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Although there was a superb card only last week it has been a three week break from MMA for me and I feel revitalised, yet ready to make some money.

As seems to be the norm for 2014 the Fight Night card was full of upsets and, despite going 2-4 in my picks, I did manage to nail two of the underdogs for a small profit on the night as Magny and Brown paid dividends. Luckily I managed to swerve UFC 173, and I am pleased I did as my original thoughts were way off so no money lost.

This week sees a slight change to the format owing to a double dipping of cards on Saturday night. From Germany we have the latest in the Fight Night series, while in Brazil we get the Finale of TUF Brazil 3. With nine combined fights the selection will be huge so I have opted to write up my favourite five fights across both cards. It’s been a decent run of late with consecutive winning events and four of the last five; let’s see if we can extend that record this week.

Barnatt v Strickland:

At 6’6” tall it is always fun to watch Luke Barnatt fighting at Middleweight. The Brit graduated from the TUF house as a protégé of Chael Sonnen and remains unbeaten in his career. Dominant wins on home soil over Mats Nilsson and a Fight of the Night win over Andrew Craig have seen his stock rise rapidly. Capable of mixing up various styles with the ability to win fights via numerous methods he is on a trajectory to break the top ten in a year should his development continue in the same vein.

Sean Strickland makes his second UFC appearance and, like his opponent, is also unbeaten in his career. At just 23 years old he made his professional debut at 17 and hasn’t looked back since. His debut win over Bubba McDaniel represented the last appearance in the UFC for the Jacksons fighter and in doing so he submitted a submission specialist with apparent ease.

After his tuition in TUF and his progression since this will be very much a fight that Bigslow is expected to win. I am not convinced though. While I know little about his opponent I do know that when you absorb more than six times the amount of strikes per minute than your opponent then you are only a punch away from defeat. For this reason I will be picking Sean Strickland to spring the shock of the night and take the win.

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

Maia v Yakovlev:

Every now and again a fight comes along that leaves you scratching your head in confusion. While the UFC seems very happy to import as many Russian fighters as they can get their hands on, putting them in the octagon with a highly decorated veteran screams of a squash match. Alexander Yakovlev holds a decision win over Paul Daley in his last fight and while Daley is known in MMA circles he is the only recognised name on his list. After initially being signed up to face highly rated newcomer Yan Cabral before being moved to fight Maia it is clear that big things are expected of him.

Although carrying consecutive losses for the first time in his career Demian Maia remains one of the top Welterweights in the division. His resurgence has been little short of astounding and he is only two fights removed from a potential contenders match. Ever since Maia remembered that he is actually pretty good at BJJ and not as good as a striker his stock has risen, despite at 36 being at the downward slope of his career.

It will be nothing other than a shock if Maia does anything other than destroy Yakovlev. For all the good that the self-styled ‘Bad Boy’ has done in M1 he has remained susceptible to the arm lock or armbar, a fact that will not be lost on the Brazilian. Maia carries nine submissions for a 50% success rate and I expect him to improve that statistic with relative ease at the weekend.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Demian Maia by Submission – 11/10 (+110) @ Betvictor

Carmont v Dollaway:

It is testament to the evolving sport of MMA that a fighter can go 11-7 on the regional circuits and yet win six straight in the UFC. This is exactly what happened with Francis Carmont. The huge Middleweight was essentially going nowhere fast before ending up at Tristar gym and training with some of the best in the business. As a career move it was ingenious and served him very well until he ran into Jacare Souza. A first loss in six years against a former champion was nothing to be ashamed of and Carmont will be eager to prove it was little more than a minor setback.

CB Dollaway enters the octagon on a massive high. On a card where the favourites fell one by one he destroyed Cezar Ferreira in less than a minute of the co-main event. It was his biggest win to date and showed the audience that this grinding wrestler can deliver a punch rather than just taking one. Unable to get any form of run going in the division Dollaway will be very aware that he needs to capitalise on that last win in a last ditch attempt to gain some relevance.

As stylistic matchups go this won’t be pretty. Both fighters have a record of lay and pray when assuming a dominant position. Carmont has ridden his luck here on more than one occasion and it’s not a tactic that wins any friends. I think that Carmont will probably do enough to nick the win, but I am not confident enough to back him on it. It’s probably one of the safest bets of the night that this goes over 2.5 rounds; what happens from 02:30:01 in the third round is irrelevant as far as I am concerned but this bet cashes.

Recommendation: Total Rounds: Over 2.5 – 8/15 (-187) @ Coral

Miocic v Maldonado:

When changes are made to any fight it can affect how that fight or fighter is perceived in the divisional picture. This is particularly true for Stipe Miocic. With a contract signed to fight Junior dos Santos in Las Vegas at UFC 173 both fighters were shifted to the TUF finale in Brazil. For Miocic this is no problem, after all he is facing the former champion knowing that a win propels him to top five status. With dos Santos out through injury Fabio Maldonado steps in to save the fight. For Miocic this renders a golden opportunity moot. Win against a pumped up Light Heavyweight and did what he was supposed to do; lose and he is set back another year at least.

For Maldonado it is nothing less than a win-win situation. If he loses to Miocic then he stepped in at late notice to save a fight against a ranked opponent. If he wins then he makes a successful debut in a very shallow division in need of new contenders. Maldonado took a hard fought win last time out but the Heavyweight scene is a completely different animal to anything he is used to. The Brazilian, it must be said, was a competent 205lber but one that was never destined to trouble the top ten. There were far too many skilled opponents for him to go through although his ability to absorb a punch made him a solid fan favourite.

In essence this is the epitome of a mismatch and it would be one of the year’s biggest shocks if Miocic was beaten. With a sole loss to his name Miocic has proven himself to be a solid puncher and surprisingly mobile inside the octagon. Maldonado was literally battered into a Dr’s stoppage against Glover Teixeira and Miocic carries at least an extra 40lbs of punching power than him. Despite being very tough to stop, it will be an early night’s work for Miocic and his power will see him through.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Stipe Miocic by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 5/6 (-120) @ Sportbet

Munoz v Mousasi:

In Manchester Mark Munoz fought his friend and former training partner Lyoto Machida in the main event. Although he lost by first round knockout due to a head kick it will be the fact that he landed no significant strikes at all that will hurt the most. Despite being 8-4 in the UFC Munoz will be very aware that another loss could put his career at the top table at risk; although with the company targeting a Philippines launch in the near future this remains unlikely. Losses to Machida and Weidman in his last three fights are no disgrace but he hasn’t put a run together since 2011. A year out has directly impacted this but the record tells no lies.

Gegard Mousasi, like his opponent this weekend, also lost last time out to Machida. If nothing else, this should be seen as a testament to how good Machida is than how poorly Mousasi or Munoz have fared. Like Munoz, Mousasi has also recently returned from a year long layoff and is keen to make up for lost time. At just 28 the former Strikeforce and Dream champion should be entering the prime of his career and will be very aware that two wins in 2014 could be enough to elevate him to contender status in the UFC.

It’s a surprisingly good matchup for the Armenian. As a five round main event I severely doubt that this gets even as far as the championship rounds. If it does then all signs point to Mousasi given that Munoz has never gone over three rounds. As a knockout specialist he faces an opponent who has given up 75% of his career losses to this method, and although he has a small Achilles heel with submissions, his opponent has forced the tap just once in 17 fights. There will be some question marks over Munoz’s ability to absorb too many punches and this is a clear path to victory for Mousasi.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Gegard Mousasi by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 6/4 (+250) @ Boylesports

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