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So we reach the end of the year, with potentially the most explosive card in UFC history. A small recap of the last event first. I certainly didn’t see the Johnson knockout coming, and if you are honest, then you didn’t either; nobody did. Some small disappointment with the outcome of both Lauzon and Mendes fights. Sure, they won but not in their signature style. This leads me to Urijah Faber aka ‘The Man Who Fed Me at Christmas’. I gave up Faber by submission at 11/2 and he certainly didn’t disappoint, making the night a profitable one for anybody who followed.

That took me back up to £30.58 profit on the year with just the one event to go. Five single fights to demonstrate overall profitability of MMA as a betting sport. It’s going to be a tough year to follow, but follow it I shall.

We have two title fights to pick from this week and a main card as good as any I have seen so hopefully we can finish the year with a bang, celebrating New Year’s Eve with a bottle of Moet instead of some Cava.

Poirier v Brandao:

Dustin Poirier has been on a bit of a poor run of late. After a very bright start, going 4-0 since transitioning from the WEC he has found himself on an alternating streak, dropping losses to Korean Zombie and Cub Swanson. In between he has taken wins over Jonathan Brookins and Erik Koch but it feels very much like a step forward and a step back.

Diego Brandao, on the other hand, is riding high. Since beating Dennis Bermudez for the TUF 14 title he has gone 4-1, with only a decision to Darren Elkins as the black mark. A BJJ black belt out of Jacksons Gym it is fair to say that Brandao has been one of the more impressive TUF winners since the show started.

Prior to his two recent losses Poirier has found himself on the verge of title contention and a win here could certainly be the springboard for that to happen. Typically he only loses to the top level contenders; which is a position that I am not sure Brandao is ready for. Maybe a few years down the line, but not right now. His experience will be a key element as will his versatility and durability. Brandao has been to the judges in three of his last four, and Poirier in his last two and I think that they will be called into action again. It’ll be tight but Poirier just takes it on my cards.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Dustin Poirier by Decision – 19/10 (+190) @ Sportingbet

Miller v Camoes:

Jim Miller beat Melvin Guillard in the main event of an FX card early last year, where Fabricio Camoes made his return to the UFC. A few months later Guillard goes on to beat Camoes, taking a unanimous decision, and 18 months later Camoes gets to face Miller to complete the mini round robin.

Jim Miller had a hard time last time out against Pat Healy, eventually being submitted late in the third round in a Fight of the Night winner. Healy later tested positive for banned substances and the loss on Millers record was overturned to a No Contest. After such a hard fight the last thing he would want to face in his next fight is a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt.

Although this is his second spell in the UFC it is surprising to see Camoes given another shot at the age of 35, particularly with the mass of talent coming out of Brazil right now. While his record has improved with age it really shouldn’t be enough to trouble the durable Miller.

Miller enters the octagon as a very clear favourite for a good reason; he is simply far superior to his opponent. Camoes has submissions in his locker, but has also submitted to inferior fighters and I don’t really see a path to victory for him. That being said, there is always a potential for the Hail Mary submission attempt and for that reason I’ll be taking either to win by this method, although I fully expect it to be Miller.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Either by Submission – 5/4 (+125) @ BetVictor

Barnett v Browne:

You want to see what happens when Titans clash? This is where it happens. It is a fight that not only maps out the path to a number one contenders match for the winner, but there is a clear path for the loser to maintain momentum.

Josh Barnett took a comfortable win on his UFC return over Frank Mir. Although in the history books as a knockout, Mir disputes the decision and claims the stoppage was far too early. On reflection it appeared to be good, at least to my eyes and wallet.

His opponent is arguably the most talented of the new breed of Heavyweights. The owner of knockout wins over Overeem, Gonzaga and Struve his record is only tainted by an unfortunate injury against Bigfoot that led to his demise.

Looking at the size and records of both fighters I make it almost inconceivable that this goes three rounds, and would expect it to end within two. Although for that to happen Browne would need to knock out a man who hasn’t been knocked out in 12 years or Barnett would need to submit a man who has never been forced to tap.

The winner goes on to face Werdum in Cain’s absence, while the loser most likely goes on to face Junior dos Santos. I think it’ll be Browne who takes the win and a huge step towards a title shot.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Travis Brown by TKO, KO or Disqualification – 5/2 (+250) @ BetVictor

Rousey v Tate:

We hit the co-main event with the first rematch of the card.

As coaches in the most recent TUF series it is arguable that Miesha Tate has left the series with a bit more credit than the Women’s Champion, Ronda Rousey. Tate has shown herself to be gracious, easy going and friendly. Rousey, despite some favourable editing has come across as a bit of a brat; a point not lost on her opponent.

Even still, there is little that I can write here that hasn’t already been written. I can regale you with why she would win and how she should win, but we already know this. It’s Rousey, by arm bar, in the first.

Tate really shouldn’t be in the octagon fighting for this title. She lost to Zingano and is an injury replacement. She almost lost her arm in the first fight and this won’t end any differently. If the remarkable happens and it does, then you can consider this to be the shock of the year.

Rousey has never been outside of the first round, and I am very surprised to see her available at odds of 8/11 to win in the first. It feels a little like buying money and will only fail to pay off if Tate decides to spend the opening five minutes running away from her. At those odds you are taking a 58% chance that this ends in round one. That feels like big value.

Recommendation: Round Betting – Ronda Rousey in Round 1 – 8/11 (-138) @ William Hill

Weidman v Silva:

It isn’t very often that a rematch is arranged so soon after the original fight, unless the decision was razor thin or disputed. The first fight between these two wasn’t even close as it ended in a second round knockout heard around the world. Anderson Silva took one too many liberties against the aggressive Chris Weidman and the underdog upset the apple cart by taking the belt from the Brazilian legend.

Anderson Silva is the type of guy that has exceeded all superlatives in known existence. Throughout his long career he has teased, taunted and ultimately dominated his opponents without ever really looking in trouble (Chael Sonnen notwithstanding). That was then, now the landscape is very different. Silva picked the wrong guy. He dropped his hands, played hurt and paid the price.

As this is the first defence of his title we don’t actually know whether Chris Weidman is the real deal or whether it was a fluke. Although he won the belt he has left more questions than he has provided answers. Many of the pro’s picked him to win but how many legitimately believed he would? Ray Longo and Matt Serra conspired to deliver a similar shock when Serra in defeated GSP for the belt. This rematch will tell us whether Weidman is the new Matt Serra or the new Frankie Edgar.

Do not expect either fighter to approach this with any new tactics. Given his success in the first fight you can expect more of the same from Weidman, he will know that he is the champion and that the pressure is on Silva to come out and take the belt back. Silva will also need to change very little. His skillset is so high that he really only needs to want to win and he should do it and only a very strong man would back against Anderson Silva.

The odds makers have him as the favourite despite him being the challenger, and so do I. Silva has always been a ‘no-bet’ for most of his career given how much of a heavy favourite he was. In this fight he enters as a clear favourite and I think he will pick up the win, he simply has to. The UFC doesn’t like trilogy fights where one fighter holds a 2-0 record over the other and Silva is in real danger of marginalising himself in the division. I foresee the result being mirrored here and Silva takes it inside the distance.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Anderson Silva by TKO, KO, Submission or Disqualification – 6/5 (+120) @ Skybet

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