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It is always good to open a column with good news. I am pleased to say that wins for Miocic by KO, taking the ‘overs’ in the Carmont & Dollaway fight and being on the right side of a robbery in favour of Strickland brought about another profitable week. Small consistent wins have now seen followers win three events in a row and five from the last six.

We return to the usual single card format this week in one of the better cards of the year. Benson Henderson makes his reappearance on a Fox card that is pretty well stacked with meaningful fights. I have had a look through the card and I think that we will be seeing a lot of action with very busy judges. I’ll tell you my thoughts as we take a look through the card but I’d be happy to hear your comments below.

Perez v Caraway:

An intriguing opener sees Mr Miesha Tate, Bryan Caraway make his first octagon appearance in almost 16 months. Last seen in April 2013 he submitted Johnny Bedford in one of the latest submissions in UFC history at 4:44 of the final round. That fight saw Caraway take a belated Submission of the Night award after Pat Healy tested positive shortly after. Having only fought a month earlier Caraway was an injury replacement for the man he now faces.

Erik Perez makes his sixth appearance for the UFC in three years and his first since November 2013. Opening up with a 3-0 record a split decision loss to Mizugaki may prove to be a mere bump in the road as he rebounded with a win over Edwin Figueroa to go 5-1. A win over Caraway would see him creep towards the top 10 in the division.

As an out and out submission specialist it will be easy to take Caraway by this method. However, dumb things occasionally happen in MMA (just look at Demian Maia failing to attempt a submission against Yakovlev) and this is not guaranteed. Perez is no slouch in the BJJ department himself and may demonstrate resilience in this area. No, I am taking pure value for this one and there is a real chance that it may be gone by the time this article gets published. Boylesports have gone a ridiculous 10/1 on Caraway to win by decision. The general consensus is that this price should be around 6/4 so I am looking to capitalise all the way.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Bryan Caraway by Decision – 10/1 (+1000) @ Boylesports

Edwards v Hallmann:

At 37 years of age and a veteran of 64 professional fights it is very possible that this may be the last time we see Yves Edwards fighting at this level. The Pride, Bellator, WEC and Strikeforce veteran has amassed 20 fights in the UFC while simultaneously working across promotions. An upset win over Jeremy Stephens 18 months ago is looking like being the only real highlight of a poor last three years.

In the opposite corner is a man 11 years his junior and in the early stages of his career. Piotr Hallmann made quite the entrance to the UFC submitting the beastly Francisco Trinaldo in round two of a violent affair. A loss against Al Iaquinta followed a month later as Hallmann arguably stepped up quicker than his progression allowed. Eight months on the sidelines followed before this opportunity presented itself.

This really should be one of those passing of the torch moments. If the fight goes to form then the reality sets in that Edwards will retire with a record of 2-4 and 1 No Contest from his last seven bouts. The American hasn’t been stopped since a knockout to Sam Stout three years ago and I think he’ll go the distance here. Hallmann takes this comfortably by decision.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Piotr Hallmann by Decision – 7/4 (+275) @ Boylesports

Dos Anjos v High:

If not for a clear loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov earlier in 2014 then we could very well be discussing the merits of Rafael Dos Anjos getting a title shot at Anthony Pettis after Gil Melendez. At a minimum it would have been him against Benson Henderson rather than Khabilov. Dos Anjos has been something of a slow burner in the 155lb division and almost went unnoticed in the run up to facing off against Cerrone last year. The Brazilian veteran helped me on my way to my very best performance ever on that event as I went unbeaten throughout the card. A win over Jason High is absolutely necessary unless he plans to undo three years of very hard work.

The man known as the ‘Kansas City Bandit’ Jason High is demonstrating the benefits of experience at the top level. Now in his second spell in the UFC he has already fared better than his first. Despite losing his second debut to Erick Silva he has rebounded with consecutive wins but now has his biggest career test to date.

With neither fighter being able to demonstrate particularly heavy hands it is likely that submissions or a decision represents the optimum path to victory. High will favour the choke against a fighter who has never really been submitted (barring a verbal tap due to a broken jaw). Dos Anjos is younger; more rounded and will control the fight en route to a unanimous decision win.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Rafael Dos Anjos by Decision – Evens (+100) @ Unibet

Dodson v Moraga:

In a rematch three years in the making John Moraga finally gets the opportunity to avenge his first professional defeat. In 2010 while in Nemesis Fighting League it was John Dodson who bested the then undefeated Moraga, earning himself a spot on TUF 14 along the way. Two years later Moraga finally made his UFC debut beating Ulysses Gomez. So shallow was the Flyweight division that only two fights later he was tasting defeat again when challenging Demetrious Johnson for the title. It should have been consecutive defeats for the Arizona native but he gained a highly contentious split decision over Dustin Ortiz to set up the rematch.

