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I guess we got the New Year off to an excellent start then, and I hope that the majority of you followed. There were four fights from the main card with three of them coming up trumps for us. We lost the first, I can live with that but Dutra managed to get himself disqualified handing Kunimoto the win and us a 13/10 bet. Tarec Saffiedine kept me a little nervous as he dominated Lim to a decision in a fight that should never have gone the full five rounds looking back at it, and paying out at 6/4. Sandwiched in between was my biggest bet on Kawajiri to win by submission. I wrote that the 9/2 was far too big and it would be reduced before fight time; I was wrong as it got pushed out to 6/1! I’ll only claim the 9/2 though as its big enough to keep me happy.

So, from four bets placed three actually won. That’s a hit rate of 75%. With the £4 laid out we returned £10.30 for a profit of £6.30 and a Return on Investment (ROI) of a whopping 258%. If every week went like this then I wouldn’t need that pension that I have been forced to start paying.

With the first midweek card of the year coming up we go to Georgia on a high for the next Fight Night card. With six fights on the main card there should be plenty of opportunities to increase the bankroll. If Singapore carried a huge slice of luck then this one carries a huge element of risk as none of these fights are a foregone conclusion.

Miller v Sicilia:

If your name is Cole Miller then it has been a tough time lately for you due to actions both in and outside of your control. You gained some sympathy after being the receiving end of a poor decision against Manny Gamburyan only to isolate yourself from the UK fans by openly mocking them and generally showing a lack of class after beating Andy Ogle in Manchester.

Miller doesn’t really find himself in any position to mock or ask for favours. He approaches this fight with a 9-6 record in the UFC and 3-4 in the last three years. Notoriously difficult to put away, if the fight goes the distance then he is usually not the one to have his hand raised.

His opponent is Sam Sicilia, a participant in TUF 15. Sicilia left the reality show after the first round but came back to make his debut at the finale and has gone 2-2 since then. His most recent win was a knockout of Godofredo Castro in November which snapped a two fight losing streak and now back in the win column he will know that he needs to stay there or potentially be cut.

I have no massive view in this fight other than the fact that if it goes to a decision then I see Sicilia taking it, but if it ends inside the distance then it’s most likely to be Miller by submission. The American Top Team fighter has won 70% of his fights by submission and this feels highly likely if he is finally to get a run going.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Cole Miller by Submission – 6/4 (+150) @ Ladbrokes

Moraga v Ortiz:

The outcome of fight will tell the fans all they need to know about the depth of the Flyweight division as a newcomer and former challenger meet for the first time.

Dustin Ortiz is the newcomer, making only his second appearance in the octagon. His first was a stoppage late in the third round over Jose Maria Tome in Brazil and the second is a huge step up in class. Ortiz has been prominent on the regional circuit featuring in various promotions and could potentially have been called up a few years earlier had he beaten Ian McCall back in 2011. McCall went on to draw with Demetrious Johnson only two fights later so Ortiz will forever wonder what may have been.

Speaking of fighting Demetrious Johnson that is exactly where John Moraga found himself in July. The recipient of a resurgent Johnson’s first stoppage in the UFC he almost took the champion the full five rounds in a title fight. The truth is that it may have just come a little too early for Moraga as he gained a title shot off the back of victories over Chris Cariaso and Ulysses Gomez who are not in the same class.

Unless Ortiz pulls a rabbit out of the hat I can see nothing other than a win for Moraga. He has fought at a higher level for longer and been in with a far higher class of opponent. As comfortable with a stoppage as he is a decision I feel that he will be going all out to get back to the top of the pile. With Benavidez seemingly sidelined for as long as Johnson holds the belt he will be itching for another stab at the champion. I think he’ll do it, and impressively inside the distance.

Recommendation: Round Group Betting: John Moraga Inside the Distance – 7/4 (+175) @ Ladbrokes

Romero v Brunson:

At 36 years old you may be surprised to find that Yoel Romero only has seven MMA fights to his name. As a latecomer to the sport he has certainly set about destroying anyone that has the misfortune of getting into the octagon with him. Six wins, six knockouts, all violently disposed of and the ‘Solider of God’ marches on with highlight reel knockouts.

On Wednesday he moves up a grade against former Strikeforce fighter Derek Brunson. Brunson finds himself on a two fight winning streak over Chris Leben and Brian Houston after dropping two straight in his final two Strikeforce bouts. If his debut over Leben was laboured and tedious then his win over Houston was spectacular as he stunned and then submitted his opponent in the opening minute.

