UFC 207 PRIMER: Ecochard’s preview of Nunes vs. Rousey, Cruz vs. Garbrandt, Dillashaw vs. Lineker, full card preview

By Matthew Ecochard, MMATorch contributor

UFC 207 – Preview

The final UFC pay-per-view of the year is taking place on a rare Friday night card due to Saturday being New Years Eve. Ronda Rousey makes her return in a battle against Amanda Nunes attempting to take back her title. The co-main event features a heated scrap between bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz takes on the young buck Cody Garbrandt. The following are previews and predictions for the entire card:

UFC Fight Pass Prelim

Alex Oliveira (15-3-1, 1NC) vs. Tim Means (26-7-1) – Welterweight Bout

Ever since returning to the UFC in 2014 Tim Means has looked very impressive, only losing to Neil Magny and Matt Brown in the last three years. The striking of Means is his must useful tool and it is a vicious one. The extremely large frame of Means allows him to stay at range and really pick apart his opponents. Alex Oliveira is moving back up to welterweight after missing weight in his victory over Will Brooks. Oliveira didn’t do himself any favors by not only missing weight, but also his post fight actions which were despicable. Oliveira has solid Muay Thai and good BJJ. Oliveira normally is fairly large and has a really long reach that aid his style. This should be a closely contested battle, and a violent one at that. Means has the style to upset Oliveira here but expect it to be a back and forth fight.

Prediction: Tim Means via Split Decision

Fox Sports 1 Prelims

Brandon Thatch (11-4) vs. Niko Price (8-0) – Welterweight Bout

UFC newcomer Niko Price is going to have a hard fought octagon debut against the dangerous Brandon Thatch. Price is all about his striking as he has finished six of eight wins via TKO. He has a nice diversity to his strikes with knees kicks and elbows, showing off some strong Muay Thai and a good finishing instinct. Brandon Thatch showed promise to start his UFC career in 2013, with two straight violent TKO wins, but in the last two years has lost three times via submission. Luckily for Thatch, Price doesn’t enjoy taking the bout to the ground. Thatch has some good striking, but is pretty easily hit and his chin hasn’t been shown to be that good. This fight should stay on the feet, but Thatch will likely get caught and be finished early in the fight.

Prediction: Niko Price via TKO Round 2

Antonio Carlos Junior (6-2, 1NC) vs. Marvin Vettori (11-2) – Middleweight Bout

A solid prospect in Marvin Vettori will be taking on TUF winner Antonio Carlos Junior in his UFC debut. Marvin Vettori has proven to be exciting and aggressive in his wins. He is very strong and loves to use the guillotine choke after hurting his opponents on the feet. Antonio Carlos Junior is a master at BJJ, winning multiple world championships in that martial art. In the UFC, Junior has had mixed results. After winning TUF, Junior has gone just 2-2 with one no contest. If Junior doesn’t get the fight to the ground he struggles on the feet against anyone with some solid striking skills. While Junior is fairly young at 26, his striking still needs to be worked on before he can start to put it all together. Vettori will come out, hurt Junior and get him flustered. Junior will shoot for a desperate takedown and Vettori will get another victory via his favorite technique (guillotine choke).

Prediction: Marvin Vettori via Submission Round 1

Mike Pyle (27-12-1) vs. Alex Garcia (13-3) – Welterweight Bout

Since 2009 Mike Pyle has been entertaining in the UFC with each and every bout he is in. While Pyle will most likely never be a top fighter he is never boring. While he is a BJJ black belt, Pyle is also known to have some very ferocious striking and really hasn’t shown off his ground game much during his UFC run. Alex Garcia is a well rounded fighter who has both five kos and five submissions. Garcia will most likely try to get this fight to the ground as he is the smaller fighter. Standing and trading with Pyle who is over three inches taller and will likely have the longer reach will spell trouble for Garcia. Pyle should be able to keep his distance and out strike Garcia towards a finish.

Prediction: Mike Pyle via TKO Round 1

(#6) Johnny Hendricks (17-5) vs. (#8) Neil Magny (18-6) – Welterweight Bout

Two top welterweights look to get into the top five once again with Johnny Hendricks taking on Neil Magny. Hendricks hasn’t looked like himself in his last few fights but he might really come out strong here after stating that he “will be done with MMA” with a loss to Magny. Hendricks even if he losses will not go out easily and this should be a hell of a fight. Hendricks’ bread and butter is his wrestling, but he also possesses incredible knockout power. Magny had a seven fight win streak snapped by Demian Maia, won three more and then lost to Lorenz Larkin in surprising fashion last time out. Magny loved to stand up, but can also wrestle and submit his opponents. The chin of Magny is vulnerable as he gets rocked a lot, but it can usually hold up incredibly well. This type of match-up should favor Hendricks here with his back up against the wall, but the match should be very closely contested.

Prediction: Johnny Hendricks via Unanimous Decision

PPV Main Card

(#12) Louis Smolka (11-2) vs. (#13) Ray Borg (9-2) – Flyweight Bout

Trying to make a come back from his last devastating loss, Louis Smolka will look to take out similarly ranked Ray Borg. Smolka lost in quick fashion to unranked Brandon Moreno in October and is looking for a quick rebound to try to prove it was just a fluke loss. The ground game is really where Smolka thrives, but his striking has improved tremendously. Ray Borg has a really nice rear-naked choke and can be slick on the ground, but overall Smolka should be the better fighter here. Being five inches taller with a six inch reach advantage will help Smolka as well.

