A few quick hits before you dive in to this preview for UFC 207. First off, the entire preview for the Nunes-Rousey championship match is a meant as a study on whether Rousey truly has what it takes to be the champion again. I have a few quick hits about the card afterwards as well. Also note that the Fabricio Werdum fight against Cain Velasquez has been unfortunately scrapped due to the latter’s health. As if the heavyweight division couldn’t get more irrelevant.
Enjoy UFC 207, which takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Friday, December 30th! Head to our buddies at Bodog for the best fight lines.
AMANDA NUNES +110 over RONDA ROUSEY -140
Super successful athletes are a combination of three things: talent, hard work and perseverance. It’s not a mix. You can’t just have parts of one element and draw blanks on another. Success as an athlete requires a pure blend of all three, along with a sharp dose of luck.
For the most part, Ronda Rousey had all three things going for her up until she was boxed in to the canvas by Holly Holm at UFC 193 in a devastating defeat that had seriously unexpected consequences.
If you’re reading this, you’re likely in the know. But for those that need a brief catchup, the long and short of it is that Rousey slid in to a deep depression. There was legitimate talk of suicide, overcoming depression and a real sense that her self worth had been reduced to nothing. An interview with Ellen (and other public exposures) have only furthered public doubt about whether or not Rousey has the mental fortitude to survive another loss.
There were plenty of shades to Gina Carano, the poster girl of women’s a decade ago while she rose through the EliteXC and Strikeforce ranks. Everything was eerily similar: Carano and Rousey were both superstars in the sport, both were undefeated, and both were beginning to explore how far reaching their stardom could go in Hollywood. And then both suffered crushing knockouts.
Carano was sent in to retirement by Cyborg Justino (formerly Cyborg Santos) at her Strikeforce debut in August 2009 during the main event. It was the first defeat ever suffered by Carano, and she never really became a factor in MMA ever again. Part of it was timing since the UFC acquired Strikeforce around the time of her first defeat, and Zuffa was notoriously against women’s fighting. A 2011 fight against Ronda Rousey was supposed to lure Carano back but it never materialized.
Who knows what really happened. Dana White infamously called Carano, “the hardest human being we’ve ever dealt with”, referring to the problems in booking a fight for her under the UFC umbrella. Carano had also transitioned in to Hollywood fairly quickly and has nearly 15 credits to her name already, including roles in Fast & Furious 6 and the summer blockbuster Deadpool. There was a sense that Carano didn’t need mixed martial arts anymore, but there was the lingering thought that the fight with Cyborg had ruined her mentally.
In other words, it was the type of defeat that took the fight out of the dog.
Rousey felt like Carano all over again, but on a larger scale. She simply vanished from the spotlight after her decisive loss to Holm at UFC 193. There was no post-fight interview with Joe Rogan. No press conference. It wasn’t until later that she alluded to taking time off.
Over the last year we’ve caught glimpses of Ronda Rousey, and the study of her behavior has been as perplexing as anything I’ve ever seen in sports. We don’t want to see our heroes fall down that hard. I know that they’re human and they’re allowed to be. But you didn’t see Conor McGregor react as if his whole world was caving in after losing to Nate Diaz at UFC 196. You didn’t see Luke Rockhold cry about it when he lost to Count Bisping. This is combat sports and competition at its highest demand. You take your lumps and move forward. That’s how life works.
This has nothing to do with genders either. Holly Holm lost her title immediately to Meisha Tate, and then suffered her second career defeat to Valentina Shevchenko over this past summer in yet another main event. Like Rousey, Holm had the MMA world at her fingertips and lost it all in an instant. But there she was, giving her post fight interviews and accepting her defeat as graciously as she could. She’s already scheduled for UFC 208 in February.
You can’t make the argument that mixed martial arts is more physically taxing or emotionally demanding than any other sport at its highest level. NFL players will cry when they miss the playoffs. Chess grand champions will be devastated in a loss. I’m sure the ping pong guys get pissed about a loss too. Everyone does and should. It’s part of the game of life.
Combat sports like MMA and boxing are built on the adage that Rocky Balboa made part of our internal wiring. It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up.
That’s why Rousey’s reaction to losing is so astounding. She didn’t get back up. And she may still be down. We need to be sensitive to mental health and stability, but we also need to be firm about accepting defeat and moving forward. Rousey is an individual, but also someone who has openly sought to inspire her fans. Contemplating a career setback is one thing, but losing grip on your reality is hard to see for anyone, especially those that supported her.
We needed her to persevere. Not just for our sake. I mean, we all move on and find new things to invest in as fans. But she also needed to prove to herself and others that everything she had showed us during a brilliant, undefeated career was still worth something after a single loss.
From a gambling standpoint, the easy choice is Amanda Nunes at +110. Rousey is a -140 favorite but entering as a complete unknown. She has the talent. We know she’s put in the hard work. But does she have the strength to persevere against the living embodiment of a human hurricane in her first fight back since defeat?
Sport for many is about finding heroes. Those that don’t back down from a fight. Those that choose the hard way when everyone else takes the easy way. Those that can survive the criticism and the fear when we cannot. We understand that our heroes are human, but we hope that they are more than that.
It is one of the deepest fears of human nature that we will not get back up when we are knocked down. That is something that all of us struggle with, no matter what we choose to do with our lives. Some will be like Meisha Tate, who will choose to walk away after they have done everything they set out to accomplish. Others will be like Holly Holm and embark on a long quest to prove that the pinnacle of their career was not a fluke, despite what everyone will say and think.
I don’t know where Rousey fits just yet. The whole buildup for this fight has been weird. From her last fight, to the drama afterwards, to the strange interviews and the weigh-in where she stormed off the stage. It’s just hard to make sense of it.
This is all turning in to a narrative that either has a happy ending, or a sour one. Rousey is facing perhaps her toughest opponent to date. Nunes is incredible. She is someone who beats that war drum and comes prepared to take everything from you. The reigning champ is the perfect warrior for Rousey to test herself against because Nunes will not sympathize with her plight.
And you should not feel bad for campaigning Rousey to be the champion that she once was. Rousey has built an incredible career on the trampled dreams of her opponents. We as fans are not asking Rousey for anything more than she wanted for herself. All we want to know is whether she’s willing to pay the iron price to get there once again, because that perseverance is what separates legends from has-beens.
A legend will either be forged at UFC 207…or forgotten.
Dominick Cruz -210 over Coby Garbrandt +165
There is no sense in betting against Cruz until him and Demetrious Johnson decide to fight each other once more, and it makes no sense trotting out the undefeated Garbrandt in to a title fight when Dillashaw is also in the building.
T.J. Dillashaw -240 over John LIneker +190
Dillashaw’s went from being a nobody to a somebody in a very quick amount of time and isn’t going to let a nobody like John Lineker take anything from him.
Dong Hyun Kim -130 over Tarec Saffiedine +100
Kim’s only loss in the past five years was to Tyron Woodley, while Saffiedine just hasn’t proved that he’s worthy at this level in losses to better UFC competition.