Here it is, the last UFC event of the year, and what a way to sign off. Followers of the column will know that this is my fourth round of tips, and the year to date has been profitable so far. For profit purposes I give all my thanks to Ross Pearson for last week stopping Sotiropoulos in the third round for a juicy 22/1 winner. Tipsters like to promote their own profitability to a £1 level stake, this is where you place a theoretical £1 on each selection offered and then add up the returns. I currently sit at £19.40 going into the final card of 2012. Each week that the column is up I will be updating this figure so you can decide for yourself whether to follow me or not.
Moving onto UFC 155, here we go. Sticking with the main card, as usual, despite the undercard having some very interesting fights.
Leben v Brunson:
There is so little that I can say about Chris Leben that hasn’t already been said, so I will start off with his opponent Derek Brunson. Fighting out of Jacksons Gym, Derek Brunson makes his UFC debut this weekend looking to snap a two fight losing streak. Himself a late replacement for Karlos Vemola, Brunson steps into the Octagon with one of the most charismatic and enigmatic fighters in the history of MMA. Chris Leben can bang with the best and will look to do so as he makes his long awaited return following a suspension for drugs. There will be questions, after 19 UFC fights does he still have the heart to stand and trade? Has the sport moved on in his absence? Does he have a title run in him or is he now simply a gatekeeper to the division? I am a massive Leben fan but don’t see any of these questions being answered in this fight. Brunson has no record to get excited about and a bright start has started to fade. The Crippler will be back with a bang, and put Brunson away in the second round.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Chris Leben by KO/TKO
Okami v Belcher
For the first time in his UFC career Alan Belcher is on a proper run. Four wins on the spin takes him into a fight with Yushin Okami. Belcher, it could be said, is the wrong guy in the wrong place and at the wrong time, with even a sensational win here doing little for him in terms of divisional positioning. He will be keen to gain revenge over Okami for beating him in his UFC debut back in 2006. Okami holds the distinction of a win over Anderson Silva, and rebounded well from a poor loss to Tim Boetsch, knocking out Buddy Roberts in August. The loss to Boetsch gave hope to many fighters, as even when clearly two rounds down you can come out swinging against Okami and he can crumble. After that KO, I cannot imagine Okami being so careless as to drop his hands again, so its a points win for Belcher taking his streak to five, and avenging that debut loss.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Alan Belcher on Points – 5/2 @ Sportingbet
Boetsch v Philippou
Let it be said that Tim Boetsch is making a far better run in his second spell with the company than his first. He was cut back in 2009 after two wins and two losses. Since returning in 2010 he has racked up five wins and a single loss. Those wins have included victories against Yushin Okami, in what was hailed as the “greatest comeback in UFC history”, (it wasn’t, lets just clear that one up immediately) and Hector Lombard. The fight against Lombard was supposed to be a set up for Hector to take on Anderson Silva, but Boetsch had other plans. Costa Philippou was due to fight Nick Ring a few weeks back, but that fight was cancelled due to illness and this is a massive step up in class for him. Going by his recent record Boetsch is a big fan of the decision win, and so am I here. For me I see his recent experience and class taking over, and feel that he will dominate Philippou for three long rounds, pushing himself into an inevitable title shot eliminator with Chris Weidman when he returns from injury.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Tim Boetsch on Points – 6/4 @ Ladbrokes
Miller v Lauzon
This is being talked about as a potential Fight of the Night, and its difficult to argue with that logic. Joe Lauzon is a submission machine with 7 of his 13 UFC wins by this method, and he has impressed the right people on his journey. His most recent fight, against Jamie Varner, saw Lauzon take his 11th UFC bonus award, five of them for Submission of the Night. Jim Miller steps in after Gray Maynard withdrew with injury, this fight giving him an opportunity to get back on the horse after being dominated by Nate Diaz in May 2012. It has been a tough last 2 years for Miller, impressive wins have been punctuated with losses although he will take comfort in the knowledge that those wins are against the current Lightweight Champion and the most recent title challenger, so he cannot be written off. I expect this to be a cagey affair with neither fighter wanting to give much away. As both have outstanding Submission skills there is only one logical bet for this fight. I like the look of Joe Lauzon right now, his star is very much in the ascendency and he would love to add another bonus cheque to his career winnings.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Joe Lauzon by Submission – 7/2 @ Sportingbet
Dos Santos v Velasquez
These guys are the top two guys in the division without a shadow of a doubt. This is probably a match up that most fans have been salivating over since the first encounter on the debut Fox card. That fight was sadly cut short around 63 seconds in when Dos Santos delivered a devastating right hand that sent Velasquez to the canvas. Both fighters have impressed in outings since then; Dos Santos systematically took apart Frank Mir, while on the same card Velasquez literally left Antonio Silva lying in a pool of blood. Both of those fights give an indication of where each wants to take this fight. Dos Santos will be doing everything he can to keep this standing, while Velasquez will be looking to add to the 19 seconds that Dos Santos has spent on his back. These guys are like alligators, take them out of the water and they become beatable, but step into their comfort zone and prepare be eaten alive.
Both fighters carry such power that it is rare to see them extend into the later rounds, only doing so when the opponent is so difficult to put away that it becomes a one sided beating. Evidence of this can be seen where JDS battered both Shane Carwin and Roy Nelson for 15 minutes apiece, with Velasquez doing similar to Cheick Kongo. Velasquez can be beaten, and knocked out; we know this from the first fight. JDS is unbeaten in the UFC and hasn’t ever looked in danger. I can’t pick a winner from this fight, it all comes down to who gets their game plan into motion first. Someone, somewhere, will have to beat JDS eventually, arguably Velasquez has the tools to do just that. Velasquez will know that a second loss to the Champion confines him to relative obscurity until the belt changes hands. I am leaning towards JDS if I simply have to pick, but the smart money goes on round betting rather than the outright.
Recommendation: When Will The Fight End: Either in Round Two – 13/5 @ Paddy Power