Empress Ronda Rousey will finally be embroiled in combat again at UFC 207 this Saturday. She will be locking horns with bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, who has won four straight in bulldozing fashion. What can we expect from this collision of aggressive fighters who thrive on advancing?
Rousey’s reign as bantamweight champion was ironhanded — her physical strength and grappling prowess made her seem indomitable. The judoka was 6-0 in the UFC with five first-round finishes before she was systematically dethroned by Holly Holm last November.
Holm, an established pro boxer, peppered Rousey with punches and used deft lateral movement to avoid Rousey’s bullrushes; rendering the champion a bloodied, dejected mess by the end of the first round. The underdog deftly played the part of the matador, poking and prodding at Rousey with crisp punches without over-committing and risking a close-quarters brawl with Rousey. Precision, maintaining distance, and selective engaging were all factors that led to Holm’s beautiful dismantling of the superstar. Does Nunes have the tools to replicate Holm’s gameplan?
No. Amanda Nunes is a juggernaut, not a kickboxing technician. She thrives in nasty, close-quarters brawls. The first round is when Nunes brings the storm: She swarms and jostles her way into adjacent punching range and proceeds with an onslaught of punches and takedown attempts. Nunes has finished three of her last four fights in the first round; though she clearly faded against Valentina Shevchenko in the latter rounds when they fought in March. Cardio could be an issue for Nunes.
So both fighters excel when they’re pressing the action. Presumably, they’ll both want to make this a dog fight. Rousey has never been out-bullied in the UFC — when she lands in a dominant position, the fight is usually over within seconds. Nunes, however, is a decorated BJJ black belt, so she may be able to contend with Rousey on the ground if the fight goes there. The champ also owns an impressive takedown defense rate of 73%. Therefore this may be a clinch-oriented battle of attrition.
Nunes has better power striking, but I think that’s the only facet of MMA in which she is advantaged over Rousey. Rousey presumably has an advantage in cardio if the fight drags on. Both are adept grapplers, but Rousey’s Olympic pedigree and proven killer instinct will afford her an advantage.
Rousey has been dragged through the mud for her performance against Holm, but there are few fighters in the bantamweight division who have the skills to implement such a crafty gameplan. Nunes is a formidable dynamo in the early rounds, but Rousey is the queen of wild melees and scrambles. I expect a sound performance from a well-rested, more astute Rousey.
Prediction: Ronda Rousey by submission (round 3)