

Cofield: Bader

Last fight: Fourth round submission loss to Jon Jones at UFC 135.

Punch list: Rampage has repeatedly talked about how excited he is to put on a tremendous show for the Japanese fans. He became a legend at the Saitama Super Arena with memorable showings in PRIDE. Motivation is half the battle with Jackson. When he wants to be, “The A Team” actor remains one of the best light heavyweight fighters in the world.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Jackson

Brewer: Bader

Okamoto: Jackson

Cheick Kongo

  • Age: 36
  • Height: 6’4’’
  • Weight: 234
  • UFC record 10-4-1
  • MMA record 17-6-2
  • Out of: Paris
  • Betting line: -300

Mark Hunt

  • Age: 37
  • Height: 5’10’’
  • Weight: 261
  • UFC record 2-1
  • MMA record 7-7
  • Out of: Sydney
  • Betting line: +230

Heavyweight Bout

Pay-Per-View Fight

Last fight: Beat Matt Mitrione by unanimous decision at UFC 137.

Punch list: Everyone, including UFC President Dana White, came away underwhelmed with Kongo’s last performance. He and Mitrione clinched up for most of the fight and didn’t provide much action. That’s unlike the former champion kickboxer. Six of Kongo’s 10 UFC victories have come by knockout.

Staff picks:KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Kongo

Cofield: Kongo

Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Ben Rothwell at UFC 135.

Punch list: The biggest upset on this weekend’s card may have already taken place. It’s Hunt being this close to the top of a UFC card. Hunt made a name for himself as a kickboxer with K-1 in Japan, but was mostly an afterthought mixed martial artist when the UFC purchased PRIDE. He insisted on getting a shot in the UFC, and has now won two straight.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Kongo

Brewer: Kongo

Okamoto: Kongo

Jake Shields

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 6’0''
  • Weight: 171
  • UFC record 1-2
  • MMA record 26-6-1
  • Out of: San Francisco
  • Betting line: -300

Yoshihiro Akiyama

  • Age: 36
  • Height: 5’10''
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 1-3
  • MMA record 13-4
  • Out of: Osaka, Japan
  • Betting line: +230

Welterweight Bout

Featured Contest

Last fight: First round knockout loss to Jake Ellenberger at UFC Fight Night 25.

Punch list: The 14-fight winning streak Shields enjoyed from 2005-2010 seems like a distant memory now. He lost a lopsided decision to Georges St. Pierre and followed it with a brutal knockout defeat against Ellenberger. Shields could have blamed the Ellenberger performance on distraction after his father died shortly before the fight, but he has taken full responsibility for the loss.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Akiyama

Cofield: Shields

Last fight: First round knockout defeat against Vitor Belfort at UFC 133.

Punch list: “Sexyama” finally heeded the UFC’s advice and dropped to the 170-pound division for this fight. It’s the first time in his career, as he’s spent most of his time at 185 pounds. Akiyama is a star in Japan, where he’s married to one of the nation’s most famous models.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Shields

Brewer: Shields

Okamoto: Shields

Tim Boetsch

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 186
  • UFC record 5-3
  • MMA record 14-4
  • Out of: Sunbury, Penn.
  • Betting line: +300

Yushin Okami

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 6’2’’
  • Weight: 183
  • UFC record 10-3
  • MMA record 27-6
  • Out of: Kanagawa, Japan
  • Betting line: -450

Middleweight Bout

Pay-Per-View Fight

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Nick Ring at UFC 135.

Punch list: He’s blown past both opponents, Ring and Kendall Grove, since dropping to middleweight. Now comes a real test. Okami is the best fighter “The Barbarian” has ever faced and is skilled in many of the same areas like wrestling.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Okami

Cofield: Okami

Last fight: Second round TKO defeat against Anderson Silva at UFC 134.

