After more than a year away from fighting, Ronda Rousey returned to the octagon at UFC 207 on Friday to redeem herself after she lost her title in an upset to Holly Holm at UFC 193. Unfortunately for the 29-year-old, though, things did not go her way at Las Vegas’s T-Mobile Arena. And how.
The moment reigning women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes touched Rousey, the fight was over. A flurry of fists threw Rousey off her feet, causing referee Herb Dean to end the bout just 48 seconds into the first round. It was brutal, shocking and ugly, and it’s hard to imagine Rousey will want anything to do in MMA after this.
“Forget Ronda Rousey,” Nunes defiantly said in her post-fight interview. “She’s gonna go make movies now and retire.”
Nunes’s words sounded harsh after such a devastating loss, but they came out of emotion after a frustrating week that saw her all but ignored by the media when Rousey refused to do any of the media appearances or press conferences that might have put the Brazilian on the map as a budding star in a wide-open division.
At press time, Rousey, whose face was bloodied in the 48-second onslaught, still hadn’t addressed the media and it was unclear whether she planned to attend the post-fight press conference.
Luckily for fight fans who came for a show, the co-main event lasted longer. The result was also what many considered an upset when challenger Cody Garbrandt became just the second man — and the first since 2007 — to defeat bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. The new champion showed off incredible footwork, speed, timing and power to put a comprehensive beating on the aging Cruz, who looked just a step slower than his usual frenetic self in the cage. As with Nunes, the 25-year-old Garbrandt has the tools to be a dominant champion. He also has the charisma to be a star.
In one of the sweetest moments of the night, Garbrandt walked out to the octagon with a young cancer survivor named Maddux Maple. According to Ariel Helwani, Garbrandt promised Maple that once he beat cancer he’d take him to a UFC event. Being able to share his victory with Maple was an extra treat.
The rest of the card provided mixed action. The bantamweight bout between former champion TJ Dillashaw and John Lineker was a wipeout for Dillashaw, who staked a claim as the presumptive top contender to Garbrandt’s freshly won crown. He called out Cruz after the fight, but now that Garbrandt’s the champ, he’ll probably redirect his trash talk.
Meanwhile, Dong Hyun Kim came out on top over Tarec Saffiedine in a forgettable welterweight affair, while Ray Borg opened the main card with a fun and impressive decision win over Louis Smolka.
For a more detailed breakdown of all the fights, keep reading.
Amanda Nunes def. Ronda Rousey via TKO (punches), Round 1, :48 seconds
Nunes made quick work out of Rousey thanks to the Brazilian being the hardest puncher in this division. Rousey had not a single answer once Nunes’s fists touched the former champion’s chin. Shot after shot landed until Herb Dean mercifully put an end to Rousey’s misery.
Cody Garbrandt def. Dominick Cruz by decision (48-46, 48-47, 48-46)
Garbrandt is the new bantamweight champion thanks to an incredible performance. He rose to the occasion by showing off previously unseen depths to his game, including in his footwork and head movement. The former allowed him to efficiently avoid Cruz’s forward pressure, while the latter allowed him to stay in the pocket to land his counters. Nothing about Cruz’s game seemed to fluster him. The UFC may have a new star on its hands with Garbrandt.
Meanwhile, it looked like the aging curve and injuries finally caught up with Cruz. He’s fought through so much, but he looked slower than usual, and his incredible chin cracked under Garbrandt’s assault.
Round 1: Cruz opens up with his customary movement, but Garbrandt’s trigger to counter is quick whenever Cruz steps in to throw. He blasts Cruz with a right hand, then a left hook, then another counter right, but Cruz shakes each flush punch off. Still, this is exactly what Garbrandt needs to do. The challenger is doing a good job of moving his head, too, and Cruz hasn’t landed much more than a couple of low kicks. Cruz finally times a takedown, but can’t control Garbrandt in the scramble that follows. So far, Garbrandt is fighting to a perfect plan, and Cruz will have to dig deep to put the challenger off his game. Cruz tags him in an exchange, and some of that moxie seems to go out of Garbrandt’s sails, but Garbrandt hits a takedown of his own. The gap between the two men in speed, power, and athleticism appears to be substantial. 10-9 Garbrandt.
