Friday, December 30th, 2016 in Las Veags, Nevada for UFC 207: “Nunes vs Rousey” by Daniel Tom

The opinions expressed in this free content are for entertainment purposes only, as my goal here is to provide analysis for those who enjoy the technical or gaming aspects of our sport. If you choose to gamble, I recommend doing so responsibly and legally as it is at your own risk. Enjoy the fights!

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Amanda Nunes (13-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 28 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 69″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Miesha Tate (7-9-16)
  • Camp: American Top Team (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   UFC Bantamweight Champion
+   Brown Belt Judo
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   Multiple Grappling Accolades
+   9 KO victories
+   3 Submission wins
+   10 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Underrated footwork
+   Improved jab
+   Dangerous right hand
+   Hard leg kicks
+   Strong inside the clinch
^   Good hip awareness
+   Solid top game
+   Devastating ground striker
^   Hard elbows & punches
+/-Aggressive pace & pressure
^   Propensity to fade as fight progresses

Ronda Rousey (12-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 29 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 68″
  • Last Fight: KO loss / Holly Holm (11-14-15)
  • Camp: Glendale Fight Club (California)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Former UFC Bantamweight Champion
+   2008 Olympic Bronze Medalist (Judo)
+   Black Belt Judo
+   Multiple Judo World Titles
+   3 KO victories
+   9 Submission wins
+   11 first round finishes
+   KO power
^   Heavy right hand
+   Relentless pace & pressure
+   Strong inside the clinch
^   Diverse trips & throws
+   Effective from top position
^   Favors scarf holds (Judo side-control)
+   Excellent positional awareness/scrambles
^   Hits submissions in transition
+/-Aggressive in exchanges
–    Head often upright
^   Counter availabilities


The main event for UFC 207 is a battle between two of the most physical females in the game as Amanda Nunes defends her bantamweight title against the returning Ronda Rousey. A longtime dark horse in the division, Amanda Nunes finally got her chance to fight for gold at UFC 200 earlier this year. Ending up as a last minute main event, Nunes seized the moment as she would upset Miesha Tate en route to earning the belt. Now, granted another great opportunity, Nunes will get a chance to welcome Ronda Rousey back to the Octagon in her first title defense.

After seeing a star implode before our eyes in Australia last year, we have not seen or heard much from the former champion, Ronda Rousey. Aside from TMZ-like press coverage that felt like a cross between gossip columns and the Patterson footage, there is little information out there in regards to any new developments or potential improvements of the former champ. Although I hate to speculate on the mental status of a human being that I do not know personally, the general sample-size of Ronda’s behavior leads us to believe that her mental state of mind will likely be this fight’s key intangible. That said, I will exercise my usual protocol of keeping all speculations limited and relevant, as I attempt to dive into the technics of this matchup.

Starting off on the feet, both ladies possess heavier hands than their contemporaries, but I give a decent edge to Nunes. Training boxing since the age of 16, Nunes has steadily developed a Muay Thai arsenal since entering MMA. Initially storming into exchanges and producing quick results in doing so, Amanda has slowly sharpened her game and adjusted her approach. Most notably, Nunes has improved her footwork as she will now circle just outside of range as opposed to rushing right in. Showing signs of intelligence in the direction in which she circles and angles, Amanda’s shot selection and accuracy have also inherently improved as this makes her power more potent.

Another recent development to Amanda’s game has been the presence of her jab. Utilizing it in a measuring fashion, Nunes will now set up her patent cross-hook combinations more efficiently. The Brazilian has also shown a taste for throwing hard leg and body kicks. However, Amanda will sometimes throw them naked(without strikes for setup) as this has gotten her countered in the past. Considering that Rousey has a knack for catching kicks and countering, Nunes could get herself into trouble by kicking anywhere other than her opponent’s head. Despite Amanda being more technically refined and having a bigger toolkit on paper, the striking exchanges will ultimately depend on the impending rush of Ronda Rousey(or lack thereof).

Although we do not know what Rousey has spent her time doing in the past 13-months, it is hard to imagine that is was spent developing a long-range striking game. Considering that Rousey is still working with Edmond Tarverdyan, the safe assumption is that they are trying to shore-up the fundamentals in boxing range that would suit Ronda’s game. Despite optimism on Tarverdyan’s coaching abilities being understandably low, I do not fully subscribe to the narrative of putting the bulk of responsibility on him. In his defense, Ronda has shown measurable improvements to her overall striking since entering the UFC.

