The latter half of 2016 has seen the UFC put together some impressive cards. From the Conor McGregor/Nate Diaz rematch at UFC 202, to the debut of the Octagon in Madison Square Garden at UFC 205. Even last weekend’s UFC 206 card, which paled in comparison to some others, resulted in perhaps the most entertaining event of the year. The final event of the year certainly has the name power to be one of the bigger cards of 2016, but we’ll have to wait until December 30th to see just how entertaining it turns out to be. The main event will be the big selling point of the show, as Ronda Rousey makes her return to competition to challenge for the belt she dropped back in November 2015. She won’t be challenging Holly Holm (the woman who defeated her for the title), nor will it be old rival Miesha Tate (the woman who defeated Holm to capture the title). Instead, Amanda Nunes emerged as the 135lb champion in the main event of UFC 200, and shows an uncommon stopping power in the women’s bantamweight division. Holding a 6-1 record in the UFC, Nunes has five stoppages amongst those victories, and each has been set up by her striking, which makes the bout against Rousey intriguing. The men’s bantamweight title will also be contested at UFC 207, as Dominick Cruz steps into the Octagon for the third time in 2016. Given his previous injuries that feat itself is remarkable enough, however Cruz will have done so in three title bouts. Back in January, he recaptured the belt he never lost against TJ Dillashaw, defended it against his foe Urijah Faber in June, and now faces another of Faber’s proteges in Cody Garbrandt to cap the year off. Garbrandt, for his part, has made this title run on the power in his hands, scoring TKOs in four of his five UFC wins. A pair of former heavyweight champs vie for another shot at the title when Cain Velasquez meets Fabricio Werdum in the third bout of the pay-per-view. Werdum shocked Velasquez in Mexico City to capture the title back in 2015, but was unable to hold onto it in his first defense against Stipe Miocic earlier this year. Each man defeated Travis Browne this year to get back into true contendership discussion. A defacto number one contender’s bout at bantamweight provides rich storylines regardless of the outcome of both it and the title fight. Should TJ Dillashaw defeat John Lineker, he’ll either get a rematch against Cruz of one of the best fights of 2016, or it will be former Faber protege against current one if he faces Garbrandt. A Lineker win won’t give dramatic stories to tell before either fight, but instead offers incredible stylistic matchups once the cage door closes. While the odds for the top three bouts had already been released, today MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas released the remaining lines for UFC 207 at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Take a look: ——————– UFC 207: Nunes vs. Rousey DECEMBER 30, 2016 T-Mobile Arena | Las Vegas, Nevada Main Card Pay-Per-View – 10 p.m. ET Women’s Bantamweight Title: Amanda Nunes +220 Ronda Rousey -280 Over 1.5 +195 Under 1.5 -275 – Bantamweight Title: Cody Garbrandt +160 Dominick Cruz -195 Over 2.5 -190 Under 2.5 +150 – Fabricio Werdum +180 Cain Velasquez -240 Over 2.5 -120 Under 2.5 -120 – John Lineker +150 T.J. Dillashaw -190 Over 2.5 -140 Under 2.5 +100 – TBA Jessica Andrade Over Under – Preliminary Card FS1 – 8 p.m. ET Neil Magny -110 Johny Hendricks -130 Over 2.5 -185 Under 2.5 +145 – Tarec Saffiedine +105 Dong Hyun Kim -145 Over 2.5 -210 Under 2.5 +160 – Mike Pyle +140 Alex Garcia -180 Over 1.5 -160 Under 1.5 +120 – Ray Borg -115 Louis Smolka -125 Over 2.5 -130 Under 2.5 -110 – Preliminary Card UFC Fight Pass – 6:30 p.m. ET Alex Oliveira +100 Tim Means -140 Over 2.5 -135 Under 2.5 -105 – Marvin Vettori +115 Antonio Carlos Junior -155 Over 2.5 -140 Under 2.5 +100 – Niko Price +260 Brandon Thatch -380 Over 1.5 +125 Under 1.5 -165 ——————– Brad’s Analysis: Lineker has fight changing power every time he throws a combination, but is yet to face a striker who offers the depth of skill that Dillashaw brings to the cage. The Brazilian can take some of Dillashaw’s options away by pressuring, but needs to continue his trend of doing so less recklessly. A case could easily be made that John Dodson was able to beat him almost exclusively by countering, but Dillashaw requires more of the initiative to truly implement his game. As long as Lineker can figure out Dillashaw’s movement early and cut off the cage, he can win this fight. If he’s stuck in chase-mode all fight he’s going to drop a wide decision. I think