The Octagon returns to Las Vegas on Friday the 30th of December for UFC 207. The traditional end of year UFC card is massive, with two title fights and possibly the biggest comeback of the year. Ronda Rousey returns to try reclaim the women's bantamweight belt from Amanda Nunes. We also have the men's bantamweight title up for grabs. Dominick Cruz takes on Cody Garbrandt. With seven current or former champions on show, this is a hell of a night for fights.
The lines are out much earlier than usual thanks to the Christmas break. This is a card with plenty of opportunities for betting and I'm hoping to feast off this one for a while with the lack of many cards in January.
So lets get to it.
Nunes vs. Rousey
I'm a massive fan of both women if I'm honest. I believe they are two of the best fighters that the division has ever seen. Nunes is definitely the better striker overall of the two. Rousey is often criticised for her striking skills but she does do nice work in the clinch. Both have excellent submission games although you have to slightly favour Rousey in that department.
Nunes has a daunting top game. She's extremely active whilst in opponent's guards. She is quite adept at taking backs but sometimes she struggles to pass from full guard. She also has a gas tank that seems to empty after two rounds. Dana White once described Jose Aldo as the best one round fighter on the planet. If he ever decides to look for the female equivalent, Nunes may just be his best candidate. Her power and instinct to finish fights is matched by very few.
When this fight was announced, I put up a piece with my thoughts on Rousey. You can read it here. I think the last year has been an emotional rollercoaster for Ronda. She's faced a devastating loss for the first time in her MMA career. There's been constant speculation regarding her mental state. A lot of media personnel seem to have taken distinct pleasure in her fall from grace. If history teaches anything about Ronda, it is that Rousey is more dangerous after a loss. That's why the “Fear The Return” moniker might be very apt.
Rousey is an Olympic calibre judoka as we know. She's also got some decent power in her hands although not at the same clip as Nunes. She does have a very good if at some points sloppy clinch game. Her transitioning on the ground is second to none in the women's bantamweight division. Defensively she can leave holes open as we've seen in the Liz Carmouche fight.
I think there is a few key points to this fight. One of the biggest questions is, who can use the other's weaknesses and bad tendencies to their advantage? We know Rousey was knocked out cold by Holly Holm. But Nunes and Holm are completely different kind of strikers. Nunes very much likes to take the lead and pressure. Holm is much more technically sound and a counter striker at heart when it's came to MMA. To know this is very important when handicapping this fight.
Nunes rushing in or getting close plays to a Rousey strength and a weak part of Nunes grappling game. As physically strong as Amanda Nunes is, she appears to struggle with opponents who are effective with clinch based takedowns. This was the case with both the Cat Zingano and recent Valentina Shevchenko fights. Both of those fights also featured moments where after dominating fights, Nunes got reversed from dominant positions.
I think fight IQ could be the difference between the two on fight night. I think the humbling Rousey received will make her more cerebral on the night. If she is not, Nunes will have another night like the Tate fight. Taking apart a fighter who's forgot what they're best at, and finishing the fight.
Selection: Both Nunes and Rousey have a pile of 1st round victories to their names. For that reason the bookies are laying ridiculous lines on under/over 0.5 rounds. I'm taking the over at 8/11 from the good folks at Stan James. I'd be tempted to take the over 1.5 rounds also as I really think this fight will probably see Nunes strong in the first and fending submissions in the 2nd round.
I really think this is a great card for underdogs so here's my other selections.
TJ Dillashaw vs. John Lineker: If this was six months ago I'd of been all over Dillashaw. What's changed you ask? The Lineker fight against John Dodson. That's what's changed my mind about Lineker. He took everything that Dodson could muster and kept fighting at a pace that was staggering. Yes TJ has the better footwork of the two but I believe that Lineker at over 2/1 is a steal.
Fabricio Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez: I don't quite understand the line on this fight. Going into the first fight there was a lot of unknowns. The only explanations I can think of are that people think Werdum is finished after the Stipe knockout loss, or that Cain will be able to prove his cardio being at a normal altitude. Personally I'm going to side with Werdum as the first fight was comprehensive in my opinion.
Cain may be 3-0 in rematches but they were against Bigfoot and a one dimensional JDS. If the reports regarding Cain's requirement for CBD oil to assist pain are true, I have to double down on Werdum getting the job done. I can see this ending a similar way to the first fight if I'm honest. I think Cain is going to be sprinting and fall into a trap set by the Brazilian. At the current odds of 19/10 Werdum is the only person I can pick here.
Johnny Hendricks vs. Neil Magny: On current form I think Magny should be 1/2 for this fight. At his current price of even money he's a steal. If that line doesn't drastically move I'll be surprised. Magny has more reach and an ability to use it. Hendricks has a wrestling advantage but he's such a bad gas tank and badly means the discipline of his former camp in my opinion. Magny to win at 1/1 is value. I'd be intrigued by the TKO and decision prop markets if Johnny Hendricks shows up looking drained on weigh in day.
And with that we're done. I'm undecided on plays for Ray Borg and Mike Pyle as I think they may represent value at current lines or if they drift out further. I'm looking forward to this one. Please remember these are just suggestions. Do not bet what you can not afford to lose. Have a great Christmas and happy punting.
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