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UFC 207: Amanda Nunes vs. Ronda Rousey Toe to Toe Preview - A Complete Breakdown

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Phil and David break down everything you need to know about Rousey’s return to the UFC for the title at UFC 207, and everything you don’t about corporations virtue signaling us.

MMA: UFC 207-Weigh In Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Ronda and Amanda vie for the title this December 30, 2016 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

One Sentence Summary

David: Ronda Rousey returns from exile to prove she’s not one of bantamweight’s expendables.

Phil: The queen of the UFC returns for a redemption story which has an almost-inescapable underpinning of dread to it.

Stats

Record: Ronda Rousey 12-1 Amanda Nunes 13-4

Odds: Ronda Rousey -140 Amanda Nunes +130

History / Introduction to the fighters

David: Ronda has led a truly fascinating career. At least when you cut out her performance in the Expendables. And I feel like within that fascinating career is kind of a fascinating profile for a fighter I don’t think is well understood. In part because her career moved so fast, with an intermission as abrupt was it was inexplicable, and right as Joe Rogan was calling her a different kind of different kind of different fighter. But also because the division has adjusted during this crossroads, creating the perception of Rousey as a Brock Lesnar type figure; an anomaly of raw athletics rising to the MMA top. And Rousey is definitely not Lesnar, but they share a similar hyperspace with a potentially similar ending.

Phil: Rousey's rise was almost perfectly timed- feminism came into its own in recent years not merely as a laudable social goal but, rather less happily, as an eminently saleable commodity. This is just the natural progression of these things I think- when big soulless corporations start adopting social goals to sell stuff, you know you're getting close to normalization. Or a giant Trump-esque backlash. One of the two. Anyway, together with the expansion of the UFC into the mainstream it laid the tracks for a new, exciting, vulnerable, relatable, weird, badass woman champion. While Rousey undoubtedly benefited from the timing, which managed to combine the mainstream attention of the mature UFC with the vulnerability of a nascent women's division, I think her uniquely mercurial brand of insecure violence always would have made her a star.

David: The most obvious point of comparison for Nunes’ career is Robbie Lawler: after suffering some embarrassing losses here and there, both developed a more polished sense of identity. But I think she shares a little bit more in common with Anderson Silva (at least potentially), who had a similar flickering of brilliance only to blossom into full blown brilliance. Like Anderson, Nunes has a streamlined attack that is difficult to stray off course without the ‘hel’p of her literal and metaphorical deficits. Now she’s 4-0 in her last four against good competition, and typically dispatching them in brutal ways. Despite being champ, she’s still in a metaphysical limbo; losses that exposed her limitations are still connected to recent history, and her recent history of winning still demands answers to previous questions.

Phil: For me the jury is still out on Nunes. The book on her in her early career was that she was a glass cannon- throwing out tons of offense, but inevitably gassing and collapsing if said offense failed. The hope would be that while training full-time at a better gym that these kind of issues were resolved... and I'm still unconvinced that they are. She's winning, but in exactly the same way that an Amanda of old would have There are two possibilities for me- either she's a more technically integrated Erick Silva-type who has made her way to the top of a division based on burst offense and variance, and she'll likely flop soon. Alternatively she really is that elite athlete, who can probably reign at the top of the division for a while.

What’s at stake?

David: Given all this media blackout, stern faced talk, it feels like Ronda’s career along with her well being is on the line according to the oddly elaborate media psychoanalysis of her demeanor. It’s not that I don’t think Ronda is undergoing a difficult time. She’s even admitted as much. It just doesn’t register as insight into her fight preparation or what this matchup offers, instead acting as pre-dressing for future retrospectives on her career. Yea there’s massive pressure on Ronda, but a win isn’t out of the question, and it would put her right back into the cosmic stardom of starring in Marvel movies Dana and Co. claim is in store for her.

Phil: What does a win or a loss between these two even look like? The odds of a back-and-forth war seem... slim. Given how emotional and competitive Rousey is, I think even a "good" loss like that would be heavily damaging to her. If she does lose, though, I don't think it's a good loss. I think it's going to be brutal and ugly, and that she'll be gone from the sport. If not? Hooray, the UFC is no longer near-completely reliant on McGregor to hit its outlandish revenue targets!

Where do they want it?

David: I’d like to talk about Edmond for a second. For as much flack as he deserves, and I’ve articulated my own issues with his coaching, it is important to note that it’s difficult to mold raw punching into raw mechanics. And Rousey has developed good, strong raw mechanics under Edmond. She hits hard, and has done a lot of good work on the feet that accentuate her clinch strengths. Edmond’s problem, as well as Ronda’s, is in turning those mechanics into a mission; designing strategies for not just her talents, but responses to the loyal opposition. Having said that, in the words of Steven Seagal’s more laconic characters, “nobody beats me in the kitchen”. And nobody beats Rousey on the ground, where she’s an unreal talent of grappling vision and application. Over the years, grappling has undergone a strategic makeover. It’s no longer about static setups in opposing positions (top or bottom), but about the dynamic transitions within the collective fight itself. Scrambling is a premium, but for Rousey, in place of scrambling is something more streamlined and calculated: she’s anticipating her opponent’s next move in order to limit the ultimate amount/degree of scrambling.

