So the UFC returns to our screens this weekend after a well-earned three week break. The break will be short lived as this is the first of six events in the next four weeks.
As this is a six fight main card I’ll be taking you through my thoughts for each bout and I’ll be up front this week and say that I am favouring the underdogs pretty much all the way through. It should be a highly competitive card with a fair amount of value. I’ll either be very wrong and counting my pennies or will be sitting very smugly with a look of ‘I told you so’ either way it should be a great night. Let’s break down the fights and fighters to see what’s on offer.
Tavares v Peralta:
After a solid, if unspectacular run at Lightweight it is Featherweight debut time for long time veteran Thiago Tavares. Seven years in the UFC has seen the Brazilian face a number of ‘name value’ opponents with varying degrees of success, the majority coming in recent times. A loss to Nurmagomedov notwithstanding, it has been a decent couple of years for Tavares but if he wants to challenge for a belt before his time is up then competing in one of the deepest divisions in the UFC is not the place to be.
Robbie Peralta fights for only the second time in 2014 but for the third time in eight months. His most recent win over Rony Bezerra was a highly contentious split decision where the majority of the MMA media, myself included, thought he lost. Peralta once again showed that if he isn’t unloading bombs and aiming for the stoppage then going into decision territory is a place that finds him exposed and open. He recently dropped a decision to Corassani and should have done the same to Bezerra.
As I see it this fight goes one of two ways; either Tavares exposes gaping holes in Peraltas submission defence or Peralta punches a hole through Tavares’ head. In these situations I am inclined to favour the heavy punching fighter who is already comfortable at the competing weight. Tavares makes the cut for the first time and if it is a struggle then he could find himself in poor shape come fight night. The odds on Peralta make this a gamble I am happy to take.
Recommendation: To Win the Fight – Robbie Peralta – 6/4 (+150) @ Coral
Jordan v May:
Our second bout of the night sees a poor mans ‘Irresistible Force’ meeting a poorer mans ‘Immovable Object’. The multi-promotional veteran Shawn Jordan makes his octagon return after back to back knockout losses to Mitrione and Gonzaga. As a consequence he now finds himself standing at 3-3 in the UFC and on the verge of the dreaded pink slip.
Jack May flattered nobody on his promotional debut ending up on the losing end of a Derrick Lewis barrage late in the first round. At 33 years old it would appear that the best years of Jack May had passed him by but an undefeated regional record gave him a late opportunity at the UFC. Another performance like his first and it will surely be his last.
The sadness in this fight is it demonstrates just how shallow the Heavyweight division is. Every division needs challengers and the more the better. Neither of these fighters are legitimate challengers, they are not even gatekeepers. Jordan is very small in height for a heavyweight, standing only 6’ tall. He has never beaten a man of Mays size, he stands at 6’8”, and this is where I give the newcomer an edge. With the height and reach advantage May will be very difficult to hit and he should be able to unload on Jordan at will. For this reason I give him a narrow lean and will be happy to take the longer odds on the underdog.
Recommendation: To Win the Fight – Jack May – 13/8 (+400) @ Stan James
Baczynski v Jouban:
Firstly let me say this. I do not understand how this has made the main card. We could have had da Silva v Makovsky or McMann v Murphy; both make more sense than this. In another Vet vs Newcomer bout Seth Baczynski looks to return to winning ways. The owner of an impressive 6-0 streak in 2011/12 that included a submission win over Matt Brown he now stands 1-3 since that run ended. As records go it isn’t one that would immediately see you cut for a loss but it does ensure that someone asks the question of the boss.
Alan Jouban makes his UFC debut in his third fight of 2014. His record on paper leaves very little to work with as just nine fights on the regional circuit reveal very little about his potential. As a product of 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu he will have trained with or around Eddie Bravo which could well be the golden ticket.
Baczynski carries a significant size advantage over his opponent which is great when you are facing a striker. However, when facing a Jiu Jitsu specialist then this means that you have longer limbs to grasp. Thematically I am finding myself drawn to underdogs for this card and this fight is no different. Jouban has a submission game too good to overlook and Baczynski is a fighter out of form. He hasn’t been submitted in seven years, but that doesn’t mean he cannot be submitted at all. To offer a submission specialist at 25/1 to win by this method is crazy and I am feeling a little crazy right now.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Alan Jouban by Submission – 25/1 (+2400) @ Boylesports
Boetsch v Tavares:
Brad Tavares is a fighter that I like to follow, even if I am going to fade on betting him. The TUF winner is tough, durable and very predictable, if a little unspectacular. When he gets in the octagon his fight IQ states quite simply ‘take them down and keep them there’ and it works to great effect. Yoel Romero was the exception to that rule, unsurprising since he is a wrestler of Olympic level. With only two losses in the UFC and seven wins it could be argued that he should be fighting at a higher level than he is presently. If he beats Boetsch then he may get a more recognisable face next time out.
