I’d like to apologise for a lack of write ups in the last few weeks. Those that know me will know that I’ve had an issue with my eye, only to be followed up with shoulder surgery. The shoulder is currently out of action and I’ve needed to get help just to put this online.

The UFC heads back to Fortaleza, Brazil with a card that hopefully provides an antidote to the disappointment of UFC 209 from last week.

As with all regional events the UFC has stacked the card with a local favourite in each of the 13 booked bouts which should ensure a rabid reception from the fans.

Top to bottom the card isn’t particularly strong so I have focused on the main and co-main event for betting purposes. My thoughts are below, along with odds provided by 5Dimes.

Barboza v Dariush:

Edson Barboza gets another opportunity to continue his rise back up the ranks of the 155lb division. Sidelined for a few months after his win over perennial challenger, Gil Melendez, which itself followed a win over former divisional kingpin, Anthony Pettis this Muay Thai specialist will be looking for every opportunity to unleash the devastating leg kicks for which he has become synonymous. Since recording a series of high profile finishes Barboza has allowed his game to develop, becoming more patient as he bides his time rather than going all in for the finish. The result is a series of clear decision victories that show his progression. Interspersed with these wins are a few losses, but given these are against legitimate contenders, Tony Ferguson, Donald Cerrone and Michael Johnson he can be forgiven for that. This is the blueprint of a fighter getting ready to reach his prime and uncovering his fight IQ.

Beneil Dariush is a fighter who has flirted with the top ten but never quite cemented his place or gave the impression that he really belonged there. This was demonstrated when he took a highly contentious split decision from Michael Johnson in a robbery-of-the-year contender. Although clearly undeserving of the win he was unable to capitalise on his good fortune and was submitted by Michael Chiesa next time out. His stock rose slightly with a convincing performance against James Vick and an underdog victory against Rashid Magomedov and a win over Barboza could see his stock rise exponentially.

Although I heavily favour Barboza in this matchup Dariush does carry a submission game that should give the Brazilian a few nightmares. Barboza has been relatively easy to submit when getting hit in the face, a glaring chink in an otherwise solid armour, meaning that this could be another chance for Dariush to cause the upset. If Barboza has truly matured, as I feel he has, then he should be able to use his kicks to keep Dariush at range and take a comfortable and clear decision. That fight IQ is always suspect though and it’s the one thing that stops me pulling the trigger on him for a bigger stake.

Recommendation: Edson Barboza – 3 units at -170 (3/5) @ 5Dimes

 Belfort v Gastelum:

Vitor Belfort is a fighter who requires little to no introduction; a certainty for the UFC Hall of Fame, a legend of Pride and a man who made his promotional debut almost 200 PPV’s ago back at UFC 12. He has faced the very best that MMA has had to offer and beaten a large portion of them. That was then, however, and this is a man on a decline, only 3 weeks away from his 40th birthday. Since 2013 he has fought sparingly, making just four appearances with a single victory. His defeats have been relatively early finishes, all of which ended in brutal fashion. After UFC 204 in Manchester, England, there was a sense that we had seen the last of Belfort but now that he has been booked to fight in his home country, I feel that this is the last time we will see ‘The Phenom’ inside the cage.

Kelvin Gastelum made his name by defeating one of the most hyped fighters to appear on The Ultimate Fighter; Uriah Hall. In the finale Gastelum was a 5/2 (+250) underdog, winning by split decision for his first official UFC bout. Other than a pair of contentious split decisions, one to the reigning champion, his only professional defeats have come via the scales. With a little more development he could be the best prospect to ever graduate from the TUF house. The manner with which he dismantled Tim Kennedy, putting the US Army Ranger into retirement no less, was as impressive as it was brutal and it has showed the world that 185 Gastelum is very different to his 170 counterpart.

This is very much a case of the new breed meeting the old. Gastelum may be unable to make weight at 170lbs but at 185 he is a different animal. Gone are the weight cuts of the past and it doesn’t take a lot of foresight to see him as a legitimate contender – although where he stands against the current top 5 is another story for another day, but he is top ten material for sure. As for Belfort, he hasn’t looked anywhere near the athlete he did while on TRT and his time must surely be almost up. Belfort can still deliver a first round flurry and all Gastelum needs to do here is weather that storm and he comfortably takes the fight. Not a chance this goes the distance.

Recommendation: Gastelum Wins Inside the Distance – 4 units at -350 (1/3) @ 5Dimes