The storylines at UFC 123

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

By  Abe Chong
UFC Betting Odds

UFC betting online. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Lyoto Machida, B.J. Penn and Matt Hughes were all champions at one time, but all their futures are very much up in the air at this point. All these fighters are at different points in their careers, making for some very intriguing storylines leading up this fight.

Rampage is coming off a loss to a hated rival in Rashad Evans, but is still well within range of a title shot. He's a very popular fighter, and is without a doubt one of the hardest punchers in the division. But at age 32 with already 38 fights, it's likely we've seen the best of Rampage. His evolution as a fighter seems to have peaked, and although once known as a fearsome wrestler in Pride, he rarely shoots in for takedowns anymore, resulting in a lack of depth in his fighting game.

At +215, he's a pretty big underdog going into the UFC betting lines fight, and should he get worked over by Machida, he'll take a tumble out of the heavyweight picture. Because of his popularity, he'll always be able to get fights, but a loss here would be two in a row, which would make him a non-contender for several fights. He really needs to show some evolvement as a fighter to keep pace with the top of the pack.

Machida suffered the first loss of his career after he was brutalized by Shogun Rua, and he lost his title as a result. But he seems to be in a much more promising position than Rampage; before fighting Shogun he was making it look easy against great fighters like Thiago Silva and Rashad Evans. Should he do the same against Rampage -- and he's expected to as a -275 betting favorite-- he'll be on a short list of fighters deserving of a title shot.

Matt Hughes is clearly nearing the end of a hall-of-fame career, and is clearly only being given fights that can be considered gimmick fights. As an active legend and UFC star, Hughes can be thrown in against name fighters like Renzo and Royce Gracie or grudge matches against Matt Serra, and it'll be a sellable fight. Nobody really believes Hughes can challenge for the title anymore, but a win over B.J. Penn for a second time would be a great feather in his cap.

For B.J. Penn, this fight is puzzling considering that he's moving up a weight class after having his title snatched from him by Frankie Edgar. It'll be interesting to see if Dana White lets Penn keep competing at 170 or if Penn will move back to 155. Penn is far from a title shot at 170, and he was already dominated by GSP in a superfight. Also, not forcing Penn to cut weight and stay in shape might be a very, very bad idea, considering that he's had conditioning issues in the past.

At -150, Penn is decent play against Matt Hughes, simply because Hughes needs to wrestle to be effective, and Penn still has some of the best takedown defense in the UFC. If it becomes a striking match, then Penn will eat Hughes' lunch on the feet. Hughes is not the explosive wrestler he once was.

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