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As a nine-fight free event goes, that wasn’t too bad. By the end of the opening bout it was already a huge improvement on the last time London hosted a card.

Recapping the night’s events, and re-reading my last article it is easy to identify hindsight as a heartless mistress. For the opening bet of the night I gave Gunnar Nelson by decision, which in itself was a last minute reversal from Gunnar Nelson by submission; I even wrote it down. But that’s the way my luck has been going of late, if I tossed a coin it would probably land on its side.

Brad Pickett was kept at bay by a game Neil Seery en route to a decision victory and Alex Gustafsson dismantled Jimi Manuwa much quicker than I ever expected him to. I guess this is where I say that the “brown stuff happens” at times.

I was pleased with myself for the Michael Johnson call. It was a decent bet and at those odds virtually gave me a break even night – few pennies lost nothing to be concerned over. What made it sweeter is that a mate who was at the event with me gave me a little ribbing over the fact that I called it going the distance. It did, but what a horrible fight it was. I said it wouldn’t be picking up any bonuses; it didn’t.

With a loss of £0.25p on all bets we virtually broke even, leaving us at around £0.30p in profit for the year. My spreadsheet went a little awry and it miscalculated a prior event which suggested I was in a losing position on the year when I actually wasn’t. It could have been a lot worse given the run I have been in and feel that this could be the event to turn things around.

St. Preux v Krylov:

After watching Nikita Krylov gas within 3 minutes of his Heavyweight debut loss to Soa Palelei I came away never wanting to watch him again and thinking that the UFC had made a horrible mistake in signing him.

In his follow up he looked a lot sharper while despatching Walt Harris in less than 30 seconds. I had gone in pretty hard on Harris with the full expectation that ‘The Big Ticket’ would end the Ukrainian import early on. Despite that win it was clear that he didn’t belong at Heavyweight and made the cut to 205lbs which made sense since he walked around at only 215-220lbs.

Another of the Strikeforce imports the impossibly-named Ovince St. Preux (seriously, how long before the media tag him OSP?) has impressed since making the leap. Wins over Villante, in a strange technical decision, and Donovan were supposed to see him step up in class. Instead he gets Krylov.

 I am not saying that Krylov has no chance of winning, of course he does, every fighter stands a punchers chance. What I am saying is that if St. Preux comes out swinging then there is little chance that Krylov will be able to take the punishment for too long. I’ll be taking St. Preux to finish this early in what I hope will be a night of stoppages, violent ones at that. Ladbrokes have St. Preux at a massive 6/4 to win by knockout when the next best is 20/23. It may well be a misprice so I’d get on while still available because it won’t last.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Ovince St. Preux by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 6/4 (+150) @ Ladbrokes

Sanchez v Jury:

When you want to bet on the Fight of the Night bonuses you need look no further than Diego Sanchez being on the card. Right off the bat it is almost certain that this fight takes the award, but that’s not my pick, mainly because it isn’t priced up yet.

After my second favourite fight of last year, where a decision was dropped to Gil Melendez, Sanchez shot up in my estimation, to the point where he is someone I follow on Twitter eagerly awaiting news of his next bout. Whoever it’s against you can almost guarantee bonuses, excitement and blood, lots and lots of blood.

The unbeaten Myles Jury is next up for Sanchez. Following two unsuccessful stints in the TUF house he has rebounded with four consecutive wins in his UFC career and looking impressive while doing so. Although impressive I am not convinced of his standing as clear favourite over Sanchez.

Sanchez has lost a few fights but when he loses it tends to be against some of the very best in the business, as shown by BJ Penn, Ellenberger, Hathaway, Fitch, Koscheck and, of course, Melendez. I am not convinced that this is the right fight for Jury and on that basis I will be taking Sanchez to inflict his first defeat. Even if Jury takes the win this will be a fight to take him to hell and back, and we will know a lot more about the credentials of the prospect afterwards.

Recommendation: To Win the Fight: Diego Sanchez – 6/4 (+150) @ Coral

Shields v Lombard:

It’s fair to say that this is a clash of two fighters who once promised the earth, but delivered very little. A friend once described Jake Shields to me as “potentially the best in the world on the ground” and while he may be completely correct the rest of his game is lacking somewhat. He has a fighting style that lends itself to something only a mother could love (unless you are a purist) and his full potential at this level remains untouched.

