So we reach the last event of 2014 and a well-earned break. While not the most stellar of year-end cards it does offer up a number of fan-friendly fighters to see us through to the New Year and beyond.
I would like to thank anyone who takes the time out to read this column and hopefully I have helped you make a little extra Christmas money along the way. So for the final time in 2014 let’s analyse the main card with odds provided by 5Dimes to see if you agree with my picks, and have a Merry Christmas regardless.
Silva v Rhodes:
Erick Silva sets off on the comeback trail once again in his third appearance of the year, all the while looking to achieve a first in the UFC; back to back wins. For all of the hype around Silva being the future of the division he is older than he appears at 30 years of age and a little more of that hype is eroded every time he faces a higher level opponent.
Mike Rhodes has proven throughout his short career to date that he doesn’t belong in the UFC, at least not yet. Holding a competitive record of 6-3 he has lost in both of his octagon appearances, both this year and both by decision. Unless he massively upsets the odds this will likely be his last appearance before returning to the regional scene to regroup.
This is the biggest test for Rhodes and one I don’t expect him to come through unscathed. While not buying the myth of Silva I very much feel that this is a mismatch in his favour. Silva will come out swinging but if he can’t knock him out early then he takes a lopsided decision.
Recommendation: Silva wins by 3 round decision +325 (9/4) @ 5Dimes
Silverio v Magomedov:
Continuing with the recent trend of impressive Dagestani imports is Rashid Magomedov who looks to go 3-0 in the UFC while extending his overall record to 18-1. Both appearances in the UFC have come in 2014, ending the same way with a unanimous decision in his favour. With just a single loss, by split decision nonetheless, it is hard to pick any obvious holes in his game and it is possible that we are looking at a future contender to Anthony Pettis’ title.
Putting an impressive 11-0 record on the line is Brazilian Elias Silverio. Silverio has made some great strides in a relatively short career which has culminated in a win over Isaac Vallie-Flagg; arguably the biggest name on his record. A win over Magomedov would be the new pinnacle of his career and potentially expose him to a much wider audience than he has so far experienced.
I have Magomedov as a huge favourite in this fight and really see him winning impressively. While Silverio remains unbeaten I don’t think that his record stands up to the level of scrutiny that it will get on Saturday night. I don’t think that he will get knocked out but I do see a very one sided decision in favour of the Russian fighter.
Recommendation: Magomedov wins by 3 round decision+160 (8/5) @ 5Dimes
Carlos Junior v Cummins:
Patrick Cummins looks to continue an already impressive 2014 by finishing on a high. Making his debut back in February, as a highly publicised but late notice stand-in, he was despatched comfortably by old adversary Daniel Cormier. The fact that Cormier fights for the 205lb belt in two weeks is a testament to how little shame that should cause. Since then two dominant wins have erased that memory and we are now getting to see the true strengths of the former barista.
Putting a four fight unbeaten record on the line is Brazilian Antonio Carlos Jr. Carlos has had just the one fight in the UFC, a decision win over Vitor Miranda in May and looked impressive enough to be given a huge step up in class.
This feels like a squash match in favour of the American. Cummins has a wrestling game that puts him on the periphery of a top ten slot and he faces a fighter for whom little is really known. I’ll expect that this fight be spent mostly on the ground with the possibility of a 10-8 or two to be thrown in for good measure.
Recommendation: Cummins wins by 3 round decision +250 (5/2) @ 5Dimes
Barao v Gagnon:
What a difference 12 months makes for Renan Barao. At the end of 2013 he was the king of the Bantamweights and inching up the P4P list, even being proclaimed by some as the heir apparent after Anderson Silva. Fast forward 12 months and he was decisively beaten for the first time in nine years, followed that up with a withdrawal on less than 24 hours’ notice for the rematch and has pretty much gone to the back of the queue. When the mighty fall they fall hard, and it will be a long climb back up that mountain.
For Mitch Gagnon this represents the biggest opportunity of his career and also the biggest challenge by a long way. The owner of a 4-0 streak he has quietly been going about his business for two years now. A submission specialist by trade he will need to utilise all the skills in his arsenal if he is to topple the former divisional king and take his place atop the rankings.
Despite the impressive record of Gagnon this feels very much like he is being fed to Barao. Barao may have fallen from the good graces of the top brass but facing someone like Gagnon feels a little insulting as a win over the Canadian doesn’t get him anywhere near a title shot, not yet. A loss and a poorly conceived weight cut should not see a fighter punished like this and Barao will steamroller his opponent en route to proving that very point. I expect a short night for the Brazilian, and I dare Dana White not to give him a bonus cheque for this performance.
Recommendation: Barao wins inside distance -175 (4/7) @ 5Dimes
Machida v Dollaway:
The inclusion of ‘The Dragon’ on any card immediately adds a sense of class, panache and gravitas to proceedings. Lyoto Machida has been a very special fighter throughout his career and rarely does he fail to deliver, even when it ends in defeat. In his last outing, the failed attempt to take Chris Weidman’s crown, he did not disappoint and gave the champion his toughest test yet. At the age of 36 it is a measure of the man that he is able to drop down to 185lbs and thoroughly test the man who dominated Anderson Silva, twice.
C.B. Dollaway finds himself riding a two fight winning streak and on the eve of the biggest fight of his career. A win over Machida and finally he can he mentioned in the same breath as the elite level fighters that he aspires to be. He will be acutely aware that on his last trip to Brazil he not only beat the local favourite but took him apart in less than a minute. If he can once again harness that same level of intensity then he may just be able to score the upset against Machida. Perhaps. Maybe. Who knows?
The bookmakers are not giving anything away here and with good reason; Lyoto Machida almost never loses in Brazil (we won’t talk about the Phil Davis fight). Dollaway has some losses to strange folk on his record, fights that in retrospect you would never have him losing. While his improvements have been massive they are not big enough to persuade me to take him on over Machida. You can expect Machida to keep him at distance and pick him off with those head kicks and a knock out in the second or third isn’t out of the question.
Recommendation: Machida wins inside distance -300 (33/100) @ 5Dimes