December 31, 2016 - 1:11 am
As the promotional posters suggested, Ronda Rousey was back, but she didn’t at all resemble the same mixed martial artist who once dominated the sport.
Rousey looked stunned after champion Amanda Nunes landed her first right hand in the main event of UFC 207 on Friday night at T-Mobile Arena and was never competitive for the 48 seconds it took for referee Herb Dean to step in and save her from eating any more punches.
“She had her time,” Nunes said after retaining the women’s bantamweight title. “Thank you, Ronda Rousey, (for being a pioneer for women in the UFC). Now I’m the show. I’m the champion.”
There was no doubt about that. Nunes landed right hand after right hand, shaking off two wobbly legged attempts by Rousey to pull her into the clinch.
“I wanted this fight so bad,” said Nunes, who won the belt at UFC 200 in July with a first-round submission of Miesha Tate. “I trained for this since my first fight in the UFC, and tonight I proved to everybody I’m the best.”
Rousey, an Olympic bronze medalist in judo, won the first 12 fights of her career in dominating fashion, with only one bout getting out of the first round.
Her star came crashing down with a stunning knockout loss to Holly Holm in November 2015 in Australia. She remained largely out of the public eye and did no interviews leading up to her return, leading to speculation and suspense about her mindset.
Rousey’s fighting future is now even more of a mystery.
“Now she’s going to go retire and go make movies,” said Nunes, who hopes to usher in a new era in the division, created solely for Rousey in 2013. “Forget about Ronda Rousey.”
Another longtime champion had his title taken away by an upstart challenger in the co-main event.
Undefeated knockout artist Cody Garbrandt ended Dominick Cruz’s 13-fight winning streak by capturing a unanimous decision to become the men’s bantamweight champion.
Garbrandt, who had nine knockouts in his first 10 fights before Friday, remained patient and took control late.
He knocked down Cruz several times in the fourth round, but never got wild chasing the finish. When the final bell rang, Cruz just shook Garbrandt’s hand and acknowledged his first loss since 2007.
There had been a great deal of animosity between the two before the bout, which was no surprise considering the long rivalry between Garbrandt’s Team Alpha Male and Cruz’s Alliance MMA.
Several near skirmishes between the teams had taken place around the MGM Grand and T-Mobile Arena in the past few days, as Cruz and his training partners appeared to be trying to prod Garbrandt into fighting angry and out of control
Garbrand said after the win that was never going to happen.
“I thrive on that fire,” he said. “That’s what I grew up in — fighting. That’s all I know. I don’t know anything else but fighting. Hats off to Dominick and Alliance MMA for making me a better fighter tonight. He’s tough as hell.”
Garbrandt’s first title defense could be against former teammate T.J. Dillashaw, who dominated John Lineker for all three rounds to solidify his spot as the top contender.
Dillashaw, the former champion, left Team Alpha Male unceremoniously and has traded public jabs with some of his former teammates.
Garbrandt sounds up to the challenge against his former training partner.
“T.J., come try me, mother (expletive),” he said.
Veteran welterweight Dong Hyun Kim returned after more than a year out of action to claim his third straight win with a split decision over former Strikeforce champion Tarec Saffiedine. The bout didn’t feature many exciting moments, but Kim appeared to be rewarded for trying to push the pace in the final two rounds.
“Saffiedine has a great clinch game, so it was hard to perform an exciting fight,” Kim said.
Flyweight Ray Borg bounced back from a disappointing loss to Justin Scoggins with an impressive victory over Louis Smolka in the first fight on the main card.
Borg dominated the grappling exchanges on the mat, negating the sizable height and reach disadvantage by controlling positioning for almost the entire 15 minutes.
He won the bout despite injuring his ankle in the second round.
“We were in a scramble, and as I took him back, going backward, he landed on my ankle,” Borg said. “No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t plant on it, I couldn’t twist, which forced me to take it to the ground every chance I got.”
Borg, who missed weight for the fight, blamed personal issues and said he knows he needs to make adjustments to his camp, but the 23-year-old said he wants to remain at flyweight.
Former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks took down Neil Magny and controlled position throughout the fight, but Magny’s submission attempts and elbows from the bottom were enough to win him the first and third rounds on the way to a unanimous decision.
The sellout crowd was unhappy with the verdict, showering Magny with boos. The reaction was of little concern to the victor.
“At the end of the day, it is a mixed martial arts match, not a wrestling match,” he said. “I definitely lost the wrestling match in that fight, but I won the striking and jiu-jitsu aspects of it, and that’s what got me the win today. I had myself winning rounds one and three, for sure.”
Las Vegan Mike Pyle was knocked out by a big right hand from Alex Garcia in the first round of a welterweight bout. The 41-year-old has lost four of his past five fights.
Welterweight Niko Price submitted Brandon Thatch in the first round with an arm-triangle choke, and middleweight Antonio Carlos Junior won a unanimous decision over Marvin Vettori.
A welterweight bout between Tim Means and Alex Oliveira was declared a no contest after Means knocked out Oliveira with illegal knee strikes that were deemed accidental on replay review.
Contact Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @adamhilllvrj on Twitter.
UFC 207 main card
• Amanda Nunes def. Ronda Rousey, TKO1, to retain women’s bantamweight title.
• Cody Garbrandt def. Dominick Cruz, unanimous decision (48-46, 48-46, 48-47), to win bantamweight title.
• T.J. Dillashaw def. John Lineker, unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26), bantamweights.
• Dong Hyun Kim def. Tarec Saffiedine, split decision (27-30, 29-28, 29-28), welterweights.
• Ray Borg def. Louis Smolka, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26), flyweights.