By: Rich Bergeron
UFC 207 marks the long-awaited return of “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey (12-1) to an Octagon she once dominated as the women’s bantamweight champion. The title taken from Rousey in dramatic fashion by Holly Holm is now around the capable waist of Amanda Nunes (13-4). Rousey will have a chance to rip it off and put it back around her own hips on December 30th.
Rousey’s been out of the cage for over a year, and she already confirmed recently that her career in mixed martial arts is coming to a close. Nunes is young, hungry and intimidating as the underdog (+150) looking to hold on to her belt against the legendary Judoka and MMA juggernaut. Rousey comes in as the favorite at -185.
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There are more questions than answers going into this blockbuster event. Will Rousey shake off the ring rust and return to glory? Is she already one step toward retirement? Can Nunes quiet her doubters and continue to degrade the legacy of the first ever UFC women’s bantamweight champion? Whatever happens, the first round will be crucial. Both women will be looking to make it a quick night.
Prediction: Rousey comes back with a vengeance and displays much improved striking and kick defense. Nunes battles hard and represents the best Brazil has to offer, but Ronda has too much to lose. She may not have a perfect record to protect anymore, but she does have a perfect reason to win this fight. She also needs to establish her alpha status to shut her own critics up and prove she is back to reclaim her title. Rousey wins by knockout early in the second round.
Another UFC bantamweight title is on the line in the co-main event. Dominic Cruz (22-1) gives Cody Garbrandt (10-0) a crack at the belt in what could be a true slugfest. Though Cody never lost a fight and knocked out nine of his ten career opponents at the professional level, Dominic Cruz (-225) is rolling along on a 13-fight win streak that dates back to March of 2008. Garbrandt (+175) does represent a proverbial “puncher’s chance” here, though. He’s won his last three bouts by TKO or knockout. All of them ended thank’s to Cody’s lighting fast punching power.
Prediction: Considering that Cruz is a tactical, defensive fighter, he will thrive as the fight gets into the deeper rounds. Garbrandt cannot win without a first round knockout as the experience and raw talent Cruz brings to the cage is unique and dynamic. He makes adjustments like no other fighter and uses body and head movement that seems to confound every opponent he’s faced in recent years. Cody will have to catch “The Dominator” to connect with him, and he’ll have just one round to do it. Cruz wins by late round TKO or Unanimous Decision.
A heavyweight clash between Fabricio Werdum (21-6-1) and Cain Velasquez (14-2) is also featured at UFC 207. The fight is a rematch of a UFC 188 war between the two goliaths, which ended with Werdum winning the championship bout by third-round submission (Guillotine choke).
This time around, Velasquez is the favored fighter (-210) while Werdum is a +170 underdog. This is another brawler vs. tactician match-up, and it could go either way. Werdum showed a weak chin against Stipe Miocic, and Cain will be looking for every opportunity to check it.
Prediction: Velasquez dispatches Werdum inside of two rounds. Cain’s striking is superior to Werdum, and he will not make the mistake of letting Werdum take the fight to the ground this time. Velasquez by KO.
Neil Magny (18-5) and Johny Hendricks (17-5) come into the cage for UFC 207 as two of the best welterweights in the league. Both are experiencing some ups and downs in sport lately, though. Magny had a three fight win streak stopped by Lorenz Larkin in his last bout while Hendricks lost three out of his last four fights. Hendricks is a far cry from his former self and a long way from his championship days. Stephen Thompson wiped the mat with Hendricks en route to a brutal TKO before Kelvin Gastelum stepped into the cage across from the former champ and took home a unanimous decision after three hard fought rounds.
Prediction: Magny is the more durable and dynamic fighter, and Hendricks can’t get close enough to land his best power shots. Magny will stop Hendricks’ advances, deny his takedown attempts and submit or stop the former champ before the final bell. Magny by third-round TKO.
Leading off the main card is another fight involving a former champion. T.J. Dillashaw (13-3) battles journeyman John “Hands of Stone” Lineker (29-7) in a bantamweight fight bound to be a future classic. Lineker brings an intensity, power and accuracy that is simply astonishing to witness. Dillashaw moves around the cage like an Irish stepdancer, dodging attacks like a Mexican bullfighter. Lineker showed in his last bout with John Dodson that he can be a crafty, technical fighter as well.
Prediction: What T.J. lacks is Lineker’s strength: POWER. Lineker will learn to find his range in the second round and start to penetrate Dillashaw’s unorthodox defense. Midway through the third round he will catch T.J. backing up and end the fight on the feet with a brutal series of punches, kicks, knees and elbows against the cage. Lineker by third-round TKO.