For a tough card on paper it was nice to come out of it with a win. That’s three wins from six selections, folks. I was happy to ignore a lot of the trash talking over Cole Millers inability to take a punch and he delivered with a submission win as predicted. Yoel Romero had a little wobble but did the necessary to take the knockout win, but my biggest thanks are reserved for Brad Tavares. I happily tipped Brad up to win by decision and he duly delivered, comfortably may I add at a huge 11/4.

The entire event generated a 34% ROI as we ended up with a profit of £2.05 on the night, and £8.35 on the year. It also left me profitable from both events in 2014 which is always nice to see. You can’t win them all, but if you take enough to keep you in front then it makes for an enjoyable hobby. If you don’t want to bet the £1 stake then just consider each £1 as 1 unit. That unit can be 10p, £10 or £100, either way you’d be up almost 8.5 of them

Strictly speaking, it could have been even better. Last week I wrote about how I changed my mind on Dillashaw winning by decision and bet on the stoppage. It was a bad call in hindsight but his performance certainly merited the gamble. Moraga never really got close to delivering and I guess that Rockhold just moved from ‘Pretty Good’ to ‘Very Impressive’.

We go back to Chicago this week as Benson Henderson makes his first appearance since dropping the strap to Anthony Pettis. There are a number of very interesting fights on the card, so let’s take a look through and see if we can go three for three this year.

Elkins v Stephens:

Fresh from (quite literally) tearing through Rony Jason in 40 seconds in Brazil, the man known as ‘Lil Heathen’ Jeremy Stephens makes his return. Riding high from a two fight winning streak he has the opportunity to go three in a row for the first time in the UFC. His seven years at the top table have seen a number of false dawns with wins followed by a loss as well as two fight streaks followed by two fight skids. The truth is that he hasn’t ever really gotten enough traction to be considered relevant.

Since making his debut in 2010 Darren Elkins has had no such issues. Although taking a defeat in his second UFC bout against Charles Oliveira he rebounded to go 5-0 before running into the immovable object of Chad Mendes. Defeats to Oliveira and Mendes aside, he sits at a very respectable 7-2 and has a reputation of a durable grinder; someone who isn’t explosive but does enough to take a comfortable decision.

When Elkins has lost it is because he has been stopped, be it by submission (arm bar) or the knockout, and the loss to Chad Mendes will give a good insight to the outcome of this fight. If Stephens can hit as hard as Mendes, which on the Rony Jason form suggests he can, then it could be a very quick opener for the main card. Stephens may have a poorer record all round, but the quality of fighters he has lost too are in a different league with Cerrone, Pettis, Guillard, Tibau and Lauzon trumping Mendes and Oliveira. It’s a straight pick ‘em with most bookmakers so 10/11 is on offer all round. For me this fight ends one of two ways; Elkins by decision or Stephens by knockout. I’ll be taking a chance that this is the year where Jeremy Stephens becomes relevant, knocking out Elkins on the way.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Jeremy Stephens by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 13/8 (+162) @ Ladbrokes

Cerrone v Martins:

The ever popular Cowboy’ Donald Cerrone makes a quick return to the octagon almost exactly after choking out Evan Dunham at UFC 167. In truth 2013 is a year that Cerrone will probably want to forget after going 2-2 in the UFC, which represents a poor return after the exploits of 2011 and 2012. I successfully backed against Cerrone in his defeat to Dos Anjos but he is better than recent form suggests and a flirtation with dropping to Featherweight should remain exactly that.

Making his second UFC appearance is his opponent, the vastly experienced yet little recognised Adriano Martins. Fresh from win in the final Strikeforce event and a debut victory over Daron Cruickshank the Brazilian now gets a huge step up in class. The big question is whether that step up is too big at this stage of his career. Personally, I think it is.

