UFC 207 Preview: All Eyes On Rousey

It has been over a year since UFC superstar Ronda Rousey lost in devastating fashion at UFC 193. Her long road back finally comes to its end in Las Vegas, the home of UFC 207. On Friday Dec. 30, women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes will await her arrival in what is sure to be an exciting affair.

The co-main event features bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz against rising star Cody “No Love” Garbrandt. There is no love lost between these two; they have been chirping at each other even prior to their match-up being announced.

T.J. Dillashaw, who held the bantamweight strap until he lost to Dominick Cruz earlier this year, returns to the ring. He fights the scrappy and undersized John Lineker in a battle of top contenders.

The bout between former heavyweight champions Fabricio Werdum and Cain Velasquez is off according to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto. Velasquez was deemed unfit to fight by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and had complained of back pain that flared up during his training camp.

As a whole,UFC 207 offers big names that should bring a ton of excitement to the octagon. Let’s get to the predictions:

Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes (13-4) vs. No. 1 Women’s Bantamweight contender Ronda Rousey (12-1)

The long awaited return of Rousey is finally upon us. She took her sweet time, working on movies, commercials and making appearances on Ellen as well. But her return to the octagon has created a buzz that the UFC desperately needed during Conor McGregor’s off time.

Meanwhile Nunes is one of the least heralded champions in recent memory. She has been completely overshadowed by the return of Rousey. But that would all change with a victory over the biggest women’s star in the sport.

Nunes has dangerous power in her hands. Her overhand right from hell can put anyone down with a single swing. Although she isn’t a traditional striker, like Holly Holm, her striking will still pose a problem for Rousey, who has a penchant for taking a lot of shots. Elbows, kicks and knees are all a part of her repertoire as well.

If the fight hits the mat Nunes is capable of holding her own against most opponents. Her ground and pound from the top is very powerful. She also has three submission finishes in her career, all by rear naked choke. But Rousey is not a normal opponent.

Rousey is easily the most explosive challenger Nunes has ever seen. Her judo trips and throws almost always put her into advantageous positions on the ground. Her go to move, the armbar, is predicated by her ability to move into these dominant positions.

Standing up is where Rousey has less success. She has a tendency to eat a lot of shots because she is always going all out, often blitzing her opponents. It has worked successfully, like against Bethe Correia. It also failed her against the counter-attack of Holly Holm. Her clinch game is also lethal, often throwing powerful knees and uppercuts.

Even though there are questions about Nunes’s stamina, Rousey has never fought past the third round either. I don’t see this one getting to the late championship rounds. I question whether Rousey is psychologically prepared for a battle against an opponent of this magnitude.

Prediction: Nunes by KO second round

Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz (22-1) vs. No. 5 Bantamweight contender Cody “No Love” Garbrandt (10-0)

Cruz’s career is one of perseverance and dominance. He has won 13 straight fights, with his last loss coming in 2007 to MMA legend Urijah Faber. Even though he sustained multiple knee injuries in 2011, he battled back to reclaim the title he was forced to give up.

The footwork of Cruz is impeccable. He often looks untouchable. This is because of his ability to predict what his opponent will do and using angles to his advantage. His striking is very unorthodox and nearly unpredictable. He mixes up his shots with uppercuts, jabs, overhands and can kick all levels of the body.

Garbrandt is a man that is capable of knocking out anyone with just one shot. But the main strategy he employs is a full on blitz of his opponent. He has a killer instinct and knows when to go for the finish. “No Love” has secured nine of his 10 wins by knockout.

Neither man will look to take the fight to the ground. Between the two of them they have one submission finish; Cruz secured a win by rear naked choke way back in 2006. Garbrandt will want to turn this into a slugfest, while Cruz will be fine with methodically picking apart his opponent. Hitting Cruz clean has been easier said than done. He has never been knocked out and I don’t see that changing.

Prediction: Cruz by unanimous decision

No. 1 Bantamweight contender T.J. Dillashaw (14-3) vs. No. 2 Bantamweight contender John “Hands of Stone” Lineker (29-7)

These two bantamweight contenders are looking to earn a victory and fight for the title in the near future. Whether that comes to fruition or not depends on the result of the co-main event. Either way, this is a very important bout for both fighters.

Dillashaw was the last person to really challenge Cruz, when Cruz defeated him by split decision earlier this year in Boston. Dillashaw actually outstruck him in the fight but couldn’t secure the takedowns like his adversary.

Even though he couldn’t take down Cruz consistently, Dillashaw should look to land some takedowns against the very aggressive Lineker. Recently Dillashaw has relied heavily on his stand-up game, but he has good ground and pound from dominant positions and could look to utilize that to his advantage against the undersized Lineker.

Lineker is a brawler. He likes to push the pace, and take a punch to land a few. That could play right into Dillashaw’s counter punches, but Lineker has one-punch knockout power. Cardio will not be an issue with Lineker. He’s like the Energizer bunny; he keeps going and going.

The footwork of Dillashaw should keep him out of trouble and even if it doesn’t, he should be able to shoot for takedowns against the smaller Lineker.

Prediction: Dillashaw by unanimous decision