UFC 177

Last week saw a winning return to this guide as three out of four of my tips won for a tidy little profit. It hasn’t been a great year but little improvements week on week all assist the bank balance.

This week sees the rematch between TJ Dillashaw and Renan Barao and, although the remainder of the main card isn’t particularly strong, there are plenty of betting opportunities for us to examine. Regular readers will remember only too well that this weekend, exactly one year ago, was when i went 100% through the card for a 1000/1 win (here); can lightning strike twice? Let’s take a look at each match and see if we can’t find a little money down the back of the couch.

Medeiros v Jackson:

Entering the UFC with a record of 9-0 Yancy Medeiros has found life at the top a lot harder than he expected. Thrown to the lions with a debut against one-time challenger Rustam Khabilov he succumbed to a thumb injury early on and was forced out. A win over Yves Edwards was later overturned to a No Contest due to a positive test and he was soundly beaten by Jim Miller. All in all it has been a painful introduction for the young Hawaiian.

Making his debut after spells in Legacy and Bellator is Damon Jackson. Like his opponent he makes his debut with a perfect 9-0 record and will look to build upon that with an impressive win. Of those nine wins seven have come by way of submission which marks him out as a man that needs to be kept standing. If he gets you to the ground then it’s likely to be all over.

For the opening fight on the main card we go with the very definition of a pick’em. The bookmakers literally cannot split these guys, with most offering 10/11 apiece just for a win. Ideally this would be my pick for a Fight of the Night candidate but since these markets are rarely offered nowadays I need to get off the fence. Although he holds a worse record than his opponent it has been achieved at a higher level and that counts for a lot in my book. For this reason I will be taking Yancy Medeiros to reverse his fortunes and get a legit win in the UFC at the fourth time of asking, and by decision.

Recommendation: Method of Victory – Yancy Medeiros by Decision – 7/2 (+350) @ William Hill

Nijem v Ferreira:

TUF finalist Ramsey Nijem has been a mixed bag since the conclusion of the show. After losing to Tony Ferguson in the final he went 3-0 before dropping back to back fights to Myles Jury and James Vick. Since then he has gone 2-0 including an unexpected win over highly touted Beneil Dariush in Dubai.

Making his second UFC appearance in two months is unbeaten Brazilian prospect Carlos Diego Ferreira. This highly skilled submission artist took a debut win over Colton Smith to add to his impressive record in Legacy FC.

It is very easy to be caught up on the hype train of a UFC debutant and overstate just how good they actually are. Nijem himself put this to the test with Dariush and he gets the opportunity to do the dance with Ferreira to see if he is as good as the watching world thinks. Personally, I think that Ferreira is the real deal and will be taking him to win by way of a trademark submission as this is an area where Nijem has struggled a little in the past.

Recommendation: Method of Victory – Carlos Diego Ferreira by Submission – 2/1 (+200) @ William Hill

Correia v Baszler:   

Making her third appearance in the UFC, looking for a ninth consecutive win is the Brazilian fighter Bethe Correia. Going by the nickname of ‘Pitbull’ she has so far chewed up and spat out numerous opponents to remain undefeated, including an impressive win over TUF competitor Jessamyn Duke elevating her standing in the division.

A member of team mate Ronda Rousey’s famed ‘Four Horsewomen’ stable and making her UFC debut is the Queen of Spades Shayna Baszler. The former Strikeforce and Invicta fighter has faced a literal who’s who in Women’s MMA throughout an 11 year career on the mat including the likes of Alexis Davis, Sara McMann, Sarah Kaufman and the legendary Cyborg.

While the women’s division remains as shallow as it does then two or three wins can be enough to persuade the boss to grant a title shot. Should Correia take the win over Baszler then the scene will be set for Rousey to gain revenge, sadly sounding like a script stolen from a wrestling promotion. In truth Correia is a far more rounded fighter than her opponent and goes about her business in an effective, yet unspectacular, fashion. An eight fight winning streak punctuated by seven decision wins and a lone knockout is in contrast to Baszler who has won all bar one fight by submission. Baszler stands a chance of locking on a submission and forcing the tap, but the smart money goes on a dominant performance by Correia to take a very comfortable decision.

Recommendation: Method of Victory – Bethe Correia by Decision – 7/5 (+140) @ 888Sport

Ferguson v Castillo:

At the ripe age of 35 Danny Castillo will shortly be reaching the end of a decent career in the business. A veteran of both WEC and UFC rosters Castillo has faced some high level fighters in his time, falling short against the more elite levels and now sits amid the top 20 and faces a few years as the perennial gatekeeper of the division. Known for a grinding style with relentless pressure he is a benchmark for those fighters that his employers feel need a push.

From winning TUF in 2011 you can be forgiven for forgetting the name of Tony Ferguson. Largely inactive for two years where he fought just twice he has failed to capitalise on winning the reality show and times move so fast that ‘Tony Who?’ is more likely to be the response given to him by the casual onlooker.

As fights go this is not a co-main event, far from it, but that doesn’t preclude the chance for something decent. Castillo is not a fan friendly fighter, his style will win no new support, but he has proven effective. Ferguson remains an unknown quantity but possesses more paths to victory than his opponent; none more so than with his explosive power. Nine knockouts from 16 fights is testament to this and it will be little surprise if he makes it 10. It’s not impossible that he submits or takes a decision but the odds favour the KO.

Recommendation: Method of Victory – Tony Ferguson by KO, TKO or DQ – 13/8 (+162.50) @ William Hill

Dillashaw v Barao: 

Just three months after absolutely dominating Renan Barao the new champion, TJ Dillashaw, returns to the octagon for his first defence of the title. Going into the first fight as a huge underdog Dillashaw sprang the biggest surprise seen in MMA for many a year. The beauty of it was that it was not only unexpected but the manner in which it was achieved owed little to luck. Barring the opening few minutes it was all Dillashaw, all night. He stalked and picked apart a true champion in devastating fashion, finishing the job late on.

With the manner of the defeat it is easy to forget that Renan Barao had not only been dominant in the UFC but had remained unbeaten since his debut nine years ago. This man hadn’t just won a belt he had ploughed through everyone in his path. Highly skilled in all areas of martial arts this was a fighter hailed as potentially the best pound for pound fighter in the world and the one with the most rounded skillset.

Prior to fight night there were rumours, Barao had the flu, had a horrible weight cut, and was out of sorts. Even if all the above were true, it doesn’t take away from Dillashaw’s achievement. However, that fight is now consigned to the history books and this is a clean slate. It would be very easy to expect TJ to come out with the same game plan and perform as well as he did in the first. Naivety would allow you to believe that Barao could perform as badly. The Ludwig effect has benefitted Dillashaw more than others and he may just be the Bantamweight equivalent of Chris Weidman, the heir apparent if you will, but I cannot believe that he will have it his own way again. The TJ Dillashaw who was knocked out by John Dodson is no more, he has evolved. So has the Renan Barao who was knocked out by Dillashaw. Barao all the way for me, unsure how he wins, but I think he will to set up a trilogy to captivate 2014.

Recommendation: To Win the Fight – Renan Barao – 13/10 (+130) @ BetVictor