Why to Watch UFC 207…Besides Rousey’s Return

The UFC saved one of their biggest events for the last of the year, as UFC 207 features Ronda Rousey’s return on Dec. 30. Rousey has been absent from the media ahead of the fight, and will be mostly absent ahead of the fight vs. Amanda Nunes.

Whether or not you’re feeling the buzz for Rousey’s comeback fight, there are plenty of other fantastic fights on the last card of 2016. From another title fight fueled by a bitter feud to a matchup between a technical master and a heavy-handed brawler, check out the best fights on UFC 207.

Finesse vs. Firepower: Cody Garbrandt and Dominick Cruz

If you’re going by media appearances, you would think Cody Garbrandt’s title shot against Dominick Cruz is the real main event. With Rousey shunning any press-related obligations, Garbrandt and Cruz’s trash talk has taken center stage. This matchup is all about youth vs experience, power vs finesse. Nobody has been able to provide an answer for Cruz’s crafty footwork and creativity, but there are few fighters that hit harder in the bantamweight division than Cody Garbrandt.

Garbrandt has knocked out four of his five UFC opponents on the way to his title shot. The question remains: can he hit Cruz? And if he can, can Cruz handle Garbrandt’s power? Whether this fight ends early or goes the full twenty-five minutes, it will be a tense affair from start to finish.

The compelling physical matchup aside, these two fighters cannot stand each other. The vitriol has been thrown back and forth since before they were scheduled to fight, and the heat is backed up by a decade-long rivalry between Cruz and Garbrandt’s gym Team Alpha Male. You won’t see these two touch gloves before the fight, but you will see fireworks after the opening bell.

Technique vs. Tenacity: T.J. Dillashaw and John Lineker

In another bantamweight firefight, former champion T.J. Dillashaw takes on #2 contender John “Hands of Stone” Lineker. The Brazilian lives up to his nickname, as he’s proven to be one of the fiercest and most dangerous fighters in the division. Dillashaw, burning for a rematch with champion Cruz, will be motivated to put on a show and cement himself as the clear-cut top contender.

This matchup promises to be one of the most exciting on the entire card: Dillashaw’s footwork and movement is the best in the game next to Cruz’s, and he gets better with every fight. Lineker doesn’t know how to take a backward step; “Hands of Stone” will be coming forward for the fight’s entirety, and we’ll see if Dillashaw can avoid his heaviest shots.

The Best of the Rest:

Though UFC 207 took a hit when it lost the heavyweight rematch between Cain Velasquez and Fabricio Werdum, it remains one of the best cards in recent memory. Outside of the two title fights and the exciting bantamweight contender’s fight, there are a number of high-stakes matchups. Ranked welterweight strikers Dong Hyun Kim and Tarec Saffiedine should provide an entertaining battle on the main card, and Louis Smolka vs. Ray Borg pits two of the most dynamic grapplers in the flyweight division against each other.

On the prelims, former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks takes on top-10 contender Neil Magny. It is a crossroads fight for Hendricks, who was once on top of the most stacked division in the UFC. He has had a rough 2016, suffering a shocking loss to Stephen Thompson in February before getting outstruck by Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 200 in July. Magny will look to rebound from his toughest loss to date, a first round TKO defeat at the hands of Lorenz Larkin in August. The winner of this fight will be back in the win column to end the year, and can look to ascend the welterweight ladder again in 2017.

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