Welcome back for the second of my fight card picks. Things didn’t quite go to plan during UFC 154. The card lost Ring v Philippou after the weigh-in, GSP resumed normal activity, Mark Hominick got outclassed and don’t get me started on Francis Carmont! It was good to see Johny Hendricks turn on the style against Kampmann, and pleased that my under 2.5 rounds paid off. Not the most profitable of weekends for the column, but blindly backing the heavy favourites would not have generated any serious profit – the bookies are too smart for that! This is value betting, taking those longer odds for more interest and a larger profit.
Its a smaller card this week, and one that makes life difficult for a tipster. Lets take a look and see what’s available:
Swick v Brown
This is a rarity in the UFC, a main card match where the outcome does little for the standings in the division. Fair enough, this only got bumped after Lavar Johnson pulled his groin, but there is minimal hype about this match despite involving two Octagon veterans.
Swick has been largely inactive for the past 4 years fighting only four times, racking up two losses and two defeats. Brown, in the same period, has fought 8 times going four losses and four defeats. Although records are similar, Brown appears to have come through his poor form and will have been rejuvenated by his win over ‘Wonderboy’ Stephen Thompson, and I will be looking for him to continue his run. Brown comes in as the bookmakers favourite and I have no intention on opposing the bookies on this one. Not a fan of the skinny odds on an outright win, so I am looking for Brown to take a close decision.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Matt Brown by Decision– 15/8 @ Betfair
Penn v MacDonald
I like the look of this as a fight, but I don’t like the thought of the ending. The first of two metaphorical ‘passing of the torch’ matches on the night, where the past meets the future. To put it another way, this is where ‘The Prodigy’ meets ‘The Protégé’. I don’t need to sit here and write chapter and verse about BJ Penn, his record speaks for itself. When he is expected to lose, he pulls out a performance that leaves you scratching your head. Under normal circumstances you would write off ‘The Prodigy’ at your peril. What sticks in my mind, is the beating that BJ took at the hands of Nick Diaz, so much so that he was compelled to retire, albeit prematurely.
Rory MacDonald is a new breed of fighter. The first true MMA specialist in the sport. This is a guy who grew up wanting to learn MMA, not a specific discipline of martial arts. MacDonald is a protégé of none other than Georges St Pierre, and if you are going to learn then learn from the best. But for a fatal error against Carlos Condit, he would still be unbeaten. Mark my words, this kid is a stone cold killer, and I genuinely fear for BJ going into this fight.
I can only hope that MacDonald makes it quick and BJ leaves his determination outside the Octagon. The bookies wont be offering a market on BJ to retire again, which is where I see this ending up.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Rory MacDonald by KO/TKO– 2/1 @ Paddy Power
Rua v Gustafsson
Despite frequently changing his mind depending on his mood, I believe that Dana White called this the newest Number One Contenders match, and rightly so. During the Nottingham card I met Gustafsson for a signing session. I was struck by how big this guy is. I am 6’2” and this guy towered over me. He is deceptively large, and capable of huge things in the Light Heavyweight division. His single loss against Phil Davis aside, he has dominated all who have faced him. I would love to see him face off against Johnny ‘Bones’ Jones, and chances are that he will if he wins this and the champ sees off Chael Sonnen.
Shogun is as close to a living legend as a current fighter can be. He has held the belt previously, and fought some of the top MMA fighters in the world during his UFC and Pride days. His record includes wins against MMA alum; Alistair Overeem, Kevin Randleman, Mark Coleman, Rampage Jackson and Chuck Liddell. Those new to the sport will most likely remember his fight of the year bout against Dan Henderson from UFC 139. Make no mistake Shogun can, and will, bang with the best, even when all looks lost.
I see this as the second passing of the torch on the night. I just don’t see a win for Shogun, as Gustafsson’s star continues to rise. This could be a long and painful night for the Octagon veteran
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Gustafsson by decision 6/5 @ Paddy Power
Henderson v Diaz
The Diaz brothers have had a contrasting years; Nick lost and got suspended, while Nate won and nailed a title shot. As you will probably be aware by now, Nate is the winner of TUF 5, and really put himself at the forefront of the lightweight division with a trifecta of dominant performances against Takanori Gomi, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone and Jim Miller, respectively. Through all three bouts, Diaz carried out his game plan and forced each fighter to fight his fight. There was only going to be the one winner, with the last two via complete domination.
Benson ‘Smooth’ Henderson is the reigning champion, and fresh off back to back wins against Frankie Edgar. Personally, I think he won the first fight clearly, although the second was debatable at best. Luckily for the champ, the judges saw it in his favour, but he couldn’t have had much argument if they saw it the other way. If you watch the tape again, you can see Henderson saying to Herb Dean that he thought he had lost. Frankie was a fighting champion, and it was always going to take something special to dethrone him (see what I did there?). Seasoned followers will remember that Henderson was the WEC champion, only losing the belt in his final fight on the final WEC card, ever. This loss cost probably cost Henderson a year in terms of fighting for the belt. Those that do recall Henderson’s reign will remember him losing to Anthony Pettis, in part, due to a kick that was felt around the world – if you don’t know it then YouTube it, you wont be sorry.
Its a tough fight to choose, it really is. Both are technically solid fighters with an excellent all round game. There is an old adage in wrestling that the champ doesn’t have to beat the challenger, the challenger has to beat the champ. I am not convinced that Diaz will fully rise to the occasion, although I don’t see him being knocked out. Therefore I am left looking at a win by Submission or Decision for Henderson. A Decision is the most likely, although Henderson will not be wanting to find himself in the same position as his last fight. There is a lot of value in a Submission win, and that’s where I will be putting my money.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Benson Henderson by Submission – 11/2 @ Ladbrokes
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