Brunson has only lost two bouts, firstly against Kendall Grove via split decision and then was on the receiving end of a Jacare knockout. Does this make him susceptible to a big puncher? I guess we’ll find out soon enough. Romero can deliver knockouts with his hands as Ronny Markes will testify and also with his knees as Clifford Starks assisted him on the way to a Knockout of the Night bonus in his UFC debut. Despite his age Romero seems to be very well conditioned and not too battle worn. If he is going to win this then it will most likely be by knockout and there may be a cheeky side bet on another bonus cheque going his way too.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Yoel Romero by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 4/5 (-125) @ Ladbrokes

Dillashaw v Easton:

After an impressive 3-0 start to his UFC career Mike Easton now finds himself 0-2 and in a precarious position as far as the organisation is concerned. Those losses may have come against high level fighters, with at least one of them slightly contentious, but the UFC doesn’t carry passengers. With an ever growing roster it is always looking to prune a few dead heads and at 29 it’s a lot harder to get back up again.

TJ Dillashaw lost a highly contentious decision against the man who delivered Easton’s first UFC loss, Raphael Assuncao. Widely considered to be on the wrong end of a hometown decision Dillashaw felt he had done enough on the night to extend his winning streak to five. Instead the Team Alpha Male graduate finds himself on the periphery of the divisional top ten and taking a fight against ‘The Hulk’.

Easton is another of those guys who is seemingly impossible to stop, with his last stoppage loss coming almost seven years ago, so you could almost say that he is due for one soon. If there is a fighter or a team that has been geared up for the finish then it is Team Alpha Male since the introduction of Ludwig as head coach. Prior to the Assuncao loss Dillashaw had been on a run of a submission and two knockouts so will look to get that back on track. In my mind I had Dillashaw winning by decision since I heard about the fight. Call it nerves, my gut or just playing the percentages I am going to switch and call it for TJ by knockout. The odds are too big to ignore and I feel that the Ludwig factor may just play a huge part in this.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: TJ Dillashaw by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 7/2 (+350) @ Ladbrokes

Larkin v Tavares:

As the UFC looks to put on more and more cards each year then one of the consequences is that the card weakens to an extent. In this case it is the co-main event that doesn’t really carry much in the way of star power. No disrespect to either Larkin or Tavares but a co-main event should be able to carry a card in the event of the main event being pulled for whatever reason, and these guys wouldn’t sell a card to me. Anyway, rant over.

Lorenz Larkin has a very impressive record which has been compiled through a career in regional promotions, and lately, Strikeforce and the UFC. Although with only one loss on his record he was originally knocked out by King Mo, but was subsequently overturned due to steroid use by his opponent. A decision win over Welterweight title challenger Robbie Lawler followed before making the transition after Strikeforce folded. What happened next was horrible as Francis Carmont effectively lay on him for 15 minutes in a truly horrible match to watch. That this record was spoiled by that fight is probably the biggest loser.

Brad Tavares has impressed since losing a decision to Aaron Simpson three years ago in what was his third UFC professional fight. A graduate of TUF 11 he has now won four straight, all by clear decision, and he gets the pay off against Larkin for a top ten position.

Tavares will look to put a stranglehold on this fight and employ similar tactics to Carmont, which effectively is his natural game. For Larkin to take a win here he will need to do what nobody else has ever managed, to stop Tavares inside the distance. While Larkin is arguably the better and more exciting fighter this is a horrible style match for him and I’ll be taking Tavares by decision comfortably.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Brad Tavares by Decision – 11/4 (+375) @ Ladbrokes

Rockhold v Philippou:

Luke Rockhold is a man with a point to prove. Fed to the lions in his UFC debut he was matched up with the hottest middleweight, not called Chris Weidman, in Brazil. In less than one round we saw what happened when Pretty Good met Elite, in a devastating fashion.

Rockhold will be one of those guys who will be thrilled to bits at the demise (is it a little too early to say that?) of Anderson Silva and the openings at the top of the 185lb division. As the transitioning Strikeforce Middleweight champion there will be big things expected of him and will be expected to make short work of Philippou.

Costa Philippou will be one of those fighters, like Rockhold, only too aware of what happens next at the top of the division. Formerly of the Serra-Longo team that trained Weidman, Philippou recently announced that he will be switching camps. Albeit on good terms this does open up the path to a possible run for him at the title. In order to do that then he needs to beat fighters like Rockhold, and more importantly Carmont who handed him his third career loss last time out. In that fight Carmont ground out a unanimous decision as Philippou came up short against a high level wrestler.

What Rockhold has in his advantage is experience of five round fights, whereas his opponent has none. As the champion, Rockhold has gone five rounds with heavy punchers Tim Kennedy and Jacare Souza taking unanimous decisions in both.

It appears that Philippou may have a chin made of iron or granite since he seems incapable of being knocked out, so the decision or submission may be the path to victory for his opponent.

Rockhold will not want to start his UFC life with two losses so will play conservatively, keeping Philippou at arms-length taking him into the championship rounds, and that’s where he takes control. Rockhold wins by decision comfortably and climbs back up the ladder.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Luke Rockhold by Decision – 15/8 (+167) @ BetVictor

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