Even though Rousey’s upgrades to her clinch striking and boxing were not necessarily potent with promise, they are particularly impressive when you consider that she had to develop these skills on the world’s biggest MMA stage. Rare then, and especially rare now, there are very few fighters who have found themselves having to do the bulk of their developing underneath the UFC spotlight. Although there have been a successful few such as Matt Mitrione or Amir Sadollah, none have had the success or pressures of a Ronda Rousey. Comparisons of growth and potential improvements aside, Rousey’s game will likely still hinge on her ability to close the distance.

With everything being so apparent in hindsight, it will interesting to see if Ronda has adjusted her defensive tendencies as a lack of head movement may cost her against Amanda. Even though Nunes is not necessarily known as a counter striker, I feel that her fundamental improvements(particularly in her jab) will help hedge her bets against an oncoming Rousey. That said, the key factor for both fighters will undoubtedly take place inside the clinch. Although Amanda has more grappling and striking options on paper, I give a slight edge to Rousey in this space as it is seemingly second nature to her.

However, there are small intricacies in Amanda’s game that tell me she may fair better than most suspect when it comes to the technical realm of clinch fighting. Despite not carrying the same credentials as Ronda, Amanda’s base as a brown belt in Judo has been present in her game since she started fighting in MMA. Maintaining a solid-sense of balance when not recklessly engaging, Nunes has also shown subtle signs of grip and positional awareness. Even when going back to watch her fight with Alexis Davis back in Strikeforce, you can see Amanda thwart Davis’ grips with immediacy anytime the two would lock up.

Although the young Lioness would eventually be grounded and defeated by Davis, her initiatives were in the right place as she has only improved since then. Working with MMA Masters shortly after her Strikeforce stint, and now working with American Top Team, we have seen Nunes make marked improvements to her wrestling and overall MMA grappling. In her fight with Sara McMann last year, we saw a glimpse of Amanda’s growth as she showed excellent fundamentals in defending a deep shot from the former Olympian.

Even though Nunes ended up on bottom in the third round of her fight with Valentina Shevchenko(another underrated clinch fighter), she arguably found herself there due to her propensity to fade in fights. Despite most of us forecasting an early finish due to the volatile nature of this matchup, things will certainly get interesting should this fight progress into later rounds. Although Ronda may show signs that she could potentially fade as well, I feel that her competitive drive and stubbornness serve her well in scenarios involving attrition.

The most general misconception I see on paper is that ‘whoever ends up on top will win this battle.’ Although I feel you may be able to apply that generalization to Amanda’s game(based on her history), I do not think that equation accounts for transitional grapplers like Rousey. Similar to the Slinky sensation, Ronda Rousey embodies a grappling style that is almost entirely dependent on momentum. Whether she is throwing her opposition overhead or hitting her roll-through/cartwheel variations to protect her position(as well as her neck), you can start to see the direct comparison between the two.

Similar to the expansion and retractions of a Slinky, you will see Ronda immediately elevate her hips and attack as she parlays her missed attempts into reverse shoulder-rolls that allow her to get back to her feet without missing a beat. Although Amanda can do devastating damage with her notorious elbows from topside, she is more of a positional player who needs to be well-established before she can be effective. Even though there is nothing wrong with a grappler who has process, I feel Amanda may be slightly behind in transitions given her step-by-step problem-solving approach. If she is going to out-grapple Rousey, then she will likely need to do so by killing her momentum early.

Though it is obvious that a human is harder to stop than a Slinky, the theory of stopping a transitional-grappler remains true despite my silly analogy. That said, Amanda may be playing with fire anytime she scrambles with Ronda as she may elect a game plan of avoidance. Despite it being hard to deny Rousey’s chances of closing the show anytime they clinch or grapple, I have a hard time being confident in Ronda’s chances of establishing her terms without taking too much damage in the process. Couple that with the potential flags of Rousey’s looming psychological status, and it seems like Ronda will almost need an undeterred approach to find success here. In a fight that has too many intangibles to play confidently, I suggest you enjoy what it is a pivotal battle for the landscape of female fighters, as well as the current stable of UFC superstars.

