UFC Fight Night 115: Alexander Volkov vs Stefan Struve

UFC Fight Night 115

The UFC returns to normal schedule after what has been a crazy three weeks dedicated to promoting and being heavily involved in ‘The Money Fight’ between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. While many fans out there are desperate to watch some UFC action after an extended break; this card doesn’t pack respectable star power.

The main event of UFC Fight Night 115 will pit two giants against each other. 6’7″ Alexander Volkov will meet Stefan Struve who stands 7-foot tall in a fight that will make the octagon look tiny.

Volkov enters the main event at Rotterdam, Netherlands on a four-fight winning streak which includes a dominant victory over Roy Nelson. Stefan Struve also steps into the cage with some momentum after having recorded two consecutive victories.

Also featuring on the main card is a potentially explosive battle between Siyar Bahadurzada and Rob Wilkinson. Wilkinson will be making his UFC debut after racking up and impressive 11-0 record on the regional circuit.

Marion Reneau will face off with short-notice replacement Talita De Oliveira Bernardo. Bernardo looks to be largely under skilled relative to Reneau, and we are expecting a dominant performance from Reneau.

Leon Edwards will stand toe-to-toe with Bryan Barberena in a fight between two massive welterweights. Edwards and Barberena are always marching forward, so we can expect a bloody affair when these two meet inside the octagon this weekend.

It will be strange for Alexander Volkov not to have a height and reach advantage against his opponent this weekend at UFC Fight Night 115. Struve stands at seven-foot tall and will tower over Volkov. It’s not just about the numbers, though, it’s about how a fighter uses their range to maintain optimal striking distance. Volkov is far superior at working at an ideal distance between himself and his opponent, and he will find a home for his punches against Stefan Struve.

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Recommended Bet:

Alexander Volkov vs Stefan Struve
Alexander Volkov to Win
Saturday 2nd September – 5:00 pm (ET) /  9:00pm GMT

Main Card – 3pm ET / 7pm GMT

Alexander Volkov vs Stefan Struve – Main Event

Siyar Bahadurzada vs Rob Wilkinson

Marion Reneau vs Talita Bernardo

Leon Edwards vs Bryan Barberena

Prelims – 11:30am ET / 3:30pm GMT

Darren Till vs Bojan Velickovic

Felipe Silva vs Mairbek Taisumov

Mads Burnell vs Michel Prazeres

Desmond Green vs Rustam Khabilov

Francimar Barroso vs Aleksandar Rakic

Zabit Magomedsharipov vs Mike Santiago

Abdul-Kerim Edilov vs Bojan Mihajlovic

The English Premier League 2017/18 Preview & Tips

The English Premier Arsenal to Liverpool

It’s back and if Sky are to be believed, the Premier League’s 26th season is going to be bigger and better than ever. Quite how the good folk of Sky know this is anyone’s guess but on that premise let’s take a look at the runners and riders and their strengths, weaknesses, key players and chances from Arsenal to Liverpool (odds from 888sport for a top-four finish):

ARSENAL (Evens)

The Gunners will be hoping that a season free of Champions League commitments will boost their chances of getting into the top four. Fifth place last season, and subsequently missing out on mixing with Europe’s elite, was a disaster and only partly mitigated by winning the FA Cup last season, and Arsenal will be determined to come back with a vengeance in 2017-18.

News that Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez both look like at least starting the campaign for Wenger’s men is a positive sign for Gooners; even more so if both can be persuaded to pledge their long-term futures to the club.

Having secured his own future at the club by signing a new two-year deal, Arsene Wenger has been quite busy during the summer – at least in Arsenal terms – and has added some much-needed reinforcements to his squad in the form of French international Alexandre Lacazette and Bosnian Sead Kolasinac; his spending being £47.7m.

Lacazette scored 37 goals in all competitions last season and was one of the top scorers in European football. He almost single-handedly dragged Lyon into fourth-place in Ligue 1 finish as well as regularly finding the net in both the Champions League and Europa League. His impressive pre-season form suggests they may have found the 20-goal a season striker they’ve been long searching for.

2016-17: 5th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 4th 

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BOURNEMOUTH (80/1)

A top half finish for Eddie Howe’s men for the first time in the club’s history was a tremendous achievement last season; many would say an over-achievement. The trick now is either replicate it or better it.

Backed by a wealthy owner – now a Premier league must have – they have miraculously managed to hold on to their key players as well as adding quality in the form of Asmir Begovic, Jermain Defoe and Nathan Ake, whose loan spell has now been made permanent in a £20m move from Chelsea; their total spending being £30.87m.

The downside, if there is one, to such levels of punching above your weight is that expectations rise commensurately and that now becomes one of Howe’s biggest challenges. Whether they can improve on 2017-18 appears doubtful and success will in truth come in the form of consolidation in the Premier League.

Norwegian international Joshua King was the Cherries’ top scorer last season and has come a long way since his time as a youth player at Manchester United. Much will depend on how he and Defoe can dovetail in Bournemouth’s attack and whether their midfield can create enough chances for the pair to feed off. Tick this particular box and it’ll be another successful season.

