The UFC returns to New Orleans for the first time in four years this weekend for Fight Night 68.

On what appears to be a hectic run of events – this is number five of eight consecutive cards – we are kept glued to the screen as a prelude to next week’s big Heavyweight clash at UFC 188. This is a card high in experience if a little low in quality. Still, the bookies like to take on these cards so let’s see what the oddsmakers at 5Dimes make of it as I pick out the best of the main card.

Tavares v Ortega:

Eight-year UFC veteran Thiago Tavares continues his run at Featherweight in this, his second appearance in the division. A former three-time Fight of the Night winner he managed to pick up a performance bonus in his submission win over Robbie Peralta to keep his stock at a reasonable high.

Brian Ortega makes his second appearance for the UFC still looking for a first official win. In his debut Ortega actually stopped Mike de la Torre in the first round but tested positive post-fight resulting in a No Contest being declared. The UFC obviously saw enough in Ortega to warrant a second chance which is rare when the initial offence came in the only fight in the promotion. It’s fair to say that a big performance is expected.

This is difficult to pick a winner as in order to do so, something needs to give. Ortega is unbeaten, but only wins by decision or submission. Tavares has an excellent submission game but no real stand-up to speak of. When he loses it’s usually by knockout and has never been submitted. As a result this is almost certain to go to the judges for a decision. In a slight theme of the evening, I am going to go with the ‘overs’ and take the fight to last more than 2.5 rounds.

Recommendation: Over 2.5 Rounds – 1 unit at -135 (8/11) @ 5Dimes

Poirier v Medeiros:

It was always going to be touch and go whether the move to 155lbs was smart or stupid for a man who has spent his career fighting at 145lbs and more than holding his own. Dustin Poirier dispelled any misgivings in his debut with a violent barrage on Carlos Diego Ferreira to get the win in the very first round. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride; is this the weight class where Poirier gets his first tilt at some UFC gold?

Standing in his way is Yancy Medeiros, the Strikeforce vet. Medeiros has shaken off a lacklustre transitional period where he lost two of three with a No Contest in the other. It put his job at risk against Damon Jackson but he came through that and the follow up with Joe Proctor unscathed, both by way of submission.

I can’t pick beyond Poirier here, I just can’t. Infinitely better rounded and more experienced against a higher class of opposition, he has the ability to submit or knock out his opponent, yet has the defensive tools to keep Medeiros at arms-length.

Recommendation: Dustin Poirier – 2 units at -185 (8/15) @ 5Dimes

Rothwell v Mitrione:

Supporting the main event is an intriguing fight at Heavyweight as Matt ‘Meathead’ Mitrione faces ‘Big’ Ben Rothwell. This fight has been in the making for a while now, finally coming to fruition. TUF alum Mitrione has recently emerged unscathed from a slightly sticky patch where he lost three of four before finishing Shawn Jordan, Derrick Lewis and most recently, Gabriel Gonzaga all by way of first round knockout. Currently ranked #13 a win over Rothwell would move him as high as #9.

Rothwell has been a bit of an enigma in his UFC career, only recently breaking a win/loss streak that stretched back to 2007 in the IFL. Wins over Brandon Vera and a knockout over Alistair Overeem quashed that unwanted record with the Overeem victory representing a career high.

This fight is a dangerous prospect for Rothwell as he has more to lose. Ranked four places above Mitrione a win does very little for him but a loss drops him from the top ten. Suffice to say I have been impressed with Mitrione of late, his stand-up has improved as has his all round game and I give him a small edge. The odds on .Mitrione are not great at -190 but you can get -120 on this finishing in fewer than 1.5 rounds and that’s where I’ll be dipping in.

Recommendation: Under 1.5 Rounds – 2 units at -105 (19/20) @ 5Dimes

Boetsch v Henderson:          

Headlining this card is a pairing who have recorded just 3 combined wins in their last 12 combined fights. I’ll pause for a second here and let that sink in. After an unlikely run of wins that led to him being talked about as a potential opponent for Anderson Silva hard times have hit Tim Boetsch. Back to back losses to Mark Munoz and Costa Philippou were followed by alternating wins and losses in his next four fights. The wins came against Dollaway in a contentious split and a sucker punch win over Brad Tavares. In short this man needs a win.

At the ripe age of 44, and similarly needing a win desperately is the stalwart Dan Henderson. A true legend of MMA in Pride, Strikeforce and the UFC things have turned a little sour for the veteran in recent times. This tenure in the UFC has seen just two wins from seven fights; both over Shogun Rua. While some have been questionable, father time has come knocking for Hendo and his knock is getting louder.

Both fighters need a win, of that there is little doubt but it is hard to make a case for either man. Boetsch has age on his side, but Hendo has the H-Bomb. Neither is getting younger nor are they improving; the sad truth is that even Hendo’s legendary chin has now started to look suspect and the writing is on the wall for both. Hard to pick a winner, it’s certainly not likely to be the fans in this fight and sadly, I see it going over 2.5 rounds.

Recommendation: Over 2.5 Rounds – 1 unit at -145 (7/10) @ 5Dimes

For this week’s parlay bet I will once again dip into the prelims for some action. Akhmedov (-135), Soto (-170) and Poirier (-185) make up the treble at cumulative odds of +390 (4/1) for 2 units.