Punch list: Arguably the most accomplished Japanese fighter ever returns for the first time since an embarrassing loss to Silva last summer. Okami has easily beaten everyone except the top middleweights throughout his career, though. Other than Silva, he’s only lost to Chael Sonnen and Rich Franklin in the UFC.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Okami

Brewer: Okami

Okamoto: Okami

Bart Palaszewski

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 35-14
  • Out of: Wonder Lake, Ill.
  • Betting line: +150

Hatsu Hioki

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’11’’
  • Weight: 143
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 25-4-2
  • Out of: Nagoya, Aichi Pref., Japan
  • Betting line: -185

Featherweight Bout

Pay-Per-View Fight

Last fight: Knocked out Tyson Griffin in the first round at UFC 137.

Punch list: The longtime veteran may have finally found his rightful home at 145 pounds. The former WEC fighter stole the show in many ways at UFC 137, with a massive right hand to upset Griffin. If he beats Hioki, "Bartimus" will officially enter title contention.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Hioki

Cofield: Palaszewski

Last fight: Split decision win against George Roop at UFC 137.

Punch list: A win here would probably make Hioki the next opponent for featherweight champion Jose Aldo. It’s a bout hardcore fans have wanted for years, as Hioki rose to prominence in Japan’s Sengoku promotion and ranked No. 2 in the world at 145 pounds on many lists. Twelve career wins have come by submission.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Palaszewski

Brewer: Palaszewski

Okamoto: Hioki

Joe Lauzon

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 5’10’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 8-3
  • MMA record 20-6
  • Out of: Bridgewater, Mass
  • Betting line: +200

Anthony Pettis

  • Age: 25
  • Height: 5’10’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 1-1
  • MMA record 12-2
  • Out of: Milwaukee
  • Betting line: -250

Lightweight Bout

Pay-Per-View Opener

Last fight: First round submission win against Melvin Guillard at UFC 136.

Punch list: Heavy underdog status didn’t affect Lauzon his last time out. In one of the biggest upsets of 2011, Lauzon clipped Guillard before choking him out. Lauzon has looked phenomenal several times in the UFC, winning coveted bonuses of the night on seven occasions, but also inconsistent with three losses.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Lauzon

Cofield: Pettis

Last fight: Split decision win against Jeremy Stephens at UFC 136.

Punch list: “Showtime” thinks he’ll be the lightweight champion by the end of 2012. The final WEC champion needs to beat Lauzon and likely one more opponent before getting a shot at the belt. He’s one of the most exciting fighters in MMA with an imaginative striking game, improved wrestling and a plethora of submissions.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Pettis

Brewer: Pettis

Okamoto: Pettis

Eiji Mitsuoka

  • Age: 36
  • Height: 5’7’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 18-7-2
  • Out of: Tokyo
  • Betting line: +175

Takanori Gomi

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 1-3
  • MMA record 32-8
  • Out of: Tokyo
  • Betting line: -225

Lightweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Bruno Carvalho at Dream: Japan Grand Prix Final.

Punch list: Mitsuoka has surprisingly made the rounds on the Japanese fight circuit for as long as Gomi. But he’s never sustained quite the level of success as Gomi. He’s won two straight, however, since returning from a two-year layoff. Before that, Mitsuoka was only 2-2 in his last four fights.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Gomi

Cofield: Gomi

Last fight: First round submission loss to Nate Diaz at UFC 135.

Punch list: “The Fireball Kid” is in desperate need of a win. The prospects became stronger when original opponent George Sotiropoulos pulled out with an injury, giving Mitsuoka a late replacement spot. Gomi is enduring his first two-fight losing streak in nine years, making the days when he was the top lightweight in the world a distant memory.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Gomi

Brewer: Mitsuoka

Okamoto: Gomi

Vaughan Lee

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’5”
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 0-1
  • MMA record 11-7
  • Out of: Birmingham, England
  • Betting line: +250

Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto

  • Age: 34
  • Height: 5’4’’
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 0-2
  • MMA record 18-5
  • Out of: Tokyo
  • Betting line: -325

Bantamweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: Lost to Chris Cariaso by split decision at UFC 138.

