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

By Michael Grocke, MMATorch contribution

The UFC brings its New Year’s event to the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC 207. Ronda Rousey makes her long awaited comeback when she challenges Amanda Nunes for her bantamweight title. The co-main event is another title fight with Dominick Cruz defending his bantamweight championship against Cody Garbrandt.

The five-fight main card includes bantamweight contenders T.J. Dillashaw vs. John Lineker, with the winner probably getting the next shot at the title, Dong Hyun Kim goes up against Tarec Saffiedine in a battle of welterweights and in the flyweight division Louis Smolka takes on Ray Borg.

Fight Pass and FS1 will carry the five-fight prelims beginning at 7:30/6:30PM CT. The main card starts at 10/9PM CT on PPV.

Main Card

Amanda Nunes (13-4) vs. Ronda Rousey (12-1) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.

Current Odds: Rousey -150; Nunes +120

A lot of talk has been made of Ronda Rousey’s mental state, and her level of interest in the fight game. Add to it her extended layoff and I’m not sure what we’re going to see from her on Friday night. Ronda has a lot going for her outside of UFC and kudos to her for having that level of success.

Make no mistake; Ronda Rousey is one of the greatest female MMA fighters of all time. Her judo and ground skills are second to none, and her striking has improved tremendously over the years. Rousey will do her best to get the fight to the ground where she can work her superior submission game. If Nunes comes out too aggressively, it will play right into Ronda’s game plan. But, if Nunes is patient and keeps the fight standing I think it will be a long night for Rousey.

Amanda Nunes comes into the fight on a four-fight winning streak including a first round submission of Miesha Tate to capture the bantamweight title at UFC 200. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt is at the top of her game. Nine of her thirteen wins are by knockout. She doesn’t have any outside distractions, she hasn’t allowed Rousey to get in her head and she is clearly the better striker. As long as she stays patient and doesn’t allow Rousey to keep her on the mat for an extended period of time, I think she’ll retain her title.

Pick: Nunes by TKO

Dominick Cruz (22-1) vs. Cody Garbrandt (10-0) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.

Current Odds: Cruz -210; Garbrandt +165

I think I’m giving Garbrandt a better chance at winning here than most. Garbrandt’s power shouldn’t be downplayed. Nine of his ten wins are by knockout, with seven coming in the first round. Enrique Briones, at UFC 189, was the only fighter to take Garbrandt the distance. Garbrandt has excellent boxing and his counter striking is underrated. His gas tank is still a question considering he has gone three rounds only twice. If Garbrandt doesn’t score the knockout within the first three rounds his chances of winning are slim.

Dominick Cruz is the best bantamweight on the planet. His lone loss came against future hall of famer, Urijah Faber way back on March 24, 2007 at WEC 26. Cruz’s last two victories came against two of the best the division has to offer in Urijah Faber and TJ Dillashaw.

His speed and quickness makes him extremely difficult to hit and when he does get hit, it’s never flush. Cruz’s ability to stick and move can lead to Garbrandt over extending while trying to land the big shot. If this happens on Friday Cruz will pick him apart for five rounds and win easily. Cruz has the ability to frustrate and make his opponents stray from their game plan, Garbrandt must stick to his plan if he’s going to have any chance of pulling off the upset.

Pick: Cruz by decision

T.J. Dillashaw (14-3) vs. John Lineker (29-7) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.

Current Odds: Dillashaw -240; Lineker +190

John Lineker comes into Friday night’s fight on a tear winning his last six. His last loss was back at UFC 169 against Ali Bagautinov. If not for his inability to make weight he would’ve already had the opportunity to fight for a title. Lineker likes to pressure and he will try to turn the fight into a brawl while looking to land the knockout blow early. Lineker’s chances of winning shrink with each passing round.

T.J. Dillashaw got back in the win column at UFC 200 by beating Raphael Assuncao, after dropping a decision to champion Dominick Cruz at UFC Fight Night 81. Dillashaw holds an advantage over Lineker in every category besides power. Dillashaw is fantastic at using his jab to maintain distance, and his speed will make it difficult for Lineker to square him up. As long as Dillashaw survives the early onslaught and avoids Lineker’s wild haymakers, it’s his fight.

Pick: Dillashaw by decision

Dong Hyun Kim (21-3-1, 1 NC) vs. Tarec Saffiedine (16-5) – Welterweight 170 lbs.

Current Odds: Kim -130; Saffiedine ev.

Tarec Saffiedine is a striker who mixes his offense well between punches and kicks. He is 2-2 over his previous four fights; dropping a decision to Rick Story most recently at UFC Fight Night 88.

Dong Hyun Kim enters the fight winning his last two fights; finishing Joshua Berkman by submission at UFC 187, and beating Dominic Waters by TKO at UFC Fight Night 79. I expect Kim to close distance, work in the clinch and utilize takedowns. He’s the more skilled fighter and should win this fight inside the distance.

Pick: Kim by submission

Louis Smolka (11-2) vs. Ray Borg (9-2) – Flyweight 125 lbs.

Current Odds: Borg -120; Smolka -110

This should be an exciting fight. Louis Smolka was on a four-fight winning streak until losing by submission to Brandon Moreno at UFC Fight Night 96. Both fighters are excellent grapplers, but Smolka holds a considerable edge slight in striking. He is the more active fighter, who consistently out works his opponents.

Ray Borg had his own three-fight winning streak snapped when he lost to Justin Scoggins by decision at UFC Fight Night 82. Borg’s stand-up is average at best so he will try to take Smolka down and keep him on the mat where he can work his submissions. Six of his nine wins are by submission. Both these fighters are evenly matched as the odds reflect, but I see Smolka pulling out the decision in the end.

Pick: Smolka by decision

Prelims Quick Look

Magny over Hendricks

Vettori over Carlos Junior

Garcia over Pyle

Thatch over Price

Means over Oliveira

Enjoy the fights!

NOW CHECK OUT OUR OTHER UFC 207 PREVIEW INCLUDING PRELIMS: UFC 207 PRIMER: Ecochard’s preview of Nunes vs. Rousey, Cruz vs. Garbrandt, Dillashaw vs. Lineker, full card preview

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