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UFC 207 Observer Panel Picks: Ronda returns, Cody vs. The Dominator

UFC closes out one of their biggest years ever tonight with one of their biggest stars in former women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey making her return to the Octagon trying to regain her title from current champ Amanda Nunes.

Also on tap is a bantamweight title fight between Dominick Cruz and Cody Garbrandt of Team Alpha Male. These two have been at each other’s throats for months now and they’ll finally clash tonight.

Former bantamweight champ TJ Dillashaw squares off with John Lineker, Johny Hendricks battles Neil Magny in a catchweight bout with Neil Magny, and former Strikeforce champ Tarec Saffiedine takes on veteran Dong Hyun Kim, aka Stun Gun.

It’s a big show to close out the year and it’s a tight race for our picks game as well. There has been a three-way battle for the top spot all year and I personally am trying to get back to .500 before the new season kicks off.

Our panel has made selection on five fights from tonight’s card below with odds coming from bestfightodds.com and fighter rankings from FightMatrix.com. Year to date record is in parenthesis with panel consensus picks and a record of the favorites as well.

Enjoy!

  • John Pollock (76-47; .618): Fight Network analyst, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, MMA Report co-host
  • David Bixenspan (75-48; .610): Writer for multiple websites, podcast host
  • Josh Nason (74-49; .602): Host of Josh Nason’s Punch Out; writer/editor WrestlingObserver.com, WON Twitter guy
  • Favorites (73-50; .593)
  • Dave Meltzer (71-52; .577): Wrestling Observer founder
  • Mike Sawyer (71-52; .577): Tough Talk MMA
  • Consensus picks (63-49; .563)
  • Ryan Frederick (69-54; .561): WrestlingObserver.com UFC writer, WON Twitter guy
  • Mike Sempervive (69-54; .561): Wrestling Observer Live and Big Audio Nightmare co-host
  • Front Row Brian (68-55; .553): MMA newsbreaker, beloved internet personality, podcast host
  • Steve Juon (67-56; .545): MMA Mania writer. Angry Marks founder
  • Paul Fontaine (61-62; .496): MMADraws.com founder, WrestlingObserver.com writer

Women's Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes (13-4) vs Ronda Rousey (12-1)

In one of the biggest upsets in combat sports history, Rousey lost her title to Holly Holm 13 months ago. Since then, the title has changed twice with Nunes beating Rousey’s long-time rival Miesha Tate for the belt at UFC 200.

Rousey has famously refused to do any media in the buildup to this fight in order to focus completely on the fight and her opponent. That, and the speculation of what kind of business this show will do, feel like the biggest stories around this fight and this show.

That being said, it’s a very even matchup. In fact, both Rousey and Nunes have identical 6-1 UFC records with five first round finishes. The only thing that most people agree on is that the fight will likely end quickly, either via a Nunes KO by Nunes or Rousey submission.

Our panel is nearly split.

  • Nunes #1; +120 betting underdog: Bix, Nason, Sawyer, Juon, Fontaine, FRB
  • Rousey #2; -127 betting favorite: Pollock, Frederick, Meltzer, Sempervive

Men's Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz (22-1) vs Cody Garbrandt (10-0)

Garbrandt stormed his way into the title picture with five straight UFC wins with the last three coming via first round stoppage. Standing in his way is the nemesis of Team Alpha Male in the longtime champion Cruz.

Cruz has been unbeaten for almost 10 years, last losing to Urijah Faber very early in his career. But, he has never faced anyone with the power of Garbrandt. Cruz has been trying to get into the head of the young challenger with verbal jabs and on the surface at least, it seems to have affected him.

Will he use that as motivation to beat the champ or will he be beaten before he even gets into the cage? This is a solid co-main event and should be a lot of fun.

  • Cruz #1; -205 betting favorite: Bix, Pollock, Nason, Frederick, Juon, FRB, Meltzer, Sempervive
  • Garbrandt #9; +191 betting underdog: Sawyer, Fontaine

TJ Dillashaw (13-3) vs John Lineker (29-7)
BANTAMWEIGHTS

Dillashaw lost his title in January in a close decision to Cruz. He looked great at UFC 200 against Raphael Assuncao and with a win here, he will likely get a title rematch. Lineker has had some issues with weight cutting but has looked like a killer since moving up from flyweight. If he can stop the former champ, he will be in line for a title fight as well.

No matter what happens, we should have our next bantamweight title fight with both 135-pound fights almost certainly guaranteed to be great.

  • Dillashaw #2; -225 betting favorite: Pollock, Nason, Juon, Fontaine, FRB, Meltzer, Sempervive
  • Lineker #5; +221 betting underdog: Bix, Sawyer, Frederick

Dong Hyun Kim (21-3-1) vs Tarec Saffiedine (16-5)
WELTERWEIGHTS

This is a sleeper of a great fight. Saffiedine is a former Strikeforce champion, but has had a so-so record in UFC. Kim’s only three career losses have been to current champ Tyron Woodley and top contenders Demian Maia and Carlos Condit. Both guys are tough vets and a loss for either one will likely eliminate them from the contender ranks.

  • Saffiedine #27; +128 betting underdog: Sawyer
  • Kim #17; -135 betting favorite: Bix, Pollock, Nason, Frederick, Juon, Fontaine, FRB, Meltzer, Sempervive

Johny Hendricks (17-5) vs Neil Magny (18-5)
CATCHWEIGHT

Hendricks missed weight by 3.5 lbs, but Magny accepted the fight at a catchweight. Historically, guys that miss weight have lost about 70% of the time over the last couple of years so that could be a factor here.

Hendricks is the former champion of the division but has looked very bad in his last two fights. Magny had a seven-fight win streak not that long ago, and followed that with a three-fight win streak. However, he is coming off a first round KO loss at the hands of Lorenz Larkin.

Between his poor showings recently and his weight-cutting issues, it’s unlikely that Hendricks will ever get a title opportunity again. This would be Magny’s most impressive win and he’d likely be no more than two wins away from a title shot should he emerge victorious.

  • Hendricks #12; +103 betting underdog: Sawyer, Frederick
  • Magny #13; -110 betting favorite: Bix, Pollock, Nason, Juon, Fontaine, FRB, Meltzer, Sempervive

Ryan Frederick will have ongoing coverage of the show tonight beginning at 7:30 PM eastern with the Fight Pass prelims. Action moves over to FS 1 for more prelims at 8 and the PPV broadcast will kick off at 10.

While you’re waiting, check out the following coverage relating to this show: