After another lengthy break we return once more. UFC 161 delivered as expected (as in, not very much) but did throw up a sizeable shock. Hand up, I didn’t give Stipe Miocic a cat’s chance in hell against Roy Nelson, but he turned in a career defining performance that may spark his elevation up the rankings. Nelson, on the other hand, is now out of contract and where he goes now is up for offer.

Just the one winning bet last time out as Shawn Jordan dominated Pat Barry to earn a 13/8 winner. The others took a decent run and the value was definitely there, just not the profits. As they say, you win some and lose some. It’s a good time for a mid-yearly review as we are now exactly halfway through 2013. If you have followed every pick from every card with a £1 stake then you would be sitting on profit of £16.31 for the year. If you only followed a few then you could be much higher or lower. Winners as high as 7/1 and as low as 8/13 show the range of betting on offer. Always aim for the value bet though, it won’t always win; there is no guarantee here, but when it does you will know that you got far better odds than just picking the favourite every time.

Outside of the Memorial Day card at the end of May and the New Year’s card in December, the July card is usually the flagship event in the UFC calendar, most recently backed up with International Fight Week. Sadly it sometimes flatters to deceive, as big names and big matchups produce dull affairs (see Silva v Sonnen II). Hopefully this year will live up to expectation with the highly anticipated Silva v Weidman main event. Are there any decent betting opportunities I hear you ask? I am glad you did; let’s talk a walk through the main card.

Swanson v Siver:

In a matchup originally intended for London in February, we finally see Denis Siver face off against Cub Swanson. Five months ago this was a number one contender’s match, but sadly for both fighters the landscape has changed significantly since then. This is now number five v number six in the rankings, bearing in mind that three is on the same card and four fights the champion at UFC 163. The reality is that a win for either fighter puts them in an eliminator for the next shot at Aldo’s belt, should he get past Chang Sun Jung as expected.

Siver enters the octagon 2-1 from his last three, riding back to back wins over Nunes and Phan, the latter being an utter domination. Swanson is 4-1 from his last five. A win for Swanson puts him in with a Frankie Edgar or Chad Mendes before he gets his shot. A win for Siver puts him in with Lamas, so no easy route to the top for these guys. I have been so impressed with Swanson and the way he dominated his last four opponents that I really cannot see beyond him here. Siver is prone to a submission loss; expect Swanson to look for the RNC in the second round.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Cub Swanson by Submission – 19/4 @ BetVictor

Munoz v Boetsch:

Fresh from a year on the side-lines Mark Munoz put his name on every MMA follower’s lips with photos of his transformation from 261lbs to 199lbs. From the point of Super Heavyweight to Middleweight in six months is a remarkable weight cut by anyone’s standards. Whether he can turn that positivity into a comeback win over Tim Boetsch is another story.

Boetsch looks to rebound from a defeat to Costa Philippou in a fight where everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. It wasn’t that he was outgunned, far from it, but he was affected by a head butt and eye poke that clearly affected his game plan.

One of the key factors in the outcome of this fight is that weight cut by Munoz. At 35 years old it’s harder and harder to lose that type of weight, and the energy boost gained would have to be considered negligible. Boetsch dealt with his weight cut when moving down to Middleweight and would be expected to be the more durable as the fight goes on. If Munoz is to win this then I feel it needs to be early, as I fancy Boetsch to improve in the latter rounds. Due to that, I’ll be taking Boetsch late on.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Tim Boetsch by Decision – 5/2 @ BetVictor

Kennedy v Gracie:

In an ill-fated move, Tim Kennedy decided to speak up this week about poor fighter pay and reopen that can of worms. His boss, Dana White, wasn’t best pleased citing “Then be a f****** garbage man. There’s the answer to that question. No disrespect, but who gives a shit about Tim Kennedy. Is he selling out venues? Are they buying f****** tickets for Tim Kennedy?” To be fair, Dana is known for his outbursts, but probably not a good idea to paint a huge target on your back when you have been given a plum spot on one of the top three cards of the year. You only need to ask some of the other ex-Strikeforce fighters who have been cut after just one [poor] performance (Anthony Smith and Nah-Shon Burrell to name but two).

