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The UFC heads back to Boston this weekend as the promotion welcomes back former champion Dominick Cruz to the octagon.

Although a smaller main card than we are used to for Fight Night events I am convinced that three of them are likely to be bangers, while unsold on the other. As always, the odds are provided by 5Dimes so let’s see where the value lies.

Pearson v Trinaldo:

Ross Pearson is one of the best loved and supported European fighters on the UFC roster and it’s a relative shock that he has been booked for the Boston card rather than waiting for London in just six weeks’ time. Rarely involved in a boring fight the former bricklayer from Sunderland earned a split decision over Paul Felder in September in a fight he had been widely predicted to lose by the bookmakers.

Riding a solid four fight winning streak is Brazilian veteran Francisco Trinaldo. Dominant wins over Chad Laprise, Akbarh Arreola and Leandro Silva were punctuated with a slightly controversial win over Norman Parke by split decision. His style matches up well with Pearson as his Black Belt in Kickboxing contrasts well with Pearson’s in Tae Kwon Do. Trinaldo does possess the edge in BJJ though, an area that Pearson has struggled with in the past.

Pearson is a strange one to put money on because he can be wildly inconsistent. Barring back to back wins over George Sotiropoulos and Ryan Couture he would have alternated wins and losses consistently since 2010. As his last fight was a loss the numbers suggest that he loses this one. I’ll be putting a very proud record of 23 unbeaten straight picks on the line with Trinaldo here by backing form over the fighter.

Recommendation: Francisco Trinaldo1 unit at +130 (13/10) @ 5Dimes

Browne v Mitrione:

Travis Browne makes his return to the octagon after a near seven month break from his one round war with Andrei Arlovski. That fight was remembered as a contender for Fight of the Year despite only lasting just over four minutes. The two behemoths traded blows solidly with each scoring a knockdown before Arlovski secured the finish. It was just the third defeat of Browne’s career and put Arlovski in the company of Bigfoot Silva and Fabricio Werdum as the only men to defeat the giant from Hawaii.

Ultimate Fighter alumni Matt Mitrione returns after a similarly lengthy break, one that was taken after his submission loss to Ben Rothwell. That defeat put the skids on a three fight streak for Mitrione, all of which came by knockout in the first round. Those wins turned around a poor run of 1-3 for the former NFL player which almost saw his tenure in the UFC, his only job in MMA, come to an end.

Breaking it down to simplistic terms; Browne is, or at least will be, a legit challenger at Heavyweight, while Mitrone isn’t. Travis has the edge in pretty much every area of his game and I am surprised that his odds are not significantly shorter. One can only assume that the bookmakers are looking at his relationship with Ronda Rousey and wondering how her loss may have affected him mentally and his preparation. I fancy Browne inside the distance but the odds differential isn’t enough for me to back the prop so I’ll take Travis by any means necessary.

Recommendation: Travis Browne – 3 units at -155 (4/6) @ 5Dimes

Pettis v Alvarez:

On any other card this is likely to be booked as a main event, but it just so happens that Anthony Pettis’ return is relegated to supporting status to a title fight. Pettis, the former WEC and UFC Lightweight champion, was once considered to be one of the most rounded MMA fighters on the active roster. Barring his UFC debut loss to Clay Guida and a sluggish follow up win over Jeremy Stephens he had beaten the division’s top names, with relative ease. He finished Joe Lauzon, Donald Cerrone and Benson Henderson, at the time the undisputed champion, inside a round. After that he became the first man to submit Gil Melendez before running into the brick wall of Rafael dos Anjos.

After a long wait, mainly due to a protracted court battle, UFC fans finally got to see Eddie Alvarez in the octagon. Given as hard a task as anyone before him, his opening bouts were against divisional stalwarts Cerrone and Melendez; losing to the former and winning against the latter in Fight of the Night-worthy efforts. The former Bellator champion has been thrown to the wolves twice before and this is no different but I guess that’s the difference between signing a genuine contender and not a legitimate prospect.

A solid contender for Fight of the Night; both fighters are more recently adjusted to five round fights as opposed to the three rounds agreed here. This could go either way despite me heavily favouring Pettis. The manner of Showtime’s last defeat will raise questions though, it wasn’t just that he was beaten but the fact he was beaten in one of the most one-sided title matches in recent memory. It could finish with an early submission, but likely to go the distance and that’s where I’ll be putting my money.

Recommendation: Alvarez / Pettis goes 3 round distance – 2 units at +100 (1/1) @ 5Dimes

Dillashaw v Cruz:

Around 18 months ago a young TJ Dillashaw shocked the MMA world when he absolutely dominated Renan Barao to win the UFC Bantamweight belt. Ranked as one of the biggest upsets of all time, remembering that Barao had been dominant and undefeated for 9 years, the manner in which the then Team Alpha Male upstart took the belt was a wake-up call to all in the division.  To prove it wasn’t a fluke, a year later he did it again. With Barao out of the picture and the rest of the 135lb division seemingly injuring themselves and beating each other TJ appeared to be running out of options and names. A move from Alpha Male to Elevation put a potential fight with mentor Urijah Faber on the cards, but another challenger came along far more deserving.

With just a single fight since October 2011, and that one coming nearly 18 months ago, it is easy to forget the name of Dominick Cruz. Recent fans to MMA will not realise that this is essentially a championship unification bout as Cruz never lost his belt; instead he was stripped of the belt following injury after injury. To date he has blown the ACL in both of his knees; at least once. Just one of these injuries could end a career, but to experience 3 of them and still come back shows remarkable strength of character.

This could be argued as a fight where the old breed meets the new breed; where the, relatively inexperienced, upstart new champion faces the veteran fighter. Except that there is actually only one year between them. TJ is a latecomer at 29 while Cruz, amazingly, is still just 30. Dillashaw has proven himself capable of the upset, finishing the ever durable and Cruz has never been finished, chances are that something needs to give. It all comes down to how good Cruz is after his hiatus, if he picks up where he left off then he can finish TJ, but if he has lost a yard of pace then TJ could capitalise as he did with Barao. I can’t pick a winner so I am going to make a small play on this not seeing the full five rounds. The layoff cannot be good for Cruz, despite him being a cardio machine and the frenetic pace of the bout could see it end in the fourth.

Recommendation: Fight won’t go 5 round distance – 1 unit at +145 (29/20) @ 5Dimes

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