As seems to now be an annual pilgrimage, the UFC returns to London, England to once again take up residence at The O2. The UFC have filled this card with top British talent; they occupy slots in 10 of the 13 booked fights, as a nod to the hometown faithful.
While the event is expected to be a sell out there is a little disappointment amongst the attendees at the lack of name recognition on display. The main card is only four fights long, but I only see betting value on three of them. As always, Iâ€™ll be providing the breakdown, with 5Dimes providing the odds.
Arnold Allen vs. Makwan Amirkhani
Arnold Allen fights for the first time in over a year after injuries have played a part in restricting his UFC appearances to just two since signing for the promotion in June 2015. His debut, against Alan Omer, was a spectacular performance of the night as he finished Omer in the third after being clearly beaten for the opening two.
He last fought for the UFC in London, also at the O2, where he took a decisive decision over Yaotzin Meza. The end of that fight was slightly controversial as Allen appeared to have finished Meza only for the bell to ring. Those in attendance had no idea whether the fight had been stopped until the results were called.
Makwan Amirkhani, 'Mr Finland' to his friends, makes his fourth appearance for the promotion. Unbeaten in the UFC, his streak stretches back to 2013 when he last tasted defeat. His record against English fighters is excellent, beating Mike Wilkinson in London a year ago, and ending the career of Andy Ogle by flying knee. Amirkhani also holds a win against new UFC signing Tom Duquesnoy, his only career loss to date.
Amirkhani is an extremely tough out for Allen, and he rightfully enters the bout as favourite. Currently training at SBG Ireland he's preparing with some of the biggest and best names in European MMA. As much as Iâ€™d love to give Allen the nod I just canâ€™t and will be looking at Mr Finland by decision.
Recommendation: Makwan Amirkhani â€“ 2 units at -120 (4/5) @ 5Dimes
Brad Pickett vs. Brandon Vera
Win, lose or draw the time is nigh for one of Englandâ€™s most loved, and most popular fighters. Brad Pickett has reached the age of 38 and made the conscious decision to go out on his own terms, in front of his own fans. It may have been a decision that the former WEC veteran had already been considering but there is little doubt the part he played in the Urijah Faber retirement fight las time out will have played on his mind. Although Pickett lost, he saw the reception that Sacramento gave to one of their own and decided to walk with his faculties intact.
Marlon Vera is a late stand in for the perennially injured Henry Briones. Coming in at less than two weeksâ€™ notice is not ideal fight preparation but it wouldnâ€™t have mattered anyway â€“ this isnâ€™t his night, he is there to make up the numbers and provide a veteran with the ideal send off.
Although Pickett is 1-5 in his last six and 3-7 from his last 10 it should not be taken lightly due to the calibre of opponent faced. He was given a baptism of fire in his home UFC debut against Renan Barao and he has faced top level opposition ever since. Pickett is 3-1 when fighting at home and I donâ€™t see this any differently. Vera may have other ideas but heâ€™d better not show his face in London town if he takes that to fruition.
Recommendation: Brad Pickett â€“ 2 units at -140 (7/10) @ 5Dimes
Jimi Manuwa vs. Corey Anderson
Fresh from a performance bonus winning bout against OSP in Manchester at UFC 204, Jimi Manuwa fights once again in his hometown, once again in the main event. Manuwa has shown two very different sides to his game during his relatively short professional career. On one side, you had the brutal striker, who hits as clean and hard as any other in the 205lb division. But on the other side is a fighter with a gas tank that only ever seems half full and has almost zero offence or defence on the ground.
Corey Anderson has a similar fight DNA to Manuwa but their strengths are the polar-opposite. Anderson has a ground game that is up there with the very best at 205lbs, but on the feet, he is hittable and his offence can be walked through. He has two career losses, both coming in the UFC and both against reasonable strikers; an ageing Shogun Rua and Gian Villante. Neither of these fighters are likely to trouble the upper echelons anytime soon.
Itâ€™s a fight that will go one of two ways. Either Manuwa lands the killer blow early doors and he walks away with a TKO victory or Anderson takes Manuwa to the ground, outworks him and takes a late stoppage or lopsided decision. Manuwa was extremely efficient and accurate against OSP and Iâ€™m hoping that momentum keeps him going through this fight.
Recommendation: Manuwa Wins Inside the Distance â€“ 2 units at -110 (5/6) @ 5Dimes