I am pleased to report that we started the New Year on a positive with a 1.5 unit win at UFC 182. While the event was not the classic we hoped for we increased the bankroll a little which is always a good thing.

The UFC returns to Europe this week with a card loaded with big names, much different from the normal locally sourced line ups that we get as the upper middle order of the weight classes get a full run out. Let’s analyse the main card with odds provided by 5Dimes to see if you agree.

Corassani v Sicilia:

Kicking off the main card is Swedish veteran Akira Corassani, Fighting again in his home country he will look for a better performance, and ending, to the last time he fought here when dominated by Max Holloway. That marked two defeats in a row for Corassani and he will be aware that three in a row is usually the beginning of the end. For now his record stands at 3-2 in the UFC but this is a huge fight for him with enormous consequences.

Much like his opponent Sam Sicilia enters the octagon very much with his back to the wall. After winning his debut he has effectively alternated wins and losses, sitting at 3-4 in the UFC and in danger of being cut. Although not in the position of three in a row, four in six is hardly going to secure a future. In short he has been very poor and his time may be coming to an end.

This is a tough fight to call and not because either fighter could win, quite the opposite as either fighter could easily lose. It’s not a bout that should be anywhere near the main card and as a result it is very difficult to get excited about it. Only thing I can be sure of is this; I don’t see it going the distance. I have no real opinion or interest in who wins so will be sitting on the fence with a small bet on it not going the full three rounds.

Recommendation: Fight won’t go 3 round distance145 (21/20) @ 5Dimes

Davis v Bader:        

Top Light Heavyweight prospects collide as Ryan Bader faces off against Phil Davis. Bader has his career in the UFC riding peaks and troughs, coming up short where it really matters. The TUF 8 winner is now a different type of fighter as his current run testifies and he will fancy himself for another shot at Jon Jones in the near future. He had a rush of blood when facing a wounded Teixeira and it cost him but his performances against Cavalcante and OSP where outstanding.

For a fighter with only two professional losses him a division almost cleaned out it is surprising that Phil Davis has never seriously been discussed or touted as a contender. With a win against Glover Teixeira in Brazil that landscape changed forever. Sent over to be fed to the Brazilian he dominated him en route to a comfortable decision, oddly enough it was the same tactic that Anthony Johnson used on him in his previous bout to such great effect. Davis will know that as a fighter who hasn’t yet faced the champion his name would be more preferential should Jones beat either Gustafsson or Johnson in his next outing.

With both fighters relying heavily on a wrestling base this is most likely to be spent exclusively on the mat, and if that happens then nip out and put the kettle on because it’ll be a snoozer. It will be up to Bader to get the fight to the feet where his vastly superior striking can take over as this remains his clearest path to victory. In a fight that won’t win any awards I’ll be taking some outsider action on Bader, his odds are too big and he is the more rounded fighter of the two.

Recommendation: Ryan Bader +215 (27/10) @ 5Dimes

Henderson v Mousasi:         

At the ripe old age of 44 Dan Henderson takes yet another step onto the comeback trail. Returning to Middleweight doesn’t feel like a step in the right direction for a man who really should be thinking about retirement. While a phenomenal fighter in his own right his return to the UFC has been poor with his debut Fight of the Year win over Shogun Rua the sole highlight. Losses in four of his last five haven’t helped and even the one win was a Hail Mary shot over a completely dominant Shogun once again.

Gegard Mousasi is another on the comeback trail. Alternating wins and losses since signing for the UFC his career has stuttered a little. A debut fight against Gustafsson was nixed during fight week and he was left to beat up a woefully mismatched Ilir Latifi. Against Lyoto Machida he was exposed as he was again when tapping to Jacare. As highly regarded and decorated as he is things just haven’t fired so far in the UFC which will play on his mind.

If ever a fight was destined to last three rounds then it is this one. With both fighters near impossible to stop a finish remains unlikely unless it is pulled from nowhere and even then it has to be something special. Henderson will go looking for the H-Bomb at all opportunities and Mousasi will keep him at range with kicks. Mousasi will take a decision, possibly split as is Henderson’s forte, and the legend is pushed closer to inevitable retirement.

Recommendation: Mousasi wins by 3 round decision +173 (7/4) @ 5Dimes

Gustafsson v Johnson:         

Fighting back in his hometown is former challenger and current number one contender, Alexander Gustafsson. Gustafsson, you may remember, took Jon Jones to previously unseen depths in their previous encounter which was the Fighters Only Fight of the Year for 2013. Originally booked to face Jones again in a rematch injuries and the introduction of Daniel Cormier to the mix has pushed the young Swede back a few steps. With a win this weekend he finds himself once again banging on the door of the champion.

Much like Robbie Lawler last year Anthony Johnson has been painted as something one of the most resurgent fighters in all of MMA since being cut by the UFC with a loss to Vitor Belfort. That loss was the last that Rumble experienced, going 8-0 across various promotions. After experiencing weight issues as a Welterweight Johnson has fought at Middle, Light Heavy and Heavyweight during that 8-0 run before settling back into the UFC as one of the most feared 205lb’ers in the world. Like Gustafsson he knows that a win sees him as the next legitimate challenger for Jones’ title.

Johnson has defied all logic to get to this position demonstrating skills that were previously hidden at the lower weights, reversing skills with Phil Davis in a one-sided victory. However, the advantage sits with Gustafsson. The Swede demonstrated a takedown defence against Jon Jones that defied logic and training partner Davis will have prepared him for the ground game of Johnson so that surprise is nullified. Despite the skillsets on display it is the cardio where this fight will be telling. Gustafsson fought a hard 25 minutes against Jones whereas Johnson has never been over three rounds, and in those later rounds he has been found wanting. Gustafsson should be able to wear him down with his jab, stuffing those takedowns and dragging him into the championship rounds before finishing him inside the distance.

Recommendation: Gustafsson wins inside distance -114 (11/2) @ 5Dimes