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With a frenetic run of seven UFC events in six weeks I am about ready for a break before I hit MMA overload. This will be my last write up for a few weeks as we get a small breather. The next event is UFC 173 which I’ll be passing on as I’ll be on holiday and the wife will hit the roof if I am writing up betting tips from a beach in Thailand.

UFC 172 was exactly the event we expected it to be, even if some of the results didn’t go our way. Max Holloway was a great outside bet, and Jim Miller by submission was as much of a lock as I made it out to be. I didn’t expect Rockhold to win by submission and I certainly didn’t see Rumble taking a decision over Phil Davis. Jon Jones played it safe which meant that we ended up with a very small profit.

During my research I was very surprised that a number of my picks and leans were in fact underdogs. It’s rare that an underdog wins, usually it’s around 75% weighted toward the favourite. I am looking for a few extra Baht for my travels so will be going in very bravely on this week’s card. Let’s take a walk through the main card for some standouts.

Cariaso v Smolka:

The unbeaten Louis Smolka makes second UFC appearance of the year and his career. A submission specialist by trade, a shock win over Alptekin Ozkilic represented the first time that the Hawaiian had been unable to force a stoppage. The result was unexpected given Ozkilic’s prior win over Flyweight contender Darren Uyenoyama and has truly elevated him to another level.

WEC and UFC veteran Chris Cariaso looks to build on a run of back to back victories in an attempt to elevate himself back up the rankings. Losses to contenders Moraga and da Silva were a mild setback for a fighter who had previously lost just three times in his career; two of those to Michael MacDonald and the champion, Renan Barao, which give an indicator of how tough this man is, and what it means to take a win over him.

Despite Cariaso’s experience it is Smolka who opens as the bookmakers favourite. This is potentially a sign of overconfidence from the layers and too many times recently we have seen a bright debut overhyped into the next big thing. That being said I do fancy the Hawaiian to follow up with another win here. Cariaso has had a little trouble in the past with submissions albeit from a much higher level than Smolka, but Smolka may be able to capitalise and force the tap.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Louis Smolka by Submission – 4/1 (+400) @ BetVictor

Palelei v Potts:

In two fights since making his return to the UFC we have seen the very best and worst of Soa Palelei. His returning win over Nikita Krylov was one of the worst fights I have ever watched at this level. Both fighters gassed within three minutes and it felt like a mercy stoppage for the viewer when it ended. By contrast, his win over Pat Barry was impressive in execution and saw the end of ‘HD’ in MMA.

Ruan Potts makes the jump from EFC Africa with a record of 8-1 and as the reigning Heavyweight champion. Excellent in the clinch and with a nasty ground and pound he has won all of his fights inside the distance, with his sole loss going the distance. Despite being relatively unknown he is not to be taken lightly and the poor level of refereeing in the EFC means that you don’t stop punching until you are literally pulled from your opponent. This level of aggression may serve him well in the UFC.

Against my better judgement I am going to go with the South African fighter to take the victory. He has knockout power, good submissions and at age 33 one would expect that his cardio to be slightly better than his 36 year old opponent. If he can survive the immediate onslaught of the Australian then he may just pull off the shock of the night.

Recommendation: To Win the Fight: Ruan Potts – 11/5 (+220) @ Boylesports

Magny v Means:

In only his fifth UFC fight to date Neil Magny finds himself on his first main card fight after a year or so on the prelims. I am yet to really click with Magny as his fighting style isn’t one that draws me in and he isn’t one of my favourite fighters to watch.

Tim Means makes his return to the UFC after being cut for weight issues, although to be fair the consecutive losses didn’t help him. As many other fighters have found though, get a couple of wins under your belt and you are back in the big time. Means won back to back fights, both by first round knockout in Legacy and got the chance to return; he will want to make a good impression even if it ends in defeat.