In the subcategory of expensive mistakes sits one Hector Lombard. Much lauded and heralded in the transition from Bellator the Cuban Judoka has failed to shine. Originally touted as the next legitimate challenger for Anderson Silva he went 1-2 at Middleweight before being forced to drop to 170lbs and limping to a record of 2-2.

Given the propensity for both Shields and Lombard to take this to the ground you can almost forget a Performance Bonus being given here, there are too many better fights on the card for that. I do disagree strongly with Lombard as the bookies favourite though as Shields has proven time after time that he can, and will, do enough to steal a decision when the underdog. He did it against Maia and Woodley and I think he’ll do it here.

Recommendation: To Win the Fight: Jake Shields – 7/4 (+175) @ BetVictor

Condit v Woodley:

It has been said many times that the UFC is the first sport to really mature in the days of social media, whether this be through the fans, the organisers or the fighters. We have seen Dana White gain more followers than the Pied Piper through his Twitter-based outbursts and now we have a fighter who has managed to elevate himself from skirting the top ten to a genuine contenders match.

Tyrone Woodley has impressed in his short UFC tenure so far, despite a split decision loss to Jake Shields. Whether he should be in any position to challenge for the belt is irrelevant, now he has to walk the walk.

One of my favourite active fighters today is Carlos Condit. So much so that I genuinely believe he is the most well-rounded Welterweight in the world, and I include GSP in that comparison. Condit is exciting and if he can sort out his wrestling and takedown defence then he is truly destined for UFC gold (the proper one, not the other one).

Woodley is excellent on his feet but is eminently beatable as proven by Shields and Nate Marquardt. It’s the Marquardt loss that gives away the path to victory as ‘The Chosen One’ was unable to cope with his power, forcing the stoppage early in the fourth. Condit is different gravy to Marquardt and should be able to do the job earlier. The Natural Born Killer is a stoppage machine amassing 93% of his wins inside the distance, and he will look to finish Woodley as early as possible so he can relax and watch the main event with interest. A submission is unlikely, but a knockout is more than possible and is priced to move.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Carlos Condit by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 13/5 (+260) @ Ladbrokes

Hendricks v Lawler:

For the first time in almost six years the post-fight announcement from Bruce Buffer will include the words “and new UFC Welterweight Champion…” and it’s been a long time coming. After the last fight I thought Johny Hendricks had done enough to secure the belt, but it certainly wasn’t the daylight robbery that the mainstream media made it out to be. In my mind it was clear, but an open first round and the foot off the gas in the fifth saw Hendricks fall short.

Justice has been served though as Hendricks gets the first crack at the vacant belt and the opportunity to right a wrong. Hendricks has been one of the most impressive fighters in the past two years despatching opponent after opponent en route to a title shot that arguably should have come earlier.

Robbie Lawler is finally fulfilling the potential he showed over a decade ago as a youngster in the UFC. After being cut he spent some time in regional promotions with varying degrees of success, culminating in a wretched run of form in Strikeforce going 3-5 before the promotion folded. It was, therefore, a huge surprise to see him brought back and put straight into a main card fight with Josh Koscheck. This is where Lawler came of age, tearing through Koscheck in under a round. He followed this with a similar win over Bobby Voelker before narrowing taking a split decision over Rory MacDonald. And here we are, in a title fight for a vacant belt. Even Cinderella doesn’t get as unbelievable as that.

I feel pretty strongly about this fight. Firstly, it doesn’t go five rounds, I doubt it’ll even get to the third. Secondly, it will be violent, as the chefs special will be a knockout, served cold. Hendricks has a thunderous overhand left while Lawler is no slouch in that department. It could be as simple as who lands first wins. In any case I am opting for Hendricks by knockout. Although Lawler will be the fairy tale ending I can entrust Johny to not leave it in the hands of the judges this time and take care of business early.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Johny Hendricks by KO, TKO or Disqualification – Evens (+100) @ Sportingbet

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