The final UFC event of the year is in the books, and it was a big one. With Ronda Rousey finally returning in a bid to recapture her bantamweight title from Amanda Nunes, to the latest chapter in the Dominick Cruz-Team Alpha Male blood feud, there were plenty of stories at the top of the card, and the fights lived up to the billing. In a night without many upsets, both title fights saw the underdogs find success. Although some cancellations dropped the card down to just 10 bouts, it actually made the entire event go by without dragging. Based on the 5Dimes Sportsbook closing odds, six favorites earned victories on the night, while three underdogs got the job done. There was also a no contest in the opening bout of the evening. Favorites That Won TJ Dillashaw mixed a bit of everything into his gameplan and confounded John Lineker for nearly the entire 15 minutes of their bout. The former champion scored takedowns at will, and was able to avoid most of the danger from Lineker’s heavy hands by landing and getting out of the pocket. This win should clearly earn Dillashaw a shot at the bantamweight title he dropped by such a slim margin back in January. Each judge even awarded the -220 favorite (bet $220 to win $200) a 10-8 round for his work in the second, and it was 30-26 across the board. Dong Hyun Kim came into this fight with stoppages in his last four wins, but he was unable to come anywhere close to finishing Tarec Saffiedine. The Belgian fighter was actually landing the cleaner strikes throughout the fight, but Kim’s unrelenting forward pressure was never thrown off by those blows. Into the second and third rounds, Saffiedine’s output started to wane, and Kim was able to control more of the fight from the clinch and with his grappling, which eventually earned him the split decision as a -140 favorite. Despite missing weight for the second time (in addition to getting sick while cutting weight) Ray Borg looks like he’ll remain in the flyweight division for the time being. If he can get that weight in order, he’s going to give lots of fighters trouble at 125 as his grappling is simply sublime. Borg used his speed and technical ability in scrambles to dominate Louis Smolka for 15 minutes and cash as a -140 favorite. It was the most controversial decision of the evening, but Neil Magny took home a unanimous verdict against Johny Hendricks. The lanky welterweight earned the first and third rounds on the strength of a pair of triangles he scored from the bottom towards the end of each, and by staying busier on the feet while he could keep it there. Aside from those moments, Hendricks was really able to control Magny with his wrestling throughout the contest, scoring six takedowns. Still, the judges favored Magny’s more dangerous moments and awarded him the decision as a -192 favorite. The line ballooned up from a near pick em after Hendricks missed weight on Thursday. Antonio Carlos Junior was a moderate favorite throughout the week, but almost climbed up to even money as all of the late support was on Marvin Vettori. However, during the actual fight it was Shoeface rewarding his backers by doing the better worked in the third round to walk away with the unanimous decision as a -115 favorite. The Brazilian was taken down by Vettori and lost the second from his back, but unlike earlier fights of his, bounced back in the final stanza to earn the win. In one of just three fights that didn’t require the judges, Alex Garcia showed the power that had some so excited aobut him when he first came into the UFC. He also started to slow rather quickly against Mike Pyle, and showed the same inactivity in top position which has plagued him in other fights. Still, when Pyle threw a naked kick late in the opening round the Dominican countered with a massive right hand which put the veteran clean out. Garcia closed as a -210 favorite after late money pushed him up from the mid-100’s on fight day. Underdogs That Won The main event saw one of the rare instances where a UFC champion was an underdog in defending their belt. It was apparent very early on that she shouldn’t have been. Amanda Nunes may not have missed a punch in the 48 seconds her bout against Ronda Rousey lasted, absolutely destroying the former champion in brutal fashion. Rousey seemed hesitant coming forward, and Nunes immediately sensed it and opened up in combination. She stunned Rousey several times, and referee Herb Dean finally jumped in as Rousey was reeling against the cage, stopping the fight in a Rousey-like 48 seconds. Nunes cashed as a +170 dog (bet $100 to win $170) in an absolutely dominant title defense, and should see her star grow from here. Cody Garbrandt seemed to have a path to become the new UFC bantamweight champion, but it wasn’t seen as a very likely one. He had to land a killshot on one of the most elusive fighters in MMA history, Dominick Cruz. That turned out to be completely false. Garbrandt used his superior hand speed, and sharp technique to land repeatedly on the champion, dropping him several times throughout the fight. Garbrandt also showed off his own movement and head movement, leaving Cruz looking silly on several occasions throughout the fight. Oh yeah, and that was before the +215 underdog started taunting Cruz mercilessly for every missed strike. It was a spectacular performance by Garbrandt, and one that may put him in the running for Fighter of the Year in addition to adding some gold to his shelf. In the opening bout of the night which actually had an outcome, Niko Price cashed as a +140 dog against Brandon Thatch. The bout seemed very even early on, but once Price followed the gameplan that Thatch’s previous three opponents had laid out he took over. On the ground, Price looked for the arm triangle repeatedly, eventually securing it in a scramble and forcing the tap inside the first round. No Contest The lone UFC Fight Pass bout ended in a No Contest, as Tim Means landed a pair of illegal knees to the head of Alex Oliveira that ended the bout prematurely. It was an unfortunate end for Means, who had success on the feet and in the grappling exchanges prior to the knees. Curiously, everyone seemed confused about whether the knees were legal or not, but Oliveira’s left knee was clearly down as Means landed, which has always fit the definition of a downed fighter. Means closed at +125 and Oliveira was -135.
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