Before we cast one final, fearful glance in the rearview mirror at the flaming dumpster that was 2016, we have one final UFC event to whet our appetite for violence. Dana White and company are giving us a special Friday night PPV to round out 2016 thanks to New Years Eve shenanigans coinciding with the usual Saturday schedule. Despite two title fights, the recent removal of Cain Velasquez brings the card down to just ten fights. Dong Hyun Kim vs. Tarec Saffiedine has been moved to the main card as a replacement fight for the event, and though that sounds like an excellent match, it still does not have the same implications as two former heavyweight champions vying for the next possible shot at Stipe Miocic's title.
Almost all of the promotional material for the event has centered around the return of Ronda Rousey. The entire card is being sold around the star power of one person, the former women's bantamweight champion who is also managed by the same company that now owns the UFC. The only thing that would make the conflict of interest clearer would be Triple H hitting Nunes with a pedigree backstage. All of the major questions for this event have surrounded Rousey. How has she recovered physically and mentally from her first loss? Does she even deserve a title shot? Will she retire if she loses? Why are we talking so much about Ronda Rousey? Is MMA media caught in a Ronda Rousey feedback loop? Have we gazed too deeply into the soul of Ronda Rousey and will it blink?
Here's a look at the main event and the rest of UFC 207.
Amanda Nunes vs. Ronda Rousey
For the first five years of her mixed martial arts career, there was Ronda Rousey and then there was the rest of the womens bantamweight division. The gulf between Rousey and her peers ran deeper than Jon Jones's list of court-mandated apologies, and she finished opponent after opponent with ease. Her reign was reminiscent of Royce Gracie's in the early days of the UFC in that Rousey was an experienced judoka competing in a division that never really received much interest or investment until she came along with the proper timing, look, and dominance to rise to the top.
While Rousey was destroying everything in front of her like it was nothing, Amanda Nunes was quietly improving in the background. Nunes has evolved with each loss and now rides a four fight win streak. She recently had the performance of her career with a dominant win over Miesha Tate to capture historic UFC gold as the promotion's first female Brazilian champion. Expect Rousey to go back to her judo roots and look for the armbar that won her so many fights, and expect Nunes to be a more timed, aggressive striker if given the opportunity.
Cody Garbrandt vs. Dominick Cruz
Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and challenger Cody Garbrandt have spent the past several weeks exchanging shit talk like they just learned their first curse words. Garbrandt recently made some claims comparing himself to a shark in pursuit of bloody pussies, and well, there was also this absolute mess of an interview. The commentary between these Garbrandt and Cruz has been so stupid and childish that each fighter won 4 electoral college votes.
Regardless of who faces Cruz, it's the same puzzle of finding the target while being dissected on the outside mixed with a decent takedown threat. It's never a good sign when a fighter with a limited array of weapons faces a quicker, smarter opponent. However, in Garbrandt's case, his limited weapons have knocked out 9 of his 10 opponents. Cody needs to make it a brawl if he wants to win. He won't capture the W by playing Cruz's game. Cody may have to go full Chuck Liddell and be willing to eat enough punches to wake up in a rap music video if he wants the belt. Have you ever seen a shark get punched in the face? How about an angry Californian? You will see one of these Friday night.
T.J Dillashaw vs. John Lineker
T.J Dillashaw is a former UFC champion and John Lineker is the number four ranked bantamweight despite losing five of his twelve UFC fights against weight loss. The former sometimes-sorta-flyweight returned to 135 pounds last year and still missed weight in his last fight. He's facing Dillashaw in a fight that will likely determine who gets the next crack at Cruz. Meanwhile Cruz is fighting a guy who never cracked the top five until he was being primed as next in line for a title shot. Yes, the bantamweight division really is this empty.
Dong Hyun Kim vs. Tarec Saffiedine
"The Stun Gun" Dong Hyun Kim returns to face Tarec Saffiedine in the only main card fight over 135 pounds. This is a battle between two guys who have been riding around in the middle of the pack in a crowded division for what feels like forever, but both always fall short in the big fights. They're two strong strikers if not the most technical, and it seems likely either could go to sleep in this one.
Louis Smolka vs. Ray Borg
Louis Smolka and Ray Borg are two of the better flyweights that you may not have seen. Both are perennial curtain jerkers on some of the more obscure Fight Pass and FS1 events. Both have racked up some nice wins and Performance of the Night awards, and they usually put on a good show. Now they're opening a PPV. Both men are coming off of a loss, so this is contest to see who gets back on the right track and continues to progress vs. who opens UFC Fight Night: Swaziland.
Join our picks tournament to leave us your UFC 207 winners and don't forget to join us for live results and ratings Friday night. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for live results, scores, and highlights from this event and more in 2017. It's been a great year, and thanks for joining us!