Ronda Rousey and Amanda Nunes: Final Thoughts and Breakdown Before UFC 207

UFC 207’s long-awaited main event between Amanda Nunes and Ronda Rousey, for the bantamweight strap, is nearly here. Talk of media obligations, prior losses, and out-of-cage drama has overwhelmed professional discussion of how exactly this fight will play out.

Just over twenty-four hours from UFC 207, anticipation of the year-end show—and specifically, its main event—has reached a fever pitch. From carefully written articles to water-cooler chats and everywhere in between, it’s hard to avoid hearing of UFC 207 in one form or another—whether you want to or not.

This anticipation, although plentiful in quantity, is lacking in substance. While fans are busy dissecting the co-main event of UFC 207, Dominick Cruz versus Cody Garbrandt, they’ve become infatuated with Ronda Rousey’s media obligations (or lack thereof), her failure to provide virtually any UFC-held interviews, and her mental state ahead of the show. The most detailed discussion being had about UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes is the lack of promotion behind her (this was prompted by a Tweet from Joe Rogan).

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with these conversations, and they may very well be products of Rousey’s star power, they don’t directly address the most exciting aspect of her match versus Nunes: the fight! In turn, the main event’s stylistic implications are being ignored.

In this contest, we have a former world champion in Rousey who, during her time at the top, won in dominant fashion; it wasn’t a question of if she would win, but rather, when she would win. Also during this time, Rousey became something of an international superstar, boasting huge modeling gigs, big movie parts, an autobiography, and much more. Just when it looked like things couldn’t get any better for Ronda, Holly Holm sent her world crashing down.

At UFC 193 on November 15, Holm brutally knocked Rousey out with a second-round head kick. Fans around the globe erupted, and just like that, we had a new bantamweight champion.

And while the division would continue to shuffle through champions in the coming months—Miesha Tate beat Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes beat Miesha Tate—Rousey, previously a fixture of the sport and all sorts of promotional headlines, was mainly non-existent. She took an entire year off from the spotlight, and even now, directly ahead of UFC 207, she still isn’t giving the media very much attention.

Thus, we don’t know exactly what’s going through Rousey’s head before this career-defining contest. We’ll find out how she responds to adversity for the very first time at UFC 207.

Amanda Nunes, inversely, is riding high. The reigning bantamweight champion is sitting atop a four-fight winning streak, with her most recent victory having come in the first round against all-time-great Miesha Tate. At just twenty-eight year old, Nunes has already made history; how large an impression she leaves on the sport depends, at least in part, on how her UFC 207 title defense plays out.

 

The Fight

Now that some background information (which is pertinent to the contest) has been covered, let’s take a look at what most fans aren’t discussing: each woman’s style and advantages.

Amanda Nunes is a power puncher who has accumulated the vast majority of her career wins via knockout. Although she won via submission last time out against Miesha Tate, her initial advantage was gained thanks to her boxing, as she aggressively and accurately tagged her takedown-minded opponent, while shrugging off all attempts to drag the fight to the canvas. As Rousey obviously has—or had, at the very least—technical boxing disadvantages against opponents who continually circle and don’t become overly aggressive, this point is of the utmost importance.

Ronda Rousey had found some stand-up knockout success before fighting Holly Holm (see the Bethe Correia match), but her main strength has always been her takedown throw (she is an Olympic Medalist in Judo), which more often than not leads to a submission. Of course, Rousey’s first eight career wins were achieved via armbar.

Accordingly, the two pressing uncertainties relating to Ronda Rousey ahead of UFC 207 are whether or not she can close the distance on Nunes with more success than she did against Holm, and whether or not she can hold her own at striking range—especially if she isn’t able to lock-up a takedown.

As has been mentioned before and must be highlighted once again, it’s also been over one year since Rousey last stepped into the cage. Even if the psychological aspect of this layoff—commonly referred to as “ring rust”—isn’t a factor because of her experience competing at the highest levels of MMA and Olympic Judo, the physical aspect will be.

Rousey openly admitted in a post-UFC 193 interview that the finishing blow delivered by Holm resulted in “3-6 months before I (Rousey) can eat an apple, let alone take an impact”, in addition to a concussion. Who knows if Rousey has returned to 100%, even after all this time, or whether she took things too fast in training and will feel the lingering physical effects of her injury while fighting full-go for the first time in more than twelve months against Nunes.

On the other hand, Ronda Rousey hasn’t been this physically defined in ages, as she noted on Instagram. Conditioning has never been an issue for the former world champion, but a more defined physique and additional energy to expend certainly won’t hurt Rousey’s UFC 207 performance!

Overall, this match comes down to Rousey’s ability to weather any stand-up storms from Amanda Nunes, while completing takedowns, and Nunes’s ability to punish her redemption-minded opponent with punches, kicks, and whatever other strikes she can land from a distance. Even with all the factors pushing against Ronda ahead of this match, however, it’s impossible to count her out; she dominated each and every one of her opponents until Holly Holm executed a perfect gameplan and stole the belt. Furthermore, even bettors and gambling houses are uncertain of their choice for the winner, as at the time of writing, the odds are nearly even for Rousey and Nunes, with “Rowdy” being a slight favorite.

 

Hopefully this technical analysis will spur discussion and appreciation of Rousey versus Nunes’s most significant elements: the skill, talent, and MMA abilities of the women who will battle in the cage. Be sure to tune in to UFC 207 live on pay-per-view tomorrow, Friday, December 30, and also, stay up-to-date with the latest women’s sports news here at Athena Sports Net!

 

Max King