This Friday, UFC 207 sees the return of one of the biggest stars in UFC history, Ronda Rousey, in what will be her first fight back following a devastating high-profile defeat to Holly Holm. The women’s bantamweight title has been shared generously since Holm claimed it from Rousey, finding itself around the waist of Miesha Tate and then Amanda Nunes, where it remains today.
There’s another bantamweight title on the line on Friday, as the undefeated Cody Garbrandt looks to hand champion Dominick Cruz his first loss since 2007. 9 of Garbrandt’s 10 victories have come via TKO/KO stoppage whilst 8 of Cruz’s last 10 wins have gone to a judges’ decision, in what should be an interesting clash of styles.
Former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez had been set to face Fabrício Werdum at this event in what would have been a rematch of the 2015 bout where Werdum ended Velasquez’s 3-year title reign. This fight was scrapped on Christmas Eve, as the Nevada State Athletic Commission ruled Velasquez, who had previously spoken about needing surgery after this fight, unfit to compete. You’d have to go back to UFC 202 in August to find a PPV card that remained entirely unchanged through the final 2 weeks of preparation.
Ironically, one of the major media stories in the build-up to this event has been Rousey’s boycott of the media. She’s insisted, as a condition of her return, on a severely reduced media schedule that has seen the cancellation of much of the usual promotion, including the open workouts and pre-fight press conference.
Some critics have questioned Rousey’s mental state following this media blackout, whilst supporters say it gives her more time to focus on training for the fight. Either way, it’s clear that Rousey wants to give herself every advantage in order to rebound from a defeat to Holm that the whole world saw. This graphic below shows the last three results (most recent on the right) of both headliners.
Nunes’ last three bouts have seen a first-round submission victory over Sara McMann, a unanimous decision win over Valentina Shevchenko and, most recently, a dominant first-round submission win to claim the belt against Miesha Tate.
Rousey had submitted Cat Zingano in 14 seconds and scored a KO of Bethe Correia in 34 seconds before seeing her undefeated streak come to an unceremonious end with a second-round KO loss to Holly Holm.
It’s also interesting to note the results each woman has had against common opponents in their UFC/Strikeforce careers, as displayed in the graphic below.
Rousey certainly fairs better in this head-to-head comparison, going 5-0 against the same opponents Nunes’ went 2-2 against. It is worth noting that if I were to extend this graphic to show shared opponents in all promotions (this would include bouts with Ediane Gomes, Julia Budd and Sarah D’Alelio) Rousey’s record would improve to 8-0 whilst a 2013 loss to D’Alelio means Nunes’ record would only improve to 5-3.
It’s also worth noting that Nunes’ loss to Alexis Davis was back in 2011, and that none of her losses have came since September 2014.
The Dwyer Score
Each event I calculate a ‘Dwyer Score’ for the card. It’s a simple way of assigning a numeric value to the momentum of any one event. I do this by assigning a figure to each fighter’s current streak. A fighter on a five-fight winning streak contributes +5 to an event’s score. A fighter on a two-fight losing streak contributes -2 to the score. No Contests, Draws or bouts with other promotions reset your streak to 0. When you tally up the scores for every fighter on a card (only counting UFC fights) you get a total which gives you an idea of the combined momentum of fighters heading into a specific event.
For some context, here is a table which shows some of the highest-scoring events of all time. If my scoring system is accurate, this list should contain some of the most highly-anticipated shows in UFC history
The Dwyer Score for UFC 207 is +17, a good score but not particularly high for a PPV event. It’s certainly well above the 2016 average for all events of +13.3, but falls some way short of the +23.9 average for specifically PPV events this year.
This means that UFC 207 is tied in twelfth place of the 41 events in 2016. Here’s a graph to show how this score compares to other events this year.
In addition to the two bantamweight title fights, former champ T.J. Dillashaw takes on streaking contender John Lineker in another intriguing 135 lbs match-up. Many people believe T.J. did enough to earn a victory in his bout with Dominick Cruz at the beginning of 2016, whilst Lineker enters this event on the back of a six-fight winning streak.
In two bouts containing four top-ranked welterweights, Dong Hyun Kim takes on Tarec Saffiedine whilst former champion Johny Hendricks meets Neil Magny. Fellow 170-pounder Brandon Thatch will be desperate for a win against undefeated promotional newcomer Niko Price following a three-fight losing streak.
Beneath is a breakdown of how every fighter contributes to the score.
2016’s last event will also mark the final appearance of long-time commentator Mike Goldberg, who has been with the UFC since 1997 and has, alongside Joe Rogan, been the voice of the UFC for a whole generation of fans.
His departure adds to the list of high-profile figures to leave the promotion. As recently as 2015, the likes of Goldberg, Jacob ‘Stich’ Duran, Burt Watson, Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, Dave Sholler, Tom Wright and Joe Silva, to name just a few, would have been considered major figures in the UFC. It wouldn’t be all that surprising if a loss on Friday sees Ronda Rousey’s name added to that list.
It’s been a momentous year for the UFC, here’s hoping 2016 goes out with a bang.