Kennedy is a former Strikeforce title contender and makes his UFC debut against a member of the first family of the UFC, Roger Gracie. Roger is no Royce, and never will be. Just seven fights in seven years doesn’t suggest prolific, more of a hobbyist. Kennedy, by contrast, is a 12 year veteran of the sport, fighting 19 times in the process. This is a fight where BJJ should be key, but most likely to be nullified as both fighters favour the submission, yet neither has succumbed to it. While I certainly don’t expect Gracie to be submitted, I do fancy him to take the loss. Kennedy is the favourite to win by submission and I feel that the bookies have overlooked the alternatives. You can back a KO win at around 5/1 and that’s enough value for me.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Tim Kennedy by KO/TKO – 5/1 @ BetVictor

Edgar v Oliveira:

For the first time in three years Frankie Edgar fights in the UFC and no title is up for grabs. That’s seven fights, with three consecutive losses. It’s also the first fight in the same period that hasn’t been a rematch. Ignore any contentious decision, that’s a fairly decent run and consequently finds himself in a position he hasn’t been in since beating Matt Veach at the TUF 10 finale. His opponent is Charles Oliveira, a man who could consider himself relatively lucky to be in such company with a 2-3 record and a No Contest from his last six fights. Those wins came against relatively poor opposition, and this honestly feels like a mismatch on the part of Joe Silva.

In a title fight Edgar has traditionally started slowly, losing the first round and mounting an epic comeback to take the win. This feels like a fight where he won’t have to. Oliveira’s losses have all come in the first round, be it by submission or KO/TKO and that’s where my money will be going. It won’t be enough to catapult Edgar back into contention, but it does give him an interesting next fight against the likes of Cub Swanson or Ricardo Lamas.

Recommendation: Round Betting: Frankie Edgar in Round One – 11/4 @ Ladbrokes

Silva v Weidman:

It is very easy to get caught up in the hype train for both fighters. In Anderson Silva you have the most dominant champion in UFC history, and the standard for which each fighter should be compared to. With Chris Weidman you have the young gun; the unbeaten wrestler who many think will be the answer to the question “How do you beat Anderson Silva”.

I think Anderson Silva is the finest Mixed Martial Artist of his generation, his legacy may end up being surpassed by Jon Jones but his skill level won’t be. That being said, taking a look back at the champions last few performances gives an insight as to why many are now asking the question. Silva has fought eight times since April 2009. Of those, two were at Light Heavy – a virtual exhibition against Stephan Bonnar and a Fight of the Night against Forrest Griffin. The other six were title defences. Wins against Leites, Maia and Okami were turgid affairs, with two dominant knockout performances against Belfort and Sonnen (II). While we now accept the likelihood of injury from the first Sonnen fight, it was the only bout where he actually needed to turn up and fight which leads me to the question “Is Anderson Silva actually as good as we think he is?”

Chris Weidman is the latest to try and break Silva’s stranglehold on his division, and does so with the plaudits of GSP, Johny Hendricks, Ronda Rousey, Chael Sonnen et al ringing in his ears. Could he be the man to do what so many have failed to do? Perhaps, he has never tasted defeat, has comfortably beaten Mark Munoz and Demian Maia (although this was back when Maia decided to forget his BJJ skills) and looks the total package. His wrestling is better than Sonnen’s, and that gave Silva his biggest UFC scare to date. He can stand and strike and has a solid BJJ game.

I could probably write about this fight for another two pages, but I am here to make a pick so pick I shall. I’ll be honest and say that on any given minute I could cogently argue for either fighter. At the end of the day I think that Silva will win, but I don’t know how. I cannot back him at, what must be a career best of, 2/5 so I am going to go for a safe option. I don’t think that this will end early and feel that the championship rounds will play their part. Because of this I am going to opt for Over 2.5 Rounds for the fight distance.

Recommendation: Over/Under 2.5 Rounds: Over – 23/20 @ Sportingbet