Speechless. Just speechless, and it’s not often I find myself saying that after my first clean sweep here at Fighters Only. Not just picking the winner of each fight, that’d be far too easy. Six from six, with five of them via the correct method of victory to boot. Kelvin Gastelum had me sweating a touch as he landed flush on Melancon, and a couple of those split decisions were hairy. To clarify, 5/4, 5/4, 7/4, 7/1, 11/5 and 13/8 were the odds. Alone, that pushed profitability up from £17.18 to £32.26; collectively it returned 935/1. It just goes to show that a good week can negate a couple of bad ones. If anyone placed a speculative pound on the accumulator then you would be nearly a grand richer. Sadly, I didn’t.
Not a huge amount of time to sit back and reflect/gloat as we move on the next event with only three days separating them. There are some excellent fights this weekend so let’s take a look through the card and see if we can keep the streak alive.
Koch v Poirier:
Outside of the main event this is a legitimate alternative for the Fight of the Night bonus. In Koch and Poirier we see two young guns that will help to shape the future of the Lightweight division over the next five years or so.
Koch did find himself lined up for a title shot against Aldo, but an injury put paid to that and he found himself sliding down the rankings a little. His TKO defeat to Lamas didn’t help his cause.
Poirier is a similar type of fighter – young, keen, talented – with a near identical record to his opponent. He has also found himself a little short when it really mattered. With a record of 1-2 from his last three he needs a win to arrest the slide down the rankings. Against Cub Swanson he was dominated on the way to a decision loss, while a Fight of the Year contender against the Korean Zombie was ended by submission.
Although the bookies have Koch as the favourite I find myself edging towards Poirier. This will most likely end via the judges’ scorecards but it is too close to call. I will be playing safe and taking the 13/10 on offer Poirier just to nick the outright win.
Recommendation: To Win the Fight: Dustin Poirier – 13/10 (+130) @ bet365
Rothwell v Vera:
It’s not that often that you see a fighter stepping up from Light Heavy to Heavyweight. That is exactly the task ahead of Brandon Vera this weekend. The possessor of a mediocre record at 205lbs I am unable to fathom why he thinks he will fare better at 265lbs. It has been a long time size Vera fought at 265lbs, and he hasn’t fought anyone who could claim to be a legitimate Heavyweight since being beaten by Werdum five years ago. He dropped a decision to Randy Couture, but in modern MMA he would have been advised to stick at the lower weight class.
His opponent is ‘Big’ Ben Rothwell, an absolute beast of a man who has a habit of getting beaten by elite level big men, while taking care of business against the smaller guys. Rothwell has gone 4-4 in his last eight alternating wins and losses along the way. If that record is to continue then he wins this fight. This will end quickly; it won’t be pretty and will probably be the last UFC hurrah for Vera. Rothwell by brutal KO.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Ben Rothwell by KO/TKO – 23/10 (+230) @ Paddy Power
Mendes v Guida:
Following a devastating loss to Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes continues to climb back up the mountain in the Featherweight division. Since suffering the only loss of his career he has made very short work of his three opponents, the longest taking less than two minutes.
He faces off against Clay Guida who only recently returned to the win column himself. Guida dropped consecutive decisions to Benson Henderson and Gray Maynard at Lightweight before dropping to Featherweight. The fight against Maynard gained notoriety for a tactic of run, run, and run employed to minimal effect as he lost a split decision.
Mendes fights out of the Team Alpha Male camp so wrestling and submissions are almost in his DNA. His striking game will have been further enhanced by the coaching of Duane Ludwig and this is where I am hoping for even more improvement in his game. I fancy Mendes to get his hands on Guida early, cutting off the octagon as he pounds his way to a knockout win.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Chad Mendes by KO/TKO – 12/5 (+240) @ William Hill
Mir v Barnett:
In a clash of the dinosaurs, two ageing Heavyweights collide for the first time in the octagon. After more than a decade in the wilderness Josh Barnett makes his long awaited return to the UFC. His last fight here was a second round KO of Randy Couture to win the UFC belt, one that he only lost after being stripped. In his mind, he still owns the belt, although the game has changed a lot since then.
In the opposite corner is Frank Mir. Mir is a long time employee who is experiencing back to back losses for the first time in his career. Although he lost to Cormier in his last outing, it was actually the first time that Mir had lost without getting knocked out – so this must be viewed as something of an evolution in his career.
As both are high level Submission fighters it makes sense that this is the likely outcome, although Mir has never succumbed to the tap, and Barnett hasn’t tapped out since a loss to Cro Cop in 2006. Submission fighters tend to not get submitted, so a KO or Decision comes into play. For the life of me I hope that this doesn’t go 15 minutes and into the judge’s hands. If it does, you can be sure that it’s been a horrible fight. No, I am going to go with the knockout instead. As Barnett hasn’t been knocked out for 12 years then my money goes on The Warmaster. Mir has remained the more active fighter of late but can be a little chinny. If Barnett can get close and unload a few bombs then its goodnight for Frankie.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Josh Barnett by KO/TKO – 11/4 (+275) @ Paddy Power
Henderson v Pettis:
As excited as I am for this fight two things stand out in my mind; firstly, that the UFC diluted its impact by sticking on a card 2 days prior and secondly, that we only got 5 weeks to get excited about it. This has potential for Fight of the Night, Fight of the Year, Fight of the Decade and any other superlatives you wish to hyperbolically throw at it.
From the last ever fight of the last ever WEC card this has been born. Won by Pettis that time with the use of the ‘superkick’ fans have been waiting for the inevitable rematch. In terms of career trajectory they have differed quite dramatically. Henderson entered the UFC first going 3-0 before taking the belt from Frankie Edgar. He is now 7-0 all coming by decision.
Showtime showed up a few months later and inexplicably dropped a unanimous decision to Clay Guida which put him through a few extra fights before getting his title shot. That shot only came now after TJ Grant picked up an injury that ruled him out as number one contender. Pettis stepped up after his own injury issues which ruled him out of a title shot against Jose Aldo.
The outcome will be determined by who has improved the most since entering the UFC. As the belt holder you would have to give this to Henderson. However, he has recently gotten himself labelled as a ‘point fighter’ doing enough to earn a decision. With back to back first round knockouts it’s unlikely that Pettis will give him the opportunity to accumulate points in the same manner. Henderson has never been knocked out as a professional and it must be Knockout of the Night should that occur. Pettis has never been stopped in his career and I don’t see that ending here. I’ll be taking Pettis to be the aggressor, clearly looking to take the opening two rounds and forcing Henderson onto the attack which should expose a few holes in his game. At 10/11 either way it’s the definition of a pick ’em fight and my coin lands with Pettis’ face up. If odds anywhere near 4/1 become available for Fight of the Night then I’ll also be lumping on that too.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Anthony Pettis by Decision – 13/5 (+260) @ Ladbrokes