Like everything in life, all good things must come to an end. It was an excellent run, and although I did get all the winners correct the method of victory was a little off. Benavidez got us off to a good start and although wrong I loved watching Jacare take out Okami. Profitability remains solid, with a small drop from £40.01 to £39.26 which is nothing to get concerned about at this stage of the year.
So, after a short break we go into a run of cards that get me excited. A double title fight gets us underway this weekend, followed thereafter by the Dos Santos/Velasquez rubber match and on to Manchester. I am pleased it has been a little quieter this year as it has allowed me to complete my first judging assignment. On Saturday 14th September I judged 15 fights for http://www.gladiatorpromotions.co.uk which is a local event organised by former UFC fighter Ross Pointon. As someone who has never trained MMA it was a unique insight into cageside, albeit from a slightly different perspective. If nothing else, it has certainly left me wanting more. If you are local pop down to the next event on Saturday 21st December, First things first though, let’s try and bump up the Christmas savings pot with a few winners from UFC 165. A UFC belt double header is about as rare as Rocking Horse poop, but this is the first of three this year and I see opportunities aplenty.
Healy v Nurmagomedov:
Pat Healy is a lucky man, there are not many who fail a drugs test, have to return not one but two bonus cheques and get another main card fight so quickly. I would hazard a guess that his decent record over the past 3 years has more than saved his bacon.
He faces off against Khabib Nurmagomedov, the exceptionally well-rounded Russian who is riding a 20-0 streak of his own. Nurmagomedov makes his fifth UFC appearance and this is arguably a step up in class for him. Having said that, he has risen to the occasion so far so perhaps we are looking at a potential superstar in the Lightweight division, and should the UFC find its way to Russia in the next 12 months you would certainly expect him to play a central role.
Can Healy beat Nurmagomedov? He certainly can, although I have no idea how he would do it. Can Nurmagomedov beat Healy? I would expect him to, although it wouldn’t be easy. Healy has an excellent submission game and I don’t see Nurmagomedov getting through that, and Healy is tough as nails so I don’t see him getting knocked out anytime soon. I’ll be taking Nurmagomedov to take a comfortable decision victory in the opening fight of the main card.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Khabib Nurmagomedov by Decision – 6/4 (+150) @ Ladbrokes
Philippou v Carmont:
I have found myself frustrated while watching Francis Carmont. For a Middleweight this guy is a huge unit, and having met him outside of competition can vow that he walks around at closer to Heavyweight. For such a big guy he seems to have trouble putting people away. Yes he has submitted some lesser known fighters and yes he has knocked out a few others, but at the top level he seems to be lacking a certain ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’. For me the man known as ‘Limitless’ just about passes as ‘Limited’.
His opponent, Costa Philippou, has been very impressive of late, taking some solid wins against tough opposition. Against Tim Boetsch as much went right for him as went wrong for Boetsch, and he capitalised to full effect. When I look at both guys together, I see a contender in one and journeyman in the other. Carmont hasn’t been stopped in five years and Philippou has never been stopped, so statistics suggest that a decision is likely. I really don’t want to back a decision as this is an easy trap to fall into and provides nothing in the way of value. If Philippou lets his hands go then a first knockout loss since Ross Pointon back in 2004 becomes a possibility. At 2/1, it feels like a gamble worth taking.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Costa Philippou by KO/TKO – 2/1 (+200) @ BetVictor
Schaub v Mitrione:
In the third bout of the evening we have another TUF showdown. As more and more fighters work their way through the reality series route it becomes clear that they will eventually face off, if they managed to avoid each other in the house that is.
Brendan Schaub was the series runner up, with Matt Mitrione being eliminated in the Quarter Finals. Since transitioning to the professional ranks they have had a sketchy and remarkably similar time of it; both carry a win percentage of 75%, both have suffered back to back losses, and both have been knocked out by Roy Nelson in the first round. Sadly, and most tellingly, neither will make a dent in the Heavyweight title picture.
