Well, Manchester came and went. It wasn’t a bad event, far from it, but it wasn’t great. I guess that wasn’t helped by the event finishing in a bit of a lull. Profitability-wise it didn’t turn out too badly as Lineker and Machida delivered some nice returns. We get our money back on Ross Pearson due to the No Contest decision, although I cannot have been alone in waiting for him to be called the winner by disqualification. It was not to be, and a very small loss followed dropping us down to £38.79 on what has been nothing short of an excellent year to date.

As seems to be the status quo at the moment the UFC is tossing out events in quick succession with two in the space of 3 days. I don’t like them so close together as it leaves the bookies little time to price up and me less time to research and consider my bets.

The entire week’s line up is less than stellar but a couple of fights provide some real standout value. Let’s take a look at the card.

Smith v Chiesa:

We kick off the card with yet another TUF matchup. I wrote a short while ago that due to the number of TUF series we have seen, and the number of contracts offered to fighters who have caught Dana White’s eye that this will soon become the norm. It doesn’t mean I have to like it though.

In a rarity for a TUF fighter, this fight actually has one that I like. I am not sure why, but I do enjoy watching Michael Chiesa fight. Although a little one dimensional there is something satisfying knowing that a fighter is looking to lock in a choke at almost every opportunity throughout a three round fight. The heavy punchers eventually gas, but the submission artist remains deadly unto the end.

Standing in his way is Colton Smith, who beat Mike Ricci to take the TUF 16 title. Although he followed that win with a loss against another TUF alum this fight gives him a chance to get back into the win column. Smith is probably one of the least experienced professional fighters in the UFC with only five fights to his name, and with a 1-1 UFC record and 3-2 in his career he does stand on the cusp of a make of a break fight.

For the purpose of the column I bet in £1 stakes, meaning that I do not up my stakes depending on my liking of the fight. In this one I would be sorely tempted to break that. Colton Smith has never tapped in five outings; against a man who has forced the tap in seven out of nine wins you can look for him to break that duck. The 15/8 on offer for a Chiesa submission is ridiculous and should be capitalised on by anyone who likes money.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Michael Chiesa by Submission – 15/8 (+187.50) @ BetVictor

Masvidal v Khabilov:

As the UFC gets prepares to enter Russia for the first time they would appear to be systematically looking to pick up the top Russian MMA fighters who are not contracted elsewhere. This initially started with the likes of Nurmagomedov but has now expanded to Khabilov. Khabilov makes his third appearance in the octagon and despite holding a record of 16-1 will probably be remembered as the fighter who literally suplexed Vinc Pinchel into unconsciousness and Yancy Madeiros into dislocating his thumb. Consequently, this guy is as likely to deliver the KO when taking your back as he is to lock in a choke.

Standing opposite him is a 10 year veteran of the sport in Jorge Masvidal. Masvidal managed to submit the submission specialist in his last outing, which was only his second fight in the UFC following a successful transition from Strikeforce and Bellator. Make no mistake, Masvidal is no easy ticket. At the young age of 28 he has been in with some of the best in the business, taking the likes of Gil Melendez the full five rounds in a title bout back in 2011.

As a member of Jacksons Gym you can expect Khabilov to have his homework done for him and should know what to expect from Masvidal. While this will be his toughest opponent, and he will have a few hairy moments I fully expect the young Russian to take a hard fought decision win.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Rustam Khabilov by Decision – 2/1 (+300) @ 888Sport

Markes v Romero:

On paper this looks like the most clear cut outcome of the night. Yoel Palacio is a very hard hitting fighter, taking all five of his wins by KO, with four of these coming in the very first round. The only man to beat him is Rafael Cavalcante which should give an indication to his durability. However, this is the only legitimate win for Cavalcante in the past three years which somewhat tarnishes the record.

Ronny Markes has spent a few years on the regional circuit in Brazil before graduating to the UFC just over two years ago. In that time he has gone 3-0, all three coming by decision, and puts a seven fight streak on the line in this fight.

My issue with Romero is that he is 36 and reaching a period where fighters power tends to diminish somewhat. It is true that with only six professional fights he is less battle worn than his opponent but it doesn’t answer the questions about what he has in the gas tank. We have seen too many times a knockout artist give everything they have in the opening five minutes only to be found wanting when the second round starts.

Markes has been into the third round six times now, and this experience will show. The longer this fight goes on this more it favours the Brazilian. I’ll be taking Markes by any means necessary to do the job and at 7/4 it feels like a bargain this close to Christmas.

Recommendation: To Win the Fight: Ronny Markes – 7/4 (+275) @ BetVictor

Carmouche v Davis:

Liz Carmouche is the type of fighter that doesn’t come around very often. One of two on the card with a decorated record in the US Army she will gather the support of each and every active serviceman in the arena and look to put on a show.

I actually feel sorry for Carmouche because in any period other than the Rousey era, it would be the Girl-rilla who would be the name on everyone’s lips and not the current Women’s champion. In fact, it was Carmouche who has given Rousey her biggest scare to date and was almost the first person to take her beyond the first round.

She faces off against Alexis Davis, who comes fresh off a one sided victory over England’s own Rosi Sexton. Davis is a practitioner, some may say expert, in both Japanese and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and should not be underestimated. A six-year veteran of the sport she has fought in regional promotions as well as Strikeforce, Invicta and now the UFC.

Davis will look to take this to the mat to utilise her advantage while Carmouche will look to keep it standing to utilise hers. As a potential Fight of the Night contender I am expecting Carmouche to get her own way in front of her own fans while getting a late stoppage against a bruised and battered Davis.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Liz Carmouche by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 2/1 (+300) @ Ladbrokes

Kennedy v Natal:

In many respects Tim Kennedy is a very lucky man. When you make derogatory comments over things like fighter pay then you can expect to be thrown to the wolves. When he was given a fight against Machida that is exactly what happened, and we know what Machida does to top wrestlers. Fortunately for him, an injury to Michael Bisping saw some movement in scheduled fights. After a spell calling out every fighter on Twitter the fight was made with Rafael Natal.

Rafael Natal is an eight-fight veteran with the UFC, going 5-2 with one No Contest stretching back three years. While none of those fights are against spectacular opposition he is on a three fight streak which suggests that he is only a fight or two away from a top five opponent.

His opponent is not top five, at least not yet. Tim Kennedy has done himself little favours in his short spell in the UFC. The aforementioned comments about pay just prior to a snoozer with Roger Gracie have not seen his stock rise; if anything he is lower than when he started.

He does find himself in a unique position now as he takes centre stage in his own backyard in front of the US Army, where a hero’s welcome is almost mandatory.

I don’t expect anything special here. Kennedy the wrestler and Natal the BJJ practitioner will both look to get this to the ground and keep it there. It’s rare that you see any knockouts where the fight is spent on the ground, and since neither have ever tapped you can pretty much scrub that out. Kennedy couldn’t be submitted by a Gracie, which almost makes him a superman in that respect. No, I expect him to take top position and ride out a comfortable decision win. It’s a shame that this fight is scheduled for five rounds because it won’t be pretty. Natal has never been five rounds before and the championship rounds will really take their toll on the Brazilian.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Tim Kennedy by Decision – 2/1 (+300) @ Boylesports