For John Dodson it is less of a rematch and more of another step up the mountain to another shot at Johnson and the 125lb belt. He wasn’t embarrassed by the champion but in truth he never really came close to winning the fight. Arguably the opportunity came a little too early but needs must and as the top contender he had to take it. Like Moraga Dodson has since rebounded with a win although the first round knockout of Darrell Montague was a lot more clear cut than that of his opponent.

If recent performances are anything to go by then this is a mismatch in favour of Dodson. His all round game is far superior to anything that Moraga brings to the table and over three rounds this should be evident. At the head of the betting is Dodson to win by knockout and although Moraga has never been knocked out, we are talking about a man who finished the current Bantamweight king TJ Dillashaw in TUF. With that in mind I’ll be taking Dodson to be the first man to stop Moraga with punches.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: John Dodson by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 13/10 (+130) @ Unibet

Sanchez v Pearson:

If ever a fight was made of ‘Ifs’ and ‘Buts’ then this is it. As one of my all-time favourite fighters whenever Diego Sanchez steps into the octagon then we are talking potential for Fight of the Night or Year and violence, extreme violence. With some of the tear ups involving the TUF original, including my favourite fight of 2013 against Melendez, you know he can get under the skin and take all manner of punishment. His record of late leaves massive questions as to his longevity in the octagon as a recent record of 3-5 makes ugly reading.

When sustaining a fight ending cut against Melvin Guillard it was not expected that Pearson would be shelved for nine months. While that fight was a No Contest the rematch never happened due to further injury and Guillard being cut for another loss and lacklustre display. After moving around the weights Pearson has found a home at Lightweight and looks to creep back up the rankings.

Here is where those ‘Ifs’ and ‘Buts’ start though. If Sanchez is to win then he needs to turn in a performance that ensures he remains competitive throughout. While losses to Ellenberger, Melendez and, most recently, Jury are no shame then manner in which he has lost has been shocking. Sanchez puts up a great fight but he hasn’t been close to winning any of these. Ross Pearson doesn’t have a great deal of speed on his side but he has a chin, he has power and has taken far less punishment than his opponent. Sanchez hasn’t finished or been finished since 2009 and Pearson hasn’t seen the judges since 2011. I’ll be siding with Pearson to take a split decision and give Dana White some thoughts over the future endeavours of ‘The Dream’.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Ross Pearson by Decision – 6/5 (+120) @ Boylesports

Henderson v Khabilov:

As the former champion Benson Henderson is in dire need of a spectacular performance in order to gain a title shot in the near future. Criticised by many, me included, for a very fan-unfriendly style of point fighting he will be looking for a ninth win in the UFC and hopefully avoiding making it nine decision wins in a row. After dethroning former champion Frankie Edgar in impressive style he laboured to a controversial win in the rematch by split decision. Add into that mix another split decision over Melendez and another against Thompson and you can see where he has ridden his luck of late. Sandwiched in the middle was a complete domination of Nate Diaz where the Stockton slugger was outclassed from first to last bell.

Dagestani import Rustam Khabilov is one of those fighters that nobody wants to be facing at this stage of his career. Grouped in with the likes of Nurmagomedov his record is as impressive as his performances, particularly suplexing his way to a knockout of Vinc Pichel. This main event represents a marked step up in class for Khabilov and a win would see him one step closer to a title shot.

If ever a fighter needed to pull out the stops and finish a fight impressively then its Henderson. While he gained the decisions at the time I think he lost to Edgar second time around, and I think that Josh Thompson clearly won his fight. Those performances alone should give the extra motivation for Smooth to finish the night early. Khabilov is a great athlete but has never been five rounds; in contrast Henderson has been five rounds in five of his last six bouts. That experience should prove telling and I’ll be taking Henderson to prove a point and finish this late on. With two losses to Pettis already and little desire for a rubber match he needs this, desperately and it’s priced nicely as well.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Benson Henderson by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 6/1 (+600) @ Boylesports

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