2016-17: 9th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 11th 

BRIGHTON (300/1)

The Seagulls were pipped at the post in last season’s Championship race by Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United, who took the title, but there was little to choose between the two teams as they both comfortably secured automatic promotion.

In what will be Brighton’s first ever Premier League campaign, there will inevitably be a very steep learning curve, Chris Hughton has quietly compiled a squad that, amongst a fair sprinkling of quality, has plenty of experience in its ranks.

Hughton has headed to the continent for the quality and has brought in, amongst others, Mathew Ryan from Valencia, and Pascal Gross and Mark Suttner from Ingolstadt; their total spend now up to £30.87m.

Success for Brighton will in truth be to avoid the drop but buoyed by the bounce of promotion they will be looking to taking a few big names down along the way. It’s not an easy start for them though, with Man City up first at the Amex, and they’ll be hoping their baptism of fire doesn’t turn ugly and dent the confidence going forward.

Much will depend on now last season’s Championship Player of the Year Anthony Knockaert can adapt to the requirements of the Premier League. The former Leicester winger will almost certainly feel he has a point to prove having never been given a chance at the highest level, and will be hoping to get close to his 15 goals of last season. If he can achieve that the Seagulls will likely have had a good   season.

2016-17: 2nd (Championship, automatic promotion)

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 19th 

BURNLEY (250/1)

Sean Dyche performed a near miracle in keeping the Clarets in the division last season, especially as they did so having won only a single away game. Their form at Turf Moor was exceptional and they will need something similar this time round if they are to repeat or even improve upon last season’s achievement.

Dyche will know that expectations have risen as a result of last season’s heroics and that the second season is a doubly difficult one, especially as he’s lost two of his best players in Michael Keane – who joined Everton – and Andre Gray, who has gone to Watford in a £18m deal.

In terms of new additions, Jon Walters and Jack Cork will bring with them much-needed Premier League experience and Dyche will need both to contribute if the Clarets are to survive; a modest spend of £11.02m will surely increase before the transfer window closes.

Another player who they will need to step up is Robbie Brady, who arrived at Burnley from Norwich City last season at considerable expense. While the Republic of Ireland international showed a few glimpses of his quality in his 14 league appearances – including a brilliant free kick past Thibaut Courtois in the 1-1 draw with Chelsea – he was largely a disappointment.

A promising pre-season for the former Manchester United youngster is a good start but that form now needs to translate to quality Premier League showings, and Burnley need him to be firing on all cylinders.

2016-17: 16th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 16th 

CHELSEA (3/10)

Despite being the reigning champions Antonio Conte’s Chelsea appears not to be a completely happy ship right now. The Diego Costa saga rumbles on and the fact he’s still technically a Chelsea player has caused problems aplenty behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge.

To have won the Premier League in his first season in English football was an impressive achievement for Conte and for the reasons stated above, for him to repeat the feat in his second season would most definitely exceed it.

In addition to their main competitors for the title strengthening considerably over the summer, Chelsea also have a fixture schedule that includes the Champions League this season – something that will have a significant impact.

The departure of Nemanja Matic to Manchester United and the impending departure of Diego Costa will require a tweak or two in their playing style, and the imbedding of new players may take time. Also there’s an injury to Eden Hazard, which will cause him to miss the first few weeks of the season, so it’s been far from plain sailing in the King’s Road.

On the plus side they finally managed to bring in Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid for £70m and also acquired the services of Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco and Antonio Rudiger from Roma; their total spend now up to £126m.

Morata is the key signing though and if the two-time Champions League winner can hit the ground running, the void left by Diego Costa will be quickly filled.

2016-17: 1st

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 2nd 

CRYSTAL PALACE (80/1)

With Frank de Boer now in charge at Selhurst Park, replacing Sam Allardyce, there is a culture change underway in south London. The former Ajax and Inter coach has made clear his intention to bring a different philosophy to the club and has started this transition by bringing in Netherlands international Jairo Riedewald, as well Ruben Loftus-Cheek from Chelsea.

The rest of the Palace squad has remained largely intact and with the new additions Palace fans will be optimistic about their chances of improving on last year’s 14th-place, albeit one would expend their current spend of £8.1m to increase before the window closes.

Again they will be largely reliant on Belgium international Christian Benteke for their goals and will be hoping he can improve further on his 15 goals in 36 league appearances last season.  Now 26, the former Liverpool player has matured into an accomplished Premier League striker and will be central to de Boer’s Selhurst revolution.

2016-17: 14th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 17th 

EVERTON (10/1)

In his first season at Goodison, Ronald Koeman secured Europa League football for the Toffees, and in order to take the club to the next level he must now have the top four in his sights.

With wealthy owners who are prepared to splash the cash and funds available from the sale of Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United, Koeman will be looking to further bolster his squad and has already brought in a few high quality additions. Former Ajax captain Davy Klaassen and ex-Barcelona forward Sandro Ramirez are among those to join the ranks during the summer, along with Michael Keane from Burnley. A total spend to date of £88.2m pits them among the league’s big spenders.