Magny is more of a grinder than a finisher; he has just four finishes in nine wins. Against Umalatov and Manley he ground out comfortable decisions without ever really taking the fight to the feet. It’s fair to say that his style will never be fan friendly and is unlikely to endear him to the powers that be. While Means is bookmakers favourite I give the edge to Magny here. His ground game will nullify the knockout ability of Means and make for a very long 15 minutes for the Albuquerque native. As Magny is the outsider I’ll be playing it safe rather than taking a risky prop line.

Recommendation: To Win the Fight: Neil Magny – 5/2 (+250) @ BetVictor

Koch v Cruickshank:

It was a little over two years ago that Eric Koch was being lined up for a title shot against Joes Aldo for the Featherweight crown. Injuries to both Koch and Aldo put paid to that, side-lining Koch for around 18 months in the process. Consecutive losses to Lamas and Poirier, contenders in their own right, put him in need of a win over Oliveira. He got it, and looks to go on another run towards the belt.

Ultimate Fighter 15 competitor Daron Cruickshank makes his second octagon appearance of 2014 looking to win back to back fights in the UFC for the first time as a professional. Fresh from a victory over TUF opponent Mike Rio in January he faces a real step up in class.

It isn’t difficult to see why Koch is as highly rated as he is. Given that his only career losses have come from Lamas and Poirier and a WEC bout against Chad Mendes then you can see the level of opponent to best him. Koch will want to make a statement of intent and I think he’ll do it comfortably inside the distance.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Eric Koch by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 15/8 (+187) @ BetVictor

Philippou v Larkin:

After being mentioned in certain circles as a potential contender at 185lbs Costa Philippou enters the octagon this weekend on the back of two defeats and facing a third that could genuinely see him cut from the UFC. Rockhold stopped him and Carmont out-wrestled him meaning that Philippou needs a similar performance to the ones that helped him to a five fight winning streak recently.

Since making the transition from Strikeforce Lorenz Larkin has struggled to get any form of run going. A horrible decision saw him drop his debut to Carmont while he got back on track over Chris Camozzi. It was the loss to Brad Tavares that many found odd though, as Larkin didn’t attempt a takedown until the third round. It was very poor fight IQ and although I successfully tipped a Tavares decision, I was disappointed with how it played out.

This fight provides one of the certainties of the night; that it goes the distance. Larkin has never been stopped and Philippou just the once, last time out. Both possess a solid chin and neither are proficient in the art of submissions. I don’t really have a strong opinion on who wins, but then I don’t need it. Backing odds on is a rarity for me but it feels like a smart bet.

Recommendation: Will Fight Go the Distance: Yes – 4/6 (-150) @ Ladbrokes

Brown v Silva:

At UFC 171 Carlos Condit should have been facing off against Matt Brown, arguably the most resurgent fighter in the UFC today. After limping through the early part of his career at MMA’s top table the man known as ‘The Immortal’ has reeled off six of the best to put himself on the cusp of a title shot. One decision and five knockouts have turned a journeyman on the verge of a pink slip into a legitimate contender and, for a division that was going stale, this is great to see.

As one of the most highly touted young fighters in years it is disappointing to see how Erick Silva has progressed. Entering with a fanfare victory over Luis Ramos he followed that up with a devastating performance against Carlo Prater but he was literally robbed by a poor call on the part of Mario Yamasaki who awarded the fight via disqualification to his opponent. This set in motion a record of alternating wins and losses for the young Brazilian, a streak that he has been unable to shake off.

Although this is scheduled for five rounds it is almost inconceivable that it actually goes the distance; Brown has seen the scorecards just four times in 29 fights with Silva just five in 20. Brown will look to keep the fight standing with his opponent at arms-length so he can tee-off at will. Given the win loss record of Silva I am heavily leaning towards Matt Brown for this one. He won’t submit Silva; it’s unlikely that they go 25 minutes so I am taking Brown by extreme violence. This is another occasion where a prop line pays better, for the record I think it will be a knockout, but when playing the underdog you also need to play safe.

Recommendation: To Win the Fight: Matt Brown – 2/1 (+200) @ BetVictor

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