Cerrone is a man who likes to finish by submission, taking 67% of his wins by this method but he may find this very difficult against the BJJ Black Belt of Martins who has never been forced to tap. Both fighters carry a huge amount of experience into the octagon but Cerrone has been at the top level for a lot longer and during the three rounds this will become painfully evident. In his last outing he became the first man to submit Evan Dunham and this weekend I think he’ll be the first to submit Martins.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Donald Cerrone by Submission – 5/1 (+500) @ Ladbrokes

Gonzaga v Miocic:

Two years ago if you had told me that, following his retirement, Gabriel Gonzaga would return to the octagon and go 3-1 with the longest fight clocking up at 6 minutes, then I’d be shaking my head in disbelief. The fact he has done it, stopping two behemoths in Shawn Jordan and Ben Rothwell along the way, suggests that the man known as ‘Napao’ may be starting to fulfil the promise shown when turning out the lights on Cro Cop in 2007.  A vicious loss to Travis Browne the only black spot on his 12 months back, and one that can be overlooked given Browne’s meteoric climb.

Stipe Miocic is the opponent for Saturday night, looking to get another winning streak going at the Heavyweight table. Returning to take a clear decision over Roy Nelson, Miocic successfully rebounded from his sole loss to Stefan Struve when they headlined Nottingham in September 2012. That day Miocic found himself kept at arms-length and picked off by the giant Struve, eventually being knocked out in the second round. That fight was a clear step up in class for a man who had fought at a much lower level previously. Roy Nelson was a test and Miocic found an out of shape and lethargic Nelson to his satisfaction.

Miocic is a fighter that likes to end quickly, no point doing in three rounds what you can do in one, as he has been taken the distance only twice in his career; by Joey Beltran and then Nelson, two fighters who are nigh on impossible to finish.

I want to back Miocic to win by knockout, I really do but the value doesn’t present itself. Miocic is a best priced 4/6 to win by knockout whereas he is 8/15 just to win the fight. With both at odds-on and representing a difference of around 10% I cannot justify taking either. With that in mind I am going to go for the overs here. The fight to go over 1.5 rounds is available at 6/4 in places and gives the extra protection of Gonzaga keeping his hands up and chin down and perhaps challenging for a first ever UFC decision win.

Recommendation: Round Betting: Over 1.5 Rounds – 6/4 (+150) @ Paddy Power

Henderson v Thomson:

Benson Henderson makes his return to the octagon just over four months after losing his belt to Anthony Pettis. While I expected the title to switch hands I certainly didn’t see it ending in the first round by submission. If you say you did, then you are a liar, simple.

As a consequence of that defeat Henderson now finds himself in somewhat of a pickle; a formerly dominant champion who most likely won’t be getting get a rematch anytime soon. Since that was the second loss to Pettis it makes a rubber match unlikely and Henderson gets to sit in as a perennial number 2 as those lower down the order try to take out the champion.

I am pleased to say that I tipped up Josh Thomson when he beat Nate Diaz, at a time when simply having the surname Diaz almost made you untouchable. He impressed in his UFC return and did what no other fighter had done to date by knocking out the younger Diaz. Thomson has an excellent record and has found in some top promotions as two UFC stints, Pride, K1 and Strikeforce will testify. A former Strikeforce title holder he has been in with the best and is more than used to going the five rounds that a main event demands.

Henderson is a huge favourite entering this fight and rightly so, beating Frankie Edgar, twice, as well as Nate Diaz and Gil Melendez all over five rounds. The loss to Pettis was the first time that a fight involving Henderson in the UFC didn’t go the distance. As a side note, the Diaz fight was the first time that Thomson hasn’t been the distance since 2010.

Henderson is not a risk taker and will more than likely return to the ‘point fighting’ tactics that so many dislike, but have proven to be so effective for him. His wrestling is on another level and he has a full arsenal to pick from. I’ll be taking Henderson to win over five rounds, mainly because that’s what he does but also because Thomson has spent the last three years alternating wins and losses and I don’t see the pattern changing on Saturday night.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Benson Henderson by Decision – 11/10 (+110) @ Boylesports