After what seems like an eternity since the announcement we finally arrive in London, England where the UFC broadcasts on Fight Pass live from inside the O2 arena.
I tempt fate as I write this but the line-up is largely unaffected and the full 13 fights remain booked. There are only four bouts on the main card and I’ll be covering them all here and, as usual, 5Dimes provides the odds.
Rivera v Pickett:
Francisco Rivera takes a late notice bout and immediately finds himself cast as the pantomime villain and a strong betting favourite. Much like his opponent on Saturday he doesn’t find himself in the best of form as three losses in four will demonstrate but he brings a style that could work in perfect tandem with his opponent and this could very well be Fight of the Night if it goes on long enough.
Brad Pickett has gone from being a hometown betting favourite to a rather large outsider all with a single switch of opponent. Once hailed as one of Dana Whites favourite fighters Pickett has fallen on stony ground in the last few years. Dropping three on the bounce, four in five and five in seven his position in the pecking order is now very insecure. Home wins over Neil Seery and Yves Jabouin, coupled with a win in Sweden over Mike Easton have showed small glimpses of success in a career that is otherwise winding down. Rumours are that win or lose this could be the last time we see One Punch in the octagon.
These two are almost certain to just throw down from the opening bell and it could be over in the blink of an eye. Pickett has proven himself more than durable but a stone cold knockout loss to Thomas Almeida could well have triggered the beginning of the end of his chin. With knockouts and submissions aplenty shared between them a small play on under 2.5 rounds feels like a risk work taking.
Recommendation: Under 2.5 Rounds – 2 units at -120 (4/5) @ 5Dimes
Breese v Nakamura:
Unbeaten prospect Tom Breese is the new poster boy for British MMA. With two appearances in the UFC ending in two wins by TKO; the latter an absolute domination of Cathal Pendred which resulted in the Irish fighter retiring, big things are expected of this welterweight. Training out of Tristar Gym he is in the perfect place for his division as he trains with those who trained the greatest 170lb fighter of all time. He has never failed to finish a fight, the closest being a mere three seconds before the final bell.
Making the second appearance, in his second spell in the UFC, is Japanese veteran Keita Nakamura. Nakamura is highly decorated in the Asian MMA scene and has spent countless years with numerous regional and national promotions. His first UFC win came at the fourth attempt in a rather lifeless affair with Jingliang Li in Japan last year.
Against Pendred Breese showed what he can do to a fighter that is considered more than durable, a description that can be applied comfortably to Nakamura. If he finds his range then he has the power to finish the fight with strikes and failing that he has an arsenal of submissions that can be deployed from anywhere. The bookies are running scared of this man and it’s hard to find any decent value. I can’t be certain that Breese finishes this inside the first round but he is reasonable value to do it before the midway point of the fight and that’s where my money will be going.
Recommendation: Under 1.5 Rounds – 2 units at -150 (4/6) @ 5Dimes
Mousasi v Leites:
When he finally leaves his gloves in the octagon Gegard Mousasi will be remembered as one of the greats of MMA. While not spending lengthy periods in possession of a belt he has been champion, and fought in the MMA hall of fame. Spells in Pride, Strikeforce, K1, M1, Dream and finally the UFC, in fact Bellator is the only major promotion that he has never appeared in. His time in the UFC has been a mixed bag, amassing a record of 4-3 culminating in a loss to Uriah Hall. It was a huge upset, not least due to his performance in the opening round. A well timed knee and, well that’s all it took. A loss to Hall isn’t devastating but it does underline his remaining potential in the division.
Thales Leites fights in the UK for the second time inside a year. Against Michael Bisping in Glasgow, Scotland in July he came up short on two of the judges’ scorecards, losing by split decision. It was a slightly generous scorecard from where I was sitting as Leites clearly lost the fight. It was his first reverse in five years and snapped a five fight streak, one that had remarkably propelled him towards an unlikely reappearance in the top five.
This is a fight that is almost certain to be a laborious affair and one that is difficult to get excited about. Mousasi is a finisher, either through striking or submissions whereas Leites has never been knocked out and only submitted once in 30 fights. It’s almost certain to go the distance and the bookmakers know it. Mousasi by decision is about the best bet you can find and it’s just shy of even money.
Recommendation: Mousasi wins by 3 round decision – 2 units at -105 (20/21) @ 5Dimes
Bisping v Silva:
Undefeated whenever fighting in the UK for the UFC, Michael Bisping is handed a test that will surely carry the biggest threat to his proud record. Bisping has been a mainstay of the 185lb division since winning the third season of the Ultimate Fighter. For all his achievements he has never truly come close to a title shot, and whenever placed in an eliminator he has been found wanting. Throughout his tenure one man has dominated the division, at least until two years ago, and he has spent the previous five years calling him out at every opportunity.
Anderson Silva stands alone as the Greatest of All Time in MMA, at least for now anyway. Throughout seven years he remained unbeaten in the UFC, holding the belt during all of this time before running into the younger, hungrier Chris Weidman. First he lost his belt, then in the rematch he broke his leg before beating Nick Diaz (later overturned to a No Contest) and landing a lengthy ban for banned substances in his comeback fight just over a year ago. The question has to be asked whether he is capable of sustaining his position in the top five at 185lbs or whether father time has finally caught up with him.
This is an extremely tough fight for Bisping, but also for Silva. Bisping has a few years on the Brazilian and has been a lot more active so ring rust will be less of a factor. While Silva has fought just three times in nearly three years Bisping has competed six times, despite a lengthy layoff of his own due to an eye injury. For Silva there comes a point in every fighters career when the chin, the heart, the stamina, they all go and never return and at 40, this is now a real possibility. Bisping will be banking on this being the one time he has the fight that he demanded and will be eager to seize his chance to cement his own legacy. I don’t see how either of these fighters can drag this out for five rounds so I’ll be making a play on this not going the distance. I still feel a pull for Silva, but his chin could come under real scrutiny.
Recommendation: Fight won’t go 5 round distance – 3 units at -180 (5/8) @ 5Dimes