After two out of four wins in my Anthony Joshua v. Eric Molina preview, I hope to come out with a triple win in this week’s UFC 207 in Las Vegas as two title bouts take place along with the return of former women’s champion Ronda Rousey in what may be her last professional fight. So, let’s begin.
T.J.Dillashaw v. John Lineker – 03:00 live on BT Sport 3
Former UFC bantamweight champion T.J Dillashaw makes his return to the ring this weekend as he aims to carry on his bounce back against experienced young fighter John Lineker in Las Vegas to challenge for the bantamweight title being competed for later on in the night.
Nicknamed “Kiliashaw” has a solid record having won 13 of his 16 professional bouts, winning six through knockout. The 30-year-old’s last fight ending in a unanimous decision beating Raphael Assuncao at UFC 200. He dominated the fight over the three rounds, landing some effective punches and controlling the bout in some style.
The only problem for Dillashaw is getting back to the top. Yes he sits as the number one ranked fighter in the bantamweight division, but his defeat to champion Dominick Cruz is one he will not forget considering it went down to a split decision back in January.
Another thing to consider is that the Orthodox fighter has a three inch reach and a better strike accuracy over his opponent (+2%) as well as amount of striker landed per minute (5.44 to 5.30), so this may fall into his favour come Friday.
John Lineker, on the other hand, sits undefeated in his last six fights, and has won 29 of his 36 professional bouts with 13 through KO. The nicknamed ‘Hands of Stone’ missed weight in his last match-up against John Dodson, the fourth time he has missed weight in his professional career, yet won through split decision after a very confident display back in October.
With Lineker, the 26-year-old has an average fight time of ten minutes, but I reckon he could go all the way to decision against the older fighter. Furthermore, he holds a better takedown accuracy at 62% and seems to be adapting to Bantamweight since his rise up from Flyweight. However, Dillashaw has an average takedown defence of 82%, and he is a skilled/experienced fighter within the bantamweight division. So, if I had to call it, I’m going to back Dillashaw on decision.
Handicap Recommendation: T.J. Dillashaw by Decision or Technical Decision at 2.20
Dominick Cruz v. Cody Garbrandt – 04:00 live on BT Sport 3
Our next fight sees the bantamweight title up for grabs with champion Dominick Cruz taking on one of Urijah Faber’s students in Cody Garbrandt, as this will be a key moment for the up-and-comer to make a name for himself on the co-main event.
Cruz heads into this bout unbeaten in his last 13 and has won 22 of his 23 professional fights, winning 14 through decision. The 31-year-old’s last match-up was against Urijah Faber at UFC 199 which he won through UD and became the first fighter to claim 12 wins at bantamweight level in UFC history.
Cruz is a relaxed fighter and has great footwork, so it will be good to see how he reacts to “knockout artist” Garbrandt. Furthermore in all of his UFC fights, apart from one, Cruz has outstriked his opponent, and the one fight where he was second best against Demetrious Johnson he used takedowns which worked out to be effective.
Another point to take note of is that the champion has managed less strikes per minute to Garbrandt, but has better defence and grappling stats. A key to the fight will be whether he will take the 25-year-old down to the floor to snuffle out his power for the duration.
Garbrant, meanwhile, is one to watch out for as the nicknamed “No Dad” has a good striking rate hitting opponents 4.15 times a minute, but his accuracy is a bit low at 38%. Yet, it’s where his takedown defence is the problem sitting at 0% with only 1.44 managed every 15 minutes.
The 25-year-old heads into this title match unbeaten in his ten professional fights winning nine through knockout. The Orthodox fighter beating his last opponent Takeya Mizugaki in the first round at UFC 202 through TKO. However, if he wants to really give the reigning champion a test he may need to change up his game and look to be heading for a five round bout. But, for me, if this does go the distance we may be hearing Bruce Buffer utter the words: “And still…”
Handicap Recommendation: Dominick Cruz by Decision or Technical Decision at 2.00
Amanda Nunes v. Ronda Rousey – 05:00 live on BT Sport 3
Now, the main event! The women’s bantamweight title is on the line as Ronda Rousey makes her return to the Octagon after a year out to take on the Brazilian champion Amanda Nunes in what should be a great match-up for the fans.
Amanda Nunes secured her title after beating previous champion Miesha Tate at UFC 200, putting in performance of the night through a rear-naked choke-hold and beating Tate who held the title for only 126 days. This match-up saw the Brazilian strike 40 out of 63 hits on the American with the champ connecting three times out of 15. Furthermore, a win against Rousey and she will tie the amount of wins in women’s bantamweight history (6).
The Brazilians’ professional record currently sits on 13 wins from 17 bouts winning nine through KO. Yet since joining the UFC, the Lioness has only lost once and hits around 4.23 striker per minute in her fights with a 52% strike accuracy. One concern is that her defeat to Cat Zingano at UFC 178 was the only fight where her opponent converted more strikes. Looking at it, Nunes barely touched her opponent in the final two rounds connecting once, and worked the body with only 4% of her shots.
But since then, it is safe to say Nunes has developed as a fighter and this bout at UFC 207 will be her hardest test.
Rousey, meanwhile, has plenty of time off to re-think her strategy and develop her game. Everyone remembers that night at UFC 193 in Melbourne with that perfectly executed headkick from Holly Holm to KO the champ in the second round. Now after all the talk and debate on whether she will return, the 29-year-old is back with vengeance.
The Judo fighter holds a record of 12 wins from 13 fights and has won nine through submission, with an average fight lasting less than three minutes. But her only fight lasting more than two rounds was against Tate at UFC 168 as the American worked her opponent landing 40 of her 63 strikes and working 60% of the head.
The arm-bar specialist is known for her submissions, yet Nunes has a 73% takedown defence, but holds a far less takedown rate to Rousey (2.07 to 6.43) every 15 minutes.
Really looking forward to this one, I honestly think Rousey could come back with a bang and upset Nunes before trying to claim two women’s titles in the near future. Yet, Nunes is a smart fighter who developed massively over her last few bouts and may put an end to Rousey’s career. Difficult one to call, but I am backing overs.
Handicap Recommendation: Over 1.5 rounds at 2.70
Prices correct at time of writing.
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