Tim Boetsch is a man essentially known for one fight. Against Yushin Okami he was down and out, behind on the scorecards and about to be another statistic. Then something amazing happened. In a Rocky moment he pulled out all the stops and finished Okami inside a minute of the third. Superlatives flowed; Joe Rogan overstated the importance of the performance amid rumours of a title shot. Three losses in his last four outings have seen him drop down the rankings so far that a Matt Brown-esque run would be needed to make him relevant again.
Brad Tavares will take Boetsch down and keep him there for 15 minutes. Boetsch will get up; Tavares will take him down, rinse and repeat. I was hoping for better odds on Tavares by decision, but as it has happened in five of his last six then you can’t blame the bookies for being a little skinny on this one.
Recommendation: Recommendation: Method of Victory – Brad Tavares by Decision – Evens (+100) @ Paddy Power
Pearson v Maynard:
Less than two months after a complete robbery against Diego Sanchez the opportunity has been presented to Ross Pearson to expunge that loss from recent memory, as the UFC have basically done. Originally scheduled to face off with Abel Trujillo he now has the opportunity to take the biggest scalp on his record; that of the two time title challenger, Gray Maynard. For Pearson this is a fight more suited to his personal style than Trujillo and should make for an electrifying fight.
The man known as ‘The Bully’ enters the octagon in something of a no man’s land. After going undefeated until running into Frankie Edgar, twice, Maynard has lost two on the bounce and three of his last four. The losses themselves will hurt but all have been by knockout, with the most recent coming in the very first round. At 34 and pedalling backwards it remains to be seen how much the AKA graduate has left in the tank.
As a fight it feels tailor made for Pearson. Maynard is a fighter who likes to fight; he’ll stand in front of you and trade all day long if he needs to, as his brace against Edgar will attest. The biggest issue for Maynard is how much those knockouts have taken from him. Concussive effects are progressive and the first knockout is never usually the last. With Maynard this is becoming an unwelcome habit. I see the fresher, younger Pearson stalking the bully and taking him out brutally, unsure of the round but very sure of the finish. It may just be time for Maynard to call it a night before it gets called for him.
Recommendation: Recommendation: Method of Victory – Ross Pearson by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 9/4 (+225) @ 888Sport
Bader v St. Preux:
The oversaturation of modern MMA, particularly the UFC is emphasised by this main event. It could turn out to be the fight of the year, but it doesn’t mean that Ryan Bader v Ovince St. Preux warrants main event status. Bader, 8th in the Light Heavyweight rankings, looks to further progress his career in the outside hope of a rematch against Jon Jones. He enters the octagon this weekend looking to extend his run to three in a row and build upon an expected win over Anthony Perosh and a hard fought victory over a lacklustre Feijao. Indeed, with a little more composure he may have even been the man to finish Glover Teixeira, something that Jones himself couldn’t achieve, such was the margin for error that night.
The number 10th ranking Light Heavyweight is Ovince St. Preux, who makes his fifth appearance of the UFC and is still to taste defeat at this level. An athlete of substantial talent he has finished all opponents in his four-fight run. Coupled with an outrageous level of athleticism is a combination of excellent striking and intricate submissions, the latter saw him utilise the rarely seen Von Flue Choke as well as taking advantage of the broken arm of Ryan Jimmo to crank on a Kimura.
Despite my reservations on the placement of this fight on the card it doesn’t make a winner any easier to determine. With a longer record in the UFC it is Bader who opens as the bookmakers favourite but I cannot shake off the performances of OSP. Ignoring his early record it is really only Gegard Mousasi who has managed to beat him, and that took a full three rounds. By contrast Bader was unbeaten in his early years with his defeats coming in recent times. That those defeats were to a Champion, former Champions and recent challengers suggests he is at a suitable level. This is a five round fight, which is something that neither have been through before. I’ll be taking OSP’s athleticism to see him through the championship rounds and maybe nick a submission along the way.
Recommendation: To Win the Fight – Ovince St. Preux – 7/5 (+140) @ Unibet