Prediction: Louis Smolka via TKO Round 2

(#8) Dong Hyun Kim (21-3-1, 1NC) vs. (#13) Tarec Saffiedine (16-5) – Welterweight Bout

A very even and interesting welterweight match will happen between Dong Hyun Kim and Tarec Saffiedine. Kim has been a staple of the division for the last eight years with his only losses being to Carlos Condit, Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley. Kim’s striking has really started to shine with three of his last four wins coming from KO against some dangerous fighters. The size of Kim also makes it harder for his opposition to do much against him. Saffiedine has gone just 2-2 in his UFC career and hasn’t looked particularly impressive in his wins. Striking is really all Saffiedine does being a high level striking MMA artist, but has shown in the past that he knows how to submit his opponents. In a striking battle, Saffiedine is the more technically sound fighter, but Kim will have a massive size advantage and it will allow him to batter Saffiedine.

Prediction: Dong Hyun Kim via Unanimous Decision

(#1) TJ Dillashaw (14-3) vs. (#2) John Lineker (29-7) – Bantamweight Bout

Prior to the two title fights a third main event caliber fight is happening. TJ Dillashaw looks to cement his claim for a potential rematch with Dominick Cruz if he can beat the highly exciting John Lineker. TJ Dillashaw is one of the most talented fighters in the bantamweight division, with only losses to John Dodson, Raphael Assuncao and Dominick Cruz inside the UFC. Dillashaw”s footwork is second only to Cruz’s and his striking is backed up with his wrestling background that doesn’t make him afraid to strike. With all those years at Team Alpha Male and current training with Duane Ludwig Dillashaw has never been sharper and more focused on becoming the best.

John Lineker is a monster on the feet and can knock any opponent out cold if they lose focus for even a second. His gas tank was shown to be deep in his last bout with John Dodson and since moving up to bantamweight is already 4-0 beating some big names in the process. Dillashaw will certainly be the toughest fight for Lineker at bantamweight thus far with the footwork he possess. Dillashaw is favored here because he will just be too hard to hit. Lineker can always finish if he connects flush at any moment in those 15 minutes, but it is more likely that Dillashaw can control the bout wherever it goes and plays the smarter game plan.

Prediction: TJ Dillashaw via Unanimous Decision

(Champion) Dominick Cruz (22-1) vs. (#5) Cody Garbrandt (10-0) – Bantamweight Championship Bout (5 Rounds)

The first of two title fights Saturday night takes place in the bantamweight division. The champion Dominick Cruz is as near perfect as a fight could be and if he can stay as active as he has been this year, could likely defend his title many more times and clean out the division. Cruz’s footwork is the best in the entire sport and that could be said with confidence. He is one of the least hit champions in the UFC and even if he does get hit, he rarely gets hurt. Wrestling defense allows for him to choose if he wants to use a well timed takedown to put his opponent on his back or stand and trade and aggravate his opponent.

Cody Garbrandt is almost just a striker. His defensive wrestling is solid but we haven’t seen almost anything but pure striking from Garbrandt thus far in his UFC career. He has incredible power for this low of a weight class and precision that allows him to have knocked out  nine of his ten pro victories. His most impressive victory was his decimation of Thomas Almeida where he was the underdog and took him out in impressive fashion. Garbrandt’s wrestling might not be up to snuff enough to deal with Cruz’s, but his edge comes from his power. Staying on the feet, the bout will be Cruz peppering Cody, while Cody will try to knock Cruz out. If Cruz is smart he will just frustrate him on the feet and then take him down to further aggravate him. No matter where the fight goes Cruz should be able to stress him out and aggravate him to make enough mistakes and over the course of five rounds, Cruz puts away Cody.

Prediction: Cruz via TKO Round 3

(Champion) Amanda Nunes (13-4) vs. (#1) Ronda Rousey (12-1) – Women’s Bantamweight Championship Main Event (5 Rounds)

If you couldn’t tell from the biased promotional material Ronda Rousey will be returning and yes, she does have an opponent. Amanda Nunes will be defending her world title against the former champion in what will likely be a first or second round finish. Both Nunes and Rousey are known to be quick starters, one on the feet and the other on the ground. This is a tale of grappler vs. striker and that rarely occurs in title fights where both are usually more complete mixed martial artists.

Amanda Nunes was a dark horse to ever become a champion in the talented division that is women’s’ bantamweight. Nunes’ performances against Sara McMann and Miesha Tate were really her best ones to date. Nunes loves to beat fighters up to the point of making them make mistakes and then either finishing them with ground and pound or grabbing a submission. She battered Tate so badly in the first round of their fight that after Tate’s next loss, she retired and I’m convinced that this brutal loss had a part to play in that.

Ronda Rousey left the sport for over a year following her devastating loss to Holly Holm in November 2015. Over the course of this year she remained fairly silent and was just shooting some movies, but she apparently is ready to make her return and attempt to take her title back. Rousey has been working on her striking over the course of her short MMA career and the last few years she has worked with some of the best boxing coaches in the world. Her striking is still coming along, but she is world renowned for her Judo career. Judo has allowed for Rousey to get fights into positions where she can aggressively attack for an armbar and usually get it, even against high level MMA fighters.

The bout will come down to if Nunes can keep it on the feet or get on top if they hit the ground. Going to the ground will most likely end with Rousey getting her submission that she strives for and finishing the bout. The first round normally sees Nunes coming out full force before slowing down. Either fighter could come out here and force their game plan, but with Rousey being gone for so long, it is hard to see her mentally being ready to come out and perform how she would like to here. Nunes is the fresher fighter with the more solid mindset coming into this bout and she should be able to get it done.

Prediction: Amanda Nunes via KO Round 1


NOW CHECK OUT OUR OTHER UFC 207 PREVIEW: UFC 207 PREVIEW: Grocke’s Preview & Predictions for Nunes vs. Rousey, Cruz vs. Garbrandt, Lineker vs. Dillashaw

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