Well, after months and months of anticipation, one of the most anticipated returns in MMA history is finally happening. This Friday, Ronda Rousey makes her return to fighting after more than a year away. In addition to her return versus Amanda Nunes, this card also has a ton of other great fights including a second title fight in the co-main event between Cody Garbrandt and Dominick Cruz. So without further ado here are staff writer Daniel Pierrot and I’s picks for tomorrow’s fights.
Louis Smolka vs. Ray Borg
Patrick Holohan: This should be a fun way to start the night. Ray Borg and Louis Smolka are both young up and coming fighters in the flyweight division so a win would be huge for both. Louis Smolka has a really fun style of Karate based stand up that could be the x-factor in this fight. Preparing for a guy that attacks from unconventional angles is really hard to do. The only way I can see Borg winning this fight is if he submits Smolka, which is something that has only happened once and I don’t think it will happen again in this fight. Also Borg missed weight for this fight so that will give Smolka even more motivation to win so he can get that extra 20%. Smolka via unanimous decision.
Daniel Pierrot: Both, Smolka and Borg, are coming into this fight after a loss. Smolka, who was on a four fight winning streak, was submitted by Brandon Moreno. Borg was on his own three fight winning streak, but lost in a decision to Justin Scoggins. So, each fighter will be looking to get back on track in this one. Smolka has had the better victories of late beating fighters like Neil Seery, Paddy Holohan, and Ben Nguyen. Borg has been forced to pull out of his last two scheduled fights, and may show some signs of ring rust. Smolka, on the other hand, has been very active and just fought in October. Smolka has been finishing fights early of late, but Borg has been a decision machine. I expect Smolka to come out aggressive and Borg to try and absorb the first flurry and surprise Smolka in the second or third round. Smolka by Decision
Dong Hyun Kim vs. Tarec Saffiedine
PH: Dong Hyun Kim comes into this fight after originally being scheduled to fight Gunnar Nelson back in November. Unfortunately, Nelson pulled out with an injury so now we have this fight a month later. Kim might be one of the most underrated fighters in the UFC. He has some of the best grappling in MMA as well as the ability to pull out crazy knockouts out of nowhere. Saffiedine on the other hand is a former Strikeforce standout that has struggled to live up to the hype in the UFC. Kim to me is one of those guys, like Donald Cerrone, who does awesome against everyone, but once he faces a top contender he can never quite get over the hump. Unfortunately for Saffiedine, he is not a top contender so I think Kim will toss him around and win by decision. Kim via Unanimous Decision.
DP: Saffiedine is extremely difficult to predict. The once Strikeforce champion, he is very capable of beating many good fighters in the UFC. However, he has struggled of late, losing two of his last three fights. Kim has lost three fights in his entire MMA career and they were all to top level opponents (Carlos Condit, Demian Maia, and Tyron Woodley). Considering he has dusted up everyone else that he has faced, I would expect the same in this fight. Saffidine is an extremely capable striker, but I expect Kim to outduel him here and get the close decision. Kim by Decision
TJ Dillashaw vs. John Lineker
PH: I look at this fight as sort of a poor man’s version of the co-main event. Dillashaw has some of the best footwork and mobility in MMA and Lineker has some of the heaviest hands in MMA. There are two ways this fight can go in my opinion. Either Lineker swings for the fences for three rounds and hits nothing but air and gets peppered by jabs and take downs, or Lineker connects on a huge over hand right and sends Dillashaw to the shadow realm. It is really hard to predict which one of those is going to happen. In Lineker’s last fight agaisnt John Dodson, he was able to land shots even though Dodson is really fast and slippery, but Dillashaw is at a whole other level. With all that being said, I think this fight will go a lot like Lineker’s loss against Ali Bagautinov. In that fight Lineker struggled to hit Ali and when he rushed in he would just get taken down. Dillashaw is also a great wrestler so I could see him just waiting for Lineker to run forward so he can plant him on his back. Dillashaw via Unanimous Decision.
DP: This is a fight! What a match up the UFC has set up here. Arguably the best fight of the night, Dillashaw and Lineker will scrap in this one. Dillashaw is coming off a tough loss to Dominick Cruz, so he’ll be extremely focused for this one. But, Lineker is a tough guy to throw fists with. I expect someone to get a knock out in this brawl. Dillashaw by TKO
Bantamweight Title Fight: Dominick Cruz (c) vs. Cody Garbrandt
PH: This fight is the classic offense vs. defense match up. Dominick Cruz is personally one of my top five pound for pound fighters in the world right now. The way that he moves and evades punches is so far above any other fighter in the world, it’s insane. Couple that with his great wrestling and you have a guy who is nearly impossible to beat. Cody Garbrandt will be trying to do just that, but his game plan is not going to make it an easy task. Garbrandt has shown in his short time in the UFC that he has some of the quickest and heaviest hand in the UFC. According to the official stats compiled by the UFC, Cody has the highest knockdown rate of all the UFC bantamweights and on the flip side Cruz has the highest head shot defense. The problem with this match up is that Cody has shown that he is mostly just a stand up and go forward type of guy at this point in his career. In the past Cruz has shown that people who do that get circles danced around them. I see this fight ending without Cody landing anything big and getting taken down a lot. Cruz via Unanimous Decision.
DP: Cruz is my second favorite fighter in the UFC and also my second favorite trash talker, so I’m a little biased in this one. Garbrandt has been on a tear of late and has yet to be beaten in the octagon. Although, if you asked me if he was ready for Cruz or the belt, I’d have to say no. If anything he’d be more ready for the fight that will occur before this one. I think Cruz will school him in this one and will finally lay the lumber on a mistake by the heavy throwing Garbrandt. Yes, the “decisionator” will finally finish a fight. Cruz by TKO
Women’s Bantamweight Title Fight: Amanda Nunes vs. Ronda Rousey
PH: Ok I am going to be completely honest before I go into my breakdown. I really hope Rousey loses. Well, now that, that is out of the way let’s talk about the fight. Ronda might be a little rusty seeing as she hasn’t been in the ring in over a year so that might be a big factor in this fight. We all know what her strategy is, take Nunes down and arm bar her. That seems simple enough, but Nunes has a BJJ black belt so on the surface it seems like that strategy would be a little harder to pull off. Nunes has shown in her time in the UFC that she has great striking and can bloody up a person’s face quick. In her last fight against Meisha Tate I was legitimately concerned that Tate would never look the same again. She has also shown a good rear naked which could come into play. The big if in this fight is if this fight stays on the feet what happens? Well, Ronda is still training with her trainer Edmund who is a total fraud and is bad at his job and Amanda is still vicious on the feet so I’d say if this fight stays standing, which I think it will, Nunes will leave 207 still the champion. Nunes via TKO.
DP: Rousey, Rousey, and more Rousey in this one. Holly Holm has scared off a lot of support for Rousey, but not me. She went into her last fight an unfocused and over-confident fighter. Neither of those things will be at play in this one. Nunes is a solid fighter and has a couple solid wins on her record, but she’s outmatched in this one. This fight has Rousey arm bar written all over it. Rousey by Submission