A five-round masterpiece and a 48 seconds striking clinic closed the main card of UFC 207 in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Two new stars in Cody Garbrandt and Amanda Nunes came out on top and made late claims for the title “Fighter of the Year”.
Many, including this author, counted out Cody Garbrandt before the first bell even rang. The 25-year-old seemed to be outmatched against Dominick Cruz, who had been the dominating force in the bantamweight division for years. But Garbrandt proved his doubters wrong by putting on a jaw-dropping performance. His almost flawless outing not only earned him a victory, but it also provided a satisfying moment for Team Alpha Male. The Sacramento-based gym has challenged Cruz for years, yet came up short on a number of occasions.
At times during the fight, Garbrandt clowned his opponent in a way no one has ever even attempted to do when standing in front of Cruz. Instead of making Garbrandt miss, like he has done with many elite fighters before, it was Cruz who punched the air repeatedly.
Garbrandt’s win could set up a title match against former Team Alpha Male fighter TJ Dillashaw who dominated Brazilian power puncher John Lineker earlier in the night. No matter who he fights next, Garbrandt has the belt around his waist and a bright future ahead.
Amanda Nunes was already the champion going into her bout with Ronda Rousey. However, she seemed only to be a byproduct to the return of a UFC brass favorite. “The Lioness” did what she had to do. She stole the show dismantling Rousey in tremendous fashion, cementing her status as undisputed queen of the bantamweight division and making a statement heard around the world.
The promotional lead-up to UFC 207 was as odd as it gets. The company decided to focus mainly on Rousey hoping her mainstream appeal would draw a solid buy rate for the UFC’s last show in 2016 and that she could recover from her loss to Holly Holm 13 months ago. Rousey herself avoided any interaction with the media during fight week, which even led to the UFC cancelling the official press conference.
A second devastating defeat in a row puts Rousey’s future in the sport in limbo. Plus, her performance in which the former champion could not defend a single power punch calls her decision to stick to the Glendale Fighting Club in question. Edmond Tarverdyan is not a coach of the highest calibre. If, and that is a big ‘if’, Rousey wants to continue fighting, she has to leave Glendale and join a gym where she can train with elite fighters under the guidance of elite coaches on a daily basis. Otherwise, she will be exposed by a polished striker again.
As for Nunes, the champion will most likely fight the winner of the contender bout between Valentina Shevchenko and Julianna Pena at UFC on Fox on Jan. 28. Nunes has shown that she possesses power and precision with both hands—especially in the early phases of a fight. The UFC might finally get behind her and use all promotional tools to tell the story of a tremendously talented fighter, openly homosexual athlete and successful immigrant.