Heading into the month of February, it was completely fair to say...
UFC 207 Rousey vs Nunes
UFC 207 is the final event of the year for the promotion and they are banking heavily on the return of their former biggest star Ronda Rousey to help sell the card. Fans who do turn in for Rousey should get their money’s worth with a strong potential action packed match-ups. There are multiple story lines throughout the card on top of the two title fights; consisting of contrasting style match-ups and a title fight with legit bad blood between the combatants facing one another. The card should be great despite losing one of the main attractions of Cain Velasquez vs Fabricio Werdum being pulled from the card, due to Velasquez not getting medically cleared to fight. Fans love stoppages, and there is the potential for several stoppages on this card. Below, I will breakdown the fights on this card that I find the most interesting, along with some fight predictions to hopefully help your bank accounts. Let’s get to the fights:
Notable Preliminary Fight:
Johny “Big Rig” Hendricks (6th) vs Neil Magny (8th) (Welterweight 170lbs)
Preview: Johny Hendricks career is in precarious place, having only won one time in his last three fights after losing his belt to Robbie Lawler a little over two years ago. He continues to struggle to make the 170lbs weight limit, despite being a relatively small welterweight. Unfortunately, he once again came in over the 170lbs limit for this fight. His inability to make weight cost him part of his purse, which goes to Magny to keep the fight on the card. He had spats with the media about his weight cutting leading up to the fight, and his disappointing performances in his last two bouts really calls into question, are his days as a top contender coming to a close. The UFC did him no favors pairing him against an incredibly difficult Neil Magny. Both fighters are looking for the chance to break back into the top 5 in the division. Magny will maintain a huge size and reach advantage over Hendricks; as he is 6 inches taller than Big Rig, and has a colossal 11 inch reach advantage. Throw in the fact that Hendricks weight cutting difficulties have hurt his cardio and he is facing arguably one of the most resilient cardio freaks in Magny. Fighters have hit Magny with everything they have but he somehow manages to get stronger as the fight progresses. This makes the Hendricks game plan a difficult one, as he will need to find a way to close the distance against Magny’s massive height & reach advantage, while simultaneously not tiring himself out against a guy who does not tire. It may sound counter-intuitive for a guy struggling with his cardio, and fighting an ironed chinned opponent, but Hendricks only hope is likely a first round stoppage. Magny does get hit frequently despite being such a tough opponent, and if Hendricks still has any of his old power in him, he could stop Magny with a perfect shot. However, Magny likely will force Hendricks to earn every inch of space as he attempts to close the distance against him. Expect a lot of leg kicks, snapping long jabs, and body work to test Hendricks cardio and resolve in the early rounds.
Odds: Hendricks (+110) vs Magny (-120)
Prediction: Guys who miss weight are a big pet peeve of mine, as well as UFC president Dana White. I know how difficult weight cutting is, and yet missing weight shows disrespect to your opponent, and the fight fans. Multiple offenders like Hendricks worry me with their long-term career health, as extreme weight cuts tend to inhibit performance over time. Hendricks appears to fall into that category, as his weight cuts have gotten more difficult his performance has also decreased. This make taking a side in the fight a very logical one for me in a coin flip fight; give me the young, bigger, stronger, faster, and better conditioned fighter vs the one who couldn’t make the basic requirement of weighing a certain weight for the fight. I think Magny punishes Hendricks with constant pressure, and potentially breaks his spirit late in the 3rd round on route to a dominant victory.
(Magny via TKO -120)
Notable PPV Fights:
John “Hands of Stone” Lineker (2nd) vs TJ Dillashaw (1st) (Bantamweight 135lbs)
Preview: This fight is the first of two classic style clash fights on this card in the bantamweight division. The fights match-up smooth super technical fighters vs. raw earth shattering power strikers. TJ Dillashaw is the epitome of the former, in that he is as close as it comes to replicating the Bantamweight champion Dominic Cruz’s lightning fast footwork, and multi-faceted super technical attacking style that overwhelms opponents. He hopes that a victory against the rock fist John Lineker secures him a rematch against the Champion Cruz or a shot at the new champ Cody Garbrandt if he manages to take the belt from Cruz. In order to get there he’ll have to commit to his movement and defense to survive his bout with Lineker. Dillashaw will enjoy a significant height advantage of almost three inches, something he typically does not get the benefit of in most of his fights. Lineker comes into the fight having won 10 of his last 11 fights, and the cardio to back up his brutal power that can change a fight at any moment. He does have experience against a fast-moving opponent similar to Dillashaw in his last fight where he defeated John Dodson, the only man to ever stop Dillashaw in his mixed martial arts career. He’ll have to implement a similar game plan he used against Dodson if he expects to repeat that success against Dillashaw. Lineker used constant pressure and well-timed bombs to wear down the quicker more athletic Dodson. Dillashaw has likely studied the Dodson tape, and noticed that Lineker is most effective coming forward pushing the action forcing his opponent to exchange with him. Dillashaw will likely try use his angles to counter that aggression, and prevent getting clipped in any wild exchanges. Fans could be in for some beautiful counter-striking from Dillashaw mixed with some raw aggressive power from Lineker in a back and forth fight.
