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As Trigger once quoted “A losing streak is like joining the Moonies; easy to get into but a bark to get out of” although I saw enough last week to make me believe that my luck is about to change. Despite going 1/4 I saw enough from Hioki that with a little bit of luck he could have taken Menjivar by submission. The fight between Sai and Lipeng gave me little to work with and I have no complaints about my bet. I am very disappointed in Shawn Jordan though, that fight was there for the taking but a poor fight IQ cost him. He had opportunities to expose flaws in his opponent and took none of them.

For a third straight main event I nailed it though, so much so that I am thinking of just betting once each week; watch my profits soar. After putting my thoughts out there I do like to read other media outlets and I appeared to be the only one backing Kim by knockout, which was nice to see.

With a loss of £0.40p on all bets we virtually broke even and 2014 sits in the red for the first time at -£0.40p. In the 18 months I have been writing this column this is the first time I have gone into a losing position and this is my worst run by a long way. The UFC returns to London this weekend and I have some very strong thoughts on how this pans out. Hopefully this will kick-start my year again.

Nelson v Akhmedov:

Life is always good when Gunnar Nelson strolls into town. This will be my third time watching the Icelander with all three coming in the UK. The first two were very different fights in style and execution. His debut was against DaMarques Johnson, who took the fight as a last minute replacement. Nelson controlled him throughout the fight and slipped on the choke to finish. It was almost an execution in style and left us all wanting more. His second fight against Santiago was less impressive, although coming away with a decision win. Gone was the cold and calculating and in its place was arrogant and flippant and it almost cost him on occasion.

Facing off against Nelson is debutant Omari Akhmedov. One of the recent influx of Dagestani imports he has impressed in his few octagon minutes thus far. That knockout win over Thiago Perpetuo in Brazil in November generated enough interest to give him a much tougher test this time out.

Prior to taking a decision over Santiago it was a run of five consecutive submission wins for Nelson and it is natural that this method becomes the favourite here, more so considering that Akhmedov has only ever lost by submission. Nelson isn’t a risk taker and will look to preserve his record by taking Akhmedov into new territories and grinding out a laborious decision. I hope I am wrong and he finishes by exciting submission, but after more than a year out with injuries it will be more beneficial for him to get three rounds under his belt.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Gunnar Nelson by Decision – 3/1 (+300) @ Ladbrokes

Pickett v Seery:

When this card was announced I was very ambivalent towards some of the matchups. I tweeted that Nogueira v Gustafsson would never happen due to injury and I was right. The one fight that really piqued my interest was Pickett v McCall and with a late withdrawal for ‘Uncle Creepy’ I have lost a little interest.

Irishman Neil Seery makes his octagon debut this weekend after making the transition from Cage Warriors. At CWFC Seery was the Flyweight champion, only vacating his belt for an opportunity at the big time. At age 34 it’s hard to blame him but the feeling doesn’t go away that it’s too much too late. The level of opponent he has faced is far lower than the company he now keeps and, although he rose to the top of Cage Warriors, he will find that there is a massive gulf in class between the two promotions.

Brad Pickett has been around the octagon for a long time and is rumoured to be a personal favourite of Dana White due to his all action style. He doesn’t hold the most impressive record (3-3 UFC) his losses have been against champions, in Barao, or challengers, in McDonald and Wineland. He is a very well rounded fighter who possesses a number of submissions in his locker as well as the explosive power to end a fight by knockout or grind a decision. At 35 he will be making what may well be his last run at a title in the 125lb division.

As tough as they come, Seery is very difficult to knock out and doesn’t tend to go the distance in his fights. He is, however, susceptible to a submission with the majority of his losses coming this way. It’s either a knockout or submission win for Pickett and I am playing the percentages by betting on the tap.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Brad Pickett by Submission – 9/4 (+225) @ Boylesports

Johnson v Guillard:

Although injury has stripped us of the opportunity to watch the rematch between Guillard and Ross Pearson I think that we have got a more competitive fight as a result of it; a case of addition by subtraction. Pearson looked a little off the pace in Manchester and it was only a matter of time before it finished and not in favour of the Englishman.

In Michael Johnson the UFC has something of a renaissance fighter on their hands. After dropping back to back fights and facing off against Joe Lauzon it was widely expected that Johnson would be cut with a loss. However, a dominating decision win and a subsequent knockout of Gleison Tibau has put the rest of the Lightweight division on notice.

Melvin Guillard will always be one of those fighters who will look back on his career with regrets. Sometimes devastating yet sometimes infuriating, he has never really gotten any form of run together and at age 30, and a veteran of 22 fights in the UFC (15-8-0-1) he hasn’t really come close to fulfilling his potential. If truth be said, like Johnson he was on the verge of being cut prior to finishing Mac Danzig nine months ago. Whether it be big names or not, a run of 1-4 doesn’t win too many friends or chances in the fight game and he needs to improve further.

As I said before, this will now be more competitive than Pearson v Guillard as Johnson has the wrestling skills to take Guillard to the ground and keep him there. Guillard’s game is built on power and Johnson will deny him the opportunity to utilise it. I expect Johnson to take a comfortable decision in a fight that doesn’t have me scrambling for the post fight awards.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Michael Johnson by Decision – 15/4 (+375) @ Boylesports

Gustafsson v Manuwa:

I called it within 24 hours of the original announcement that there was almost zero chance of Gustafsson facing up to Little Nog. Not only did Little Nog not confirm the fight, while also carrying at least a dozen injuries, but it made no sense to put them together. Alex Gustafsson had only recently fought Jon Jones to a five round thriller and here he was in a contenders match against someone who almost literally creaks when he walks (no offence).

As replacements go for a London card it was really always going to be Jimi Manuwa. The South Londoner has made a number of friends in the UFC and even more fans with his explosive and hard hitting style. He possesses a record of 14-0 with 13 of those wins coming by knockout or technical knockout. Indeed, his three UFC appearances to date have all been ended by a medical stoppage which may or may not be testament to his power. In Nottingham he battered Kyle Kingsbury to the point where he simply couldn’t open his eye. In London he forced Cyrille Diabate to retire on his stool. Finally, in Manchester his fight with Ryan Jimmo was stopped near the end of the second round due to an injury for the Canadian.

Alex Gustafsson is the golden boy of 2013 and the fighter that most want to see rematched with Jon Jones after their epic battle. I scored the fight for the Swede but in truth it was so close that you couldn’t object to the result either way. He stuffed takedown after takedown and almost executed the perfect game plan against a fighter who has barely looked troubled throughout his career to date. After taking one of his two career losses against Phil Davies it was Gustafsson who opted to train with his former opponent in order to gain some elite wrestling experience, which he used to great effect against Jones.

Manuwa is a fighter that doesn’t have a great wrestling base. It is improving all the time but probably not fast enough for this fight. He will look to keep Gustafsson at arm’s length and tee off at every opportunity. As he showed against Jones, Gustafsson will look to slip inside and back out again before one of those trademark bombs is able to land.

The outcome of this fight depends on whether Manuwa has been fed a few burgers in order to pad out his record, or whether he is a man capable of eating fillet steak. Gustafsson is fillet steak, make no bones about that and will look to demonstrate that he is far more advanced than his counterpart. I am not expecting this to be an early finish, if that happens then Manuwa has connected on an unsuspecting Gustafsson and the arena will erupt. I feel that Manuwa will be taken into the third round, and possibly beyond, for the first time in his career. With that, I am taking the ‘overs’ in this fight.

Recommendation: Total Rounds Over/Under: Over 2.5 – 6/4 (+150) @ Ladbrokes

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