Official Pick: Nunes – Inside the distance

Official Outcome: Nunes – KO (round 1)

Dominick Cruz (22-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 31 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 68″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Urijah Faber (6-4-16)
  • Camp: Alliance MMA (San Diego, CA)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   UFC Bantamweight Champion
+   WEC Bantamweight Title
+   Wrestling Base
+   7 KO victories
+   1 Submission win
+   5 first round finishes
+   Consistent pace & pressure
+   Excellent distance management
^   Good footwork & feints
+   Utilizes Darts & Crouches
^   Allows misdirection/directional changes
+   Superb economy of movement
^   Weight transfers & phase changes
+   Well-timed knee-tap takedowns
+   Intelligent & effective scrambler
^   Solid positional rides & transitions
+   Accurate uppercut & counter hooks
+/-Low standing guard
^   Relies heavily on head/overall movement

Cody Garbrandt (10-0)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 25 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 65.5″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Takeya Mizugaki (8-20-16)
  • Camp: Team Alpha Male (Sacramento, CA)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Title
+   Multiple Wrestling Accolades
+   32-1 as an Amateur Boxer
+   9 KO victories
+   7 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Fast hand & foot speed
^   Attacks well off of angles
+   Improved head movement
+   Accurate left hook
^   Checks, attacks, and counters
+   Dangerous right hand
+   Underrated kicks
+   Explosive power double takedown
^   Changes level well
+   Demonstrates good grappling IQ
+   Gets up/scrambles well
+/-Willingness to exchange
^    Sometimes engages emotionally


The co-main event for UFC 207 is another a bid for bantamweight gold as Dominick Cruz defends his title from Cody Garbrandt. Widely considered one on the best pound-for-pound fighters in the game, Dominick Cruz’s comeback story has been arguably as impressive as his technical game. Already defying the odds on the multiple occasions, the athletic outlier that is Dominick Cruz will be tested once again as he faces the oncoming storm ahead. A knockout artist like few the division has seen, Garbrandt has quickly followed in the footsteps of his Sacramento stablemates as the young gun has no doubts in his direction. Now at the doorsteps of greatness at just 10-fights into his career, Garbrandt will attempt to cross the threshold of fire into the bantamweight elite.

Starting off on the feet, we have a battle between two strikers who have the same purpose in spirit but go about their objectives in completely different ways. For example, both men use pressure to create openings that allow them to capitalize on terms that favor their skill-set. Going about this in a more traditional fashion, Garbrandt utilizes feints and forward pressure to bait exchanges as he will subtly and slightly move off center to execute his combinations. Although Cody will usually enter off of his renown right-hand, he now does a lot of his cleanup-hitting with his left hook as I feel that punch may serve him well in this fight.

Since working with Brandon Gibson, we have seen measurable efforts and improvements to Garbrandt’s head movement and angle awareness. A longtime cross-hook connoisseur, we will now see Cody roll appropriately behind his crosses to avoid check-hook counters as he comes up with hooks of his own. That said, Garbrandt’s brawling sensibilities often show themselves in his fights as Cody’s inherent aggression and emotional engagements remain his outlying intangible. Should Garbrandt get reckless in his left-to-right pocket punching pursuits, the young lion may find himself playing into the hands of Dominick Cruz. Although Cruz is renown for this footwork that is broken down beautifully by BJJ Scout, the champion executes other shifts that I see serving him well in this fight.

As we saw in his fight with TJ Dillashaw(and as was stated in my breakdown prior), Cruz will utilize a style of shifting to counter aggression referred to as “opening the gate” in traditional martial arts. Often from the crouch position, Dominick will swing his lead foot back as this will not only switch his stance but change the overall terms of the exchange. Done in a way that lends a false sense of perception to his opponent, this technique flows fluidly into Cruz’s check hooks which counter aggressive on-comers as this was apparent in his last few outings. When not exercising this option of his flow chart from the crouch, Cruz will typically dart out to his left with a right cross for cover.

Against Garbrandt, this technique will ideally slip Dominick just outside of any oncoming crosses and away from Cody’s left hook follow-ups. Although Garbrandt can catch Cruz with a sweeping high kick to that side, the young gun’s propensity to punch and come forward will likely give Cruz the edge in these exchanges as Cody could find himself chasing from disadvantageous angles. Technical advantages aside, Cruz will still be playing with fire anytime he baits Garbrandt as the heavy-hitter needs only one shot to change the trajectory of a fight. Considering that Cruz often carries his hands low, it is not hard to see where things could potentially go awry. That said, I feel there are some pros to the champion’s approach that are hard to account for on paper.

