The UFC heads south to Sao Paulo, Brazil for the long-awaited return of one of its favourite sons, MMA legend Lyoto Machida.

In a stacked event, I’ll be giving you my picks for the best bets of the card and 5Dimes will be providing the odds.

Lineker v Vera:

John Lineker fights for the first time since losing to TJ Dillashaw at UFC 207, making it his first bout of the year. The loss to TJ was only the 3rd reverse for Lineker since debuting in the UFC in 2012. He is a fighter who is as frustrating as he is devastating as his performances should clearly have paid off in a title shot. Now, if only he could reliably make weight…

Hailing from Chile doesn’t seem to have affected the globetrotting exploits of Marlon Vera, with four of his six performances in the UFC coming overseas. UK fans may best remember him as the man who broke the heart of Brad Pickett when coming from behind to secure the stoppage in the British fighters last professional fight.

Both fighters can, and likely will throw down with reckless abandon. Lineker hits about as hard as anyone can do from 125-145lbs, also wearing the ability to take a punch. Vera is no slouch in that area either and his chin has held firm as his only defeats come via the judges. Likelihood is that Lineker gets the stoppage, but Vera is tough and may be able to hold out.

Recommendation: Fight Goes to a Decision – 2 units at +150 (6/4) @ 5Dimes

 Maia v Covington:

Demian Maia fights for the first time since failing in his bid to take the 170lb belt from Tyron Woodley. It was a fight that was so bad nobody has any desire to see it re-run any time soon. Although the performance was bad, the shot was more than deserved as Maia amassed seven wins on the bounce. The biggest shame is that it came seven years after his first title shot against Anderson Silva, it was an identical performance, and both will rank as two of the worst title defences in recent history.

Colby Covington has literally blazed a trail since entering the UFC. A sloppy performance, against Warlley Alves, aside he has been dominant in all other fights. His ability to shut his opponents down with his wrestling is impressive and he isn’t averse to pulling the occasional submission out of his hat. Whether he can do it against the greatest BJJ fighter to set foot in the octagon is another thing.

This is a fight that I see going one of three ways. Maia can ensure that Covington wears him like a backpack for 15 minutes, that ends very badly for Colby. Covington could potentially shut down Maia, out-wrestling him for a shut out on the scorecards. Alternatively, Maia submits Covington, highly likely since Alves achieved it. Given the absurd odds for the latter I’m making a small play here.

Recommendation: Maia wins by Submission – 1 units at +375 (15/4) @ 5Dimes

 Brunson v Machida:

Before he ran into a surging Robert Whittaker it is fair to say that Derek Brunson was on a bit of a tear, stringing together five consecutive wins to put him on the cusp of the top five. Whittaker exposed a weakness in Brunson that was there for all the world to see, yet again Brunson ran across the octagon with his hands down and his chin out. When you do that against Bobby Knuckles then its lights out. Against Anderson Silva he demonstrated an improved technique and lost a highly contentious decision before getting back in the win column with a first round KO of Daniel Kelly in Auckland, New Zealand.

Making his octagon return is a legend of MMA and a future hall of famer, Lyoto Machida. Machida has been absent since notifying USADA of a supplement taken, which resulted in him getting an 18-month suspension. Given his recent performances its somewhat of a surprise to see him back at all, three losses from four fights only tell half a story. The defeats to Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero were not as much defeats but a pummelling. At 39 it is not difficult to see the end of the road and another crushing defeat here could signal the end.

Inactivity could be the ultimate decider here as 26 months out is a long time, MMA moves quickly nowadays. Brunson has stayed relatively active, despite a couple of losses and that tilts the balance in favour of the American. If you made this matchup 8 years ago then a prime Machida wins 9/10 times, as it is he needs a combination poor fight IQ from Brunson and a couple of clean strikes to get his hand raised.

Recommendation: Brunson wins by KO/TKO – 3 units at -100 (1/1) @ 5Dimes