For the second time this year the UFC returns from a small break into a double header. Opening the weekend is a morning card from New Zealand which is followed up approx. 20 hours later when the UFC heads to San Antonio, Texas.
UFC 174 ended badly from a betting and viewing perspective. Some of the results we didn’t see coming and the judges took care of the rest. With a double header comes double opportunity. There aren’t enough column inches to provide a comprehensive write up of 11 fights so I have picked the co-main and main events for both cards. These have some excellent opportunities to make some extra cash, let’s take a look at the best fights to see if we can find them.
Palelei v Rosholt:
With a record of 11 consecutive knockouts (technical or actual) it strikes me as odd that I am continually looking to fade the behemoth that is Soa Palelei. The truth is that he has failed to impress me in any of his fights and always looks like the gas tank rarely goes above half way. UFC wins over Nikita Krylov, Pat Barry and Ruan Potts all help to build a profile of a fighter who only two years ago beat the carnival attraction that is Bob Sapp.
With 10 fights under his belt in a little over three years I have been impressed with the start that Jared Rosholt has made to his career in the UFC. True, he made hard work of beating Walt Harris, and took a comfortable decision over Daniel Omielanczuk but not everyone can be Cain Velasquez, can they?. In the long run he may see himself at Light Heavy but until then he deserves every opportunity to keep moving forward.
I have opposed Palelei in all bar his win over Krylov and I see no reason to change my strategy now. Rosholt will look to take Palelei down at every opportunity and ensure he stays there. The kicker? there isn’t a damn thing that Palelei can do about it. Heavyweights, especially guys of this size don’t normally go the distance but this has real possibilities. I’ll be taking a very healthy 7/2 on Rosholt to win on points with my breakfast on Saturday morning.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Jared Rosholt by Decision – 7/2 (+350) @ BetVictor
Marquardt v Te Huna:
Whenever the UFC goes to a new territory it makes sense to bring in a hometown ‘favourite’ to headline the card. With Mark Hunt all but renouncing his Kiwi citizenship it was left to James Te Huna to step up. Holding a record of 5-3 in the UFC he has dropped two straight and in all reality is fighting for the right to remain at MMA’s top table. Losses to one-time contenders Teixeira and Rua are emphasised more by the manner of loss than the losses themselves. Against high level competition Te Huna hasn’t been out of the first round whereas lower level fighters have managed to take him the distance. This fight marks his first attempt to compete at Middleweight.
There was a time when it would have been inconceivable to imagine Nate Marquardt back in the UFC but as the penultimate Strikeforce Welterweight Champion he was given the benefit of the doubt and an opportunity re-establish himself at the top level. With four consecutive losses this fight represents the very last opportunity of this, or any other run that he is likely to get. At 35 and going nowhere you can expect this to be the last time we see Nate ‘The Great’ in the octagon.
I have probably already given away that I will be opposing Marquardt in this fight. As a headliner it’s about as poor as it gets and provided Te Huna doesn’t experience a horrible weight cut then it will be a mismatch. Te Huna isn’t elite level and never will be but he does possess some serious striking power. Marquardt has been knocked out in the first round of his last two fights and it could be another very early night if his opponent catches him early on.
Recommendation: Round Betting: James Te Huna in Round One – 11/4 (+375) @ BetVictor
Musoke v Gastelum:
For most of us the first time we heard the name of Nicholas Musoke was when he stepped in at late notice to face Alessio Sakara in Manchester. As a training partner of The Mauler it was impressive that, despite being inexperienced he forced the tap over his opponent. A subsequent win over Viscardi Andrade showed that Musoke is genuinely here to stay and may just be an accidental hero in this story.
Going into the TUF finale against the lauded Uriah Hall it was almost inconceivable that Kelvin Gastelum could beat the most over-hyped fighter to emerge from the reality show. But beat him he did, using a ground game that Hall had little answer for. Follow up wins against Brian Melancon and Rick Story has seen his stock rise further. The win against Melancon won him Submission of the Night honours and won for followers with a 7/1 tip of mine.
The bookies have Gastelum as clear favourite and so do I, although admittedly not by the same margin. The odds suggest that Gastelum takes this by decision but I disagree. Musoke has two defeats to his name, by decision and submission the latter being a particular favourite of Gastelum. This could be a case of submission artists cancelling each other out but I am prepared to take the gamble that Gastelum operates at a higher level than his opponent and the odds represent such value that this becomes my pick for the night.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Kelvin Gastelum by Submission – 5/1 (+500) @ 888Sport
Stephens v Swanson:
Barring a debut loss to Ricardo Lamas it is fair to surmise that Cub Swanson has done very little wrong since transitioning from the WEC. Much to his chagrin he has been overlooked for a title shot against Jose Aldo despite taking five consecutive wins with victims such as Ross Pearson, Dennis Siver and Dustin Poirier along the way. Arguably the memory of an eight second defeat to the present champion in the now-defunct promotion five years ago lingers long in the mind. This version of Cub Swanson is a lot different to that one with a general improvement across the board coupled with a more strategic approach making him surely next in line for the winner of Aldo v Mendes II.
Jeremy Stephens has proven himself to be the Matt Brown of the 135lb division. After dropping three consecutively, culminating in being pulled from a fight due to being held in jail, he rebounded with three straight wins to elevate himself up the rankings. The highlight of this streak is a 40 second beat down, in Brazil, of Rony Jason to really announce his resurgence in a loaded division.
This is not expected to be a high level technical chess match. On the contrary, this is more likely to be a case of Rock’ Em Sock’ Em Robots than anything else. Since the UFC replaced Fight, Submission and Knockout of the Night bonuses with Performance Bonuses it’s been near impossible to get a bet on one of these. Stephens could be the first man to knock out Swanson since Aldo. Swanson could become the first man to submit Stephens since Joe Lauzon in 2009, who knows? The bookies are favouring Swanson, I cannot disagree with that but Stephens is definitely on the up. One thing I am certain of is that the judges are not given the opportunity to mess this up and it ends inside 2.5 rounds.
Recommendation: Total Rounds: Under 2.50 – 5/4 (+1.25) @ BetVictor