After an odd start and a mixture of thrilling outings with few disappointments, UFC 207 turned into a great PPV in the end with a bit of everything for everyone. Even with the loss of the rematch between Fabricio Werdum and Cain Velasquez, the card ended up being solid and the night unforgettable due to the co-main and main event of the evening. We not only saw a title change hands, but it happened in an instant classic, plus the rightful #1 contender being established at bantamweight in the preceding bout. Or at least that should be the case. Still, there’s plenty to parse through and a lot of separation from the pack as well.
Amanda Nunes - The first thing that came to my mind when I saw Amanda Nunes with that belt around her waist is the notion that this was in fact the much-vaunted American dream. Coming from abject poverty in Brazil, toiling in smaller organizations, making her way to Strikeforce and climbing the mountaintop and looking like a million bucks in the end. That’s more than what so many of us can aspire to. She consolidates her reign after taking her title from one of the best ever in Miesha Tate, and absolutely decimating the most dominant female fighter we’d ever seen in MMA in Ronda Rousey. Now, many would and will argue that this was a diminished version of Rousey, snakebit after the loss last year to Holly Holm. The way in which this transpired was a thing of beauty, and she fought smart using the perfect gameplan. Straight shots down the middle, shucking off Rousey when she attempted to clinch, and better use of angles and timing won the day. That’s five consecutive wins with the last three being Shevchenko, Tate and now Rousey. She’s likely to face the winner of Julianna Peña and Valentina Shevchenko next, but doesn’t appear concerned and is in fact quite confident in her abilities and legacy right now. Plus, with all of the attention on Rousey likely to do decent PPV numbers, Nunes probably made bank since she gets PPV points on this card as well. Here’s hoping she gets the rub here and can make something of this run that’s of great benefit to her.
Cody Garbrandt - This was probably the greatest case of classic misdirection in MMA since Holm fought Rousey. Were these elements of Garbrandt’s game always there without us noticing? Even I was fooled into believing that Garbrandt was as one-dimensional as Cruz thought he was. Here we saw great footwork, outstanding head movement and crafty setups that started to pay off as the fight went on. It was big when Cody cracked Dominick the first time, but actually dropping him more than once? That showed he was for real. Garbrandt shot for takedowns, actually nailed them, and even styled on Cruz for a bit. Nobody does that to Cruz, he’s the one known for doing it to others. That alone was outstanding, and put a major exclamation point on the event. It’s fascinating to see Urijah Faber get outworked or outfoxed by opponents that later involve his protégés coming in and dismantling systematically. So that Alpha Fail chatter seems like it’s going to die with the quickness, and with a performance such as that one, it’s respect that’s well-earned.
TJ Dillashaw - There was so much versatility on display here, with the fake-outs and level changes alternating punches, kicks, takedowns, all beautifully blended into artful combat. The riddle of how to defeat Lineker wasn’t a very complicated one for someone with Dillashaw’s talents and style, and he made it look fairly simple. Note - not easy, but simple. He kept the fight on his terms and where he wanted it to go for the majority of the bout, and made a great case after the fight for a title shot. After all, he’s beaten two fighters closer to the number 1 slot than Garbrandt was. Barring an immediate rematch between Garbrandt and Cruz, he should be the rightful challenger with a fresh matchup.
Ray Borg - If you’re gonna miss weight, you’d better look fantastic. Borg totally did that and then some with his dominant grappling and savvy scrambles. He kept constant and consistent pressure throughout the fight and really looked to be a level or two above Smolka in this fight. This puts him at 4-2 in the UFC, but he really needs to get his weight in check if he wants to continue at 125.
Alex Garcia - Look, I feel terrible for Mike Pyle going out like that. Still, that was a fascinating knockout. Alex hit that brother with the power of 1998 Sammy Sosa and made Pyle’s mullet grow back. Excellent way to bounce back from the loss to Sean Strickland earlier this year, and bonus points for walking off and not inflicting unnecessary damage. His striking looked sharper and he’s improving his skillset to be more than just a wrestler that got into MMA (which he totally is, no shame there) and really being a competent MMA fighter with smart submission defense and better overall game.
Niko Price - Man, if you’re gonna make your debut in the UFC after ruining the regional circuit with mostly finishes on your resume, this is a great way to do it. Price is wily and pushes a strange pace but has great finishing instinct. That’s going to serve him very well as long as he’s not rushed into fights he’s not ready for.
Antonio Carlos Junior notched his second consecutive win after his loss to Judo Dan Kelly in March. This probably belongs in the “neither“ category due to the dueling eyepokes in the first round. It probably won’t be held against him, so we’ll put him here for the time being. Neil Magny had some great moments in a close fight against a slower but very dangerous and very game Johny Hendricks. Still, a good performance against one of if not the best wrestler in the upper ranks of the division and a great bounceback win after being dominated by Lorenz Larkin in August. Dong Hyun Kim gets another win under his belt, in an odd affair that was also a bit controversial. That’s his third consecutive win as well, but still leaves him in this weird spot since his performance was inconsistent at best.
Ronda Rousey - It shouldn’t have come to this. Rousey has done so much for this sport and elevated both women’s representation in MMA as well as the sport as a whole. She elevated the sport more than any other fighter since the Brock Lesnar himself, and has accomplished so very much in such a short period of time.
She deserved better.
