With UFC 207 ‘Nunes vs. Rousey’ just hours away, it’s time to take a closer look at tonight’s five biggest storylines as we prepare for some rare PPV action on a Friday.
The Return of ‘Rowdy’ Ronda
The biggest story heading into tonight’s event is the return of a woman who not too long ago appeared to be unstoppable, ‘Rowdy’ Ronda Rousey.
For the most part, Rousey has stayed away from all media, aside from interviews with Ellen and Conan O’Brien, and out of the public eye since losing to Holly Holm last November. While this unprecedented one-time only deal where UFC President Dana White has allowed Rousey to forgo any media obligations during fight week has only added to the allure of this fight for the hardcores, it’s going to be an issue for the casual fans who have no idea Rousey is even fighting tonight. And if she loses, they may be missing out on the last fight of her career.
Rousey’s opponent, current UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, appears to be coming into this contest with an unflappable confidence that makes her just as dangerous and impressive as her 9 career KO’s. Since moving to American Top Team down in Coconut Creek, Florida, Nunes has put together a 4-fight win streak with the final victory, an absolute obliteration of Miesha Tate in just over three minutes in the main event of UFC 200, earned her the belt that Rousey once defended 6-times.
Not only was Nunes’ weigh-in entrance last night as eerie as it was awesome, it further proves that she has no plans of giving up her crown anytime soon, even if the woman standing across from her is the biggest female superstar the sport has ever seen. After all, she is the “Lioness” of the division and this is the fight that she’s always wanted.
Ronda Rousey changed the game so that women like Nunes could fight in the main event of PPV’s; so they could afford better training and make a living doing what they love. These competitors that Rousey used to run roughshod over, they’ve harnessed their talent in order to become absolute killing machines with their main focus being the target on her back. The talent was always there, they’ve just been able to further utilize the coaching available to them. We are currently on a run where 3 out of 4 UFC cards will be headlined by women. Whether you like or it not, you have Ronda Rousey to thank for it.
While on the surface it appears that Rousey has stuck with the same camp that didn’t seem to do her any favors when the going got tough during her last outing, we really don’t know if she’s been there full-time or if she’s decided to brand out a little during the past year. All we can do is speculate and if you’re a fan of hers, you fear that she continues to spend most of her time with a man who could arguably go down as the worst coach in MMA history, Edmond Tarverdyan.
There’s a long history of fighters in MMA falling in love with their hands and getting away from their bread and butter after scoring a couple of knockouts. With a “Yes” man like Edmond in Ronda’s ear who by all accounts allegedly runs an unhealthy and unorganized camp for his fighters, there is danger of Rousey having another rough night when she takes on the best version of Amanda Nunes that we’ve ever seen. Also, this brand of stubborn loyalty could end up being Rousey’s biggest enemy; it could bring an early ending to one of the most successful careers in MMA history.
It took Holly Holm and the team of Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn to destroy a lone wolf in Rousey who went to her corner absolutely naked after the first round with no one to help her. She’ll be in the same situation tonight if she makes it out of the first round against Nunes. Her team is weak, and Nunes’ is strong – if she can get back to her winning ways – it’ll be because of her God-given abilities.
Rousey is currently a -175 favorite with Nunes sitting as a +145 underdog as we close in on tonight’s title bout. By comparison, Rousey was a -1250 favorite and Holm was a +825 dog ahead of their bout in Melbourne. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s any late movement on tonight’s line.
Cruz versus Team Alpha-Male: Part VII
In the co-main event of the evening, we get to watch the feud between current bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and Team Alpha Male (or Team Alpha-Fail as he likes to call them) continue when Cody Garbrandt steps up to the plate for the Sacramento based squad.
Cruz has made a career of beating up on Garbrandt’s teammates (he holds two victories of Urijah Faber, two over Joseph Benavidez and one over ex Alpha Male standout T.J. Dillashaw) but he’s never faced a guy with the power that Garbrandt possesses. With a perfect record of 10-0, Garbrandt has finished 9 of those fights by way of KO/TKO and he seems to be getting more anxious to leave the cage each time out. His last three victories have all come inside of the first round with the finishes coming at 4:18, 2:53 and 0:48 respectively and in that order.
Inside the cage, this fight is all about power versus volume. Garbrandt needs to find Cruz earlier and do what he does best, finish him inside the first round, to bring that UFC gold back to Team Alpha Male. If he can’t, expect him to get frustrated and start winging his shots while Cruz uses his out of this world footwork to dance in and out while picking him apart with ease. You can even expect the ever elusive Cruz to time some takedowns and potentially finish Garbrandt with a TKO of his own on the ground.
Outside of the cage, Cruz has gotten himself inside of this youngsters head and it’s been the most entertaining thing by far in the build up to this card. As one of the most underrated smack talkers in this game, Cruz has peppered Garbrandt outside of the cage with verbal jabs that have forced him to wreck furniture ahead of the biggest fight of his career. If Cruz peppers him inside of the cage like he has all week outside of it, Garbrandt can only learn from this defeat and come back better and more mentally aware next time out. He still has a long career ahead of him.
A number #1 contender’s duel?
Before Cruz and Garbrandt do battle, the man who Cruz beat to get his title back, T.J. Dillashaw, will take on a man who possesses ‘Hands of Stone’ in John Lineker. First off, yes, Lineker did make weight for this fight. After missing weight five times during his UFC career (four times at flyweight) it’s nice to see that Lineker is finally taking things seriously in a fight that should he win, we could see him fighting for a world title in 2017.
Should Dillashaw win, he’ll either find himself in a position to fight Cruz in a rematch of one of the best and closest fights of 2016 or take on his former teammate in Garbrandt. This is a can’t miss fight between two of the best at 135 lbs, it’s a shame that somebody has to lose.
A former champion’s final fight at 170 lbs?
Speaking of missing weight, Johny Hendricks just can’t seem to hit the 170 lbs mark since dropping out of the title picture. For the second fight in a row, Hendricks will forfeit 20% of his purse to his opponent (Neil Magny), after coming in well over the weight limit. While the much larger Hendricks will have a power advantage over Magny in this fight, he could run into the same problems he ran into in his previous fight against ‘Wonderboy’ Stephen Thompson if he can’t get inside and end this one early. As the fight goes on, the 11 inch reach advantage of Magny may just eat Hendricks alive as his gas tank begins to empty, making the former welterweight champion’s decision to move up to middleweight a lot easier.
Say goodbye to Goldie
IT IS ALL OVER. After nearly 20 years as the play-by-play announcer for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Mike Goldberg will call his last fight 10 fights tonight at UFC 207. Say what you want about Goldie, you simply cannot argue that he’s been a loyal employee whose voice has anchored some of the most memorable moments we’ll ever witness in this sport. He certainly won’t go down as the greatest announcer to call the sport, but maybe fans can keep it classy tonight and give him a decent send off.
Rumor has it that Jim Rome will take Goldie’s spot next summer as part of a dream team that Dana White has been looking to construct for some time now. If this is the case, Rome’s loyal fanbase, his professionalism and his personality (all things Goldberg lacked) will only help the UFC as they head into television negotiations with their FOX contract coming to a close in 2018.
image credit – Zuffa LLC via Getty Images/Josh Hedges
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