UFC188

The UFC returns to Mexico City, Mexico almost seven months after their last visit. This time the local crowd will be champing at the bit to see Cain Velasquez make his long awaited return.

While not one of the bigger numbered cards of the year this should turn out to be a lot of fun, with a number of matches that have been made for the sake of entertainment rather than building a profile. I have been busy researching as have the oddsmakers at 5Dimes; let’s see if we can pick a few surprises.

Torres v Hill:

Tecia Torres looks to build upon an impressive UFC debut, which in turn followed up a disappointing campaign inside the TUF house. After an opening round loss she was, controversially, given another chance after an injury to Justine Kish, swapping teams and winning, before exiting at the next stage. On the TUF finale she destroyed teammate Angela Mangana in a hugely impressive performance.

Fellow TUF alum Angela Hill fared no better than her opponent in the show, losing in her only fight to eventual runner up, Carla Esparza. Making her official debut on the same card as Torres she outclassed Emily Kagan for the decision victory. It represented only her second professional fight in MMA.

On balance this must go to Torres, while not exactly a veteran herself a career in the UFC and Invicta has given her more exposure than her opponent and this could very well be the epitome of a mismatch. The odds are poor here, but as neither fighter has a reputation for stoppages a small play on over 2.5 rounds is recommended.

Recommendation: Over 2.5 Rounds – 1 unit at -210 (1/2) @ 5Dimes

Rodriguez v Rosa:

Charles Rosa makes this third appearance inside a year for the UFC, looking to get his record above 0.500 along the way. He was outworked by Dennis Siver in his debut before a very late submission win over Sean Soriano put him back on track.

Yair Rodriguez is the nominated Mexican fighter on this main card, the one that isn’t Velasquez. Nonetheless, winning four of five shows a degree of promise, even if it doesn’t warrant a position as high as this. He won his debut on the undercard of UFC 180 and gave the matchmakers enough to think about as they put him back in the frame on the Mexican return.

Looking for value here is really tough, as there is almost nothing to review each fighter on. Rodriguez could be primed to spring a surprise, but against the greater experience of Rosa it will be a big ask. At odds of -230 I’ll be taking Rosa to justify his position as favourite.

Recommendation: Charles Rosa – 2 units at -230 (4/9) @ 5Dimes

Gastelum v Marquardt:

The third bout on the main card is very much a case of out with the old, in with the new as relative newcomer Kelvin Gastelum faces veteran Nate Marquardt. As the TUF winner big things were expected of Gastelum who always found a way to deliver until running into Tyron Woodley. A lacklustre performance was the result of a horrendous weight cut and subsequent hospitalisation. It was his second bad cut in a row and prompted a forced move to 185lbs.

Marquardt is a fighter on the verge of retirement, forced or otherwise. He is 1-4 from his last five, with a win over James Te Huna his only success. In the other four fights he has been thoroughly outclassed. At 36 years of age and declining rapidly it feels like a loss will see him exit the octagon with his gloves left in the middle.

As this is being fought at 185 it’s unlikely that making weight will be an issue for these former 170lb’ers and as long as that is the case then this is Gastelum’s to lose. He can finish on the feet or force the tap off his back, either way he has too much in the tank for a Marquardt that is running on empty. I can’t back him at -500 but will take a small bet on him to finish in under 1.5 rounds.

Recommendation: Under 1.5 Rounds – 1 unit at +165 (13/8) @ 5Dimes

Melendez v Alvarez:

Freshly tied into a new contract, after a brief flirtation with Bellator, is ‘Skrap Pack’ stalwart Gil Melendez who looks to erase the memory of his first loss by stoppage to Anthony Pettis. His run of 1-2 from his last three is a repeat of eight years ago where, noticeably after, he went unbeaten until running into Benson Henderson. A repeat of that run now is not out of the question, not since the belt was taken by dos Anjos.

For former Bellator Lightweight champion, Eddie Alvarez, the spark has yet to fully ignite in the UFC. Thrown to the proverbial lions in a debut against Donald Cerrone, he was rebooked for a fight with Benson Henderson until injury struck and Cerrone took his place. Although only one fight into a lucrative, yet drawn out contract it feels like he has been around for longer than just that one fight.

A front runner for Fight of the Night honours, as long as this doesn’t end contentiously then it is almost certain to be a real barnstormer. Both are happy to stand and trade and it could easily go the way of Melendez v Sanchez and be a Fight of the Year contender. I give the advantage to Melendez though, he has more experience at a higher level and Alvarez stylistically matches everything that’s good about Gil.

Recommendation: Gil Melendez – 2 units at -175 (4/7) @ 5Dimes

Velasquez v Werdum:         

The baddest man on the planet makes his octagon return after more than 18 months injured in a fight that was originally carded to headline the UFCs first foray into Mexico. That time Mark Hunt stepped in on late notice, hopefully the real thing happens this weekend. We are looking at a man who, if fit, can dominate the Heavyweight division for as long as he wants to. Other than in the first of his trilogy with dos Santos, Velasquez has barely broken a sweat. He has destroyed dos Santos and Bigfoot Silva twice and beat down Brock Lesnar. He is at the top of the tree, with a huge gap to Werdum and dos Santos, and an absolute chasm to everybody else.

Although he succumbed to a debuting Junior dos Santos to end his first stint in the UFC Fabricio Werdum has impressed massively since leaving. Firstly, he beat Fedor, and didn’t just beat him, submitting him into the bargain. Then after Strikeforce folded he came back, working his way through all comers before landing the Interim title by knocking out Mark Hunt at UFC 180.

The $64,000 question is over the fitness of Velasquez, and whether he will fall victim to the Heavyweight champions curse. His long layoff, advancing age and less than flattering photos have raised eyebrows as to his general conditioning. The only similar question of Werdum is his 37 years of age, meaning that this is likely to be his only shot at the proper champion. Although no Heavyweight has ever defended his title three successive times, records are made to be broken and as long as he is fit I can see nothing other than total domination for Velasquez. If he isn’t 100% then Werdum can cause a huge upset.

Recommendation: Under 2.5 Rounds – 1 unit at +105 (21/10) @ 5Dimes

For this week’s parlay bet I am taking Albert Tumenov at -500 (1/5), Drew Dober at -150 (4/6) and Charles Rosa at -230 (4/9) for a +187.50 (15/8) treble for 2 units.

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