Wow, that one almost killed me. It was a tough card on paper and picking winning bets turned out to be just as hard.

We took a small loss, mainly due to a refund on the Hunt v Bigfoot draw. Bookmakers rarely offer up the draw in MMA since it very rarely happens. The majority just go in at a two-way market and leave it at that. Next time the UFC goes to Australia, I am going to back the draw somewhere though as its two relatively contentious ones in a row.

A small recap of last week before this week’s tips is in order though. I said that the Bader fight was a mismatch, it was. I said that Barry v Palelei wouldn’t be a classic, it wasn’t. I was completely wrong on Correia and Shogun though, but that’s life I guess.

The profit watchers will know that we now sit at +£28.08 on the year, which is still excellent and represents a return on investment (ROI) of well over 20%.

Just two cards left this year now, this one and the year-end card. I’ll be putting up picks for both but I wanted to take the opportunity to wish my readers a Happy Christmas and I’ll be back on before the New Year. It’s a double weekend for me as I am also judging at a local event so busy, busy, busy. This card will remain tainted with the loss of the Brown v Condit fight but it does leave a few opportunities to hopefully capitalise on.

Lauzon v Danzig:

Joe Lauzon to win by submission. I’ll say it again, Joe Lauzon by submission. So confident am I here that I’ll open with my thoughts rather than finish with them.

Joe Lauzon is one of the most exciting fighters that the UFC roster possesses, yet time and again he finds himself taking a step forward followed by two steps back. It should never detract from his outstanding ability and it is almost criminal that he can be backed at 4/7 just to win here.

I am not sure how his opponent is still on the same roster. Mac Danzig has a truly horrible record of late. Scratch that, not even of late, just since being in the UFC. Since joining up in 2007 he has gone 5-7, unable to string back to back wins together since his first two fights. Truth is that this dog will probably be put down shortly and after a loss here it is almost inevitable. Sadly I’ll never get a bet on that outcome.

Lauzon has lost his last two and three from his last four. Given that two of those three came against Jim Miller, Fight of the Night/Year, and the Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis then I’ll overlook that. This kid loves collecting bonus cheques and as I am pretty sure that Danzig doesn’t have a Fight of the Night in him then he’ll probably be counting the pennies on the Submission of the Night.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Joe Lauzon by Submission – 7/5 (+140) @ Ladbrokes

Mendes v Lentz:

Since losing his title shot to Jose Aldo we have seen a very different Chad Mendes. The vast majority of the plaudits have been attributed to the introduction of Duane ‘Bang’ Ludwig into the Team Alpha Male coaching staff. It is very hard to disagree with that logic. Before Ludwig picked up the coaching mantle Mendes had managed just three knockouts in 13 professional fights. Since then he has gone 3 for 3 and is in electric form.

Standing opposite him is the durable ‘Carny’ Nik Lentz. Lentz brings a wealth of experience into the octagon as he goes for his fourth win in a row since arresting a two fight skid.

Any fighter with 24 wins and just five losses as a professional should be given maximum respect given how tough this sport is and how it chews up promising fighters, spitting them back out again.

Mendes has fought fewer times, but it must be acknowledged that he has been prominent at a much higher level than his opponent. It’s not hard to make a pick here, and I’ll be going for the obvious, sadly. Mendes is on an incredible knockout run and it simply must end soon, I just don’t think it’ll be here. This should be enough to propel him to another shot at Aldo and he must be feeling supremely confident.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Chad Mendes by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 5/6 (-120) @ Ladbrokes

Faber v McDonald:

There are fights that are made which can constitute the proverbial passing of the torch and this certainly falls into that category.

Uriah Faber will eventually be remembered as one of the true superstars of this sport. For now, he will at worst be considered to be the perennial contender to the crown. Another who has been given a new lease of life by the coaching changes in Sacramento, the California Kid is motoring towards another showdown for the title, potentially looking to face the winner of the Barao v Cruz unification bout.

His opponent is considered to be one of the most dangerous young men in the division. It is very easy to forget that with 18 professional fights to his name Michael McDonald is still only 22 years of age. He was given a deserved shot at the Interim Title back in February and came up very short as Renan Barao turned the screw, submitting him in the fourth. That represented only the second loss of his career and set him back a few paces as he attempts to climb the mountain again.

I see this fight breaking down in two ways. Firstly, whether McDonald can actually knock out Faber? It hasn’t happened for six years and that was a very different time. Secondly, whether McDonald can keep up with the relentless pace set by the evergreen 34 year old? The most dynamic fighter that McDonald has faced was Barao and he simply couldn’t keep up; to be fair nor could Faber. I feel that Faber will really look to make a statement here and although I do not see him knocking out McDonald I can smell a finish. This torch is not yet ready to be passed.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Urijah Faber by Submission – 11/2 (+550) @ Ladbrokes

Johnson v Benavidez:

I was a little bit choked to see this forced off the TUF Finale since it massively weakened the event in my eyes, but it is a fight that I have been looking forward to for a short while now.

Demetrious Johnson has been kind to me on this column, giving me the opportunity to back him twice this year. The first occasion was a nice 4/5 on him to beat John Dodson, and the second was an even better 11/4 to force a stoppage against John Moraga so I thank him from the bottom of my wallet. The so-far dominant Flyweight Champion has certainly had a good last two years.

His opponent, for the second time in his career, is Joseph Benavidez. Benavidez you may remember was the early favourite for the Flyweight tournament, with Johnson upsetting him in the final taking home a split decision. That fight represents the only UFC loss of Benavidez’s career and his only career loss that wasn’t to Dominick Cruz. That was a different Benavidez though, as he has benefitted more than most from the introduction of Ludwig to the team. Flyweights are not normally known for their knockout power and he owns two by this method already this year.

I desperately want to call a Benavidez win by knockout, I really do. Trouble is that Johnson is so damn fast that it’s hard to hit him; his only two career losses coming by decision. I want to call the knockout because Benavidez dropped the split decision before, and two losses to the champion will set his goal back further so he will want to ensure that there are no slip ups.

Although Benavidez is riding the hat-trick I am more hesitant than I would like to be. His team will know that Johnson doesn’t get knocked out and they will set up the game plan to ensure that this is as one-sided as they can make it. There will be a new champion to dominate the division, and it’ll be by a unanimous decision.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Joseph Benavidez by Decision – 11/4 (+275) @ 888 Sport