Round 2: Cruz comes out strong to start the round, getting back to his movement and landing a combination, but the first time they exchange Garbrandt tags him. Cruz stays in the pocket, though, and lands a few flush shots of his own. Garbrandt’s a little more cautious afterward, and for a guy who assumes his power will scare off the opponent, maybe exchanging is exactly what Cruz needed to do to put him off his game. Garbrandt is still landing his counters, but Cruz doesn’t look too affected by his power anymore. There’s more swinging and missing from Garbrandt now, too, though he plants a couple of good shots on Cruz to end the round. 10-9 Cruz in the second, 19-19 overall.
Round 3: Garbrandt tags Cruz cleanly with a few shots to open the third and rocks Cruz, opening up a cut above the champion’s left eye. Garbrandt tags him again, and now he’s mugging, mocking the defending champ. The counters are accurate and so, so fast for Garbrandt. The champion is looking a bit old out here, like he can’t keep up with the younger man’s speed and power. Garbrandt hurts him again, and while he’s still in the fight, he looks like he might be in trouble. A good combination lands for Cruz, but Garbrandt shakes his finger. The two fighters exchange to end the round, and Cruz gets the better of them. 10-9 Garbrandt, who repeatedly hurt Cruz.
Round 4: Cruz opens up with kicks and eats yet another counter right hand. They exchange, and Cruz looks to get the better of it, but then Garbrandt plants him on the canvas with a clean shot. Cruz is back up and gets right back to business, but the speed and power disparity just seems to be too much for his bag of tricks to overcome. Garbrandt’s footwork and head movement are off-the-charts good here, something Cruz isn’t used to dealing with, and he’s using tight, short movements to avoid Cruz’s darting combinations and punish him when he misses. This is really beautiful work. Nothing Cruz lands seems to be affecting Garbrandt at all. Cruz goes down again from a Garbrandt left hook, then down again off a right hand, and Garbrandt is swarming him. 10-9 Garbrandt and 39-37 overall.
Round 5: Cruz needs a finish to keep his belt, and he comes out hard, looking to throw. The story of this fight has been Garbrandt’s footwork, which has been short and crisp, giving him great angles from which to land those counters while avoiding Cruz’s blitzes. A good combination lands for Cruz, and he nearly lands a flying knee. Cruz is trying to bait Garbrandt into exchanging, but the challenger is picking his spots nicely and might be a bit tired. Cruz is selling out, looking for spinning backfists and anything that might end the fight, but he’s nowhere close. Switching gears, Cruz is trying to pressure more, but ends up in the clinch with Garbrandt, stuffed against the cage. 10-9 Cruz in the fifth and 48-47 Garbrandt in what should be a title-winning effort.
TJ Dillashaw def. John Lineker by unanimous decision (30-26 x 3)
Dillashaw was ready to go from the moment he stepped in the octagon and it showed when Bruce Buffer announced his fight…
Dillashaw put on a stunning performance against Lineker, who can be an incredibly dangerous fighter. Dillashaw unleashed a tremendous amount of damage to him without ever putting himself in a bad spot. It was a brilliant game plan and even better execution from a guy who is at worst, the second-best bantamweight on the planet. He deserves another shot at Cruz, and after this it’ll be hard to deny him what he wants.
And in case you’re still wondering, yes, he really, really wants that title shot. After calling the current bantamweight champ a naughty name in his post-fight interview, Dillashaw accused Cruz of running from him.
“That’s my belt,” he said. “That’s mine and I want it back.”
Round 1: Dillashaw is looking to pressure early, which is probably the best way to shut down Lineker’s own pressure game and stick the shorter man on the end of his reach. Lots of head kick attempts from Dillashaw early, picking up on a few that landed for John Dodson against Lineker last time out. Dillashaw decides he doesn’t like the first landed body punch from Lineker, and he shoots a gorgeous double-leg takedown and gets Lineker to the mat shortly afterward. Good control from Dillashaw here, and he lands a couple of good shots when Lineker tries to get back to his feet. Dillashaw wants nothing to do with punching distance when they get back to their feet, which is the smart play here. Lineker’s counters are quick and potent, though, and he looks to let go when Dillashaw steps in with combinations. Lineker finally tracks Dillashaw down near the end of the round and draws out an exchange, but neither fighter lands much of importance. 10-9 Dillashaw.
