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The UFC returns to Porto Alegre, Brazil this week with a card that, in comparison to some of the recently announced cards, doesn’t really get the juices flowing. While a few named fighters appear on the card very few of the fights get the adrenaline pumping. Let’s analyse the main card with odds provided by 5Dimes to see if we can spot some value amongst all this.

Ponzinibbio v Strickland:

With a controversial win over Luke Barnatt in the record books Sean Strickland returns to the octagon aiming to go 16-0. After a career on the regional scene he stepped up to finish TUF alum Bubba McDaniel followed by that win over Barnatt in Berlin, Germany.

The impossibly named Santiago Ponzinibbio makes his third UFC appearance looking to continue the fine work carried out with his win over Wendell Marques. His debut was one to forget as Ryan LaFlare almost rag dolled him in a three round decision. LaFlare finds himself headlining a card so perhaps this should not be a measure of ability.

This is a strange fight to call as neither could really be called a step up for the other. Strickland has a record to protect while Ponzinibbio is fighting out of his adopted home and will want to put on a decent show. I don’t really have an opinion on who wins but am prepared to risk a little on this not going the distance.

Recommendation: Fight won’t go three round distance -105 (19/20) @ 5Dimes

Alcantara v Saenz:

Iuri Alcantara continues to climb back up the rankings after his loss to Urijah Faber 18 months prior. After stumbling through Wilson Reis he demonstrated his capabilities with dominant performances in wins over Vaughan Lee and Russell Doane. He isn’t getting any younger but always seems to be present whenever the UFC returns to Brazil, to the point where he remains a staple of the product in South America.

Standing in his way is Frankie Saenz, a 34 year old relative newcomer to the professional fighting game who made his first UFC appearance in 2014, scoring the win over Nolan Ticman. A proposed fight against Aljamain Sterling fell through after Saenz was injured setting off a chain reaction of events that resulted in the fight being scrapped altogether.

Alcantara is an extremely gifted opponent for Saenz and one that he will need to be at his very best to compete with. With rare exceptions it’s not a sport that is easy to break into in your 30’s and it should be considered a success that the call even came to fight in the UFC. I actually think that this is a huge mismatch in favour of Alcantara and think that he does this inside the distance. I am not going to get into how, but he does it early.

Recommendation: Alcantara wins inside distance -125 (4/5) @ 5Dimes

Khabilov v Martins: 

From headlining a solid card opposite Benson Henderson to the mid-point of a very weak card. That’s how far you can fall in the UFC with a loss; it’s not enough that you snap a six fight streak in the process. That’s exactly what happened to Rustam Khabilov when Henderson became the first man to stop him in the octagon. The hugely impressive, to date, Dagestani has ploughed his way through top level opposition and looks to get back to winning ways.

Standing opposite him is the veteran Adriano Martins. Martins competed in both DREAM and Strikeforce prior to signing with the UFC, winning two while being despatched quickly by Donald Cerrone. The Brazilian has been around the block and will desperately want to put on a show in his home country.

Khabilov, like many of his recently signed countrymen before him, carries high level Sambo skills which have been used to devastating effect; just ask Vinc Pinchel about that suplex. Martins, by contrast favours the BJJ/Judo combination so it’s likely that much of this fight is spent on the ground. In what is sure to be a close contest I give the advantage to Khabilov and will be backing him to grapple the life out of Martins and take a unanimous decision.

Recommendation: Khabilov wins by three round decision +105 (21/20) @ 5Dimes

Ferreira v Alvey:    

The winner of the inaugural TUF Brazil season Cezar ‘Mutante’ Ferreira makes his sixth appearance in the UFC, with all but one in his native Brazil. Mutante saw a three fight streak hit the skids when being finished early by CB Dollaway a year ago. A solid, if unspectacular, win over Andrew Craig put him back on the right path a short while after.

Regional veteran Sam Alvey makes just his third appearance inside the octagon, looking to maintain his performance against Dylan Andrews rather than his debut to Tom Watson. Watson has hardly set the UFC alight and Alvey would have been extremely disappointed to drop that decision.

This is one of the hardest fights to call on the card. While Mutante has home court advantage he lacks in the experience of his opponent, whereas Alvey has extensive experience fighting in both MFC and Bellator during his career. Alvey retains the ability to finish Mutante much in the same way Dollaway did but if the Brazilian can get this to the ground then he may not get that chance. At decent odds I fancy Mutante to pull out a submission victory here. If he doesn’t then he is likely to take a comfortable decision, but the odds don’t appeal.

Recommendation: Ferreira wins by submission +545 (11/2) @ 5Dimes

Barboza v Johnson:

Now this is a fight I like and the one standout matchup on the main card. With a two fight winning streak on the line Edson Barboza looks to continue his ascendency in the rankings at 155. Poor fight IQ saw him stunned and then submitted by Donald Cerrone, but prior to that he had won three on the bounce since a shock loss to a returning Jamie Varner marked the end of his undefeated record. Barboza has devastating kicks that could fell a redwood and is more than capable of a highlight reel knockout, he is only getting better.

Michael Johnson has been sidelined for almost a year due to some legal troubles but looks to extend his own winning streak this weekend. Impressive wins over Joe Lauzon and Gleison Tibau were only dampened with a vastly underwhelming fight with Melvin Guillard in London, a fight better remembered for Gaillard’s virtual refusal to engage and subsequent departure from the UFC.

The winner will come from whoever gets to deploy their game plan to the greatest effect. While Barboza will look to maintain distance and rely on that kicking, Johnson will want to get up close and take the fight to the mat. It’s a stylistic match up that was seen when Barboza defeated Danny Castillo by decision after almost being put away in the first round. Johnson is better than Castillo so the fight is much harder. I will be taking Barboza by decision here, I don’t think that he stops Johnson with strikes/kicks but I do think that the three fights he has had since Johnson last fought will help his fluidity and movement to give him the narrowest of edges.

Recommendation: Barboza by three round decision +200 (2/1) @ 5Dimes

Silva v Mir:              

In the main event we have two fighters who are both desperate to chalk one up in the win column. The local favourite will be Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva, a former Strikeforce veteran and one of only four men to beat the legendary Fedor Emelianenko in MMA. He is also looking for his first win in over two years with two losses and a No Contest during that time. While it is unlikely he will be cut with a loss, particularly given the state of the Heavyweight division at present, he will be aware that he is taking chances with his career should he experience another defeat.

If talking about getting cut with a defeat the name of Frank Mir inevitably pops up. Mir is without a win since December 2011, losing four in a row in the process. In an organisation such as the UFC rarely does a fighter get this many chances and five is unthinkable. With 23 of his 25 career fights in the UFC he has earned the right to slip a little but it is only a matter of time before he is put out to pasture which will be a sad day for the loyal former champion.

So who wins? In reality I don’t see anyone winning a fight that should be nowhere near co-main, let alone main event status. Mir has proven himself to be a little chinny on occasion but retains the ability to submit anyone in any given situation. Bigfoot has a much more rounded skillset but, like his opponent, can find his chin gives away when under a little pressure. I’ll be taking a little on Silva to end Mir’s night, and most likely career, with a knockout in or around the championship rounds.

Recommendation: Silva wins by TKO/KO -135 (4/7) @ 5Dimes

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