Having, in my opinion, the best economy of movement in the sport, Cruz does a superb job of flowing with the natural weight transfers of his motion. Moving, striking, and slipping all at the same time, Dominick creates an environment that allows him to change direction(or his level) on his opposition. Despite his defenses being tied heavily to his head and trunk movements, Cruz’s consistent pocket, and overall awareness shows itself as the champ seemingly sees and moves with the shots that do touch him. Although that is a dangerous game to play with Cody, it is worth being noted in regards to the criticisms of Cruz’s defense.

On paper, Garbrandt’s chances of landing a show closer will lessen as this fight progresses. That said, Cody is no slouch athletically as he has shown stopping power and stamina as late as the third round. Given that Cruz has more a motive to grapple, I suspect he may exercise his on paper advantages here to hedge his bets standing. Working off of the weight transfers from said movement, Dominick will display his impeccable timing by hitting beautiful knee-tap takedowns mid-motion. Though some may critique the champions groundwork by pointing to his lack of finishes and control time, there is a lot to like about the intelligent and subtle tactics of Cruz.

Embodying a more conservative style of catch wrestling, Cruz demonstrates solid positional awareness as soon as he hits the floor. Intelligently transitioning topside, Dominick will appropriately manage the risk in his ride choices as he effectively sees out the storm of some of the sport’s best scramblers. Whether he is killing space to avoid grappling entanglements or spiraling out his opposition to advance his riding position, Cruz could at the very least effectively make Cody work should he ground the Team Alpha Male standout. Although Garbrandt’s wrestling accolades were apparently more potent than what is on paper, it would still not surprise me to see his aggression play into the timing and terms or Dominick’s game. Even the wrestling prowess of TJ Dillashaw showed to be penetrable enough to suit Cruz, as we saw the champion use his patent takedowns to score on Dillashaw and inevitably edge out rounds.

Although Garbrandt has shown competent in attacking and scrambling from his back, he will probably need to be harboring something close to a high-level ground game if he means to get anything done offensively against Cruz. That said, I imagine Cody’s wrestling background and scrambling sessions at Team Alpha Male will more than likely keep him safe during ground stanzas, as I do not expect long durations of grappling in this contest. Even though Cody’s athletic intangibles of hand and foot speed give him much more than a puncher’s chance, I feel his inherent aggression will eventually guide him into the same fires the drive him as I see Cruz surviving an early to storm to make a statement late.

Official Pick: Cruz – Inside the distance

Official Outcome: Garbrandt – Decision

TJ Dillashaw (13-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’6″ Age: 30 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 68″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Raphael Assuncao (7-9-16)
  • Camp: Elevation Fight Team (Denver,CO)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Former UFC Bantamweight Champion
+   3x NCAA Qualifier (Wrestling)
+   6 KO victories
+   3 Submission wins
+   4 first round finishes
+   Consistent pace & presssure
^   High-volume striker
+   Superb feints & footwork
^   Effectively shifts stances
+   Pulls & returns punch combinations
^   Punctuates w/deadly kicks from Southpaw
+   Excellent wrestling abilities
^   Supreme athleticism & agility
+   Solid scrambler/transitional grappler
^   Always looks for back
+/-Willingness to play within range
^   Heavily reliant on head movement

John Lineker (29-7)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’2″ Age: 26 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 67″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / John Dodson (10-1-16)
  • Camp: OCS Jiu-Jitsu/ATT (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Title
+   13 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   8 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Persistant stalker
^   Deceptively closes distance
+   Good cage-cutting & pressure
^   Improved feints & footwork
+   Devastating R. hand—L. hook
^   Variates well to the body
+   Underrated wrestling ability
+   Dangerous Guillotine choke
–    Struggles off of back
+/-Willingness to trade
^   Counter availabilities
+   Solid chin/physically durable


In a bantamweight thriller, the former champion TJ Dillashaw takes on the oncoming storm that is John Lineker. Coming off of a storied rise to the title, TJ Dillashaw started off his 2016 on a down note as the former Team Alpha Male fighter would lose his belt to sitting champion, Dominick Cruz. Now, looking to end the year on the up-and-up, Dillashaw will attempt to cement his case for a title shot with a win here. Seeking to spoil the party is John Lineker, a Brazilian flyweight who has seemingly made waves since his move up north to bantamweight. Riding a 4-fight winning streak in his current division, Lineker could be a statement away from earning himself a shot at gold.

Starting off on the feet, we essentially have a conundrum between Lineker’s plotting pressure and power punching versus Dillashaw’s multi-directional and technical aggression. Although Lineker is the more dangerous man on paper, Dillashaw has shown the progression and variety to his technique that justifies his spot as the betting favorite here. Initially entering the sport as a wrestler, we saw TJ steadily evolve out of the scrambling, submission grappler mold that was influenced by his environment. Embracing the teachings of Duane “BANG” Ludwig, we would see the NCAA qualifier transition into a skilled-striker over the past few years.