Round 2: Lineker opens up with dedicated pressure, and the second he overcommits to his forward movement, he gets taken down. Dillashaw nearly gets his back in the following scramble, but barely avoids eating a big shot when getting back to his feet. The distance is just a bit too long for Lineker to land at range, and Dillashaw sticks him with a hard body kick before hitting another clean takedown. Dillashaw is just grinding from the top, but now he’s landing hard elbows from half guard and shuts down Lineker’s attempt to scramble. When Lineker tries for an ill-advised kneebar, Dillashaw slides over into mount, and now he’s postured up pouring on hammerfists and punches. These are brutal shots and this should be a 10-8 for Dillashaw, 20-17 overall.
Round 3: The combination of Dillashaw’s reach and feints have completely shut down Lineker’s forward movement, and he’s probably afraid of giving up another takedown as well. Dillashaw does a beautiful job of flowing from a punching combination to a takedown, but he can’t hold Dillashaw down. A jab lands for Dillashaw, then a darting combination, and now Dillashaw seems unafraid of whatever Lineker could throw at him. When Lineker plants to throw, thinking that Dillashaw is committing to striking, the former champion ducks under and blasts him off his feet with another double-leg takedown. Lineker’s going nowhere on the mat and Dillashaw is controlling him effortlessly, landing shots at will as Lineker tries to scramble. Dillashaw rolls for a leg lock, some kind of calf crank, and narrowly avoids eating a shot as Lineker gets back to his feet. Lineker stuffs a takedown and rips Dillashaw’s body with a combination and then a few more as the clock winds down. 10-9 Dillashaw in the third and 30-26 in his favor on the whole.
Dong Hyun Kim def. Tarec Saffiedine by split decision (27-30, 29-28, 29-28)
That was an ugly fight, and the less said about it the better. Former Strikeforce welterweight champion Saffiedine was probably too willing to clinch with Kim, and while he won those early battles, he lost the war by wearing himself down. Saffiedine will drop out of the top 15 and Kim will stick around for a while longer, but he’s not going to be contending anytime soon. Performances like that won’t get him much love, either.
Round 1: Saffiedine does a good job early of keeping Kim at bay with his feet, and then unexpectedly gets the best of an early clinch exchange before separating and getting back to open space. Kim is coming after him aggressively and having some success with his combinations, but he’s eating shots from Saffiedine as well. That aggression means Kim is essentially giving up his four-inch height and comparable reach advantage and opening himself to counters. The second time they clinch, Saffiedine again stuffs the takedowns before breaking off. He’s losing some chunks of time on the inside, but isn’t conceding takedowns or taking damage. For the second time, Saffiedine dumps Kim on the canvas, but ends the round with his back to the fence. Close, but we’ll say 10-9 Saffiedine for the trips and greater volume at range.
Round 2: Kim comes out aggressive again, and he gets the best of an early striking exchange but can’t hold Saffiedine in the clinch. Clean punches land for Saffiedine, then one of his trademark low kicks, a tool that he has mostly left in the bag tonight in favor of his hands in order to avoid takedowns. There just isn’t enough pop in Saffiedine’s hands to scare Kim off or really hurt him, and Kim is willing to walk through the shots to land his own as he moves forward. It looks like Kim’s pressure and constant clinching is starting to wear Saffiedine down a bit, though he isn’t doing a ton of damage. Kim’s size and strength are starting to show in these extended clinch exchanges. Another close round, but that was probably Kim’s round. 19-19.
The crowd, however, isn’t into it.
Boo birds starting to come out after another round with very little action
Round 3: Kim comes out slinging punches and Saffiediene responds, landing a slapping head kick in the exchange. The pace slows a bit, and Kim manages to control Saffiedine against the fence for an extended period of time, though without getting much serious offense in. This is stifling work from the South Korean. A pair of body kicks land for Saffiedine at range, then a third, and he could stand to let them go more often at this point in the fight. With 30 seconds left, they clinch again, and Kim drags Saffiedine to the mat and ends the fight on top. 10-9 Kim in the third and 29-28 in his direction overall.