The biggest profile arrival of course has been Wayne Rooney – who brought to an end a 13-year spell at Manchester United to return to his roots – and there will be plenty of hype and spotlight surrounding the man who originally made his breakthrough as a teenager at Goodison Park.

The former England captain, who will be 32 in October, suffered a downturn in form in his final two seasons at Old Trafford, but has now been offered a fresh start and will be expected to spearhead the Toffees quest for a Champions League place.

Final 2016-17 position: 7th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 7th 

HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (500/1)

To have reached the Premier League in the first place on a relative shoestring was a phenomenal achievement for the Terriers; to stay there will be an even greater challenge for David Wagner and his troops.

The club’s first season in the Premier League will require every ounce of savvy from the German, plus the squad will need to collectively punch above their weight. But don’t write them off. They overcame the odds last season and have enough about them to do it again.

Wagner is an energetic presence and has bought wisely in the transfer market with Laurent Depoitre having joined from Porto, Steve Mounie from Montpellier for a club record £11.5m, while Australian midfielder Aaron Mooy has made a permanent switch from Manchester City. The Huddersfield boss needs all three to have an immediate impact having splashed out £38.79m to date,

Mooy was a key performer for Wagner in their promotion campaign and his ability to dictate the pace of games from the centre of midfield will be a key component again this time round.

2016-17: 5th (Championship, promoted via play-offs)

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 18th

LEICESTER CITY (20/1)

Leicester’s title triumph now feels a distant memory and despite a very decent run in the Champions League the Foxes came crashing down to earth in last season’s Premier League, which also saw the departure of Claudio Ranieri.

Ranier’s departure mid-way through the season came as the atmosphere around the club became toxic, but Craig Shakespeare managed to revitalise the team and steer them away to safety.

To date Shakespeare has spent a whopping £52.83m and, while uncertainty remains over the future of  Riyad Mahrez, he has bolstered his squad with the signing of three-time Europa League winner Vicente Iborra and Kelechi Iheanacho, from Manchester City.

It’s difficult to envisage a renewed assault on the Premier League title, but they will be able to perform free of the media glare that was fixed on them as defending champions and also will be without the unrelenting schedule that the Champions League brings with it.

The signing of Iheanacho is an interesting one and they have arguably secured the services of one of the brightest prospects in the Premier League.

The 20-year-old Nigerian international has already proved himself to be clinical in front of goal, scoring 17 goals  for Manchester City over the course of the last two seasons despite featuring predominantly from the bench. He’ll be key to Leicester’s prospects and will share the goalscoring load with Jamie Vardy.

2016-17: 12th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 10th 

LIVERPOOL (Evens)

The Reds quest for a major trophy goes on and even the enigmatic Jurgen Klopp has been unable so far to bring the big trophies to Anfield. Yet there’s a sense that the good times are around the corner and a fourth place last season was a sign or real progress.

Off the field the summer has been dominated by the Philippe Coutinho saga – the latest being that the Brazilian has handed in a transfer request – but still Klopp has been busy, not least with the signing of Mohamed Salah from Roma.

The Egyptian is regarded as a winger but one with an eye for goal; his goalscoring record in Serie A and with the Egypt national team is exceptional, and will lessen the burden on Sadio Mane and , if he stays, Coutinho. If the latter does depart, Klopp will need to act quickly and decisively to bring more goals to his squad and expect their current summer spend of £45.9m to soon increase massively.

Klopp will feel that a top-three finish is within his side’s grasp but squad depth remains an issue and he’ll be hoping for more luck on the injury front this time round in order to achieve such lofty aspirations.

The need for Salah to hit the ground running is obvious; so too the need to increase the firepower options if Coutinho does indeed head to Barcelona. But if these boxes can be ticked the season could yet be another step forward for the Merseyside giants.

2016-17: 4th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 6th

The English Premier League 201718 preview & tips – Man City to West Ham

MANCHESTER CITY (1/5)

Pep Guardiola’s failure to deliver a Premier League title in his first season in the Man City hot seat was regarded by many as a failure, especially given the almost bottomless pit of money at his disposal, and his paymasters are unlikely to settle for another third place.

But the Spaniard is now familiar with what it takes to win the Premier League and having spent a ludicrous £216.45m this summer he’ll feel his squad is now well equipped to top more than just the spending charts.

A major squad overhaul has taken place and a host of established names have left to make way for some big incoming names like Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy, Ederson and Bernardo Silva. The net result is a stronger, more balanced squad that will set them up perfectly to challenge for honours on several fronts.

Key too will be keeping the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva fit, in addition to having a fit again Gabriel Jesus back in the squad, which will be a lot like having a new player.

The young Brazilian scored seven goals in 10 league appearances last season, but his debut campaign was cut frustratingly short by a foot injury and he’ll be looking to play a full part in City’s title charge this season.