Like many fighters who are naturally orthodox but switch to Southpaw, TJ Dillashaw will conduct traffic largely off of his right hand. Whether he is setting up left crosses and power kicks from Southpaw or favoring his uppercuts and overhands from Orthodox, it is Dillashaw’s check right hand/jab that is most impressive and a key to his offense. Using it to off-beat his opponents offensive rhythms, TJ will add to the disarray by incorporating subtle but effective shifts that change the stance and even angle of his attack. As much as I could pontificate on the shifting brilliance and technical progressions from TJ, it is the measured nature of his aggression that allows everything to come together. If you listen to Dillashaw’s corner, you will often hear his head coach, Duane Ludwig, instructing TJ to “Touch, pull, and return.”

“Pulling & Returning” is a Boxing term that refers to a general method of drawing out attacks with the intent of creating openings for offense of your own. Touch: As previously stated, TJ wields a quick right-hand(darting from orthodox or more typically conducting from southpaw) that he uses to establish his range or set up a perceived range to his opponent. Pull: After initiating contact in hopes of a rebuttal, Dillashaw will drawback and shift his stance so that he can avoid the oncoming counters with the intent to set up counters of his own. Return: After avoiding the counter attack, TJ will then return with an even heavier wave of offense, assuming that he has made the correct angles and anticipations. As brilliant as that all sounds on paper, the looming question in this fight will remain—how will the pressure fighter deal with being unrelentingly pressured?

Enter John Lineker. Similar to when Super Mario acquires the star of invincibility, is John Lineker in the way in which he walks down his opposition with impunity. Despite wielding power that can change the course of a fight in a single shot, it is Lineker’s durability that makes his game so scary. Don’t let his short stature fool you, despite lacking bounce to his step, the Brazilian closes distance deceptively well. Cutting off the cage and feinting forward, Lineker will look to force exchanges off of his pressure. Wielding devastating hooks from both sides to the head & body, John usually enters off his opponents strike retractions as he gets them to initiate.

Although Lineker’s right-hand is his preferred method of body crushing and cleanup hitting, I feel that his left hook will be the key punch to look for from the Brazilian. Often initiating, or even punctuating with it, Lineker’s left hook is arguably his most accurate punch as it usually sets up his kill shots. Considering that Dillashaw’s aggressiveness has often cost him left hooks as he leaves or enters exchanges, this strike could likely serve Lineker well. That said, Lineker will be the more defensively vulnerable man on paper as the Brazilian is not without pocket liabilities of his own. Unabashedly throwing hooks from left to right with little regard for defense, we have seen Lineker eat punches with no signs of getting full.

Ridiculously durable chin aside, Lineker cannot be too liberal in his acceptance of shots here as he is also playing with fire. Not only does Dillashaw own a higher output and landing percentage, but TJ also wields a nasty head kick that I feel is worth watching for in this fight. In Lineker’s last fight with John Dodson, we saw the Brazilian eat multiple head kicks throughout the contest. Considering that TJ has a few finishes from high-kicks off of the same side, we could see some action here should Lineker continually wade recklessly forward. That said, it is hard to gauge exactly how TJ will react to Lineker’s pressure when you consider the low sample-size of him being the one pressured.

However, when looking back at Dillashaw’s fight history, he has shown to fight smart when he needs to, or when he is not emotionally engaging. Capable of chaining off to multiple takedowns to get the finish, I suspect we will see Dillashaw dust off his reactionary double-leg against an aggressive forward mover like Lineker. Although grappling seems to be the Brazilian’s most deficient area on paper, Lineker has made measurable efforts to improve his wrestling and jiu-jitsu. That said, his best form of offense and defense is the Guillotine choke, which is also the technique TJ Dillashaw has likely seen the most of given his time spent in Sacramento.

Even though Lineker was able to scare off the takedown attempts of Ian McCall, I doubt he will dissuade, much less catch Dillashaw who shows an excellent awareness to this choke when executing and completing his takedowns. The Brazilian also tends to go for leg locks as a Hail Mary option from the bottom, but his acumen there is not strong, nor does he use these opportunities to scramble as he is often content to fight from his back. Although fighting from his back could cost the Brazilian in more ways than one, giving his back would be even worse as Linker will need to mind his sacrifices in the scramble.

