After the insanity at Madison Square Garden the UFC heads to Norfolk, Virginia.

This time there are no titles on the line but at least one career is as the UFC winds down toward the end the year. I’ll be reviewing the Main and Co-Main on the card and 5Dimes will be providing the odds.

Brown v Sanchez:

After a career spanning 36 professional fights, 23 in the UFC, the curtain is about to fall on the ‘Immortal’ Matt Brown. Once perceived as a journeyman, or a gatekeeper, Brown was a fighter going nowhere in his weight class, as three consecutive losses (and four from five) left him a prime candidate for a pink slip. But fate intervened as Brown went seven for seven, including wins over Mike Swick, Erick Silva and Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, putting him in a title eliminator against Robbie Lawler. It was the closest that Brown was to come to a title shot. Five losses from his last six fights brought about the decision to retire, it feels like as good a time as any to walk away with all faculties intact.

Diego Sanchez is another fighter who is clearly nearing the end of the line. The only participant from the inaugural Ultimate Fighter series who is still active, this should be his legacy. Sanchez has been on the receiving end of some fortunate judging, yet his chin is beginning to fade. Without back to back wins for over six years he has become little more than a punching bag. While we know that Brown will step aside at the end of the fight, it would come as no surprise if Sanchez were to follow suit.

It’s a tough fight to call as both come into the bout in a poor run of form and it may come down to who has that little more fight in them. For me, Brown is the better fighter, there is no shame in losing to Cerrone and Maia, while the defeat to Jake Ellenberger was a pure anomaly. Brown hits hard enough to trouble the chin of Sanchez and it would be fitting if he left his gloves in the octagon after getting his hand raised.

Recommendation: Matt Brown – 4 units at -355 (2/7) @ 5Dimes

 Poirier v Pettis:

Since moving up to 155lbs Dustin Poirier has been revitalised as a fighter. At 145lbs he was highly effective, but that extra 10lbs has brought with it stamina, heart and a huge increase in his power. His performances have been so solid that in seven fights he has picked up three performance bonuses, and bear in mind that his last fight was declared a No Contest, so he realistically has a 50% strike rate on bonuses in this division.

I don’t really know what to think of 2017 Anthony Pettis. The 2013-14 version was electric as he wrested the 155lb strap from the iron grip of Benson Henderson, before defending against Gil Melendez. Then it fell apart. He was literally rag dolled by Rafael dos Anjos for 25 minutes in a dominant win which sparked the first of three consecutive losses. Pettis got back in the win column with a solid performance over Charles Oliveira, but came up very short in an Interim title shot against Max Holloway. The fight was effectively meaningless for Pettis as he missed weight and with it, his opportunity to hold the gold.

I am leaning towards Poirier as the younger man, the hungrier and the fighter with less miles on the chin. Pettis showed previously that he could be great, but that is a distant memory at present and he sits as far away from title contention as he has ever been. If he has an edge, it’s the five-round format but there is a chance that it doesn’t go that far. Poirier has the reach to keep Pettis on the outside and pick him off at will, and if it goes to the ground he has a very solid ground game. But it’s all dependent upon which version of Pettis shows up this time.

Recommendation: Dustin Poirier – 2 units at +100 (1/1) @ 5Dimes