2016-17: 3rd

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 1st

MANCHESTER UTD (33/100)

Jose Mourinho guided United to League Cup, Europa League glory and Champions League football in his first season in the Old Trafford dugout but will be hoping to go one better this time round. His managerial CV is one long list of league titles and he’ll be hoping to continue that impressive run.

What he’ll need to do to achieve this is to increase his side’s potency in front of goal without compromising one of the best defences in the division. As part of this quest for more attacking thrust Jose has brought in Romelu Lukaku from Everton at great expense but of equal importance in terms of his squad upgrade is the arrival of Nemanja Matic from Chelsea; their total spend being £147.96m.

And the signs are good for Utd, having enjoyed a successful pre-season and they’ll be keen to hit the ground running and not let any of their rivals steal an early march on them.

Key to their progression will be the performances of Paul Pogba who despite arriving last summer for a then world-record fee did not live up to expectations. The French international scored just nine goals in all competitions, but did not dictate games in a manner befitting his price tag. Utd fans will be hoping his friendship with Lukaku will inspire both to deliver the goods, and the early signs are good.

2016-17: 6th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 3rd

NEWCASTLE UNITED (80/1)

Rafa Benitez ensured Newcastle bounced straight back from the disappointment of relegation at the first time of asking by winning the Championship, and will be hoping to see the Magpies push on now.

While survival will be the main aim, the Toon Army will be hoping for something a little better and, while they’ve left their business late, the Newcastle squad now looks strong enough to at least compete with those outside the league’s top six.

Christian Atsu has joined the Toon permanently from Chelsea having spent the 2016-17 season there on loan and Javier Manquillo has signed from Atletico Madrid, both giving the Magpies a major boost for 2017-18. Jacob Murphy too has arrived from Norwich and will add some further attacking thrust to Rafa’s attacking options; the club’s summer spend now up to £30.42m.

Goals will of course be harder to come by in the PL and for that reason they’ll continue to look to Ayoze Perez and Dwight Gayle to keep them flowing. Their success, or otherwise, in doing so will be crucial to Newcastle’s season.

2016-17: 1st (Championship, automatic promotion)

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 12th

SOUTHAMPTON (20/1)

Mauricio Pellegrino will lead Southampton into the 2017-18 season having replaced Claude Puel as manager during the summer and there is a sense of the unknown attached to the former Alaves boss, who was previously assistant to Rafa Benitez at Liverpool and Inter Milan.

Even though the Saints reached the final of the League Cup and finished a respectable eighth, Puel’s services were dispensed with and so there will be extra pressure on Pellegrino to deliver.

The uncertainty around Virgil van Dijk’s future at St Mary’s has made for a feeling of uneasiness but they have a solid core to their squad, to which Pellegrino has added Polish defender Jan Bednarek; their total summer spend to date being £20.7m.

Nathan Redmond enjoyed an impressive debut season after joining from Norwich and Saints will be hoping he raises his game further in 2017-18 to get himself in the frame for England.

Having previously excelled with the Canaries, the 23-year-old displayed his attacking prowess by scoring seven goals in 37 league appearances for the Saints last time out and can play a central role for the club this season.

2016-17: 8th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 9th

STOKE CITY (80/1)

Stoke have seen a number of key personnel depart over the summer and much will depend on how Mark Hughes can reshape his squad to cope with the gaps they have left.

So far Marko Arnautovic has left for West Ham, Jon Walters has signed for Burnley and Glenn Whelan has joined Aston Villa. What Hughes has done however is bring in five-time Premier League winner Darren Fletcher from West Brom and the 33-year-old will add a much-needed winning mentality to their midfield.

Having finished ninth for three consecutive seasons, last year’s 13th-place finish was a disappointment and Hughes will have to show the club’s owners an improvement as he enters his fifth campaign as Potters’ boss. Fletcher arrived on a free and Hughes is yet to spend a pound this summer in transfer fees.

Much will continue to depend on the form of Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri, widely recognised as the most talented player in the Stoke squad, and he’ll be key to their hopes of securing a top-half finish.

2016-17: 13th

IntenseGambling’s predicted 2017-18 position: 13th

Llorente turns away after firing Swansea into the lead

SWANSEA (150/1)

Last season was the Swans’ worst-ever in the Premier League as they finished 15th after only just managing to pull themselves clear of the relegation zone.

Paul Clement brought stability to a team that had been in disarray following the tenures of Francesco Guidolin and Bob Bradley, and ultimately delivered on his original remit.

Much of the summer has been taken up with trying to resist overtures from Everton and others over star player Gylfi Sigurdsson, but for now the Iceland international remains at the club. If he stays it will be a major boost heading into the new campaign.

Clement has, in addition to retaining the services of Sigurdsson (for now), strengthened his squad with the addition of Chelsea youngster Tammy Abraham on loan, while Spanish midfielder Roque Mesa has joined from La Liga outfit Las Palmas.

Abraham has a bright future ahead of him and the 19-year-old demonstrated his goalscoring prowess while on loan at Bristol City last season, scoring 23 goals for the Championship club. A tall and powerful forward, Abraham must add potency to a strike force that managed just 45 league goals last term if the Swans are to survive again.

