After a stellar 2015 by the UFC standards we have to wait no longer than two days for the first event of 2016.

The violence gods are smiling on us early in the year with at least three fights on the main card with the potential to deliver heavily. Last year ended with a losing event but a nice winning year so I’ll be teaming up again with 5Dimes to get this year off with a bang.

Trujillo v Sims:

Abel Trujillo looks to get back into the win column after dropping back to back losses for the first time in the UFC. The most recent loss was a highly contentious submission to Gleison Tibau where the referee got his call horribly wrong. In all honesty it should have been ruled a No Contest, and with Tibau’s post fight troubles it may still be overturned.

Tony Sims makes his third appearance in the UFC looking to improve on his record of 1-1. A debut win over Steve Montgomery was negated by Olivier Aubin-Mercier just two months later. With the majority of his fighting career spent in the Fight to Win regional promotion he has faced off against UFC alumni in Drew Dober, who was the last man to defeat him outside of the octagon. It’s a tall order for Sims given the relatively low calibre of fighter faced and he may be a little overmatched here.

For the life of me I cannot figure out why Trujillo is the underdog here. Yes, he has lost two in a row but one of those was to Tibau, and the other was to Tony Ferguson and there is no shame in that. Violence is the order of the day for Trujillo and he takes a comfortable win over Sims.

Recommendation: Abel Trujillo1 unit at +105 (21/20) @ 5Dimes

Brandao v Ortega:

Diego Brandao is the epitome of an MMA mixed bag. Firstly, winning TUF14 against the now-ranked Dennis Bermudez he came up short on his formal debut against Darren Elkins at UFC 146. Three wins later and he is handed back to back losses to Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor, the latter of which was a particularly poor showing from the Brazilian, or a particularly solid showing from the Irishman, depending on your perspective.

At 24 years old and unbeaten in his MMA career Brian Ortega can consider himself a very lucky man indeed. Not many fighters would impress in a debut win, only to test positive in the post-fight tests and be given another chance to compete. His return bout was a stoppage over Thiago Tavares in a Fight of the Night Clearly the UFC expect big returns from this man and fear is arguably the greatest motivator there is.

If Ortega were having his first fight in the UFC then I’d be taking Brandao, but as it’s now his third, still without defeat, I don’t see the UFC putting him in with fighters above his level. While both competitors hold black belts in BJJ I favour the Californian to sneak the win, inside the distance too.

Recommendation: Ortega wins inside distance –2 units at +110 (11/10) @ 5Dimes

Larkin v Tumenov:

Lorenz Larkin has taken a long time to rediscover his mojo in the UFC after Strikeforce folded.  In his time with the San Jose promotion Larkin was unbeaten with a record of 13-0 with 1 No Contest, with his final victory a unanimous decision over current Welterweight champion Robbie Lawler. In the UFC he went 1-4 before making the decision to move from 185lbs to 170lbs. This has unleashed a new Lorenz Larkin that once again looks to be the dangerous force of old.

Albert Tumenov is just one of the breed of Russian imports into the UFC. Compiling a promotional record of 4-1 to go with his career record of 16-2 he has begun to make a few waves in the 170lb division. Wins over Nico Musoke and Alan Jouban have seen his stock rise but he lacks a marquee name on his record. While Larkin is not exactly marquee, his reputation is far higher as a dangerous fighter and a win here could see him make some ground in the official rankings.

In a combined 38 fights both fighters have amassed 21 stoppages between them. On the flipside, only Larkin has ever been stopped and that was just the once. Therefore, with both fighters having reputations as finishing machines, in this fight something has to give. For me, it’s more likely to be Larkin as Tumenov hands him only his second career stoppage.

Recommendation: Tumenov wins inside distance – 2 units at -107 (20/21) @ 5Dimes

Miocic v Arlovski:

Stipe Miocic has been something of an enigma during his time in the UFC. He opened his career impressively with wins over Phil De Fries and the late Shane del Rosario before running into Stefan Struve, who was arguably on his best day. Since then three consecutive wins put him in with Junior dos Santos. In a fight that was controversial in its outcome, mainly because Miocic clearly won at least the first two rounds, he fell short once again. On his last appearance in the octagon he did what no other man has done, brutalised the incredibly durable Mark Hunt en route to a final round stoppage in a fight that should have stopped much, much earlier.

Cast your mind back to 2008 and imagine someone telling you that Andrei Arlovski will be on the verge of fighting for the UFC Heavyweight title in 2016. Now you’ve stopped laughing you can realise that it’s really only one fight away from coming true. Since moving to Albuquerque Arlovski has been little short of a revelation, stringing wins together against Brendan Schaub, Bigfoot Silva, Travis Browne and Frank Mir. That put him 10-1 with 1 No Contest since losing four consecutively in Strikeforce.

Each fighter can bang, and bang hard. Miocic showed this in his last two and Arlovski demonstrated with aplomb against Browne in a Fight of the Year contender. Edge goes to Miocic though; he is still growing and improving as a fighter, he gets hit far less than Arlovski and has a better chin. He also possesses a wrestling base that is sure to trouble the Belarussian who I expect him to dominate en route to one-sided decision.

Recommendation: Stipe Miocic – 2 units at -230 (9/20) @ 5Dimes

Lawler v Condit:

With a first successful defence under his belt Robbie Lawler can now refer to himself as a legitimate champion, and the first since GSP vacated the title. His win over Rory MacDonald wasn’t just the Fight of the Year, Fight of the Decade and, as Dana White put it, Fight of the Ever, it took his record in rematches to 4-0 and made the world sit up and take notice. Against Rory he was almost a beaten man, down 3 rounds to 1 and he pulled that out. It’s the mark of a warrior and certainly that of a champion.

With a single win in two years and just two wins in three years it is a little surprising that Carlos Condit has been given the title shot he coveted. After all, he was beaten by a combination of Tyron Woodley and his own body in a title eliminator 18 months ago and his shot appears to have been secured with a return win over Thiago Alves earlier this year. Meanwhile, Woodley is still waiting in the wings for his shot.

There has been a lot of activity on betting lines in this bout with Lawler easing from -145 to -110 and Condit being cut from +115 to -110 to make this a true pick’em. If we can expect nothing else we are sure to see what happens when a tornado meets a volcano with violence being the order of the day. I have long hailed Condit as the best all-round fighter at 170lbs but in Lawler he faces arguably the most resurgent fighter in the history of MMA. Expect this to be a cagey affair early on while they both find their range, when they do then the fireworks will go off. My heart says Condit but my head says Lawler. It may go the full five rounds but if this turns into a bloodbath then expect a stoppage late into the fight. The under 4.5 rounds line is too good to ignore

Recommendation: Under 4.5 Rounds – 2 units at +100 (1/1) @ 5Dimes