Although the Brazilian is not necessarily known to turtle out and give his back while standing, TJ does a deceptively good job of encouraging his opposition to roll over or unwittingly expose themselves positionally. If Lineker is not careful or composed, the persistent ground striking and positional riding of Dillashaw could force an unfavorable opening for the Brazilian. If Tj fights smart, then I feel that the submission prop will be more than worth a look here. But, if Dillashaw falls into his emotional sensibilities and brawls, we will likely see the conundrum from the Dark Knight answered regarding—”What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?”

Official Pick: Dillashaw – Decision

Official Outcome: Dillashaw – Decision

Dong Hyun Kim (21-3-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 35 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 76″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Dominic Waters (11-28-15)
  • Camp: Busan Team M.A.D. (Korea)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Judo Black Belt
+   Multiple Judo Titles
+   Grappling Accolades
+   9 KO victories
+   2 Submission wins
+   4 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Consistent pace & pressure
+   Improved overall striking
+   Strong clinch game
^   Trips, body-locks, & takedowns
+   Superb top game
^   Solid transitions & positional rides
+/-Aggressive in exchanges
^   Will throw self out of position

Tarec Saffiedine (16-5)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 30 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 70.5″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Rick Story (5-29-16)
  • Camp: Tristar Gym (Canada)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Strikeforce Welterweight Title
+   Black Belt BJJ & Karate
+   Amateur Kickboxing Experience
+   1 KO victory
+   5 Submission wins
+   5 first round finishes
+   Good footwork
^   Moves well laterally
+   Effective jab from both stances
^   Conducts tempo/sets up kicks
+   Superb leg kick timing
+   Underrated counter wrestler
^   87% Takedown defense
+/-Consistently fights along fence
–    Sometimes vulnerable off the break


In a welterweight meeting between perennial Top-15 contenders, Dong Hyun Kim draws Tarec Saffiedine on his return fight. Kept from the Octagon for just over a year due to injury and scheduling conflicts, Dong Hyun Kim will look to continue his forward momentum by adding a quality name to his resume. Seeking to spoil the Korean’s plans is Tarec Saffiedine, who is also coming off of a schedule shuffling as he was originally slated to face Matt Brown. Now, granted a slot on the main card, Tarec will attempt to make a statement with this showcase spot.

Starting off on the feet, we will likely be privy to a battle between distance management versus pressure. Providing the pressure part of the equation is Dong Hyun Kim. Criticized early in his career for his slow burn approach of grappling and grinding, Kim has come out in subsequent years like a man on fire. Working diligently with the blossoming Busan Team M.A.D. in South Korea, we have seen Kim make improvements in his overall striking game as he has turned his aggression up to a 10. Slipping his head offline as he throws his power shots, Kim will also unabashedly spin as he strikes off the breaks.

Dong’s improvements aside, Saffiedine will have the clear on paper advantages in the striking realm. One of the most proficient stance switchers in the UFC, Tarec will effectively fire off jabs from both sides as this allows him to dictate and disrupt striking tempos. With Tarec’s patent leg kicks usually coming behind his straight punches, Saffiedine’s approach should be straight forward against an aggressive, looping puncher like Kim.

With Saffiedine possessing the advantages at range, he will likely be trying to avoid pocket exchanges with his Korean counterpart. However, Tarec will need to be careful when exiting the pocket as his last three knockdowns(or times he was clearly stunned) have all come off the break. Since Kim is most dangerous when striking off the break, I suspect this will be a key factor in this fight. Even though Saffiedine has more than enough skill and stamina to stick & move, he habitually finds himself operating from the outside which could be a detriment in this fight.

A persistent pressure fighter by nature, Kim has a knack for getting the fight to the fence for better or for worse. Even when the South Korean fails to complete a takedown, he does a deceptive job of stifling his opponent’s offense and stalling out the action in his favor. Although Saffiedine’s takedown defense and counter-grappling are underrated, he may find himself inadvertently playing into Dong’s game should he not effectively break the clinch and create space.

It will also be interesting to see how Kim’s variety of upper-body throws and trips measures up to Tarec’s defenses, which are accustom to defending more traditional shot entries to the lower body. Should the South Korean ground his opposition, Tarec could find himself behind on the scorecards as well as the positional scrambles. Despite lacking the submission finishes that many would like to see, there is a lot to like about the Judoka’s game. An excellent transitional grappler, the beauty of Kim’s grappling comes within technical tightness from his flows to his rides.

