The UFC returns to Orlando as the year draws to a close. The biggest week in MMA is over; we have a new Champion at Featherweight and 2016 looks rosy.
I am looking forward to a rest, as I am sure are you, so I’d like to sign off with a couple of picks to hopefully bolster the Christmas coffers. 5Dimes can provide the odds and I’ll sprinkle each pick with some Christmas cheer.
Markos v Kowalkiewicz:
Randa Markos bids to win two in a row for the first time in over two years when facing off against newcomer Karolina Kowalkiewicz. A semi-finalist in TUF: 20 Markos impressed with a dominant victory over Aisling Daly earlier this year to put her back on the way toward the title that eluded her in the Ultimate Fighter house.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz is a new recruit to the UFC and makes her debut on a huge stage, in the biggest month of MMA to date against a very dangerous opponent. Holding a record of 7-0 it was no surprise when she was plucked from Polish promotion KSW for a shot at the big time. Big things will be expected of KK with a potential title shot against JJ on the cards for Poland next year.
If Kowalkiewicz can avoid the submission game of Markos then this is her fight to lose. Both fighters have a decent ground game, although Kowalkiewicz edges the stand-up and this could be where she gains the victory. It’s unlikely she’ll stop Markos but she should do enough to take a decision in a fair upset.
Recommendation: Karolina Kowalkiewicz – 1 unit at +165 (13/8) @ 5Dimes
Johnson v Diaz:
Michael Johnson returns after a highly controversial split decision loss to Beneil Dariush in August. That put the brakes on a four fight winning streak that elevated the Blackzilian fighter to #5 in the division. Entering the UFC as a losing finalist on TUF 12 the man known as the Menace holds notable victories over Joe Lauzon, Edson Barboza and remains the only fighter at this level to beat surging Lightweight Tony Ferguson.
Nate Diaz has spent the last year sat on the sidelines as brother Nick’s issues with the NSAC took the headlines. The younger Diaz brother has spent a career fighting the very best that the UFC has to offer and for that reason, shouldn’t be dismissed as easily as his recent record suggests. Losing three of his last four it should be noted that two of those came to present and former Lightweight champions and the other was a battering by a former Strikeforce champion. It was only four years ago that Diaz absolutely schooled Donald Cerrone, a man who tonight fights for the belt.
While his BJJ is as good as anyone in the division Diaz has traditionally struggled against high level wrestlers, a skill that is particularly prominent in Johnson. If Johnson can get him to the ground then it will be a long night for Diaz and a fight that I just don’t see him winning. It isn’t inconceivable that Diaz pulls off a Hail Mary submission but the smart money doesn’t go that way.
Recommendation: Johnson wins by 3 round decision – 2 units at -103 (20/21) @ 5Dimes
Dos Santos v Overeem:
Junior dos Santos once stood unequalled atop the Heavyweight mountain as the reigning champion. He saw off Cain Velasquez and beat up everyone else with startling accuracy and ease. His world came crashing down over two subsequent nights with Cain when he was left resembling the elephant man. A labouring victory over Stipe Miocic followed in a fight that he won after losing the opening two rounds. The jury is still out on whether he has the desire to go through that level of punishment again.
Regular readers will be only too aware of my love hate relationship with Alistair Overeem. I really want to like him, I really do but he has let me down so many times that I just can’t pick him; ever. If the gods sculpted him out of granite then they ran out when they got to the chin and made up the rest with glass. Overeem is a legend of MMA, make no doubt about it but his time has passed and it’s unlikely he can compete with the very best. This bout marks the last on his contract before Free Agency beckons, an expensive bust he may just have to jump ship to get anywhere near the same amount again.
While it is clear that JDS isn’t the same fighter as the one so badly dominated by Cain Velasquez you will see come weigh in day that neither is Overeem. Recent pictures surfacing show ‘Reem in a physical shape not unlike his days at Light Heavyweight, expecting to turn up some 30lbs, or so, lighter than normal. It won’t help his chin one iota and if JDS can connect repeatedly then this will be lights out for the English Dutchman.
Recommendation: dos Santos wins inside distance – 2 units at -200 (1/2) @ 5Dimes
Dos Anjos v Cerrone:
When Rafael dos Anjos beat Anthony Pettis to secure the 155lb strap he made the entire MMA world stand to attention due to the manner in which he achieved it. He didn’t just beat Pettis, widely considered one of the finest athletes at 155lbs, he absolutely dominated him, rag dolling him around the octagon for 25 minutes. For a champion to lose a belt by decision it is rare to see it so one-sided and a finish would have been kinder on Pettis.
With 11 fights in the last two years is there a harder working man in MMA than Donald Cerrone? The fan favourite has been forced to sit on the sidelines and wait for his title shot to come when his natural instinct was to throw caution to the wind and just fight. Cerrone embodies the pure fighter spirit and if successful would be a worthy and welcome champion; exactly the sort of fighter that makes the UFC what it is today. The eight fight winning streak he is currently on can be extended or ended by the last man to beat him inside the octagon.
Both fighters have improved immeasurably since they last met but you cannot help but think that dos Anjos is the one to have really come of age. His improvement against Pettis was little short of remarkable and showed that if he can get this to the ground then it’s a long night for Cerrone. I’ll never count out Cowboy though as he can finish any fight if given the distance to do it. Last time it went three rounds, this time I’d expect it to go the full five. If it doesn’t, then it means that Cerrone has won it early. If it does, then it’s anyone’s fight but the edge goes to the champion.
Recommendation: Over 4.5 Rounds – 2 units at -140 (7/10) @ 5Dimes