Take a bow TUF Brazil that was a lot of stoppages on one card. I am extremely happy that I picked a third consecutive ‘Of the Night’ award and at 10/3 it’s not without its value. I’ll quote myself here “I expect this fight to be brutal, violent and potentially taking the Knockout of the Night and/or Fight of the Night, depending on how long it lasts“ and this justified my extremely rare choice of making two separate pick in one fight. A winner is a winner, but it did result in a small loss on the card overall. Once again, for those who are counting, we are standing at £16.31 profit from a £1 level stake in 2013 so far.

After the excitement of Brazil we now face a card that leaves me unenthused. So many times in 2012 we saw a card decimated by injuries that we hoped 2013 would be different. UFC 161 is a sad reminiscence of those times. From a reasonable main event of Barao v Wineland, we are left with Evans v Henderson. This is not entirely a bad matchup in itself, but almost having Barry v Jordan as the co-main shows how shallow this card has been left. There are a number of fights that under normal circumstances I would consider to be a ‘no bet’ as the majority are going nowhere and have little to fight for.

Barry v Jordan:

It scared me when I heard the rumour that this was potentially going to be a co-main. No disrespect to either man but this would have been up near the top of the ‘worst co-main event lists’ if one were ever compiled. Pat Barry is one of the nicest guys you will meet outside of the octagon. He is one that the fans truly love, despite owning a record that doesn’t really stand up to contender level. I personally find him a little ‘chinny’ and lacking in terms of fighting strategy – on the flipside that’s why a lot of fans love him, I guess. Shawn Jordan still has a fair amount to prove, from cuddling his way to a loss against Cheick Kongo he despatched Mike Russow in impressive style in January. Under the tutelage of Greg Jackson he will be expected to achieve bigger things in a shallow division.

Putting aside wins over Christian Morecroft and Shane del Rosario, Barry has typically struggled against the bigger man. Jordan will be looking to force his way towards top 10 status. I don’t see this going the full three rounds and think that Jordan will take care of business around the halfway mark of round two.

 Recommendation: Method of Victory: Shawn Jordan by KO/TKO – 13/8 @ BetVictor

Davis v Sexton:

This is the fourth ever Women’s match in UFC history. The previous three have been barnstormers, including a Fight of the Night, and there is no reason to think that this one should be any different. England’s very own Rosi Sexton faces off against Alexis Davis. Both fighters are hugely experienced in MMA, Sexton being a veteran of Cage Warriors and Bellator, while Davis has been active for both Invicta and Strikeforce. Canadian Davis will find herself as the hometown and bookies favourite and should be expected to win comfortably. At 35, Sexton knows this is probably her last shot at the big time and will look to give it everything she has got.

Sexton has fallen short when facing off against the very best, highlighted by a defeat to the legendary Gina Carano. However, Davis has been active at a far higher level and I fancy her to take the win. I cannot back anyone at odds of 1/4 so method of victory is probably the way to go. Davis is a BJJ Black Belt out of Cesar Gracie and should be backed to hand Sexton her first ever submission loss.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Alexis Davis by Submission – 9/4 @ BetVictor

Jimmo v Pokrajac:

Although he lost to James Te Huna in his debut, Ryan Jimmo showed enough intent in an opening round salvo to demonstrate that he belongs in the UFC. His record now stands at a bookended 17-2 with losses in his first and last fights. His opponent, Igor Pokrajac, entered the octagon in 2009 with fans hoping for a newer version of the Croatian sensation Mirko Cro-Cop. This was not to be as Pokrajac dropped three of his first four fights. A three fight winning streak followed with wins over notable fighters like Fabio Maldonado and Krzysztof Soszynski. Sadly for Pokrajac this started another losing skid as he dropped back to back losses against Vinny Magalhaes and Joey Beltran – the latter being overturned post fight, so another loss here could very well see him shown the door.

Irrespective of who wins, this does little for the Light Heavyweight picture as both fighters are nowhere near top 10 material. That being said, I feel that if Jimmo were to land a flurry of punches similar to those that nearly took out Te Huna then he will make quick work of Pokrajac. The bookies have Jimmo as short as 4/11 which feels about right. I have no doubts that he will win and I fancy him to do it relatively quickly.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Ryan Jimmo by KO/TKO – 7/2 @ BetVictor

Nelson v Miocic:

Stipe Miocic returns to the octagon after being knocked out by Stefan Struve in Nottingham. That was his first defeat in the UFC as he failed to live up to his heavy favourite status with the bookies. His next opponent couldn’t really be a worse matchup as far as I am concerned. Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson is as happy to take the lay and pray approach as he is to stand and trade blows. Miocic possesses a pair of heavy hands, but his problem is that Nelson has arguably the best chin in MMA. Nelson has been 15 minutes with both Junior dos Santos and Fabricio Werdum and been in no danger of being knocked out.

Against Struve, Miocic had the holes in his stand up game severely exposed by a fighter who carries significantly less striking threat than the heavy handed Nelson. Nelson is 3-0 in his last three fights, all coming by way of knockout. I really don’t see this fight ending any differently. Miocic will look to find range and try and keep Nelson at bay. However, Nelson is far superior in the stand up, in his wrestling and with his jiu-jitsu and I expect him to take Miocic down and end this relatively quickly. This is one of those fights that should probably see Nelson pick up another Knockout of the Night award, although as this is his last contracted UFC fight I wouldn’t be betting on Dana White feeling too generous.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Roy Nelson by KO/TKO – 4/6 @ BetVictor

Evans v Henderson:

Evans v Henderson could also be referred to as Jekyll v Hyde depending on which combination of each turns up. Rashad Evans finds himself at a career low on a two fight skid. It wasn’t that he has dropped consecutive decisions that was the problem; it was the manner in which they were dropped. Against Jon Jones he barely offered up a threat, and the fact that he took the champion the full five rounds is the only credit he emerged with. In his next fight against Little Nog he was horrid. A fight so turgid, that the end was the best thing about it. It isn’t often that you see Evans so unmotivated that he allows himself to be dominated by a fighter so battle worn that he shouldn’t be in the same ring.

His opponent, Dan Henderson, returns to the octagon following a contentious defeat to Lyoto Machida at UFC 157. Henderson felt he had done enough to earn the win but the judges saw it a different way. Injuries have arguably prevented Henderson from achieving his number one goal, to fight for the Light Heavyweight championship. Even with a win here, at 42 (and 43 by the time he could possibly fight again) father time is very much against him. He really only finds himself in this position because of that fight with Shogun Rua where he was still a sprightly young 40 years old.

With Henderson limping into (and out of) the Machida fight, and Evans failing to particularly impress since taking out Tito 2 years ago I cannot expect any fireworks. Evans will spend his fight circling right to avoid the right hand that Henderson will inevitably look to deploy at every opportunity. As both are elite level wrestlers this could end up being fought almost exclusively on the mat. The bookies have Evans as the slight favourite, to which I would disagree. The Evans of 2 years ago would clearly be the favourite but I simply cannot erase the memories of that last fight. This will be a slow gruelling affair with a split decision most likely on the cards. I’ll be backing Henderson to nick it and ‘maybe’ secure a title shot with his final fight.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Dan Henderson by Decision – 3/1 @ Sportingbet