Schaub is a technically limited fighter who possesses knockout power as well as the ability to be knocked out due to a weak chin. Mitrione is a technically limited fighter who possesses knockout power but a slightly stronger chin. Last time out Schaub showed development in his game by taking down Lavar Johnson and outwrestling him for 15 minutes to take a unanimous decision. Around the same time Mitrione despatched of Phil DeFries with the minimum of fuss.
The bookies have Mitrione as a slight favourite, but I don’t have a particular opinion either way on favouritism. I hope that this doesn’t go three rounds because it won’t be interesting if it does. I think that neither has the ability to end this early so I will be hedging on round two.
Recommendation: When Will the Fight End: Either in Round 2 – 3/1 (+300) @ BetVictor
Barao v Wineland:
It is a sign of desperation for Dominick Cruz to come back that Eddie Wineland finds himself getting a title shot. I am not saying that he isn’t deserving; any ex-WEC champ should always be respected for achievement, but going 2-2 in his last four over 2 years doesn’t really feel like contender material. After consecutive losses to Faber and Benavidez he rebounded with wins against Scott Jorgensen (who has just dropped to Flyweight for a title run) and Brad Pickett. Pickett is tough, but his record also didn’t lend itself to a contenders match. Enough said about deserving, he has the shot so clearly the powers that be think he deserves it.
He faces off against the current Interim Champion, Renan Barao. Barao is currently riding a 29 fight unbeaten streak going back eight years. Admittedly only the last five have been in the UFC, but in those five he has taken the Interim belt and defended it successfully against Michael McDonald in London. To put it simply, Barao is a beast and it would take a monumental effort to stop his run, an effort that I am not convinced Wineland currently possesses. While the oddsmakers may disagree, I would go so far as to say that a Barao loss would be the biggest shock on the card; and that is saying something when the card contains Jon Jones.
In terms of the finish, Barao can knock people out but he hasn’t done it for four years so it would be a surprise if he did it here. That leaves a submission or decision to go for. With all due respect to Wineland, I just don’t see him lasting the full 25 minutes as he hasn’t been that long in a fight since 2007. If by some miracle he does then it will have been a solid beating, and I genuinely see Barao wrapping it up before then. The odds are not great, but you can get shades of odds against if you shop around and Unibet seem way too long at 7/5.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Renan Barao by Submission – 7/5 (+140) @ Unibet
Jones v Gustafsson:
It is shocking to think that this fight almost never happened. It is more shocking to think that, despite being on the receiving end of a pummelling, Chael Sonnen could have taken Jon Jones belt by virtue of a broken toe. It says a lot about the focus shown by Jones in the midst of a fight, with a little favour going the way of the adrenaline rush that he didn’t even know he had broken his toe for a good few minutes after. His visceral reaction when he became aware of the injury shows how ‘in the moment’ he was. It also leaves a memory in the brain that the person who was closest to beating Jon Jones was Jon Jones.
Alex Gustafsson gets the shot that many critics have been clamouring for; hailed as the heir apparent the young Swede carries the weight of a nation alongside the burden of being labelled the next Jon Jones. Apart from being forced to tap to Phil Davis the Swedish prodigy has done little wrong in his UFC career to date and probably deserves his shot. Some would argue that he really should have fought again after being ruled out of the Mousasi fight, but Joe Silva felt otherwise and who are we to argue.
There is little to write about Jones that hasn’t been written. The most hyped and talented MMA star that the sport has ever seen. A genetic freak with an 84 inch reach and skills that only a computer game could realistically synthesise. He has beaten everyone – barring a shocking disqualification – and nobody has gotten anywhere near him. A year ago Vitor Belfort locked on as good an arm bar as you’ll ever see; he didn’t tap and made him pay for that act of petulance. As it stands right now, Jones is the best there is, best there was and best there ever will be. At 1/7 I can’t tip up Jones for the win, and he will win make no bones about that. The money is in the method, and given that Gustafsson has only ever lost by submission as well has the fact that Jones has pretty much alternated submissions and knockouts since winning the belt I am putting my money on the tap. I don’t think that the Championship rounds will be needed either, with this ending by the end of the third round.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Jon Jones by Submission – 13/8 (162.50) @ BetVictor