Odds: Lineker (+200) vs Dillashaw (-250)
Prediction: I expect we’ll see some moments when Dillashaw is in some trouble. However, as long as Dillashaw can avoid a flush massive overhand shot from Lineker I think he busts Lineker up over the course of three rounds utilizing his speed advantage to disrupt Lineker’s attack. He’s fought some big punchers in his career and been able to neutralize their power, so I expect no different from him in this fight. Dillashaw must commit first when he chooses to exchange with Lineker preventing him from generating the big fight changing punch that could put his lights out. I think Dillashaw is a good play even at the –odd, but I’m going to go with a bonus play of taking under 2.5 rounds giving some back up if either Dillashaw or Lineker lands a show stopping punch due to my expectations of there being a few wild unpredictable exchanges in this fight.
(Dillashaw -250) via Submission) / Bonus Play: (Under 2.5 +155)
Cody “No Love” Garbrandt (5th) vs Dominick “The Dominator” Cruz (Champion) (Bantamweight Championship 135lbs)
Preview: In the 2nd fight of the power vs technique style clash Dominick Cruz the Bantamweight Champion will take on Cody Garbrandt in the co-main event of the night. These two fighters legitimately do not like one another. Many fighters will put on a show to sell a fight that they do not like one another, while not really having any major issues with one another. This is not the case between these two. They’ve been chirping at one another well before their fight got signed, and its only gotten louder as their fight day has approached. Both men are known obsessive competitors who take every single slight personally in their quest to get known as the best at their craft. Dominick Cruz has been untouchable since his early career defeat in Strike Force to Urijah Faber. Only injuries have kept “The Dominator” from being the longest serving UFC champion outside of Demetrious Johnson. Name a top bantamweight fighter, and Cruz has beaten them or flat out embarrassed them. He’s a master of footwork, distance, and angles keeping his opponents constantly guessing as they swing at air and eat Cruz’s counter-punches. His opponent Cody Garbrandt is a different kind of breed for a 135lbs fighter. He has a mean streak that is evident in all of his fights, he enjoys hurting his opponents, and possesses the power to hurt anyone in his weight class with a single punch. Garbrandt has a legitimate boxing background which gives him a significant striking advantage over most of his opponents. He willing looks for exchanges because he trusts his power and boxing skills to prevail against whomever he faces. He has not been wrong to trust that skill set as he is a perfect 10-0 in his young mixed martial arts career. An edge fans can expect Cruz to try to exploit is his three-inch reach advantage over Garbrandt. I expect a lot of quick defensive jabs to keep Garbrandt off-balance, and attempt to throw his timing off preventing a big shot to hit Cruz clean. Both men have cardio but only Cruz’s has been tested in a five round championship fight. Garbrandt typically dispatches his opponents early and decisively so if this fight goes in the 4th or 5th rounds, it will be interesting to see if he truly has the cardio to keep up with Cruz’s pace. Cruz has mastefully wound Garbrandt up in the lead ups to this fight, recognizing his opponent has an easy temper to poke. Will Garbrandt understand that he will need to fight a perfect fight if he wants to stop Cruz the way he envisions, or does he get so enamored with an early stoppage of Cruz that he over commits and finds himself getting pieced up by the faster Cruz as the fight progresses.
Odds: Garbrandt (+185) vs Cruz (-220)
Prediction: My first gut reaction is Cruz is the champ for a reason, and Garbrandt while impressive has not beaten anyone whom is even in the same stratosphere as Cruz. However, you watch how Garbrandt has dispatched of some of his opponents, some of whom have been known to have legit chins, and it makes me reconsider. Garbrandt has that division changing power, similar to that of McGregor when he stormed his way through the featherweight division. Many people scoffed at McGregor’s power until he knocked Jose Aldo out cold in less than 20 secs. Now I’m not saying Garbrandt is McGregor but he’s got some similarities when you watch how much his power changes fights. I think the first two rounds of this fight will be scary if you a Cruz backer as Garbrandt may attempt to punch Cruz’s head through the cage if he can get his hands on him. However, I think if Cruz can avoid one of those massive punches I think he begins to figure out Garbrandt and frustrates him on route to a clear decision victory. I think Cruz may even humiliate Garbrandt late in the 5th with some taunting or showing off as Garbrandt tires having spent all of his energy on aggression in the earlier rounds. Cruz’s mastery largely goes unacknowledged outside of the diehard MMA community, but I think he’ll put on a masterpiece dismantling possibly the toughest and hardest hitting guy in his division for five rounds. (Cruz -220) via Unanimous Decision) / Bonus Play: (Over 3.5 -120)
Main Event (Women’s Bantamweight Championship Fight)
Ronda “Rowdy” Rousey (1st) vs Amanda “Lioness” Nunes (Champ) (Bantamweight Championship Fight 135lbs)
