UFC International Fight week has come around again and has brought with it some of the most anticipated fights of the year.

Before we get to the main event of UFC 200 we need to digest a double co-main event that kicks off three consecutive nights of high level MMA. Thursday sees the 155lb strap up for grabs as Friday night rematches a contentious outcome from 2013 as the Women’s 115lb belt goes on the line. As always, 5Dimes will be providing the odds and I’ll be giving you my thoughts on the likely outcomes.

 Lewis v Nelson:

Heavy hitting Derrick ‘The Black Beast’ Lewis steps back into the octagon for the third time in 2016. Already in the midst of is most active spell with the UFC he is taking aim at the top five in the Heavyweight rankings, and with it a potential title shot in the near future. Against Gabriel Gonzaga he landed early and put the Brazilian out for the count making it his third stoppage win in a row. Prior losses to Shawn Jordan and Matt Mitrione are essentially irrelevant as both fighters have now moved on to inferior promotions.

As the winner of the Ultimate Fighter Season Ten, Roy Nelson has stood the test of time in the UFC. Never quite making his way to a title shot he came pretty close in an era of heavy hitting monsters. Alas, he is at the tail end of a career and his recent record is something akin to a tailspin. Beating Jared Rosholt was the first win in two years and only a third in three, collecting five defeats along the way. Those wins came against a now-cut Cheick Kongo & Rosholt, while the other came against the now-retired Big Nog; hardly a set up for a grand stand finish.

Forget the Heavyweights, this bout is almost like a battle of the Super Heavyweights and the heavy hands will certainly be flying. Given their respective sizes it’s unlikely that this goes to a decision as cardio isn’t really the dominant attribute and I’d expect to see it finish early. Nelson had a solid chin in the past but we have seen that severely tested in recent fights and the edge goes to Lewis.

Recommendation: Derrick Lewis – 2 units at +110 (11/10) @ 5Dimes

 Dos Anjos v Alvarez:

When an ankle injury saw the cancellation of the fight with dos Anjos it was almost certain that a win for original opponent, Conor McGregor, against stand in Nate Diaz would see both champions booked for UFC 200. As it was Diaz upset the apple cart and that fight is now further away that is has ever been. On recent performances that may be a good thing for the Irishman as RDA has simply obliterated all opponents since losing convincingly to Khabib Nurmagomedov in April 2014. The crown jewel of that run was the manhandling of Anthony Pettis to win the belt, and the quick-fire finish of Donald Cerrone in 66 seconds in December. RDA has got better and better with each fight and could be the most dominant champion that we have ever seen at 155lbs.

Eddie Alvarez could be considered in many ways to be a very lucky fighter. Making his UFC debit two years ago after a protracted legal battle to leave Bellator he has been thrown to the wolves in his opening four fights for the company. Firstly facing Cerrone he dropped a unanimous decision, and was then booked to face Gil Melendez and Anthony Pettis, picking up slightly contentious split decisions in both. But his luck really came in when Nate Diaz defeated McGregor to nix their planned bout at UFC 196. With very few viable contenders fit and ready he got the biggest call of his life to fight for the belt.

These two fighters share a remarkable level of experience with 32 and 31 professional fights each. RDA hasn’t lost a fight inside the distance since a jaw injury ended his fight against Clay Guida in 2010. By contrast, Alvarez has lost just three times inside the distance in the last 10 years. With all signs pointing to a late stoppage or decision win I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw the plus money available for Over 3.5 Rounds. The way that RDA finished Cerrone early means that anything is possible but at those odds I’m playing for reasonable stakes.

Recommendation: Over 3.5 Rounds – 3 units at +115 (23/20) @ 5Dimes