2016-17: 15th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 20th

TOTTENHAM (3/4)

Unlike their rivals, Spurs have not made any fresh signings ahead of the new season and they head into the campaign weakened by the loss of Kyle Walker to Manchester City.

But squad cohesion and familiarity will not be a problem for Spurs and they look more likely than any of their rivals to be able to hit the ground running. They proved a formidable team last season, pushed Chelsea all the way and with Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Heung-Min Son combining to create one of the most effective attacking units in Europe they will again be a force.

Their biggest hurdle however is likely to be nothing to do with their rivals but more to do with their temporary home. A transitional season, while the White Hart Lane site sees the finishing of a brand new stadium, means Wembley is home, and a difficult time there in last season’s Champions League doesn’t bode well.

Much again rests on the shoulders of Kane, and it goes without saying that he will be key to their ambitions of winning the league. He’s claimed the Golden Boot in the last two campaigns and will need to be there or thereabouts again.

2016-17: 2nd

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 5th

WATFORD (200/1)

This time round its Marco Silva turn to attempt to steer Watford clear of relegation after he took the reins from Walter Mazzarri at the end of last season. And the former Hull manager has a tough task.

They narrowly avoided the drop last season but have added a number of players in a bid to prevent themselves from being sucked into this season’s relegation battle. Former Manchester Utd midfielder Tom Cleverley has signed from Everton, Spanish right-back Kiko Femenia will add competition in defence and England Under-21 midfielder Will Hughes has joined  from Derby County. It total they have spent a whopping £51.75m.

Etienne Capoue’s combative skills will again be central to their quest for mid-table safety and the French international will be a key figure for the Hornets. The ex-Tottenham and Toulouse player also chips in with important goals and scored seven league last season, including a strike in the crucial win over Manchester Utd.

2016-17: 17th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: position: 14th

WEST BROM (100/1)

Tony Pulis’ West Brom were comfortable for most of last season but ended on a downward curve, losing seven of their final 10 fixtures.

They still managed however to finish in the top half, and the Baggies will be aiming to avoid a repeat of their end-of-season form this time round. Pulis, who has just signed a new contract, will demand his players do not take their foot off the pedal as they strive for another top half finish. To date they have spent £18.81m this summer.

The signing of Jay Rodriguez from Southampton will take some pressure off Venezuelan Salomon Rondon to score most of their goals and the 28-year-old will hope to add more goals to his game following his successful return from a long-term injury.

Rondon, West Brom’s top goalscorer last season, will however remain the focal point of the Baggies’ attack in the upcoming campaign and will be looking to dovetail effectively with Rodriguez.

2016-17: 10th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 15th

WEST HAM (35/1)

Slaven Bilic came under a lot of pressure last season and the Croatian will be keen to improve the Hammers’ league position this time round.

He has brought in several new faces to try and achieve this and propel the club towards a European place. So far Joe Hart has arrived on loan from Manchester City, Pablo Zabaleta has also moved south from the Etihad and they paid £20m for Austria international Marko Arnautovic from Stoke; their spend to date being £38.79m.

Crucially Bilic has also landed former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, who at the age of 29 comes armed with loads of  Premier League quality and experience..

If Hernandez hit double figures, just as he did in his first three seasons at Utd before falling out of favour, the Hammers can look forward to a productive season.

2016-17: 11th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 8th

Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 – Preview & Tips

Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017

Between now and August 26, Ireland will resonate to the sound of the world’s elite women’s rugby teams going toe-to-toe in their quest to be named World Champions 2017.

The tournament, which kicks off in Dublin, is now challenging its male equivalent in terms of profile and hype, and a lot has changed since its humble beginnings back in 1991. It’s also the oddity of being a global rugby competition in which New Zealand are not the runaway favourites.

On this occasion it’s England who begin the tournament as the bookies’ favourites, not least because they are the only professional side of the 12 competitors, and few will be surprised if it’s them lining upon August 26 in Belfast’s Kingspan Stadium in the final.

But if they expect it to be plain sailing then they’re in for a rude awakening with France, Canada and Ireland all making a genuine case as potential trophy winners. Australia too cannot be discounted and will look to advance deep into the tournament’s knock-out stages even though their starting XV is compromised by their continued focus on the sevens format of the game.

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Having won the inaugural Olympic gold medal at Rio 2016, the Aussies have thrown everything at the sport’s reduced-format competitions and in the final countdown may ultimately cost them a place in the last four.

Others who consider themselves outsiders but yet still contenders are Italy, Wales, Spain and the USA – the champions back in 1991 – while, with the best will in world, Japan and Hong Kong will regard progressing beyond the groups stages as a decent degree of progression.

What is guaranteed is that this is by some way the most competitive line-up in the tournament’s history.

England begin their Pool B campaign against Spain, who qualified for the tournament by beating Scotland in a play-off, and have opted to rest a number of senior players in the opener with a view to keeping them fresh for tougher tests that lie ahead. Twelve of the England team who will face Spain are making their World Cup debuts and so it’s one that coach Simon Middleton is using to help his team find their tournament feet.

