There is something very satisfying about the start of a New Year. It gives you the opportunity to wipe the slate of the previous year clean, to start again or just set a new target. For those who follow regularly, 2012 was a decent year ending in a profit of £14.40 for a £1 level stake. I won’t lie, the last event of the year was simply horrible and everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. In fact I would be prepared to say that was my worst tipping weekend ever, not getting a single fight pick right. With that in mind, I look to start again to see what profits 2013 can bring us.

When the headliner was first announced I thought that we would get some decent fights on the card, so to say I am a little underwhelmed is an understatement. I would have loved to see Edson Barboza back on the main card, but alas this was not to be; but I digress, so lets take a closer look at what we will see.

Tavares v Nurmagomedov:

Khabib Nurmagomedov comes into this fight looking to make it three wins on the bounce in the UFC. His opponent is Octagon veteran Thiago Tavares, who has been around for a while, but not fought anyone of any outstanding calibre. Its a fight that has almost no relevance in the Lightweight division; at least not yet anyway. Tavares almost finds himself in a role of gatekeeper and should be considered a reasonable test for any fighter entering the company. By contrast, Nurmagomedov is young, unbeaten and a very well-rounded fighter, albeit at a more regional than worldwide level. Tavares has four losses to his name, equally split between decision and KO. Nurmagomedov has power and I think that he should take a comfortable victory without needing to wake up the judges.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Nurmagomedov by KO/TKO – 11/10 @ Betfair

Gonzaga v Rothwell:

One thing I would like to open up with; there is almost zero chance of this fight going the distance – there, I said it. We have two big heavyweights, meaning a lot of power and little gas in the tank. Rothwell has been the distance three times in 32 fights, and Gonzaga has never been on the receiving end of a judges decision. Big Ben Rothwell has been the most active fighter since making his debut, fighting almost twice as many times as his opponent. Both fighters have fought a lot of quality opponents, very much a who’s who of MMA; Roy Nelson, Andrei Arlovski, Cain Velasquez and Mark Hunt for Rothwell, with Gonzaga taking on Fabricio Werdum (twice), Mirko Cro-Cop, Randy Couture, Shane Carwin and Junior Dos Santos. The bookies have Gonzaga as the favourite, personally I don’t. I see this ending in a KO with Rothwell’s arm being raised high. Don’t get me wrong this could go either way, but I am picking the younger and bigger man to get the job done.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Ben Rothwell by KO/TKO – 6/4 @ Ladbrokes

Sarafian v Dollaway:

I have been looking at this fight for a while now and cannot understand, for the life of me, why the bookies have Sarafian as the odds on favourite in this fight. Lets take a look at the facts, Sarafian was a finalist on TUF Brazil and only missed out due to injury. CB Dollaway on the other hand, is a four year veteran of the UFC, himself a losing finalist on TUF 7. Dollaway has been in the cage with the likes of Jason Miller, Mark Munoz, Tom Lawlor and Amir Sadollah; although not with a huge amount of success. Now lets look at Sarafian, he has been in the octagon with precisely nobody during his five years in the sport. I just don’t understand the hype surrounding this guy and I think that the bookies are very, very wrong here. I expect Dollaway to get on top of Sarafian early on, and literally keep him on the mat for 15 minutes. Its not going to be a Fight of the Night (or an anything of the night) but it will be another win for The Doberman.

Recommendation: To Win The Fight: CB Dollaway – 13/8 @ Paddy Power

Belfort v Bisping:

This fight has had me torn for a long time now. I desperately want Bisping to take the win. If nothing else so that he gets his shot at the title, and in the vain hope that we get a title fight in the UK with Anderson Silva. Dan Hardy aside, the Brits have never really been given title shots, although Bisping will lay a bigger claim than most to deserving one. He was said to be close when getting knocked out by Dan Henderson, and was in an eliminator against Chael Sonnen. Ignoring who actually won that fight one thing remains, Bisping has fallen short when given a sniff of the prize on offer. Vitor has been there and done it all. A long-time veteran of MMA and the UFC he has fought pretty much everyone, at least once. It’s a strange position for Belfort to find himself in because, although this will be an eliminator for Bisping, it won’t be for him. Despite stepping in at late notice to take on Jon Jones in the Light Heavyweight fight at UFC 152, the shadow of his crippling loss to Anderson Silva at UFC 126 still looms over him. If he gets past Bisping, another title shot would probably be at least two fights away, three if things don’t go his way.

Lets break down where this fight could potentially be won or lost. This is another one that I just don’t see going the distance. At 33 and 35, neither will have the gas in the tank to go hell for leather for 25 minutes, so a decision is out. Both Belfort and Bisping do have submissions in the arsenal just not many of them, and they have a particular aversion to using them, as 7 combined submissions in 44 combined wins would seemingly testify. This leaves us with a KO being the most likely outcome. Most of the pundits will be taking Bisping for this, but I am going to buck the trend and put my money on Belfort by KO/TKO. Its a case of head ruling heart, although I would like to go on record and say that this is one bet I would more than happily lose.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Vitor Belfort by KO/TKO – 2/1 @ Ladbrokes