Dublin is but a distant memory as 2015 heads towards 2016 and a mega-busy end of year in MMA. For the final time in 2015 the UFC heads back to Brazil, headlined by a rubber match between two of the biggest names that MMA has ever spawned

Title implications are few and far between and, although this is held up by two veterans it is an opportunity to shine for some of the new breed. I’ll be taking you through the top three fights on the main card and 5Dimes will be providing you with the odds.

Almeida v Birchak:

One of the biggest successes in the UFC scouting network this year is on display on Saturday. Thomas Almeida puts his unbeaten record on the line for the twentieth time in all competitions and his fourth for the UFC, almost one year to the day since debuting for the promotion. His debut win over Tim Gorman was the most laboured of his career and the only one that took him the distance. In every other fight he ended it early, although last time out Brad Pickett gave him more than a little to think about.

Anthony Birchak is the latest man tasked with solving the Almeida puzzle. He has had a mixed start to his UFC career, succumbing to a heel hook against Ian Entwistle in his debut before upsetting the apple cart and busting a few betting coupons by knocking out former title challenger Joe Soto in New Orleans earlier this year.

In his last two fights Almeida has put on a striking clinic of punches and flying knees; the latter of which shut down the durable Pickett. He didn’t have it all his own way though, as there were more than a few wobbles early doors that could have ended this remarkable run. With all favourites it becomes near impossible to back them outright and -440 is only worth adding to a parlay. Almeida has finished all of his fights, bar one, inside the distance with only 3/19 going more than a round and a half and that’s where my money goes.

Recommendation: Almeida wins inside the distance – 2 units at -130 (4/5) @ 5Dimes

Teixeira v Cummins:

Glover Teixeira makes a quick return to the Fight Night scene after a solid win over OSP in August. That fight ended a two fight skid for the former title challenger and cemented his position in the top five. Since debuting with the UFC a little over 3 years ago Glover has been billed as a beast, a man who hadn’t lost in nine years and the most legitimate threat to Jon Jones title. The landscape has moved on since then, we have a new champion and for as long as Jones doesn’t hold the belt then Teixeira can count himself another fight closer to getting another shot at whoever does hold the belt.

Patrick Cummins entered the UFC on a wave of hype and expectation which all stemmed from a story that he beat Daniel Cormier and made him cry. That was enough to see him co-main event on a Ronda Rousey card at UFC 170 where that story was put to bed once and for all. Beyond that defeat Cummins has won four from five which suggests that he may not be out of his depth and that Olympic wrestling may just have a place in or near the top ten at 205lbs.

This could be a mismatch of near epic proportions as one is a world class striker, with black belt in BJJ and the other is Patrick Cummins. Sure, he may have beaten an amateur level Daniel Cormier, but this is a different kettle of fish. The former barista is in the octagon with one of the best in the world in his weight class and this could get really ugly. His only real chance is to employ the same tactics that Phil Davis used and to try and smother Teixeira and snooze a win, but at some point he’ll have to defend a submission or take a shot to the jaw and that’s when it ends. Once again, this is another play on the Unders due to the odds on Glover being so unattractive.

Recommendation: Under 1.5 Rounds – 2 units at +110 (11/10) @ 5Dimes

Belfort v Henderson:

It could be sad that Vitor Belfort is one of the most polarising, if not controversial, figures on the current roster and he has certainly been making his share of headlines of late. Sadly for Vitor, none of them have been particularly positive and keep swarming back to TRT. Vitor was the poster boy for TRT in MMA and it certainly helped him develop a physique that belied his years on the earth. It may have affected him physically, but his technique remained intact as he worked his way to another title shot. Sadly, against Weidman, both the physique had mysteriously disappeared and the technique was stifled as the champion ended the fight in round one. At 38 and with the likes of Rockhold, Romero and Jacare ahead of him his time as a contender is now over.

Dan Henderson is a fighter who just keeps rolling on and defying the laws of time. His second spell with the UFC has been less than stellar; after all in eight fights he has only beaten Shogun and Tim Boetsch and he could conceivably have lost to Shogun. By booking him against Belfort in a rematch from two years ago, that ended very early, I think the UFC are showing their hand by letting him take some prize fights before hanging up the gloves. The cardio has gone and the chin is in a steady decline and when they have both gone then it’s over. It won’t be long now Dan, time is almost up.

Having to submit an early write up on this fight is less than ideal as ordinarily I’d know where I was looking to put my money, but there are questions that can only be answered on the day of the weigh ins. In truth I’ll know from the minute Vitor takes his shirt off whether my judgement is accurate or misplaced, but the less said about that the better. This is a fight with two guys who are now irrelevant in the division. The roster at 185lbs has enough depth in it that legit contenders can be found without having to resort to a 45 year old Hendo and a Belfort that was finished with relative ease. Hendo could land the H-Bomb and it could be lights out, but the more likely is that Belfort swarms on the American and forces the referee to intervene; hopefully it will be nice and early as well.

Recommendation: Under 1.5 Rounds – 2 units at +110 (11/10) @ 5Dimes

No parlay from me this week, sorry. The undercard is extremely tight and while I do have some underdog leans for Jimmie Rivera and Gilbert Burns I am not confident enough to bet on either.