For England, said tougher tests are not likely to arrive until the knockout stages, with Italy and the USA making up their pool, and while they initially find themselves based in Dublin, it will all really kick off when the relocate to Belfast for the semi-final stage.

Pools A and C are far more difficult to call, especially when you consider that only the pool winners go through to the semis automatically, with the best runner-up in the three groups also making it through to the last four.

Pool A is particularly intriguing with New Zealand, winners of four consecutive World Cups from 1998 to 2010, coming up against Canada, the losing finalist to England last time out in 2014. Wales and Hong Kong make up the group and while the Welsh have enough in their country’s rugby heritage to make life difficult for their opponents it’s all about the big two – one of whom could miss out on a semi-final place.

And Pool C pits the French, the Irish and the aforementioned Australians against each other, with Japan also in there looking to spring an upset along the way. Again we’re set for a battle royal with the format meaning that no games are ‘nothing’ games. Some big team are going to bite dust in this pool.

What the format has also ensured is that the action in the group stages will come thick and fast in what will be a positive feast of rugby for the watching pubic in Ireland and the traveling fans. In a manic three days of action, six matches are scheduled for Wednesday, another six on Sunday and six more next Thursday, which is when New Zealand meet Canada and Ireland face France.

Before that, however, on opening day the hosts entertain Australia in the pick of the opening matches at University College Dublin, while the New Zealand Black Ferns, buoyed by the return of sevens specialist Portia Woodman, find themselves up against Wales in what will be an early test for both. The previously imperious New Zealand failed to reach the knockout stages three years ago, while the Welsh are steadily improving so it could be closer than some expect.

Elsewhere, Japan and Hong Kong, who come up against Canada and France respectively, will be hoping to emerge with at least their confidence still intact, while the USA go toe-to-toe with Italy in the day’s other fixture.

So, the scene is set for some thrilling rugby with the big question being if anyone can stop the English retaining their title, the key to which is how others can cope with the Red Roses’ powerful set piece.

We’re about to find out.

Recommended Bets:

New Zealand to win the tournament @ 6/4 with Betfair
Australia to beat Ireland (9th Aug) @7/2 with Betfair

English Football League 2017/18 – Preview & Tips

English Football League 2017/18 – Preview & Tips

For some the summer break is all too short but for those who are champing at the bit for a return of the Football League the wait is finally over.

Fans of the Premier League have another week to wait but fans of Championship, League One and League Two teams it’s all systems go as this weekend marks the start of the 2017/18 season. And for those who fancy a bet on who will be at the top and bottom of the tables in May now is the time to put your money on before some odd early results skew the odds.

The Championship

Middlesbrough, armed with a squad that failed miserably in the Premier League but which has been bolstered by some expensive summer signings – particularly in the striking department with the additions of Britt Assombalonga, Ashley Fletcher and Jonathan Kodjia – are the bookies’ favourites, and with good reason. At 6/1 to win it, with 888sport, they are fairly priced; unlike Aston Villa who at 7/1 appear to have hypnotised the bookies with John Terry syndrome. Villa will undoubtedly be better than last season but the loss of Kodjia will hit them hard in the goal scoring department. Fulham at 8/1 look better value.

Even better value can be found in the ‘top six finish’ market with over half of the teams in the division in with a genuine chance of getting in the playoff places. For those looking for an outsider, Reading at 9/4 with BetFred look a good bet considering they were in last season’s playoffs; Sheffield Utd too (7/2) have all the credentials for a push from League One champions to Championship contenders.

At the opposite end of the table, poor old Burton again find themselves labelled by the bookies as the division’s over-achievers and 7/5 with 188Bet looks harsh. They’re a gritty, determined, well-drilled team and don’t be surprised if the consolidate their Championship status. Interestingly, Ipswich Town – about to embark on their 16th consecutive season in the Championship – have whetted the bookies’ appetite with regard to a relegation fight, and given their ongoing struggles both on and off the pitch 11/4 for them to go down is not the worst bet in the world. QPR too are threatening to be a big club who find themselves in the mix at the wrong end of the table.

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League One

Blackburn are the division’s big fish and but for a catastrophe of a massive scale should be there or thereabouts come next May. Tony Mowbray took over in the new year and his point-per-game ratio would have good enough for safety if he’d been in situ earlier. The club’s owners, Venky’s, have invested in a way they failed to in the Championship and all things point to a good season. At 4/1 with BetFred there are worse bets out there but the value looks to be with a resurgent Portsmouth at 9/1, who tick all the boxes for a fast-track from League Two to Championship. Bradford and Wigan also figure highly in the betting for the title and neither can be ignored.

In terms of the race for the top six, Charlton and Oxford both offer a tantalising potential return at 5/1, and Peterborough at 11/2 should not be disregarded either.

The race to beat the drop to League Two is a really tough one to call although the bookies seem certain that Oldham will be in that unhealthy mix; as short as evens in some books. Much will depend on how they address their lack of goals between now and the close of the transfer window. Plymouth at 4/1 are arguably the value bet for the punters, although it’s a long shot and if there were a market for mid-table that would be equally attractive.

