The UFC is back at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC 207, and the return of Ronda Rousey. The former bantamweight champion is back, and she will get a shot at the title against ‘The Lioness’, Amanda Nunes. In addition to that title bout, we’ll also see Dominick Cruz and Cody Garbrandt do battle for the men’s bantamweight belt in the co-main event.
While this card has lost a little luster recently with the Cain Velasquez suspension and cancellation of his rematch bout with Fabricio Werdum. That was going to be a war. And we lost the Maryna Moroz-Jessica Andrade fight due to an injury to Moroz. But the bantamweight battle between TJ Dillashaw and John Lineker should still be a good one, however, as well as the welterweight scrap between veterans Johny Hendricks and Neil Magny. It’s a tidy 10-fight card, so the night will fly on by.
Would I buy this pay-per-view? Well, no. But like most, I am curious to see how Rousey responds after her lengthy layoff. All indications are she is locked in, and she looks jacked. But she hasn’t fought since Nov. 14, 2015, and hasn’t won since Aug. 1, 2015 against Bethe Correia. Will there be rust? And, mentally, where is she? Nunes will help us find out in a big hurry.
Play in Win $250 for minimal investment at DraftKings.com — If you’re feeling confident, for $3 you have a chance at a $250 top prize, and $5,000 guaranteed money. Build that bankroll up with minimal risk! (DraftKings.com salaries in parentheses) (all times ET).
Again, on a personal note, this is my final column with the good guys at DailyRoto.com. Thank you for reading over the years, and Happy New Year to everyone!
Dominick Cruz ($8,700 vs. Cody Garbrandt): Cruz-Garbrandt is going to be a good one, and might be a better fight than the Nunes-Rousey bout. Cruz hasn’t lost since WEC 26 way back on March 24, 2007 against ‘The California Kid’, Urijah Faber. Cruz avenged that loss at UFC 132, and again at UFC 199, to keep his title at the bantamweight division. He has pushed aside Faber, TJ Dillashaw, Takeya Mizugaki and Demetrious Johnson over his past four bouts, and he will not be intimidated by Garbrandt, who has risen quickly up the ranks.
Garbrandt has youth on his side, as Cruz is six years his elder, but the champ is certainly not in the twilight at just 31. The key for Cruz will be to keep make Garbrandt take chances to get close and go for the kill on the counter. Garbrandt has nine knockouts in his 10 wins, so Cruz will want to keep him at a distance. A kick by Cruz could very well end this and send Garbrandt to his first-career UFC setback.
TJ Dillashaw ($8,800 vs. John Lineker): Dillashaw served as champion of the bantamweight divison after dropping Renan Barao at UFC 173. He kept his title at UFC 177 with a KO/TKO win over Joe Soto, topped Barao again at UFC on FOX 16, and was champ for over two years until this past summer. That’s when he lost a somewhat controversial split-decision bout against Dominick Cruz at UFC Fight Night back on Jan. 17. He rebounded with a win against Raphael Assuncao at UFC 200, avenging a loss to the Brazilian three years earlier. Now, Dillashaw is looking to continue his ascent with a convincing win over Lineker and get back to the top of the heap. He is better with this feet than Lineker, both in his footwork and powerful kicks. Dillashaw is more well rounded, and assuming he keeps under control and isn’t goaded into a free-swinging brawl with Lineker, technique will win the day.
Ray Borg ($7,900 vs. Louis Smolka): Borg-Smolka is the opener after the Moroz-Andrade bout was scrapped, and it’s a great fight right out of the gate. Borg is looking to bounce back after getting dropped by Justin Scoggins at UFC Fight Night 82. Like Hendricks below, injuries and illness has been a concern for Borg, who was idle over the summer due to a plethora of issues. He is a go now, healthy and well rested, and at 23 he is still just scratching the surface. Both are pretty strong grapplers, but Borg might be better on the mat than his opponent. He will try and get Smolka down early and often, trying to avoid the kicking prowess of his opponent. Borg might need the judges assistance for a decision, but he will come away the winner.
Johny Hendricks ($8,000 vs. Neil Magny): ‘Bigg Rigg’ will have a six-inch height disadvantage against the lengthier Magny, as he looks to erase a two-bout losing streak, and win for the second time in just five bouts dating back to his championship victory at UFC 171 over ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler. It seems like forever ago that Hendricks was on top, and now he is simply fighting to hang on. Injuries and illness have already derailed him in recent years, but all is well now. Hendricks will be desperate to avoid a three-bout losing streak and will throw everything and the kitchen sink at Magny to avoid another dejecting loss. Take the slight underdog in this one.
Ronda Rousey ($8,400 vs. Amanda Nunes): Can you imagine getting Rousey at this price, as your No. 3 starter, before her first-career loss? Her salary is amazingly low, but there are just so many questions surrounding her return. They might be answered in the very first minute with a Rowdy, ‘rousing’ submission victory or knockout of Nunes, erasing all doubt that she is back, or she could struggle, have it go to the judges card, something we have never seen before. Or she could lose again, and she might really be done. Who knows? As a No. 3 fighter it is worth finding out, however.
Marvin Vettori ($8,100 vs. Antonio Carlos Junior): Carlos Junior has been terribly inconsistent over the years, failing to live up to his immense potential. Vettori made a splash at UFC 202, choking out Alberto Uda to win his UFC debut. The former Italian Venator competitor is a slight underdog only because he is a bit of an unknown. Vettori predicted he will finish ‘Cara de Sapato’, and it’s hard to find a reason to disagree with him. ACJ hasn’t won back-to-back fights in over 2 1/2 years.