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I have to confess to feeling a little unlucky after that card. A couple of bets landed; Palhares submitted Pierce in Under 1.5 Rounds and Maldonado managed to take a decision against Beltran. However, I feel that if Thiago Silva had been fit enough to at least jab in that final round then he would have knocked out Matt Hamill, words I found myself screaming at the TV. I do have regret, and that is simply not following my own betting rules. When backing the underdog don’t get greedy. They are the underdog for a reason and the price is usually bigger than it needs to be. Had I followed that rule then Dong Hyun Kim would have made the night profitable. As I didn’t, then I just missed breaking even.

For the number crunchers we are down to £36.06 on the year, so life is still good and we are not living off beans on toast just yet. One of the biggest cards of the year is coming up this week and I personally can’t wait. It will be really tough to pick winners, but I think I can find enough value to make it viable.

Dodson v Montague:

Kicking off the main card is the former Flyweight challenger, John Dodson. The winner of TUF 14 showed his potential by securing a title shot at a relatively junior position in his career. Sadly, he came up a little short against the vastly experienced Demetrious Johnson. Dodson will be aware that the sooner he gets back into the win column then the sooner his second shot will come, closer if Benavidez takes the title back to Team Alpha Male.

He faces off against the relatively unknown Darrell Montague, making his debut in the octagon. Montague a veteran of various regional promotions gets his big chance after racking up 13 victories, only dropping losses to contender Ian McCall and hard-hitting Robbie Peralta.

Despite his frame, Dodson carries some knockout power in those hands and will look to the guidance of the Jacksons gym to set up his game plan for the night. A tough nut to crack, he will look to utilise his exposure at a higher level to good effect and replant himself back in the mind of Sean Shelby for 2014. With that in mind, I’ll be taking Dodson to outwork Montague and stop him around the midway point.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: John Dodson by KO/TKO – 15/8 (+187.50) @ Paddy Power

Gonzaga v Jordan:

After knocking out his good friend (Pat Barry) a few months back, Shawn Jordan gets a step up in class on his next bout. The owner of back to back knockout victories in the UFC he aims to make it three in a row against Gabriel Gonzaga. Meanwhile, Gonzaga is looking to get another run going after easily despatching Dave Herman last time out without really breaking sweat.

This is an interesting one as far as the bookies go. From a purely odds perspective, Jordan should only need to turn up to win this fight. As an almost 2/1 underdog you would expect Gonzaga to be a debuting Heavyweight rather than a long-time contender. It’s true that he has let himself down on a number of occasions but to be written off like this bordering on criminal. He may not win the fight, there are no guarantees in MMA, but at those odds I am prepared to take a gamble. In any event the favourites have a normal success rate of between 60-70% which leaves opportunities like this wide open.

Recommendation: To Win the Fight: Gabriel Gonzaga – 19/10 (+190) @ William Hill

Melendez v Sanchez:

For Gil Melendez the Lightweight landscape has changed significantly for him over the last few months. From being on the receiving end of a contentious split decision in a title shot against Benson Henderson to a potential title shot against a new champion should he despatch the winner of the first ever TUF series, Diego Sanchez.

Sanchez is back in the octagon for the second time this year after more than a year out of action. He too has also noticed the change at the top and has publicly been making noises about his fighting style being an ideal matchup for the current champion, Anthony Pettis.

History dictates that we go with a decision win for either fighter, given that five of the last six for Melendez and six of the last seven for Sanchez have gone to the judges. At odds of 2/5 for either to win by decision, or 4/7 for the heavy favourite Melendez to take a decision I am just not feeling it and fancy a little more value for my money. No, I think that Melendez will be very aware that his last two outings have split the judges both for and against him and he won’t want to take that chance again. He hasn’t stopped anyone in a while, but the percentages are good and the odds are a little tasty too.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Gilbert Melendez by KO/TKO – 3/1 (+300) @ Paddy Power

Cormier v Nelson:

This is one of those matches that don’t really make a huge deal of sense. On one side we have Daniel Cormier, the final Strikeforce Heavyweight champion, possessor of a single UFC win against Frank Mir and wrestling coach at AKA, who has already stated his intention to drop to Light Heavy following this fight so he can challenge Jon Jones. On the other side is Roy Nelson, TUF winner and, seemingly, gatekeeper of the Heavyweight division. A man who has an anvil where others have a chin, but coming off a wretched performance against Stipe Miocic.

A fighter coming off a win doesn’t normally face off against one coming off a loss, but here it is. In a match that means less than zero for the divisional picture, the only sense made is through twitter where they have had an on-going tussle for a few months now.

Breaking down the key stills, Cormier is an excellent wrestler who doesn’t knock people out very often while Nelson is an excellent wrestler who doesn’t get knocked out very often. Cormier is unbeaten while Nelson really only drops decisions. There are, for me, only two possible outcomes to this fight, either Cormier takes a decision, or Nelson manages to outpoint his rival. Cormier has never lost, and it would be an enormous shock if he did here.

Recommendation: Decision Victories: Daniel Cormier by Unanimous Decision – 20/21 (-105) @ Ladbrokes

Velasquez v Dos Santos:

The third match in any rivalry usually signifies the end of the road for one fighter. Normally this would result in a 2-1 score line for one of the participants and should be enough to seal a legacy and put the opponent permanently at number three in the rankings. For Velasquez and Dos Santos it feels more like the middle of [potentially] five fights. These two are so far clear of the rest of the division that it weakens the UFC to employ the same historical strategy.

In one corner we have Cain Velasquez, the loser of the first encounter who avenged his sole loss last time out. The first Mexican-American to win any Heavyweight title is as brutal a man as has ever been made. In the other corner is Junior Dos Santos, the former champion who looked a class above the opposition throughout his UFC career. Until the Velasquez rematch Dos Santos had spent approximately 10 seconds on the mat and employed a slick and devastating boxing style.

Since entering the UFC in 2008 Cain Velasquez has literally squashed his opponents flat. A supreme wrestler with ground and pound unseen since the days of Mark Coleman, he has never really looked in danger when inside the octagon. When he lost to Dos Santos, this was by a single punch knockout when, if rumours are to be believed, he was on the verge of pulling out with injury. What allegedly stopped him was the fact that he was headlining the UFC’s first show on Fox, and so he carried on. He lasted just over one minute against the Brazilian. Since that night he has destroyed Bigfoot Silva twice and battered Dos Santos over 25 long and painful minutes.

Junior Dos Santos makes his second tilt for the championship belt almost 10 months to the day since losing it. His reign was as long as any other Heavyweight champion but ended with a one sided battering. Despite the nature of the defeat he managed to nullify a huge amount of Velasquez’s strengths, but the body gave way when the mind held strong.

My head tells me that this goes to Velasquez. He possesses the complete package and appears to have advanced beyond the rest of the pack that he should be able to hold this belt for as long as he pleases. My heart tells me to go with Dos Santos. In order for these two to continue the rivalry then they almost need to alternate wins and losses to keep the fans interested. Dos Santos may be able to land another knockout blow, although it’s unlikely he’ll be knocked out given the punishment he took last time. This will be Fight of the Night for sure, and I am going to sit on the fence and pick either to win by decision. The cut that Dos Santos sustained during the training camp may be decisive.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Either by Decision – 13/8 (+162.50) @ BetVictor

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