Preview: The last time the public saw the once invincible Rousey, she was getting her head kicked off by a criminally underrated 10 to 1 underdog Holly Holm in Australia well over a year ago. Everyone knows the story by now, Rousey suffered a brutal knockout, concussion, and an “unconfirmed” broken jaw at the hands & feet of Holm. Her female “Mike Tyson” persona got destroyed and her willingness to continue fighting with the promotion became uncertain all in a single night. A year later, a few limited carefully crafted media appearances, select puff pieces about her rededication to her training, and overcoming the mental challenges after suffering her first MMA defeat she will return to the octagon against a very dangerous champion in Amanda Nunes. Amanda Nunes is the champion, but you would not know it from the UFC promos and hype leading up to this fight. She has her own story to, being the first openly gay and Brazilian female UFC champion ever is no small story line, but you would not know that looking at the limited press for this fight. No one disputes Rousey is the ‘A side’ fighter in this fight; she is one of the few cross over stars the promotion has ever had, and her return is what will sell these pay-per-views. However, if you watch the limited press she’s done she seems to think her flaws against Holm were flukes and its certainty she’ll be champion again no matter what Nunes brings to the Octagon. I think similarly to the Holm fight, this is a gross underestimation of her opponent. Amanda Nunes is the champion because she is a bad woman, who can punish her opponents with her aggressive striking and black belt ju-jitsu on the mat. She will have a slight height and reach advantage, along with having a decent take down defense like Holly Holm possessed in her fight against Rousey. By all accounts Rousey is in phenomenal shape, and she looked the part at her weigh-ins. However, being out of the octagon for an entire year and this sudden refusal to entertain any press or promotion is a little concerning if you are Rousey fan expecting to see the old Rousey dominate an opponent. Rousey has kept her old camp despite numerous experts stating she needs to improve in some areas that her current corner man is unable to provide. In the end Rousey likely will be in great shape and fall back on what got her to the top in the first place; her judo and her arm bar. Nunes strategy will be like Holm in that she’ll attempt to keep Rousey from getting her in the clinch which allows her to scramble into her favorite arm bar position. This will require Nunes to either effectively counter-strike or take the fight to Rousey and test her chin early in the fight. Many fighters never recover after the type of knockout Rousey suffered, and I think Nunes camp at American Top Team may look to see if she is in fact the same fighter she was before the Holm knockout. The first round of this fight could be an absolute barn burner if both women look to take the fight to their opponent. I think if the fight goes past the first two rounds, Rousey does possess the better cardio as Nunes biggest flaw has been her over committing her energy earlier in fights leading to her fading if she can’t put her opponent away. If Rousey can keep her composure early and weather Nunes typical fast start, she could look for a submission as Nunes wears down in the championship rounds.
Odds: Rousey (-140) vs Nunes (+130)
Prediction: I have gone back and forth with this fight since it’s been announced. On the one hand, Nunes aggressive tendencies play directly into Rousey’s ability to hip toss her opponents and submit them. However, Nunes is not Meisha Tate, Liz Carmouche, or Bethe Correia; all decent but extremely average fighters Rousey ran through on her way to capturing the title. Nunes is not average, she is likely one of if not the hardest hitting 135lbs women’s fighter in the division. The main reason I’m hesitant to pick Rousey is that no one knows what they are getting out of her come fight night. Rousey’s talks of suicide, retirement, and an unwillingness to do any promotion for the fight raises flags as to whether or not she even wants to continue to fight anymore. We know Rousey’s in shape, but outside of that we do not know much else about where she is mentally. Nunes is not going to have any sympathy for Rousey once she enters the cage. She knows her belt is on the line and a change to make her own name for herself if she can end Rousey’s career in emphatic fashion. I think if this fight some how makes it to the scorecards, Rousey wins any close decisions if it goes to the judges. I hope Nunes’s corner is being honest with her about her chances if the fight goes the distance as she will not get any favors done for her by the promotion or the judges in a close fight. She has to finish Rousey to get a win. This fight comes down to a very basic question: Is Rousey still who she was before the Holm fight, or is she now a degraded fighter who can no longer take a punch from a world-class fighter. We will all find out Friday night, but I have to make a pick: so I take the champion who seemingly is coming into her own at + odds, instead of a former champion I cannot be certain wants to even be in that Octagon. Regardless of who wins, I think this fight does not make it out of the first round either way; so if you worry about taking a side, take the under 1 round prop at close to even money, if you can find it.
(Amanda Nunes (+130) via TKO) / Bonus Play: Under 1 Round (-150)
Prediction Record Year to Date (23-21-0) (-$356)
-Record & predictions based on Win vs Loss predictions only. Unless specified otherwise I use increments of $100 (for + odds predictions) & $110 (for – odds bets) as hypothetical wagers for each prediction.
-Predictions & Records are for entertainment value only
*Stats via www.UFC.com