In other news, it’s Luda!
In non-Ludacris news, Amanda Nunes is in the building, too.
Ray Borg def. Louis Smolka by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
If Borg can figure out his weight cut down to 125 pounds, he’ll be a contender sooner rather than later in the wide-open flyweight division. He’s an incredible athlete and has an awesome top game, and he’s making serious strides as a striker under the tutelage of Brandon Gibson in Albuquerque. Watch out for this 23-year-old, who should get a Top 10 opponent in his next outing. If he gets his way, he’ll see Brandon Moreno next. Borg called out the No. 10 flyweight after the fight.
Round 1: Smolka is doing a good job of keeping Borg on the end of his long reach early, pumping his jab and the occasional kick to keep the shorter fighter outside. When they start to scramble, however, Borg shows off his athleticism, getting to the top. He tries to take the back, and for a while Smolka resists and nearly reverses, but Borg manages to maintain top position. There’s an obvious physical advantage for Borg here; whenever he gets his hands on Smolka, he’s tossing the tall Hawaiian around with ease and moving much more quickly in the scrambles. Now in mount, Borg lands a few shots, and then uses an omoplata to control the transition and stay on top. He rains down elbows and punches to end the round in top position. Clear 10-9 to Ray Borg.
Round 2: Borg is doing his best on the outside, darting in with punches and kicks, but he’s having trouble closing the distance. Once they lock up, however, Borg’s physicality again shines as he wins the scramble to find top position. Smolka attacks from his back with a leg lock, but Borg sniffs it out and uses the opportunity to land a brutal right hand. He’s miles ahead of Smolka in every transition and has a natural’s feel for position and leverage in the scramble. When Smolka tried to get back to his feet, for example, Borg knew just the right moment to crack down on an overhook, shift his weight, and shut down the escape. Borg tries for an arm triangle but can’t get it. When Smolka manages to stand up, Borg slams him right back down, easily avoiding Smolka’s attempt at a guillotine choke. The round ends with Borg on top, slamming punches down as Smolka tries to attack with an armbar. 20-18 Borg.
Ray Borg: "I think I broke my ankle." Corner: "It's alright. It's alright." Borg: Shrugs. Puts mouthpiece in. MMA, y'all. #UFC207
Round 3: Borg tells his corner between rounds that he thinks he broke his ankle, but he’s showing no obvious signs of distress. He immediately clinches and drives Smolka to the fence, where he finishes a slick takedown chain and gets to top position, so if he does have an injury it won’t be as much of an issue on the mat. Borg fishes for another arm triangle, but the fence is blocking him from turning the corner to apply maximum pressure, so he settles for the mount and shuts down yet another attempted stand-up from Smolka. As if to encapsulate the athletic disparity between the two, Borg tries an ill-advised jumping back-take when Smolka stands up, but manages to recover well enough to grab a single-leg takedown and avoid any ill effects. Finally Smolka regains some striking distance and lands a couple of shots, but it’s too little, too late. 10-9 Borg in the third and 30-27 to him overall.
The UFC 207 prelims got off to a strange start, but ended up showcasing some decent action as the evening moved on.
In the opener on Fight Pass, an action fight between Tim Means and Alex Oliveira ended in a confusing no-contest after Means landed a pair of illegal knees to an obviously downed Oliveira, who had a knee on the ground. It should have been a disqualification loss for Means, but referee Dan Miragliotta inexplicably deemed the knees unintentional, while the announcing booth further confused the audience with an incorrect explanation of whether the knees were even illegal in the first place.
Business picked up after that inauspicious start, though.
The debuting Niko Price put an end to once-hot prospect Brandon Thatch’s run in the UFC with a slick first-round submission, and former sure-thing up-and-comer Alex Garcia reignited some of the hype around him with a brutal knockout of Mike Pyle.
Antonio Carlos Junior’s slow-paced decision win over Marvin Vettori slowed proceedings, while in the main event on Fox Sports 1 former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks continued his downward slide with a close decision loss to Neil Magny in an uninspiring fight.
Mixed bag or not, UFC’s celebrity shareholders were predictably excited for the night to kick off.
Put ya dukes up and get that PPV ordered and ready for #UFC207 tonight! #she'sbaaaack