Phil: It seems hard to imagine that the last time we wrote one of these things Ronda was on top of the world with no clouds on the horizon. Can the last time we broke down her fights really have been the Holm fight? It seems centuries ago. Anyway, Ronda's offense in all phases absolutely cannot be questioned. She may not have pretty form when she's showing off her deadly drill-punches while shadow-boxing, but she hits very hard and when she does is then almost immediately locking up a collar tie or a bodylock. From there it's an impressively blended Thai Plumm, single collar punches or trip takedown game. In all of these phases Ronda is genuinely one of the most integrated, seamless fighters in the sport.

The problem is the areas outside of this mini-ecosystem. She has almost no defense aside from raising her shoulder to protect her face when she jabs (a bit more on this later), with no head movement and minimal defensive footwork. She has no kicking game or any distance takedowns apart from a long-vanished double leg. It means that to get inside and get any of the aforementioned glorious offense off, she needs to wade through strikes. That's bad.

David: Nunes has sharpened her skillset on the feet with economy. She maintains a low base to chamber a rudimentary series of strikes, but the speed and violence with which they’re thrown makes the difference. Before she was the quintessential front runner: an agent of prologue pugilism hoping the brain rattling chaos would trigger an early conclusion. Now she’s a little more patient, with an attack that’s not so much more varied as it is less static. She adjusts better, and that’s made all the difference.

Phil: Amanda Nunes increasingly reminds me of a knock-off version of Jose Aldo, specifically the one who fought Frankie Edgar. Essentially she's become a violent boxer-puncher and outside fighter, cutting small angles on the outside and lining herself up for a long, sharp right hand, a jab, or a hard low kick.

All of these specific tools seem custom-made to give Ronda trouble as she comes in behind punches. Nunes is also a strong wrestler and a predatory top position finisher, but given how badly Tate got flipped and beaten almost every time she shot in on Rousey, it's probably best she keeps that particular skillset in the back pocket. This being said, there are still some problems with Nunes' approach, some obvious (cardio) and some more subtle- primarily is that while she's a good defensive and offensive wrestler, she's an inert clinch fighter. As BJJ Scout has pointed out, she regularly collapses her posture when attempting to escape from the clinch, likely in an attempt to avoid fighting grips and to preserve her gas.

Insight from past fights

Phil: The saving grace of Rousey vs Nunes as opposed to, say, Holm, is that her pawing jab that she normally uses to start her offense is traditionally thrown in a slightly "dipping" motion and can be used to parry overhands. Holm was able to throw the left straight down the middle, but Nunes may struggle a touch more.

David: I still worry about Ronda’s punch entries. Against Holm, it didn’t matter how much she was getting countered. It was the same one-two over and over. Left hook, right hand, right hand, left hook and always the twain did meet for a telegraphed checker move of awkward and easily anticipated pugilism.

X-Factors

Phil: Aside from Rousey's bizarre and somewhat concerning self-sequestering? I mean, there's always the camp situation. In general, I feel like Rousey has beaten some great athletes (Zingano, McMann), but she's never beaten any elite athletes who also come from elite camps. I don't think it's going to surprise anyone if I say that I don't think Edmond can cut it at the elite level.

David: Rousey’s head space seems to be the question on everyone’s mind, but it’s always framed around her KO loss, and not around something much more realistic, like the Road House remake. The director is the bald headed henchman from Face-Off, and nobody else is attached to co star. The project sounds like it’s falling through. Just saying.

Prognostication

Phil: One is incredibly defensively vulnerable, the other has no stamina, yet they remain the two most offensively potent fighters in the division. Thus, this is likely to be fast, brutal and likely weird. I don't have much confidence in Rousey fixing the problems which led to the Holm loss, and Nunes hits much, much harder than Holm does. Amanda Nunes by TKO, round 1.

David: I think Rousey’s chances are actually good. Unlike Holm, who was always more a proximity threat, and thus gave Ronda the illusion of patience, there will be such delusions in this fight. Rousey just needs one clinch, and a panic exit from Nunes to capitalize, and Rousey is much more likely to initiate such a sequence given her last bout against a much less dangerous striker. That’s probably bad analysis, but I think we’ve been overstating Ronda’s deficiencies as psychological flaws while understating Nunes’ strategic vulnerabilities. Ronda, tails. Nunes, heads. And the coin toss says: tails. Ronda Rousey by Armbar, round 1.