Although last week wasn’t a winning one for me I was happy with the event overall and it turned out to be everything that I hoped it would be. Johny finally won the belt but there was some sadness with the injury to Condit. As one of my favourite active fighters it will be a shame that he is probably benched now for around a year.
I’ll apologise in advance for some of the obscure picks this week. Regular readers will be aware that the Bookmakers do not like cards in Brazil, in fact they don’t like them anywhere outside of the UK and US, and as a result the full range of markets still haven’t been posted yet. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been able to find some value though and I feel that I have. I have been looking to change up some strategy recently to get back into the win column and this may have forced my hand somewhat.
Brazil = kryptonite for me. I am either going to be very right or very wrong this weekend but I think that some of these matchups do not make a lot of sense for the home support. Typically cards in this region are mismatched in favour of the locals but this weekend could see the imports win more of the head to head battles. Let’s take a walk through the card to see what stands out.
Jason v Siler:
For Rony Jason the opportunity for redemption has come around relatively quickly. After he allowed Jeremy Stephens to literally tear through him he left the octagon and proceeded to put his hand through a wall; not smart. That loss put paid to an eight fight streak and derailed the hype train.
Stephen Siler has gone to great lengths to turn around an uninspiring record in his MMA career. After opening his account going 6-7 he has since gone 19-4 to start talk of him being a potential contender in a few years. At the age of 27 time is on his side and he should go far.
Other than a win over Sam Sicilia there are no real names on Jason’s list, and while the same can be said for Siler he has consistently fought at a higher level than his opponent. Consequently, I am at a loss to explain why Jason is such a heavy favourite here. Personally I will be leaning towards Siler but the interesting bet here is the 11/8 offered on this fight finishing in less than 2.5 rounds, essentially inside the distance. Decisions are a rarity shared amongst these two and that’s where my money will go.
Recommendation: Over/Under 2.5 Rounds: Under – 11/8 (+237) @ Paddy Power
Prazares v Taisumov:
It is an indicator of the dilution of a product that a fight involving these two can make a main card. A combined total of three UFC fights can relegate the likes of Scott Jorgensen to the prelims. Hell, I’d even take Kenny Robertson over either of these.
Prazares is a decision taking submission specialist who seems to have no power in his hands. A veteran of 18 fights he holds a single loss and a single win where his opponent hasn’t been taken the distance or tapped. In short, it’s easy to say that he comes across a little pillow fisted.
The Austrian fighter Mairbek Taisumov made his debut on the undercard of the weak 2014 opener from Macau where he took a unanimous decision over another debutant with a weak record. Despite officially representing Austria he is of Russian descent with a birthday of 08/08/88; which is the most interesting fact I can find about him.
In a fight of almost polar opposites I have to opt for power over panache. Taisumov carries a number of submissions in his locker, although nowhere near the level of his opponent but he also carries explosive power and has been taken the distance only three times. Strangely, Unibet are offering 11/10 against this fight going the distance. It feels good to me, unless Prazares wins in which case it almost certainly goes the full three rounds.
Recommendation: Will Fight Go the Distance: No – 11/10 (+110) @ Unibet
Maldonado v Villante:
Fabio Maldonado is one of those guys who has won fans purely on his ability to take a beating. The holder of three consecutive losses (prior to his 2-0 run) he failed to impress against Pokrajac and Kingsbury but really shone against Teixeira. In truth Glover battered him for 10 minutes, sure he got the occasional offensive shot in but it was a one-sided beat down and only the Dr stopped this from being another five minutes of the same.
Gian Villante enters the fight as favourite, albeit marginal, but I am not convinced of why. As a veteran of Ring of Combat and Strikeforce his record at the higher levels is less than stellar going 3-2 in Strikeforce and 1-1 in the UFC. The wins were against substandard opposition while the losses were to Larkin, Griggs and St Preux suggesting that when the going gets tough Villante gets going.
Barring Teixeira, Maldonado is almost impossible to stop and the thought of Villante doing so doesn’t sit well with me. If age hasn’t caught up with him then I would be looking for Maldonado to take a split decision, or maybe a knockout. Either way, odds against on him winning are too good to ignore.
Recommendation: To Win the Fight: Fabio Maldonado – 21/20 (+105) @ BetVictor
Santos v Parke:
Norman Parke won ‘The Smashes’ version of TUF and has looked solid ever since with three consecutive decisions over increasingly difficult opponents. This has shown Parke to be a durable opponent who looks to grind out wins irrespective of the situation. The truth is that those three decision wins are just three from four in his career. The other 15 have come by knockout and submission (3-12). Consequently, his ground game is given no second thought.
Leonardo Santos won the second TUF from Brazil and takes a huge step up in class for his next opponent. After taking care of business quickly against Macario in the final he has been forced to wait almost nine months for his second fight. A submission specialist he holds 12 career wins of which eight have been achieved through the tap.
When submission specialists collide one thing is certain, nobody taps. Both will be acutely aware of the others’ skillset that over-caution is the name of the game and a grind-fest ensues. Ordinarily I wouldn’t even consider backing against a Brazilian at home, but this card isn’t the strongest and the matchups are not great. Parke takes this comfortably.
Recommendation: To Win the Fight: Norman Parke – 4/9 (-225) @ Sportingbet
Ferreira v Dollaway:
As a TUF Brazil winner there is a lot of love for Cezar Ferreira and big things are expected of him. Barring his fight against the highly rated Daniel Sarafian this will be his biggest test to date, and one that should have come a year ago before injuries conspired against them.
CB Dollaway appears to be the very epitome of the occasional fighter. It is easy to forget that he has been active on the UFC roster for six years yet has fought only 12 times. His record in that time is far from spectacular with a split decision over Daniel Sarafian the recent highlight. A split decision loss to Tim Boetsch derailed a two fight streak and halted his climb up the rankings.
That split decision loss has somewhat clouded the view of Dollaway who was making the right noises at the right time and he is the type who can grind a decision. His wrestling will need to be at its best in Brazil as some of these decisions are questionable at best. If he gets Ferreira to the ground early on then it’ll be a long 15 minutes for the Brazilian and Dollaway will steal a decision. That isn’t presently priced up but I am happy to take the 2/1 on an outright win that is currently available.
Recommendation: To Win the Fight: CB Dollaway – 2/1 (+200) @ bet365
Rua v Henderson:
It hasn’t been a good time lately for Dan Henderson. Four fights into his UFC return, opening with a 2011 Fight of the Year and it has been downhill for the MMA veteran. Going 1-3 during that run has seen him forced to take a reduced contract and start whispers about the end being nigh. Couple that with the TRT ban and this may well be the last time we see Hendo in the UFC, win or lose.
Shogun Rua has experienced a similarly rocky patch in that time, with wins over Te Huna and Vera evening losses to Sonnen and Gustafsson and taking him to 6-6 in his UFC run. With the early knockout of Te Huna the critics were temporarily silenced but there is no escaping the fact that at age 32 his best years may well be behind him.
Shogun has traditionally struggled with wrestlers and one with Olympic level skills will always pose a problem. Henderson gassed in the last two rounds of their first encounter, a fact that won’t go unnoticed, especially as this fight is in Brazil where decisions have been questionable, if not downright strange. Vitor Belfort showed that Henderson can be stopped although you should never bank on it. TRT or not, Rua doesn’t possess that level of power and its unlikely he’ll be stopping Henderson early doors. A smart fight IQ coupled with a home advantage should see Rua home by decision.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Mauricio Rua by Decision – 13/5 (+360) @ Paddy Power