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A bad beat is always hard to take. For those not ‘in the know’ a bad beat is a Poker term. Put simply it means to lose one of the best possible hands by one of the very few hands that rank higher. With Ross Pearson we experienced a bad beat. With other results going against us that result was only ever going to mitigate a small loss rather than eradicate it.

With the first numbered card in a while the UFC returns to Canada, home of challenger Rory MacDonald and former champion GSP. Will hometown advantage make any difference? With a first loss in four weeks I am banking on no, and will be looking mainly at betting underdogs for this event. With one of the most stacked cards in some time this represents some amazing value, let’s take a look at the card to see if we can find it.

Jimmo v St Preux:

The opening bout of any card should be electric, a fight to get the crowd going. I would hazard a guess that Joe Silva didn’t get the memo for this one. Ryan Jimmo has struggled to really impress during his time in the UFC. Although opening his career with a record breaking knockout win over Anthony Perosh he has wins and losses in every fight since. Of the losses his body gave out against Manuwa while Te Huna withstood a barrage in the opening round to win convincingly in London. Despite an impressive 17 fight winning streak he has a lot to prove.

Unbeaten in almost three years Ovince St Preux has managed to put a run together while impressing along the way. The only man in recent history to nail the Von Flue choke he caught Nikita Krylov, Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg napping. Dan Miragliotta was a little more aware and the Knoxville native maintained his 100% record in the UFC.

With any fight where Jimmo is involved it is unlikely to be a balls to the wall slugfest. Jimmo will look to pin his opponent to the cage en route to a decision victory. St Preux has been described as an otherworldly athlete and will look to deploy this athleticism in a charge toward the 205lb top five. In what is likely to be a turgid, dreary affair I can only see this going the distance, but I am not sure who wins. To play safe I’ll be taking the overs once again.

Recommendation: Total Rounds: Over 2.5 – 10/17 (-170) @ bet365

Arlovski v Schaub:

Bizarrely, only four year separates these two fights, although MMA years are a little like dog years where Andrei Arlovski is concerned. After six years out of the octagon it would be a fanboy’s wet dream if the giant Belarusian were to gain a returning win at the first time of asking. In those six years Arlovski has pretty much fought everywhere although not amassing the most enviable of records along the way…

With an impressive two wins on the bounce, Ultimate Fighter finalist Brendan Schaub will recognise the potential of having another well-established name on his hit list. Although being remembered as possibly the last man knocked out by Big Nog, and faring worse in the follow up against Ben Rothwell the man known as ‘The Hybrid’ bounced back by taking Lavar Johnson to the mat and keeping him there while taking care of Matt Mitrione by Brabo Choke late in the first round. Schaub will know that the name of Arlovski on his record will carry gravitas, more than his last two opponents combined.

Schaub opens up as the favourite at a best priced 4/7. Having never won a decision in his life he can be backed at 13/4 to win by knockout or 13/2 by submission. Arlovski has been finished by Anthony Johnson, a Light Heavyweight naturally, and prior to that lost four in a row with three of those being by knockout. Given that Arlovski remains the only person to knockout Roy Nelson this could be a huge factor in the outcome of the fight. The bookies are rarely wrong but I think in this case they are. A ‘chinny’ fighter like Schaub could be tailor made for someone like Arlovski. I am backing it for sure.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Andrei Arlovski by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 11/4 (+275) @ 888Sport

Cavalcante v Bader:

Despite being in the middle of the main card this is the first fight that caught my eye. Ryan Bader rebounded impressively in a one sided battering over Anthony Perosh after firstly stunning, but ultimately being stopped by Glover Teixeira. After a TUF win and a very bright start to his professional career things have gone a little south for Bader when faced with elite opposition.

Rafael ‘Feijao’ Cavalcante would consider himself to be elite opposition. Despite a loss to Thiago Silva his record is highly impressive. From 16 fights he holds 12 wins, 11 of which came by knockout. With one of those coming over the monstrous figure of Yoel Romero it becomes clear that Bader could be in for a long night.

Despite my reservations over Bader he is, ironically, the most well rounded fighter in this bout. He has better wrestling and submissions in his locker; it’s a shame that his chin didn’t get the memo. With Cavalcante it’s pretty much a case of knock out or be knocked out. He has never been the distance in his entire career and has only been taken into the third round on three occasions. Bader has built an alternating win loss record recently and with a win last time it results in a loss this time. I think Cavalcante falls into the elite segment that Bader struggles against and that chin will be put to the test one more time.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Rafael Cavalcante by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 2/1 (+200) @ BetVictor

MacDonald v Woodley:

In the co-main event we have a fight which arguably sets up for the number one contender’s position after the culmination of Lawler v Brown. Despite this fight taking place earlier it could end up providing the first challenger to Hendricks should either the aforementioned pick up an injury en route. Much has been written about Rory MacDonald that it would be remiss to go over it in too much detail. Protégé of GSP, the young Canadian fell somewhat short of challenging for the title with a generous split decision loss against Robbie Lawler. I thought that outcome flattered McDonald more than it should have and certainly knocked him back a few spaces in the official rankings.

Almost from nowhere Tyron Woodley has risen to join the elite. After failing to convince against Jake Shields he battered Josh Koscheck inside a round and stood tall over Carlos Condit when his knee gave out. With Hendricks taking home the gold that same night MacDonald will forever be wondering what could have been.

MacDonald finds himself in a very strange position as the underdog in this fight. Such has been the demonstration of Woodley’s power that he adopts favouritism for the first time in a long time. Built like a battering ram it would be expected that Woodley needs to knock out MacDonald to stand any sort of chance, although MacDonald has shown against Condit that he can take a punch, even if he succumbed 7 seconds from victory. With a split loss to Jake Shields Woodley has shown that he can stand with some of the toughest BJJ practitioners going. MacDonald is nowhere near Shields level and can either be stopped late on or beaten comfortably on points.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Tyron Woodley by Decision – 5/2 (+250) @ 888Sport

Johnson v Bagautinov:

With every champion the next fight is always promoted as his toughest challenge yet; even when it isn’t. Challenges sell fights, fact. Untouchable at Flyweight, champion Demetrious Johnson has had things pretty much his own way as the 115lb king. After taking Dominick Cruz five rounds and being on the positive side of a contentious draw against Ian McCall it is fair to say that Johnson hasn’t looked back, As champion he holds three wins, decision, knock out and submission; a full house. He has never looked in any real trouble and seems revitalised at the lower weight class.

Dagestani import Ali Bagautinov is the type of fighter that all champions fear. A poor upbringing in the middle of political insurgence is enough to instil an iron will into the most passive of men. Bagautinov has channelled his skills toward MMA and takes his first title shot off the back of an 11 fight win streak over three years he has taken care of Tim Elliot and contender John Lineker on the way.

Against wrestler Tim Elliot, Bagautinov managed to outwork his opponent en route to a decision victory. Against John Lineker he avoided that thunderous right hand and outworked Lineker in a similar fashion. Johnson on the other hand has steamrollered his opponents and could easily have been named fighter of the year for 2013. This is his first proper headliner; all others have been non-PPV. My thoughts are that this could be the guy who dethrones the champion. While Johnson has the speed edge it’s not inconceivable that Bagautinov takes control of this fight at an early stage. If he takes the opening couple of rounds then Johnson is forced into no man’s land. Decision or knockout? Who knows, I’ll be taking the Dagestani by any means at an outrageous 9/2 to win the fight.

Recommendation: To Win the Fight: Ali Bagautinov – 9/2 (+450) @ bet365

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