This past weekend saw the UFC make a spectacular and triumphant return to the Emerald City. SO successful was the night, and indeed the fighters who took part, that it is unlikely to take anywhere near as long as five years before the experience is repeated. Irish eyes were smiling and so was I with winning bets on McCall by decision and Nelson by submission.

For those amongst you that have been tracking, the ROI for 2014 now stands at -1.5%, so almost back at break even and certainly moving in the right direction. On a positive, I am now winning 4 consecutive events, and have shown a profit in 9 of my last 12 events.

With the cancellation, sorry postponement, of UFC 178 next week this is the last card before a three week break. These have come thick and fast in the last few months and a break is certainly in order. It has been a winning run of late and I’d like to take that into the break with a little profit. Let’s see where the value lies in San Jose, California this weekend.

Thomson v Green:

For the main card opener we welcome back Josh Thomson into the octagon. Thomson opened 2014 on a high despite recording a loss, in many eyes he did enough to beat Benson Henderson in a tight decision and if not for a broken thumb he may have elevated his status somewhat further. The loss was tough to take and he briefly flirted with retirement while rehabbing the injury. Originally scheduled to face the grinding Michael Johnson, that fight was scuppered through Johnsons own injury and he was replaced by Bobby Green in what now promises to be a completely different type of fight.

Bobby Green gets the step up in class that he has been looking for, and that is said with no disrespect to his original opponent, Abel Trujillo. Green had previously been scheduled to face off against Jim Miller but for an injury to force the cancellation. Unbeaten in seven fights he has qualified for a top ten opponent but has been given top five for good measure.

At 35 and 27 it really is a case of the old and new breed facing off. Experience is aplenty across the cage but it is Thomson who carries a massive edge. For the exposure that Green has had in MMA he carries a lack of names on his record, the most impressive being JZ Cavalcante, to whom he lost. Thomson has been in with the best and beaten a good number of them, but it is typically the best that can beat him. Time will tell if Bobby Green will ever be classed as one of the best and a good start would be here. With the possibility of a title shot though, it should be enough to see Thomson take a comfortable decision.

Recommendation: Recommendation: Method of Victory – Josh Thomson by Decision – 6/4 (+150) @ BetVictor

Guida v Bermudez:

With only four fights in the last two years Clay Guida has been relatively inactive for a man with such high energy levels. Going 2-2 in that run suggests that his better days may be rapidly approaching although he does come off the back of a comfortable decision over Kawajiri in Dubai. As fights go it was vintage Guida as ‘The Carpenter’ made sure that he was everywhere Kawajiri didn’t want him to be, avoiding numerous submission attempts along the way. It was a better performance by the Jacksons fighter after a run of lacklustre displays.

Finishing as the runner up in Season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter the pressure has been off Dennis Bermudez and given him the opportunity to turn in some truly outstanding performances. A six fight streak engulfed with bonus cheques earned him an extra $150,000 for Submission, Fight and Performance of the Night displays, in addition to the $50,000 Fight of the Night award for the TUF Finale. With consecutive split decisions it may pray on Bermudez’s mind that he can sometimes allow his opponent too much say in a fight. He won’t get that chance with Guida.

With any other card this would be a high ranking Fight of the Night contender, but for reasons described later that is almost a certainty to go elsewhere. Despite a lack of top level experience it is Bermudez who opens as the bookies favourite and this is where I slightly disagree. It takes a special kind of talent to beat Guida, and as he is almost impossible to stop then you have to outwork him for three rounds. Although he may have improved substantially, it is noted that Bermudez has been picked apart by a solid submission game in the past, a fact that will not have gone unnoticed by Greg Jackson. Submissions are a forte of Guida and I fancy this is his best path to victory, and one that represents excellent value.

Recommendation: Recommendation: Method of Victory – Clay Guida by Submission – 4/1 (+400) @ Boylesports

Johnson v Nogueira:

In terms of meaningful bouts this is another head scratcher. After two years fighting in the minor leagues Anthony Johnson returned to the UFC with a shock win over Phil Davis. Shock in the sense that he not only beat Mr Wonderful, but he did it on the ground and with consummate ease. Prior history with weight aside, this is a version of Anthony Johnson that looks like he could trouble the top five Light Heavyweights in the World.

While Johnsons star is in the ascendency the UFC would normally look to match him against a similar ranked opponent, of a similar style and one that should make for an exciting fight. Instead they give him Lil Nog. The younger Nogueira has fought just twice in the last three years. Both were wins, I’ll grant you that but one was over Tito, which doesn’t really count and the other was over Rashad Evans in what can only be described as an odd performance by the former champion.

At just 30 years old and with a wealth of experience you would reasonably expect ‘Rumble’ to literally plough his way through an ageing ‘Minotauro’, given the biggest surprise is that the Brazilian legend has actually made it to fight day unscathed. I just don’t see how Nogueira manages to pull this out of the fire in, what really should be his retirement fight. Rumble wins by knockout early on; it’s just a shame that it’s such a horrible price to bet on.

Recommendation: Method of Victory: Anthony Johnson by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 4/5 (-120) @ Boylesports

Lawler v Brown:    

If ever a fight was destined to be a Fight of the Year candidate, before it’s even been fought, then it’s this one. Possibly the most exciting piece of matchmaking made all year as Robbie Lawler makes another quick appearance in the octagon en route to another shot at the title. Previously it was Lawler who came up short when Hendricks displayed a better fight IQ in the final round to take a very close decision. A battering of Jake Ellenberger followed that fight and he finds himself on the cusp of another tilt.

Matt Brown is the man who continually defies the odds. Written off less than three years ago as a journeyman he has turned his career around in spectacular style. His most recent performance against Erick Silva was the stuff of MMA legend and a physical manifestation of Rock Em Sock Em Robots. Despite being the recipient of an early shot that almost finished him Brown had to dig deep and finish his opponent midway through the fight. It was a breath-taking performance and one that got the crowd going. It is something that Brown has done repeatedly in his seven straight wins, with six coming by way of knockout.

When I look at this fight I cannot conceivably envisage a scenario where they go the distance. It just isn’t happening. Lawler proved against Hendricks that he has the ability and cardio to go 25 minutes, an opportunity that has so far eluded Brown. Advantage, Lawler. The opening exchanges will be the key to how long this fight goes on for as Brown will not get a chance to recover like he did against Silva and Silva doesn’t hit anywhere near as hard as Lawler. Brown needs to end this fight early and will likely go rushing in to secure a finish, so will Lawler and I’ll be taking Ruthless in the second, if indeed it even gets that far.

Recommendation: Round Betting – Robbie Lawler in Round 2 – 5/1 (+500) @ BetVictor