Maintaining his base through proper weight distribution, Dong will explode when necessary while still killing space when he needs to. Often trapping arms in transit, Kim shows no mercy when able to establish a gift wrap or crucifix position on his opposition. Although I feel there is much more to Saffiedine’s grappling than meets the eye, he may still end up losing rounds just by the nature of playing within Kim’s terms. That said, I suggest avoiding any major plays on what is an intangible-filled affair.

Official Pick: Kim – Decision

Official Outcome: Kim – Decision

Louis Smolka (11-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 25 Weight: 125 lbs Reach: 69″
  • Last Fight: Submission loss / Brandon Moreno (10-1-16)
  • Camp: Hawaii Elite MMA (Hawaii)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Brown Belt Kenpo Karate
+   Brown Belt Judo
+   4 KO victories
+   5 Submission wins
+   3 first round finishes
+   Consistent pace & pressure
^   Well-composed & conditioned
+   Accurate shot selection
^   Excellent check hook
+   Improved takedown game
+/-“Gives to get” positionally
+   Relentless transition game
^   Thrives inside the scramble
–    Head often upright
^   Counter availabilities

Ray Borg (9-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’4″ Age: 23 Weight: 125 lbs Reach: 63″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Justin Scoggins (2-6-16)
  • Camp: FIT NHB (New Mexico)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Title
+   Wrestling Base
+   1 KO victory
+   6 Submission wins
+   4 first round finishes
+   Aggressive pace & pressure
+   Steadily developing striking game
^   Improved movement & technique
–    Struggles striking from range
+   Excellent takedown ability
^   Solid level changes & chains
+   Superb transitional grappler
^   Floats & rides smoothly
+   Strong from front headlock
^   Always looks for back


Kicking off the main card is a fun flyweight fight as Louis Smolka squares off with Ray Borg. As one of Hawaii’s top prospects, Louis Smolka has given fans a lot to get excited about when talking potential contenders at 125-pounds. Looking to bounce back from an upset loss in Portland earlier this year, Smolka will have no easy comeback trail as he meets Ray Borg. Another one of the division’s dark horses, Borg will look to deliver here as seeks to put his loss to Justin Scoggins behind him.

Starting off on the feet, Smolka should have the clear striking edge on paper. Coming from a Kenpo Karate base, Louis displays the distance management and darting attacks that you would expect from that style. However, the Hawaiian will now put his punches together more fluidly, as he promises to show an evolved version of his striking for this fight. That said, I feel that the potential improvements of Ray Borg will be the key intangibles standing. Though the grapple-heavy fighter has shown to struggle when striking at distance, he has spent multiple camps this year at Jackson-Wink MMA working with the likes of Mike Winkeljohn and Brandon Gibson.

Regaredless of Borg’s potential striking upgrades, I am not sure that I see that striking stanzas lasting long. Even though Smolka carries tools that can pose problems for Borg standing, the Hawaiian has still not shown us the footwork or takedown defense to bank on him getting things done on the feet. Between Borg wasting little time in shooting and Smolka’s propensity to play into takedown attempts early, I suspect we will see Borg assume the pole position to start the match as this is usually accustom in a Louis Smolka fight. That said, if Louis is not careful, he could get more than he bargains for with Borg. A wrestler who embraced catch wrestling sensibilities early on, there is a lot to like about Ray Borg’s ground game.

Like his nickname would suggest, Borg works for positions and passes with the intensity of a marauding Tasmanian Devil. Although his torrid pace can sometimes catch up with him later on in fights, Borg’s hunger for the finish often helps him complete his objectives. Working particularly well from the front-headlock, Borg will distract his opponent’s with submission threats as he ultimately sets up back takes in the blink of an eye. A grappler who can truly transition and choke symbiotically, Borg can close the show if Smolka makes the same mistakes he showed in his last time out. That said, I feel that Smolka’s game will provide some interesting problems to an aggressively engaging Borg.

Anytime a fighter entangles with Smolka, the Hawaiian stays two-steps ahead as he uses his long frame as an active blanket of non-disseminating offense. Although Smolka has thankfully shown less head & arm throws, Louis still tends to give his back when attempting tosses and takedown variations. Despite finding the back being Borg’s aforementioned strong suit, he may ultimately end up taking a deeper step into the quicksand if he is not careful. We saw proven back takers in Paddy Holohan and Ben Nguyen struggle here, as they ended up losing the exchanges as well as positions. If Borg fails to close the show early or effectively stop the Hawaiian’s momentum, he may fall into the downward spiral that is Louis Smolka’s scramble game.

