January is just about ready to kick off for mixed martial arts, and it does not lack many open dates from here on out.
The UFC comes at you with two big free events. UFC on FX features a middleweight clash between Michael Bisping and Vitor Belfort. Bisping will earn a title shot, says UFC President Dana White, with a win.
One week later the UFC Flyweight Championship will be on the line on Fox. Demetrious Johnson defends his crown against No. 1 contender John Dodson.
Bellator also gets back underway with three championship fights in the month of January.
Here is who you should bet on and who you should avoid when you get set to lay money down on the fights.
The undefeated lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov will be a slight favorite heading into the bout, but is a solid way to pad your account.
Currently you can get him at -155 at 5Dimes.com.
His opponent, Thiago Tavares, has been performing well as of late and reeled off back-to-back wins over Spencer Fisher and Sam Stout.
However, if Nurmagomedov can stifle the powerful Gleison Tibau then he can most certainly do it to Tavares. Nurmagomedov should probably be around a 2-1 favorite in this fight and his current odds make it enticing to get in early.
Nurmagomedov is quickly becoming one of the young lightweights to watch.
Rick Hawn's record sits at 14-1 and he is ready to challenge Michael Chandler for Bellator gold, but he is not a good bet.
Hawn is simply not a big enough underdog to warrant taking a chance.
Chandler is the better fighter.
Hawn has looked fantastic since dropping to lightweight, but the 36-year-old will be going up against one of the top 10 in the sport right now. Chandler has been exceptional over the past year and that should continue on with a beating of Hawn.
Hawn's grappling gives him a chance if you are willing to risk it, but with other locks and bigger live dogs you would be wise to place your green elsewhere.
Dodson enters as the appropriate underdog but comes with great odds. You can still get Dodson at +191 at SportBet.com.
Demetrious Johnson was outstanding in his title victory over Joseph Benavidez, but Dodson has a different tool kit that makes him a more dangerous opponent.
Dodson is one of the fastest athletes in the division, and he possesses big power in his hands. Over the course of a five-round fight he has plenty of opportunities to upend the champion.
If you recall early 2012, Johnson faded against Ian McCall. Had the fight gone to the sudden-death fourth round then Johnson may have been in serious trouble. Dodson will not have to tie things up to get it past the 15-minute mark. He has the cardio to pick up the pace and the skills to make Johnson work.
The Jackson's MMA spark plug could be wearing a shiny new belt at the end of the night.
Diego Nunes looked very good in his previous outing against Bart Palaszewski, but you should avoid him at UFC on FX.
The reason is his opponent: Nik Lentz.
Lentz looked amazing in his featherweight debut with a stoppage of Eiji Mitsuoka, but more importantly it is his style that should make you wary of putting anything on Nunes.
Lentz was 5-0-1 (1 NC) to start his UFC lightweight career before running in to Mark Bocek and Evan Dunham. His initial winning streak included a win over Tyson Griffin. Now he brings his grinding style to a lighter weight class where he has a strength advantage.
This is a great fight in the division, but it is not a great fight for your wallet.
Betting on Erik Koch seems like a great idea in theory, but you should save your money if you are playing it safe.
13-1 overall, four straight wins, and on the precipice of challenging Jose Aldo for the UFC Featherweight Championship; everything was looking up for Koch and his stock was climbing daily. Then he got injured.
Koch has not been in the cage since September of 2011. He will undoubtedly have some form of ring rust. And does he get welcomed back with a tune-up fight? No.
Featherweight contender Ricardo Lamas will be awaiting Koch on the other side of the cage. Lamas has three straight wins including W's over Cub Swanson and Hatsu Hioki. Koch is getting tossed right back in to the deep end of the pool.
This is a big fight in the division and could determine the next challenger potentially, and Koch is the favorite. But it is not worth the risk with all the questions surrounding him as he returns from injuries.
Yuri Alcantara had his 13-fight win streak snapped against Hacran Dias at UFC 147, and he will be looking to right the ship against George Roop.
And no offense meant to Roop, but that should be a lock.
Alcantara will be making his bantamweight debut. That could cause some troubles, but with his talent, do not expect it to play a major factor in the outcome. He is simply the better fighter.
He should enter as a significant favorite and rightfully so. Alcantara can make some noise at 135 pounds.
Donald Cerrone versus Anthony Pettis could easily be fight of the night, month and possibly the year right out of the gate. That does not make Cerrone a great bet.
Most betting sites have this fight a dead heat. It is just not a great bet.
Cerrone has been fine-tuning his game and trying to make a push for a UFC title shot against Benson Henderson. He has looked outstanding in his last two bouts. Pettis is on a two-fight win streak of his own.
The two dynamic strikers will put on a show and either one could walk out the winner, but there are several better bets on the card. Pettis' power and creative strikes do not make taking Cerrone any more appealing.
You may see Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at +225 at sites like Bovada.lv and start thinking about throwing a few bones on him. Stop yourself. Immediately.
The fight with Glover Teixeira is a terrible matchup for Jackson.
Sometimes those odds can seem like great value bets, but they can instantly drain your account if you forget to look at the fight objectively. This simply is not a good fight for Rampage.
Rampage's power always gives him a puncher's chance at the very least, but Teixeira is far and away the favorite to win this fight. He should look good in toppling Rampage and it will put him in a good position for a title shot in 2013.
You want the absolute safest bet for your money? It is Ben Askren.
Karl Amoussou is a talented fighter, but he will be put on his back whenever Askren wants the fight there.
You won't get great odds on Askren, but that is not the point. Sometimes it is the smart play to take a heavy favorite and win a little bit of money as the sure thing. Askren is just about the surest thing in the month of January.
His wrestling is on point and there is no one in Bellator's organization who can stop it. It is that simple.
Vitor Belfort can explode and end this fight early, but it is more likely that Bisping finds a way to drag this fight out past the first round.
Even more remarkably, and the reason why Bisping is a great bet, is that you can get him at +105 on sites such as 5Dimes.com.
Bisping has all the motivation in the world to take care of business against Belfort, and given how they match up he should be able to get it done.
Belfort will tire quickly if history is any indication, and if that happens it will quickly turn in to an easy fight for the British contender. Bisping has underrated tools that will give Belfort a heap of trouble throughout the fight.
There is always the risk of the one power-punch slipping through, but Bisping should be prepared for that and make you a little money in the process.