Punch list: The UFC turned Lee away when he tried out for “The Ultimate Fighter” 14, but he made his way to the octagon anyway. He may not be there for long. Lee’s job won’t be secure unless he beats Yamamoto on his home turf. Lee will look to get Yamamoto on the floor and force him to tap out. Six of Lee’s victories have come by submission.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Yamamoto

Cofield: Yamamoto

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Darren Uyenoyama at UFC on FOX 1.

Punch list: Yamamoto is yet another Japanese fighter with a big name who badly needs a victory. The UFC could have cut him after a lopsided loss to Uyenoyama, but he was worth keeping around for a card like this weekend’s. Yamamoto once went on a five-year unbeaten streak and has trained with the Japanese Olympic wrestling team.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Yamamoto

Brewer: Lee

Okamoto: Yamamoto

Steve Cantwell

  • Age: 25
  • Height: 6’2’’
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 1-4
  • MMA record 7-5
  • Out of:Las Vegas
  • Betting line: +230

Riki Fukuda

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 0-1
  • MMA record 7-5
  • Out of: Tokyo
  • Betting line: -300

Middleweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Mike Massenzio at UFC 136.

Punch list: Many were shocked to see the local live to see another day in the UFC. He’s one of the first fighters the promotion has ever kept in the midst of a four-fight losing streak. At least the former WEC champion has only ever lost one fight by stoppage.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Fukuda

Cofield: Fukuda

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Nick Ring at UFC 127.

Punch list: The loss to Ring was a candidate for Robbery of the Year. The Japanese middleweight clearly beat Ring in the eyes of everyone but the judges. The UFC even gave him his win bonus despite the decision. An injury has sidelined Fukuda for a year since the battle with Ring in Australia.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Fukuda

Brewer: Cantwell

Okamoto: Fukuda

Chris Cariaso

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5’3”
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 2-1
  • MMA record 12-3
  • Out of: San Francisco
  • Betting line: +160

Takeya Mizugaki

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’7’’
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 2-1
  • MMA record 15-6-2
  • Out of: Kangawa, Japan
  • Betting line: -200

Bantamweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: Won a split decision over Vaughan Lee at UFC 138.

Punch list: With his quickness, “Kamikaze” has a crowd-pleasing style. He’s looked strong in each of his three octagon appearances, even in a split decision loss to Michael McDonald. The tiny Cariaso could conceivably debate a move to the new flyweight division after this fight.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Mizugaki

Cofield: Cariaso

Last fight: Second round TKO over Cole Escovedo at UFC 135.

Punch list: Mizugaki has never quite lived up to his promise since moving to the States from Japan. The striker has beaten who he was supposed to beat, but fallen to anyone closer to the top. He went 2-3 in the WEC before merging over with the UFC.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Cariaso

Brewer: Mizugaki

Okamoto: Mizugaki

Issei Tamura

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 5’5’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 6-2
  • Out of:Tokyo
  • Betting line: +230

Tiequan Zhang

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 1-1
  • MMA record 18-2
  • Out of: Beijing
  • Betting line: -300

Featherweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: Majority decision loss to Guy Delumeau at Shooto The Shoot 2011.

Punch list: A late injury to Leonard Garcia gave Tamura the unforeseen opportunity to make his octagon debut in front of his home country He’s only fought professionally for four years and all but one of his fights have gone to the judges’ scorecards.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Zhang

Cofield: Zhang

Last fight: Unanimous decision defeat against Darren Elkins at UFC 136.

Punch list: Zhang spent this training camp in Las Vegas as part of a UFC program to give Chinese fighters a chance to receive improved training. He’s never had any troubles with submissions, earning 12 throughout his career, but could improve in other areas of his game.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Zhang

Brewer: Tamura

Okamoto: Zhang

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