UFC 207 takes place this Friday night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Amanda Nunes vs. Ronda Rousey
A brutal KO loss to Holly Holm in late 2015, followed by a year-long layoff and a media blackout leading into her comeback fight has left more questions than answers about Rousey’s chances of returning to the dominant form that made her a global superstar.
What we do know is that she’s still as dangerous as ever with her judo throws and signature armbar submission – that’s all permanently ingrained into her muscle memory – and judging by her physical condition heading into UFC 207, she’s been working on the cardio issues she showed last time out too.
Will she be able to get into range to utilize those skills though? Holm showed Rousey can be throw off by footwork, angles and sharp counter-striking, which are all aspects of the fight game that Nunes has the ability to showcase on Friday night.
Nunes is also a harder-hitter than Holm and possesses a true killer instinct, and given that Rousey has always been quite hittable, that could put her in real trouble if her weakened chin isn’t up to the challenge.
Nunes will have to curb some of her aggressive instincts though as too much aggression and forward-pressure in the early stages of the fight could draw her into Rousey’s judo wheelhouse, using her momentum against her, and while the Brazilian is very dangerous on top on the mat, she’s far less effective from her back.
The champion also has a tendency to start strong and then fade in the later rounds, so it’ll be interesting to see who can hold it together better if they aren’t able to get the fast finish that they are both accustomed to.
This is a tough one to call. Part of the reason Rousey lost last time out was that she became too confident in her striking, rather than just focusing on what she’s best at. In such a high pressure situation I doubt she’ll make the same mistake tomorrow night and will be hunting for that quick armbar submission finish to get her life back on track.
What happens if she can’t get it though? I just don’t have a lot of faith in her other fighting abilities based on what we’ve seen before. On the other hand, cardio issues aside, Nunes is an excellent fighter with superior striking and movement as well as being dangerous offensively on the mat, so I am leaning more towards the champion, while accepting the fact that Rousey may well make anyone who doubted her look foolish if Nunes plays her game.
Amanda Nunes to win by TKO in Rd2.
Dominick Cruz vs. Cody Garbrandt
Whatever happens tomorrow night, it’s truly remarkable that Cruz has made it back to the top of the bantamweight pile after the exceptionally long layoff and career-threatening injuries he’s endured over the years.
The fact that the cerebral star still looks as good as ever with his unique, herky-jerky, hard-to-hit style is also somewhat of a miracle, and he’ll need every ounce of that against Garbrandt who has huge one-punch power for a bantamweight.
Garbrandt is not a one-trick pony though as he’s an all-round technical striker with good footwork, speed and combinations.
That being said, Garbrandt is essentially untested against top ranked competition and has rarely ever gone past the first round in his career, let alone faced the prospect of going five rounds.
On the other hand, Cruz is accustomed to winning by decision after frustrating his opponents for a full 25 minutes and has proven himself time and time again, so it’s hard to pick against him here, though all it might take is one big connection from Garbrandt to completely turn the fight on it’s head.
Dominick Cruz to win by decision.
T.J. Dillashaw vs. John Lineker
In many respects this fight is a lot like the co-main event, with Dillashaw operating like a more youthful version of Dominick Cruz in certain respects, while Lineker has the same kind of bone-crunching power as Cody Garbrandt.
In fact, Lineker might actually have the edge in terms of one-punch power and also has a stellar chin, though he’s more limited technically than Garbrandt in the striking department.
Like Cruz, Dillashaw has the style to beat that with his excellent use of distance and movement to set up his strikes, and he puts his combinations together in a more potent manner than the champion.
This is a dangerous fight for Dillashaw, but though Lineker could switch his lights out with one punch I think the Brazilian will prove to be too flat-footed and one-dimensional on the night, with the former champion emerging with a solid decision win.
TJ Dillashaw to win by decision.
Dong Hyun Kim vs. Tarec Saffiedine
Despite arriving as Strikeforce’s last ever welterweight champion, Saffiedine hasn’t made a big impression yet in the UFC with only four fights in three years due to injury woes, going 2-2 during that period.
This doesn’t look like a great match-up for the striker to show what he’s capable if Kim sticks with what he’s best at – closing the distance and taking his opponent to the mat, where his dominant, stifling top control will be a nightmare for a limited grappler like Saffiedine to deal with.
That being said, Kim has developed a desire to finish fights on the feet in more recent years, which has led to some spectacular finishes, but he can be overly offensive and neglect his defense, which would leave holes a skilled striker like Saffiedine could exploit.
Still, I think Kim uses his grappling to notch up his seventh win in his past eight fights.
Dong Hyun Kim to win by decision.
Louis Smolka vs. Ray Borg
This should be a close encounter between two talented flyweights who are looking to bounce back from losses last time out.
Smolka has the edge on the feet and is capable on the mat, but I think Borg has the overall edge in terms of grappling and that will carry him to a closely contested decision victory.
Ray Borg to win by decision.
Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)
Johny Hendricks vs. Neil Magny
Alex Garcia vs. Mike Pyle
Tim Means vs. Alex Oliveira
Antonio Carlos Junior vs. Marvin Vettori
Brandon Thatch vs. Niko Price