I’m actually leaning towards Lineker to continue his run, but I’m hoping the price gets better before I make a play. Johny Hendricks has little bursts where he looks like the welterweight champion he once was, but they are too few and far between at this point. He’s unable to really string a performance together across 15 minutes, and that’s exactly what Neil Magny is going to do to him. Magny’s range striking will keep Hendricks at bay, and his length in the clinch provides him with such leverage that he may even surprise Hendricks with his wrestling. The great equalizer here is Hendricks’ power, which could see him score a stoppage at any point, but I have to side with the fighter who will do more across three rounds. However, if Hendricks shows up in championship form he can outwrestle Magny for 15 minutes, I just think those days are past. Speaking of doing more, I think Dong Hyun Kim outworks Tarec Saffiedine regardless of which version of him shows up. We’ve seen ultra aggressive striker Kim and traditional grappler Kim of late, and I think either one can take advantage of Saffiedine’s biggest weakness, a lack of activity. Striking with Saffiedine would be the more dangerous of the two options for Kim, but may actually be the easier route given Saffiedine’s stout takedown defense which could cause Kim to tire later if he struggles for too long against the cage. I’ll take Kim by decision, but there’s just enough to keep me away from a bet. If Alex Garcia can’t get rid of Mike Pyle early, he could be in some trouble here. Pyle is the cleaner striker, and nearly everyone has a volume advantage against Garcia in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Even if Garcia can score takedowns, Pyle is active and dangerous enough from his back that he’ll still be dictating the fight later on. The round 1 prop for Garcia will be very interesting given his power and Pyle’s chin and age. That can even be used as a hedge against Pyle moneyline if you’re so inclined. The big concern here for Pyle backers is that age, and when his drastic physical decline starts. I’m still not sure how much I want to take away from Louis Smolka’s loss to Brandon Moreno, so I’ve basically discarded it from my thoughts for this fight. Smolka is one of the few fighters who will be willing to grapple with Ray Borg here, and that could be his undoing. Borg has struggled against some of the bigger flyweights on the roster, and while Smolka is certainly much taller and longer, I don’t consider him particularly big and strong for the division. It could turn out that I’m wrong and Smolka’s combination of length and ground skills are simply too much for Borg, but I think this fight has a slight edge to Borg if it turns into a grappling match, while Smolka has a sizable advantage on the feet. If the number creeps up towards +200 I’ll definitely play Borg, and even around +150 it could be worth a shot. If Alex Oliveira was a natural welterweight, I’d like his chances a lot better here. He’s normally well-rounded and smart enough to capitalize on his opponent’s weakest areas, but even though Tim Means’ weakness is clearly his defensive wrestling it may be difficult for Oliveira to exploit. Granted, Means was taken down multiple times by both John Howard and Sabah Homasi in his recent bouts, but both of those men are actual welterweights. Perhaps size doesn’t turn out to be an issue here and Oliveira rolls to a decision, but I’m just not willing to take the shot unless the price gets much bigger. Marvin Vettori has been on a nice run of late and looked better than expected in his UFC debut. Antonio Carlos Junior on the other hand has been disappointing for much of his UFC run, but seemed to make some improvements in his last outing. Skill-wise, Shoeface is the better fighter, especially since Vettori likes to grapple a fair amount. Shoeface is also significantly bigger, which should help him control the wrestling unless he reverts back to the terrible cardio he showed against Dan Kelly. While Vettori is three years younger, Carlos Junior is still more than young enough to correct the early career issues he’s shown, and I think his ceiling is still decently high. I’m picking him here, and will jump on a dog price. In a matchup between two welterweights who like to strike, I don’t see any reason not to side with the guy who is bigger, more technical, seems to have more power, and certainly has faced the better competition. Despite all of that, I’m still not putting my money on Brandon Thatch in this one.
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