Much like my previous social media rant, I’ll say the same thing here - Javier Mendez wouldn’t dare send one of his fighters to be that woefully unprepared. Rafael Cordeiro would sooner dive in front of a speeding truck than let one of his fighters go out there like that to get brutalized. There was zero meaningful offense, and all of this is exacerbated by the nonexistent defense. A woman that could have still been the apex predator of her division, absorbed a ton of unnecessary brain trauma and concussive damage due to terrible coaching and training. Rousey should have probably changed her training situation 3-4 years ago. Ideally, she’d have never set foot at Glendale Fight Club to begin with. It’s one thing to lose the aura of invincibility like last year against Holm, this has us all questioning if she should even be fighting at all now. What’s worse, the general consensus appears to be that she shouldn’t. She actually could have won this fight, but got humiliated on a grand stage yet again. Those lucrative movie and outside media deals started to dry up after her first loss, so what happens now? If she continues fighting, where does she stand in the division? If she fights again, does she ditch Tarverdyan or stay with what was a winning formula for a long time?
So now, she deserves better.
She needs to retreat to her private life, evaluate what she wants to do and not focus on the negativity and hate she’s going to get and the jeers of the vocal detractors to focus on what makes her happy. If this is truly the end, we should be thanking her greatly and wish her well in her life outside of fighting. It’s only right that we do so.
Edmond Tarverdyan - If we haven’t done so before, can we agree that he’s the worst coach training high-level fighters? Telling Rousey she was doing a “good job“ while getting battered by Nunes was unacceptable. He was about to get up and yell something when the fight was over, but promptly sat down when Nunes came his way. He’s continuing to get fighters hurt, and this kind of incompetence and recklessness is beyond inexcusable at this point.
Dominick Cruz - Talk about misreading the situation. Garbrandt had a ton of us fooled into thinking he was just a boxer and while Cruz had flashes of brilliance in this fight, it was him that was getting picked apart in some of the exchanges. This fight raises some questions about Cruz, primarily that of whether or not he’s finally been figured out. Once that mystique is gone, the potential for a brutal downfall is always there. His wins over Dillashaw in January and Faber in June were beautiful displays of what MMA striking can be, but now he’s got to evaluate some of the holes in his game and perhaps adding some new wrinkles to it. He’s still only got two losses on his record, one to an all-time great and another to the man now wearing the belt. But he was getting dominated in so many of those exchanges it was hard to tell who was the challenger and who was the champion.
John Lineker - Lineker’s defense consisted primarily of taking as many punches to the face as he could and maybe muscling his way off his back to keep trading shots. This brings plenty of problems when fighting someone of Dillashaw’s caliber. Lineker had no answers for his athleticism, wrestling or evasive maneuvers other than swinging wildly. I hope I’m wrong here, but it seems Lineker has hit his peak. I just don’t see him succeeding any further in this division, and he’s not likely to drop back to flyweight.
Johny Hendricks - Hendricks has become unreliable as a fighter at this point. He had a lot of difficulty closing the distance and getting off any effective offense while standing, but got some good takedowns and did great work while there. Some think he won that fight, and while I see the case for it I disagree. This is his third consecutive loss, and they all took place this year. If he decides to retire at this point, we can only hope he does well after a career in fighting. If not, he’s got some moves to make. Whether that means finally making it out to AKA as he’s stated he wanted to train there at some point or finding better people to handle his weight management and conditioning, he can’t allow all of his potential to be squandered.
Mike Pyle - This sort of loss is terrible two watch. That’s the second time Pyle’s been finished with strikes this year, and it was a brutal knockout that laid him out stiff. At this point with all of the mileage on his body and damage he’s taken, he may be considering retirement soon if not immediately. If he’s going to continue fighting, he at least needs a lot of time off to recover.
Tarec Saffiedine - Saffiedine can’t seem to make his entire game click together as of late, whether it’s due to bad matchups or injuries taking their toll on him after a decade in the game. For the first round, he looked to be in control for the majority of the fight, but the rest of it was just strange. Sure, the decision was controversial and the fight ended up close, so that and the fact that he’s now 2-3 in the UFC shouldn’t affect him that adversely yet. He’s probably sticking around with some heavier scrutiny on his next performance.
Marvin Vettori - As mentioned in the Antonio Carlos segment, this fight was largely uneventful save for the eyepokes in the first round. It simply wasn’t the fight that these two are capable of having, and they’re both very good fighters that are still very rough around the edges. It was an ugly loss, but it doesn’t set him back too much.
Louis Smolka - Smolka has a lot of potential, but this is the second time in a row that he gets outgrappled handily. This was even worse, and it’s happening in a division where there’s a shift happening and people are getting cut. He’s not in danger of that yet, but moving up in the division is going to be a more arduous task if things remain as they are for him.
Brandon Thatch once again gets submitted on the ground, making this his fourth straight loss. He’s probably getting cut at this point. Tim Means also ends up on this list. How did he not know what a downed opponent was? I understand being caught up in the heat of the moment, but this was bizarre. And Dan Miragliotta gets some stick for this one as well, because he directly contradicted Means as to whether or not it was deliberate. At least the fight was stopped when it needed to be, but that was silly. I try not to harp on refs too much because it’s a thankless and very difficult job, but that was dumb.
Alex Oliveira - Not much for him here, since he was losing the fight and got hit with an illegal strike. None of this is his fault, so his standing pretty much remains as it was.