League Two

In the heart of the boondocks – where many argue the heart and soul of football lies – the Steve Evans factor has propelled Mansfield to the forefront of the bookies’ thoughts. While only finishing 12th last season, this summer has seen a massive turnover in the playing department with 13 new signings; many of whom are considered accomplished players at higher levels. As a result they are going to be strong – no question – and at 5/1 to win the title they’ll appeal to many. Closely following them in the book for champions are Luton – who will indeed be pushing them close – but the real story is around third and fourth in the betting.

Lincoln City, off the back of last season’s promotion and FA Cup exploits will naturally expect the glare of publicity on them and have a good young management team and squad; the big question being will they be able to utilise the momentum from last season in a positive way. At 12/1 with Betfred they’re worthy of a modest wager. Coventry – the current epitome of a fallen giant – will be looking to bounce back from a torrid spell on and off the pitch and in Mark Robins have a manager capable of steadying the ship and some. At 10/1 they too are outsiders but still worthy of consideration.

The race for the top six, those mentioned above aside, brings the likes of Cambridge, Notts County and Chesterfield into play; the former in particular looking a good bet at 4/1 under the stewardship of Shaun Derry. But all three offer reasonable value to the punter.

As ever the battle to stay in the Football League will be tense, nervy and riddled with danger. The bookies have it down as a four-horse race between Morecambe, Crawley, Yeovil and Newport County but it would be no surprise if Cheltenham – after a summer that’s seen many changes – were to get dragged into the relegation mire. They’ll rely heavily on the experience of manager Gary Johnson to steer them through what could be some fairly choppy League Two waters this season. For the punter, at 7/1 to be relegated they may be a little tempting for all the wrong reasons.

Recommende Bets

Fulham @ 8/1 to win the Championship (888sport)
Ipswich @ 11/4 to get relegated from the Championship (888sport)
Peterborough @ 11/2 to make the League One playoffs (Betfred)
Lincoln City @ 12/1 to win League Two (Betfred)

World Athletics Championship London 2017 – Preview & Tips

World Athletics Championship London 2017 – Preview & Tips

It’s nearly five years since the greatest show on Earth shook London’s Olympic Stadium to its very foundations in an unforgettable Olympics that saw, amongst many others, Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Usain Bolt race to glory as they competed against track and fields’ elite.

And the same stadium is braced to do it all again, when, for ten days starting on Friday, it plays host to the 16th IAAF World Championships. It’s an event that began in Helsinki in 1983 and has grown into the sport’s second biggest showcase.

In August 2015 they were held in Beijing, China, where a record 1931 athletes from 207 national federations competed to go faster, further and higher than any other athlete in the world. Interestingly, Kenya topped the medal table for the first time in its history, winning 16 medals in total of which seven were gold. The USA, who have topped the medal table on ten occasions, had be content with third place in the table behind the Jamaicans.

In addition to the London crowd being thrilled by the world’s greatest, some of whom they hope will be from their own shores, there will be at least a couple of occasions for them to celebrate. And that’s because a couple of retrospective medals will be presented during the Championships.

Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill will be one recipient, when she receives a gold relating to the heptathlon in the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu. At the time she was awarded silver but it’s since transpired that the Russian athlete who beat her was a drug cheat. Therefore Jess will be officially awarded the third outdoor world title of her glittering career, ahead of session five on the evening of August 6.

And GB’s 10,000m runner Jo Pavey will receive her first ever World Championships medal when she picks up a bronze that dates back to Osaka in 2007. In similar circumstances to Ennis-Hill, she was denied her rightful medal by a drug cheat but a decade on that wrong is about to be righted. The original bronze medallist Kara Goucher of the USA will be promoted to silver.

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Bolt’s Farewell

The pre-meeting talk has pretty much centred on the fact a certain gent called Usain Bolt is running in his final World Championships and, understandably, it’s something that has occupied column inches and web pages aplenty. Yet, while it’s a seminal moment in the world of sprinting – the pending retirement of the fastest man who ever lived can’t pass without something of a kerfuffle– there are nearly two thousand athletes who are focussed on anything but Bolt’s final hurrah.

No Rudisha

One defending champion who won’t be competing in London is 800m world record holder David Rudisha who has pulled out of the Championships with a quad muscle strain.

The 28-year-old Kenyan is the only person to ever run under one minute 41 seconds for the event and won gold in London at the 2012 Olympics and again in Rio last year. Despite only two weeks ago claiming to be “excited” to return to London, where he set the 800m world record of one minute 40.91 seconds five years ago, he’s picked up a training injury and will not be there to dazzle the London crowd. Although ranked only 19th in the world this year, he would still have been one of the favourites to win a third successive gold medal at the ‘Worlds’.

In Rudisha’s absence, fellow Kenyan Emmanuel Korir and Botswana’s Nijel Amos are expected to battle for the gold medal.

