This Friday marks the final UFC event of the year – and it’s definitely worthy of closing out an epic 2016. With five current or former champions scheduled to scrap, it’s a can’t-miss event anchored by the return of Ronda Rousey.
Beyond “Rowdy”’s attempt to recapture her former glory (and the belt), we get the UFC’s best grudge match – which also happens to be a title fight and two more high stakes bouts with top contenders.
There’s a lot to cover here, so let’s get right to your Cherry Picks. These are exclusive Big On Sports selections based on UFC betting values. Over the year, we’ve racked up an 18-8-1 with our UFC picks – including a few gutsy underdog calls.
All UFC odds courtesy of BookMaker.eu, where you can bet on MMA year-round. Please note that odds are updated daily and subject to change.
Amanda Nunes (+118) vs Ronda Rousey (-137)
Over/under 1.5 rounds, over +185, under -225
Too Many Questions For Rousey
If you’ve been watching Rousey’s training on UFC Countdown, you probably thought “Damn, she looks like a killer again.” DON’T BE FOOLED. Coach Edmond Tarverdyan is an expert at making fighters look good with mitt pads. He’s also a horrible coach whose other fighter, Travis Browne (also Rousey’s BF), is devolving rapidly under his tutelage.
You can’t expect Rousey to evolve at Glendale Fight Team. She cruised by on savage physicality alone, but Holm exposed the lack of depth to her actual game. She’s had a year to fix serious striking issues, but that’s not enough to make up the gap against the most dangerous Muay Thai striker in the division.
Getting Nunes at an underdog value is a steal. She’s in full-fledged beast mode right now and has been gunning for this fight for a while. The Brazilian has the tools to give Ronda problems in every phase, and Rousey’s name value is propping her up in the fight odds more than anything.
Cherry Pick: Nunes at +118
Cody Garbrandt (+177) vs Dominick Cruz (-206)
Over/under 2.5 rounds, over -225, under +185
Not Yet, “No Love”
Don’t get sucked in by Garbrandt’s vicious highlight reel. Yes, the dude could punch a hole through your skull. But the kid is just 25 years old with 10 pro fights. Asking him to solve the most complex puzzle in the UFC is a bit much. When it comes to defensive specialists, Cruz is the absolute cream of the crop. Garbrandt’s time will come – but it’s just not right now.
There are two safe betting options here. The first is Cruz to win at -215, for the reasons outlined above. The other is the over on 2.5 rounds at -220. Cruz has never been knocked out, and he’s nearly impossible to hit clean. He’s also a points fighter, having won 14 of his 22 by decision. In this case, let’s mitigate Garbrandt’s puncher’s chance and make our fight pick the over, which is only five points more expensive than Cruz’s money line to win.
Cherry Pick: Over 2.5 rounds -225
John Lineker (+195) vs T.J. Dillashaw (-225)
Over/under 2.5 rounds, over -156, under +131
If T.J. Dillashaw had an ounce of personality, he’d likely be fighting for the title again. Despite having the resume to justify a rematch with Cruz, he’s had to let his fists to the talking because he’s basically a statute that can talk.
On paper, this matches up a lot like the Cruz vs. Garbrandt. Lineker is an aggressive puncher with killshot power, while Dillashaw is a matador like Cruz. It’s likely that the former champion dances around and frustrates Lineker, who will have to resort to chasing him. Not a good look for judges.
Because Dillashaw to win is fairly expensive at -220, stick with the over on 2.5 rounds at -156. T.J. takes his time in the cage and has regularly fought into the championship rounds. Lineker is fast and durable enough to make it to the final bell.
Cherry Pick: Over 2.5 rounds at -156
Johny Hendricks (-108) vs Neil Magny (-112)
Over/under 2.5 rounds over -175, under +155
Johny Be Bad Lately
Former champion Johny Hendricks is having a rough go in the UFC lately. When he’s not missing weight, he’s getting his ass kicked. Though he’s still considered a top welterweight, this is pretty much his last chance to prove it. Magny is coming off a tough loss to Lorenz Larkin, but he’s definitely still an up-and-comer.
I see a few key physical advantages for Magny. The first is that he’s a better athlete, and will be noticeably faster in the cage. He’s also much taller and rangier than Hendricks, who had major problems with a similarly lanky fighter in Stephen Thompson. Hendricks’ decline has been steep, and this is not a good matchup for him.
Cherry Pick: Magny to win at -118
Which UFC star was at their best in 2016? Read UFC Odds: Three Strong Contenders for Fighter of the Year