An interesting dichotomy of grappler, Smolka possesses the technical flow chart of a black belt that is fueled by the offensive eagerness of a white belt.Whether he is sweeping, standing, shucking or sitting out, Smolka is snake-like in the way that he denies his opposition complete control. Although I could pontificate on the positional wherewithal of Smolka’s grappling for days, the essence of his game comes down to his give-to-get mentality. Smolka has no problem succeeding the small battles to win the war, as that is what I suspect may happen here. That said, I caution any major plays as these competitive flyweight scraps are usually accompanied by pendulum swings that are often unpredictable.

Official Pick: Smolka – Decision

Official Outcome: Borg – Decision

Preliminary Card Predictions:

  • Magny def. Hendricks
  • Vettori def. Carlos Jr.
  • *Pyle def. Garcia (*=stated bias)
  • Thatch def. Price
  • Means def. Oliveira

Recommended Plays:

Draft Kings recommended rosters:


Team #1: $49,000.00

-Dominick Cruz ($8,700.00)
-Tim Means ($8,400.00)
-Neil Magny ($8,200.00)
-Marvin Vettori ($8,100.00)
-Amanda Nunes ($8,000.00)
-Mike Pyle ($7,600.00)

Team Summary:

Despite losing two main card matchups, UFC 207 has a lot to like as far as selections for your DraftKings stable. Here are some of my roster recommendations, starting off with the higher tier favorites. Firstly, I elected to go with Dominick Cruz for the reasons stated in the breakdown above. Not only is Cruz the favored fighter in a five round affair, but he also has the highest APPG(Average Points Per Game) at 113 as I feel he is well worth the $8,700.00. Secondly, I went with Tim Means as he is the favored fighter to in what is a gunfight on paper. Although Cowboy Olveira is dangerous within the same clinch space that Means likes to make his money, I feel that Tim ultimately has sharper tools with a killer instinct that justifies the $8,400.00.

For my last favorite, I decided to go with Neil Magny. Although Magny has traditionally been a fighter who is hard to get a beat on, I believe the downtrends for Hendricks are much clearer as the oddsmakers seem to agree. With Hendricks showing little to no signs of adjustments or improvements to his game or overall preparation since the Team Takedown split, I have to favor with the ever-improving Neil Magny as I see his volume and pressure earning him a late stoppage. For my first underdog choice, I elected to go with Marvin Vettori as I feel the Italian is more than a live dog in this spot. An international prospect who does what you like to see as far as training environments and approaches go, Vettori possesses the athletic and attitude intangibles that often help fighters find success early in their career.

Although Carlos Jr. has a clear ground edge on paper, Vettori will give him plenty to worry about from ground strikes to Guillotine threats. Unless Carlos Jr. can establish his terms early and often, he may find himself in some desperate spots from some desperate shots as this fight wears on. And against a young fighter who hustles for position and gets after it, I could see Vettori finding a finish early or late given the opportunity. For my second underdog, I decided to go with Amanda Nunes for the reasons stated in the breakdown above. In what will likely be a one-round shootout, I see Amanda’s heavy-hands sparking the fuse for a quick finish against an aggressive Ronda Rousey.

Finally, I decided to go with one of the most respected veterans of the sport in Mike Pyle. Although I am openly-biased towards Pyle due to my experiences with him at Xtreme Couture, I feel he has a legit path to victory in this underdog spot. Although Garcia carries the punching power to put out Pyle early(as seen in Pyle’s past), I feel that this fight’s scale shifts heavily in Mike’s direction as this battle wears on. Given Garcia’s propensity to use takedowns and top position for resting periods, I would not be surprised to see Pyle snatch up a submission off of his back or shut down Alex’s attempts and get him out of there late. For $7,600.00, I feel that Pyle is worth the shot as he could make for a crucial fitting piece in a high-priced roster.

Props worth looking at(

-Dillashaw by Submission +690 (0.5 Unit)
-Magny Inside the distance +345 (.25 Unit)
-Means/Oliveira doesn’t go the distance: -120 (1 Unit)

Playable favorites for your parlays:

-Dominick Cruz
-TJ Dillashaw

Fights to avoid:

-Vettori vs Carlos Jr.
-Pyle vs Garcia
-Thatch vs Price

For the complete analysis of future & past UFC events visit and for future breakdowns & your latest in world-wide MMA news, stay tuned & follow @MMALatestnws

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