UFC 207 had a lot of weird build up. The show was supposed to be Ronda Rousey’s big homecoming. In the lead up to the fight, Ronda worked out a deal with Dana White so that she wouldn’t have to do any media during fight week. This lead to the media attention shifting away from Ronda and Amanda Nunes and onto Dominick Cruz and Cody Garbrandt. This probably led to lower PPV numbers, but the numbers haven’t come out yet.
No one in the histroy of the UFC has ever been granted a media exemption like this before, not even Conor Mcgregor who is arguably a bigger star than Ronda. Conor was pulled from the biggest card of the year for refusing to do media, so it makes Ronda’s situation last week all the more unusual. I’m not sure what this means for current and future stars, but the UFC’s hypocrisy is becoming more and more blatant.
Dominick and Cody had several emotional verbal exchanges throughout the week, including one where Cody left an interview to try and physically confront Dominick. Dominick Cruz is one of my favorite fighters, and his style of trash talk is particularly effective. It’s much more cerebral than Conor, and I saw that as an asset for Cruz going into the fight.
Amanda Nunes vs Ronda Rousey
Amanda Nunes was the underdog going into this fight. I don’t bet, but if I did my money was on her to lose. On paper, Nunes is a great match up for the Ronda Rousey of old. Nunes is very aggressive, rushes in, and focuses on striking. These attributes should have played well into Ronda’s game, which is to clinch up, hip toss her opponent to the ground, and arm bar or ground and pound for the finish. I saw this fight going exactly the way the Cat Zingano fight went, but Amanda Nunes spoiled Ronda’s comeback.
Amanda came out aggressive, and Ronda came out of her corner a shell of her former self. She looked like an amateur fighting a pro. She initially tried to strike with Nunes, and when it became clear that Nunes’ striking was light years ahead of Ronda’s, Ronda froze up. She had no answer for Amanda’s stand up assault. She tried to clinch briefly before Nunes lit her up and put her away. I mean, the fight was over in less than a minute. There’s not much to the fight to analyze, Ronda was just supremely outclassed on the feet. Why she didn’t shoot for a takedown or tie Nunes up is a mystery. Some have speculated that Edmond Tarverdyan is the problem, but who knows. Ronda wanted to stand up with Nunes, and she paid for it dearly. This was an absolutely embarassing performance for the former champ.
I had a feeling Ronda would retire after this fight, win or lose. I pictured her winning her belt back and going out on top, but that was not to be. I hope for her sake she hangs up the gloves after this one. Either that or change camps, I don’t know much about Edmond or his coaching strategy but he’s clearly not game planning well for her fights.
All of this is to say that Amanda Nunes is the real deal. She legitimately took out the two biggest female draws in the UFC back to back, and both fights were extremely dominant performances. Nunes deserves the attention of the media in her next fight and I think she earned the respect of the MMA community in this performance.
Dominick Cruz vs Cody Garbrandt
Dominick Cruz is the best bantamweight of all time in my book. He dominated 135 for years before being sidelined for years. Those years were in the midst of his prime by the way, he wasted several of his best years with injuries and surgeries. When he blitzed Mitzugaki in his UFC return, he looked like a killer. Then he won his belt back from TJ Dillashaw a year ago and defended it agains Uriah Faber. While he has looked a bit slower than he has in the past, his awkward movement and creative striking remained intact.
Cody Garbrandt is an undefeated fighter who comes from Uriah’s gym. He basically talked his way into a title shot, there are several guys far more deserving of a shot at the belt. However, Garbrandt followed Conor Mcgregor’s example and was able to secure his shot. I haven’t seen a ton of his fights, but from what I’ve seen he looks like a heavy handed power puncher. The two fights I saw previous to UFC 207 were both first round knockouts. He didn’t showcase his cardio or his ground game in those fights, just his power.
I had this fight for Cruz. I figured that Garbrandt’s relative lack of experience with 5 round fights and Cruz’s cerebral game planning would amount to a decision for Cruz. What I didn’t expect was for Garbrandt to out strike Cruz throughout a five round fight, but that’s exactly what happened. The majority of the fight consisted of Cruz moving around Garbrandt, throwing awkward combos and pot shots while Garbrandt patiently waited for openings and capitalized with power punches. Cruz was knocked down 3 or 4 times in round 4, something that’s never been done to Cruz before. Garbrandt ended up taking an easy decision to win the belt. It was an excellent performance from a potential star. Garbrandt is young and good looking, and if he can work on showing more of his personality he could be the next big UFC star.
Everyone gets old, and I think Cruz is just on the back 9 of his career. I think he could have beaten Garbrandt on a different night with a different game plan. He’s still a top 2 or 3 bantamweight. But we’ve seen this so many times with other fighters, there comes a time where you’re just this much slower than the new guy. Cruz is the best analyst and commentator aside from Joe Rogan, and I would love to see Cruz step away from competition and focus on his desk duties. There’s no need to receive any more CTE or brain trauma, Cruz has one of the strongest legacies of any UFC champion, and a loss to Cody Garbrandt does nothing to tarnish that legacy.
TJ Dillashaw vs John Lineker
I saw this fight as a very similar matchup to the Cruz vs Garbrandt fight, stylistically. TJ Dillashaw has adapted much of what makes Cruz such a great fighter, he has great head and foot movement, and his striking has been phenomenal since he started working with Duane Ludwig. John Lineker is what I thought Garbrandt was, a somewhat one dimensional fighter who relies on power over technique to headhunt his opponents.
This is the only fight that I called correctly out of the three big fights on the PPV. TJ was able to outwork Lineker on the feet using his movement, and he took Lineker down at will throughout the fight. The entire fight was either Dillashaw outstriking Lineker, or Dillashaw dominating Lineker on the ground. TJ even went after a calf slicer, a submission we rarely see in the UFC. Lineker found his range with one combo at the end of the third round, but a few shots to TJ’s midsection does not erase the last 14:30 of the fight. TJ earned a one sided unanimous decision over Lineker.
TJ vs Garbrandt is the fight to make. There’s a built in storyline as the two used to train together, so the fight is already marketable. On top of that, TJ is clearly the number one contender to the belt. If Cruz was a little more competitive in his fight with Grabrandt, I could see an immediate rematch. But he wasn’t, and TJ has been on fire ever since he took the belt from Barao. His only loss was to Cruz, and that decision was razor close. An argument could easily be made that he won that fight. It’s rare these days that the challenger for a belt is the actual, legitimate number one contender rather than a marketable marquee name. This matchup just so happens to be both, and I’d be shocked if TJ doesn’t get his shot.