It's time for Rousey to fight the fight of her life

It's time for Rousey to fight the fight of her life

December 27, 2016 3:07 AM
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Historically the UFC has chosen their “New Year” card to showcase many of the promotion’s most highly anticipated bouts and this year will be no different. In fact, the UFC 207 card this Friday night is lined from top to bottom with many of the promotion’s biggest names.

Few cities celebrate New Year’s Eve along with the few days before and after the way Las Vegas does, therefore it’s only fitting T-Mobile Arena will be playing the role of host for this UFC event.

There appear to be plenty of betting opportunities on the UFC 207 card as well, but it’s the main-event that has been attracting the most betting interest, and therefore that’s the bout I’ll go ahead and preview for this week’s column.

The UFC Women’s Bantamweight strap will be on the line as current title holder Amanda Nunes (13-4) makes her first defense against former Strikeforce and UFC champion Ronda Rousey (12-1). Oddsmakers installed the challenger Rousey as a -180 favorite. Since the betting opened, money on the champion Nunes has forced bookmakers to adjust and the current price has Rousey as low as -135.

The -135 betting line reflects the win probability for Rousey to be a little better than 57%. Simply put, as bettors we need to determine whether her chances of regaining the title are greater or lesser, to ultimately decide whether a wager on or against is warranted.

Bottom line, the women’s 135-pound division has been one of extreme parity of late as the title has changed hands three times in the last three times it’s been defended. Rousey lost it to Holm, who lost it to Tate, who lost it to Nunes. This fight will mark Nunes’ first attempt at defending the belt.

Rousey had successfully defended UFC Bantamweight gold six times and was a perfect 12-0 as a pro prior to being stopped by Holly Holm in the second round of their fight over 12 months ago. Prior to that loss she was arguably the most dominant champion in the UFC, and she had made it look easy. Only once had Rousey needed a second round to beat her opponent, finishing fights by way of submission and knockout.

Rousey’s success in MMA paved the way for her to become one of the most well recognized sports figures on a global level, and opened the door for all kinds of opportunities outside of the cage. Many credit all those distractions as the reason for her loss, and wonder whether so many obligations had affected her training in a negative way.

Nunes has fought her way to the top of the division and at 28 years of age, continues to improve with every bout. She’s a well-rounded mixed martial artist who is both a fierce striker and skilled at grappling. Nunes is also very strong and has one-punch finishing power as is evident by her 9 KOs. The main weakness has been her endurance as the longer Nunes’ fights have lasted, the more vulnerable she’s been.

For Rousey, the questions most have are whether the 13 month layoff will result in “ring rust” and her mindset after not handling her first loss very well mentally. Physically, the former Olympic medalist is always in peak condition and she appears to be stronger than ever.

Stylistically Nunes will be most dangerous early on and from a distance like Holm was. But Nunes is not the type of striker who stands on the outside and picks opponents apart. Instead she likes to blitz and overwhelm them with power punches. On the ground Nunes is most dangerous in top control, where she can apply some vicious ground and pound.

In the clinch, Rousey has proven to have a distinct advantage over the entire division and she will want to get a hold of Nunes and not try to stand and test her striking. Fortunately for Rousey, the opportunity to get inside will be there and having been successful on 68% of her take-down attempts, this fight should eventually hit the mat. Rousey has one of the best transition games, and even if it’s Nunes who forces the fight there, it’s only a matter of time before Rousey takes control on the ground.

Finally, I believe Nunes’ best chance to successfully defend her title is by finishing Rousey early on. I expect to see the most motivated version of Rousey yet, and also the most prepared, knowing now what can happen otherwise. Nunes is a very dangerous opponent for sure, but try to imagine what this betting line would be if Ronda hadn’t lost to Holm.

I just don’t believe the result of a single fight should effect the betting line as greatly as the loss to Holm obviously has.

PICK: RONDA ROUSEY -135

Twitter: @Greek_Gambler