If we are talking in ‘fight speak’ then last week saw me go 2-3 from my last five. Hotly disputed, maybe, but there is no doubting that 16/5 tip Phil Davis came up trumps with a little action on John Lineker also paying dividends. That puts us now at a profit of £19.93 on the year, nothing ground-breaking, but the profitability is on the increase. I am not going to debate whether Davis did or didn’t deserve to win, the bookies have no moral compass when it comes to betting, and nor do I; we just go for the official result.
Now subtitled ‘Fight Night’ this weekend sees the inaugural ‘Live on Fox Sports’ or ‘Live on BT Sports’ (depending on what country you read this from). On face value it’s certainly a card to kick start any new series, with a number of matches that would take pride of place on a numbered card. I’ll take a run through the main card shortly but I wanted to give an honourable mention to Irelands own Conor McGregor and hopefully we will see him back on a main card in due course. Get it done quickly and painlessly Conor and my feint hope that a slot on the Manchester card may come to fruition.
As we enter a run of four cards in four weeks let’s take a look at some betting opportunities. The bookies will look to take a piece of our hard earned; I intend to take a piece of theirs.
Hall v Howard:
If Uriah Hall achieves nothing else in his MMA career, he can always lay claim to being the main that got people interested in The Ultimate Fighter again. That he lost was irrelevant, he got people talking and generated some of the highest viewing figures for the show. Ok, Sonnen and Jones helped a little, but it was the fear of Hall and the hype surrounding him that garnered universal attention. He does find himself now in a position where he needs to win his first proper fight or find himself cast again into obscurity.
Standing opposite him is a returning John Howard. Howard makes his second debut around two and a half years after being cur following a three fight skid. A decent run on the regional circuit coupled with the late withdrawal of both Nick Ring and Josh Samman gives him that second chance. Whether he can take it is a different story. While Hall is nowhere near the finished article his record doesn’t really embarrass him, Three losses tell a slightly different story, when you realise that they were to the eventual TUF winner as well as Costa Philippou and a certain Chris Weidman. While Hall possesses knockout power in his hands and feet it is tough to knock out Howard. I would expect to see Hall making Howard his very own punching bag en route to a unanimous decision.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Uriah Hall by Decision – 23/10 @ Ladbrokes
Brown v Pyle:
Quite possibly one of the hardest fights to call on this card. Mike Pyle’s MMA record reads like a veritable who’s who in the Welterweight division. At 37 he should be in a position where he starts to wind down, to take fights for the fun of it but he remains as active as any other UFC fighter. Despite being 4-0 in his last four and 8-3 in his last 11 he remains no closer to a title shot but is positioned kindly as a gatekeeper in the division. Even with a potential win there are far more viable contenders so that title shot will most likely never come, unless as a last minute replacement. With the withdrawal of Thiago Alves from this fight, it’s a position that he may need to get used to.
Matt Brown is a warrior who has managed to completely turn his career around. After going 1-4 he must have feared the dreaded pink slip but five wins in a row, including a Fight of the Night performance against Jordan Mein have given him a second wind. In a similar manner to Pyle, I am not sure that there will ever be the title shot that he craves, and with the likes of Ellenberger, Hendricks, Condit, Kampmann, Diaz and MacDonald ahead of him then it would take something truly special to get it. All Matt Brown can keep doing is winning and hoping that those in front of him either fall by the wayside or take each other out.
Brown has a granite chin and has never been knocked out, but he has massive holes in his submission game taking nine defeats via this method. Sadly for him that plays right into Pyle’s playground as 64% of his wins have come via tap out.
There is a combined nine fight winning run to be ended here and by all rights it should be going to the younger, stronger man. Brown should have enough in his fists to blast a hole through Pyle. However, I can see some value in this fight so rather than backing either for the outright win. Ladbrokes have a Submission of the Night market up nice and early, quite rightly they have Joe Lauzon at the top of the betting. Mike Pyle can be backed at an outrageous 9/1 and that’s where I’ll be putting my coppers down. If Pyle wins then it will most likely be by submission
Recommendation: Submission of the Night: Mike Pyle – 9/1 @ Ladbrokes
Faber v Alcantara:
As a fighter gets older it’s normally obvious that they become less active and a little choosier with the fights they take. The opposite is true for Urijah Faber. Desperate for another run at the title Faber is fighting his third fight of 2013 as he looks to establish himself as the mandatory challenger to the winner of Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland. With Dominick Cruz likely to be on the bench until early 2014 there is a small window of opportunity for a Bantamweight title defence towards the end of the year. Should that window open, then Faber needs to be standing right beneath it. At 34 there will not be too many opportunities that remain.