No Jess, but Katarina could win Heptathlon for the Brits

While Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill will be there to collect her 2011 gold, at 8-months pregnant and now retired she won’t be wowing the home crowd on the track and field. That task now belongs to Katarina Johnson-Thompson; the latest in a long line of high quality multi-event athletes to be produced from the shores of the UK.

And she’ll be looking to put the disappointment of Beijing behind her – when her bid for glory was blown by no-marking in the long jump – and having made changes and steps forwards since then, she registered a lifetime best score back in May. With a noisy home crowd behind her she has a chance and has the ability to push Belgium’s current Olympic champion Nafi Thiam all the way.

Fastest Women on Earth

All eyes will be on the men’s 100m for obvious reasons but for one of the titanic battles of the championships week look no further than the women’s 100m.

With women’s sprinting in rude health it will be a captivating event for the London crowd as double Olympic gold medallist Elaine Thompson of Jamaica – who enters the event in scintillating form as the world’s quickest female100m athlete – takes on Dutch sprinter Dafne Schippers and USA’s Olympic silver medallist Tori Bowie. The trio are fierce competitors and rivals and are promising fireworks.

For the home crowd there are another trio of athletes behind whom they’ll be sure to offer their vocal backing. GB’s Desiree Henry, Asha Philip and Daryll Neita – three of GB’s bronze medal-winning 4x100m quartet from Rio2012 – will all look to perform well in their home city. Philip, at 26 the most experienced athlete of the group, was victorious at the European Indoor Championships over 60m and so has some decent form behind her, while Henry is ranked no.1 in the UK and Neita, at just 20, is fast improving and will gain from the experience.

The above is but a snapshot of what’s on offer over what promised to be a thrilling ten days of competition; the timetable of which can be found on the IAAF’s official site.

Recommended Bets:

To win Men’s 100m: Yohan Blake – 5/1
To win Heptathlon:  Katarina Johnson-Thompson – 13/2
To win Men’s 110m Hurdles: Sergey Shubenkov – 9/2
To win Decathlon: Trey Hardee – 9/2

UFC Fight Night 114: Sergio Pettis vs Brandon Moreno

UFC Fight Night 114 Sergio Pettis vs Brandon Moreno

The UFC returns to Mexico City, Mexico on 5 August with an event packed with nine rising Mexican mixed martial artists. Brandon Moreno (14-3) acts as the local star in a bout between two young UFC flyweight prospects when he goes up against Sergio Pettis (15-2) in the main event.

Sergio Pettis has put together a three-win streak with consecutive unanimous decision victories over John Moraga, Chris Kelades and Chris Cariaso. MMA fans have long been waiting for Sergio Pettis to make his move up the UFC’s flyweight rankings and his decisive victory over John Moraga pushed him all the way up to #6.

Brandon Moreno arrived on the scene after featuring on The Ultimate Fighter: Tournament of Champions. Moreno was the designated #16 (and last) seed in the tournament but challenged #1 seed Alexandre Pantoja in an exciting first-round affair. Since then, the UFC signed him and put him up on a late-notice fight with Louis Smolka. Moreno went on to defeat Smolka, Ryan Benoit and Dustin Ortiz and has bounced all the way up to #7 in the UFC’s rankings.

The co-main event features Alexa Grasso, a Mexican fan-favorite in a battle with Randa Markos. Grasso joined the UFC as a highly-touted 23-year-old prospect and won her debut against Heather Clark at UFC Fight Night 88. Grasso’s dream run had come to a halt when she lost a shock unanimous decision victory to Felice Herrig in February this year. Grasso’s opponent, Markos, enters this fight after her best performance in the UFC to date. Markos defeated Carla Esparza via split decision in February after entering as a moderate underdog.

Also featuring on the card are entertaining main card matchups between Alan Jouban and Niko Price, Martin Bravo and Humberto Bandenay, Rashad Evans and Sam Alvey and Alejandro Perez will face Andre Soukhamthath.

Sergio Pettis is one of the more well-rounded fighters in the flyweight division. He’s up against the often wild and reckless Brandon Moreno, who has found a way to win in all three of his contests in the UFC so far. This time, Pettis will out work with him technically sound striking.

Recommended Bet:

Sergio Pettis vs Brandon Moreno
Sunday 6th August – 1:00 am (ET) /  5:00am GMT
Sergio Pettis to Win (+175, 7/4, $2.75) 

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Main Card – 10pm ET / 2am GMT

Sergio Pettis vs Brandon Moreno – Main Event

Randa Markos vs Alexa Grasso – Co-Main Event

Alan Jouban vs Niko Price

Martin Bravo vs Humberto Bandenay

Sam Alvey vs Rashad Evans

Alejandro Perez vs Andre Soukhamthath

Prelims – 8pm ET / 12am GMT

Bradley Scott vs Jack Hermansson

Dustin Ortiz vs Hector Sandoval

Henry Briones vs Rani Yahya

Jose Quinonez vs Diego Rivas

Fight Pass Prelims –7pm ET / 11pm GMT

Joseph Morales vs Roberto Sanchez

Alvaro Herrera vs Jordan Rinaldi