Iuru Alcantara will look to derail the Faber train in a bid to get closer to Barao. Alcantara is 1-1-0-1 in his last three fights having gone 13-0 previously, which includes a win over current Featherweight contender Ricardo Lamas. A BJJ Black belt Alcantara will find it extremely difficult to compare with the extraordinary wrestling that Faber brings to the octagon. When Alcantara wins then it’s normally by submission or knockout. Sadly for him it is almost impossible to knock out Faber and he has never been submitted. While on paper the records are comparable, the quality level is far wider. This should be a perfect example of what happens when Elite level meets merely pretty good. Against a high level BJJ practitioner I wouldn’t be backing Faber to take the submission, but I would expect him to take a unanimous points decision.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Urijah Faber by Decision – 5/4 @ Paddy Power
Overeem v Browne:
Alistair Overeem can consider himself a lucky man. His time in the UFC has not been without controversy. From a battering of Brock Lesnar he manages to throw away a title shot with a PED ban, only to come back and underestimate/upset an angry Bigfoot Silva. I actually tipped up Overeem to take that fight at a canter. Sadly the entrance swagger and arrogance meant that he overlooked his opponent and Silva put him away in the third. While Overeem will never lose the shadows cast upon him he knows that he is better than this and has a serious point to prove.
Travis Browne also lost to Bigfoot Silva, but he didn’t really deserve the outcome which came after picking up an injury in the fight. He made a successful return against Gonzaga setting himself up for a potential run at the title. Make no bones about it; after the JDS/Velasquez trilogy is concluded and Werdum has his shot then arguably the winner of this match could very well be due a title shot. While both stand a punchers chance of winning this must be Overeem’s fight to lose. While Browne has done little wrong to date, and despatched his opponents with brute force he neither has the experience or background that Overeem has.
As these behemoths meet Overeem will want to keep Browne at range, picking him off with elite level kickboxing and striking. Brown will look to get into the clinch and pound out Overeem at close range. The winner of the fight is the man who gets to impose his game plan. I will be taking Overeem for this fight, although a punch from Browne re-writes the script. The judges won’t be called into action here as it’s most unlikely that this goes three rounds. I fancy Overeem to take this before the mid-point of the second round by TKO. If he fails, then this expensive acquisition could find himself staring at a large pink slip.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Alistair Overeem by KO/TKO – 11/10 @ Sportingbet
Rua v Sonnen:
Firstly, I am not sure how this can headline a card such as this. While both are still a decent draw, I feel a little cheated that a nothing match has such high billing. With no title implications and a combined record of 4-6 from the last 10 fights it feels like a fight for the sake of it.
Chael Sonnen is fantastic on the mic, is great for a sound bite and sells PPV’s. He isn’t a champion, never has been and never will be. While spending the last few months calling out the likes of Wanderlei, Belfort, Jones and now Rua he further establishes the caricature that he has become. Of course some of these fights will gather interest, and will probably have a contribution toward the PPV bottom line, but it advances him no further and does little for his career.
In ‘Shogun’ Rua you have a Pride legend and former champion. His record in the UFC has been far from stellar, alternating wins and losses almost since his debut back at UFC 76. In that time he has both lost to and beaten Machida and Forrest Griffin as well has dropping fights to Jon Jones, Dan Henderson and Alexander Gustafsson. Where he has lost they have been unanimous or one sided. Where he has won then he has delivered by KO (and one submission), and he has never dropped two straight at any point in his career.
I find myself surprised that Sonnen opens up as the bookies favourite in this and can only guess that cardio is his trump card. Personally, I’ll happily go with history. As I mentioned, Rua has never lost two straight, and I don’t see that changing here. With a knockout win percentage of 85% I feel safe that there is value in backing this method of victory. The longer the fight goes, the more I would favour Sonnen so it is important that this finishes before the championship rounds.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Mauricio Rua by KO/TKO – 13/5 @ Sportingbet