The Ultimate Fighting Championship wraps up their 2016 schedule with a big UFC 207 card in Las Vegas on Saturday night, and our man Leigh Copson has picked out his best bets for the undercard.
Understandably all the hype for this final event of 2016 is centred around the return of Ronda Rousey, but having already offered my Nunes v Rousey betting tips
I am turning my attention to an intriguing undercard that features a bantamweight title fight and another key fight in that division, as well as an important outing for a former champion.
So who will end 2016 on a high? Here are my two best bets for the UFC 207 undercard…
Dominick Cruz v Cody Garbrandt
Dominick Cruz has put two injury-ravaged years behind him to reclaim his spot at the top of the bantamweight division in 2016. The 31-year-old regained the title he never lost in the Octagon by beating TJ Dillashaw back in January, and in July he won the rubber match with Urijah Faber. Cruz will now look to cap off a perfect 2016 by halting the rise of Cody Garbrandt.
Cody Garbrandt. (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)
It has been an outstanding year for Garbrandt, who has surged up the bantamweight rankings with three straight stoppage wins. The heavy-hitting 25-year-old needed less than a round to dispatch each of those opponents and he now boasts a perfect 10-0 record with nine of those victories coming via stoppage. This, however, is the toughest fight of his young career.
Garbrandt has the power to knock out any bantamweight fighter on the planet, but when it comes to Cruz landing a punch is easier said than done. The champion has been hit and dropped before, but his outstanding footwork makes him difficult to touch and his gameplan will almost certainly be to take Garbrandt into the championship rounds – where he has never been done before.
Garbrandt will look to end the fight swiftly, but I expect Cruz to ride out any early storm and use his excellent movement and technical striking skills to frustrate the challenger and pick him apart on his way to another decision victory.
Recommended Bet: Back Dominick Cruz to win by decision @ 10/11 bet365
TJ Dillashaw v John Lineker
TJ Dillashaw has made secret of his disgust at the decision to hand Cody Garbrandt a title shot ahead of him. Dillashaw surrendered the bantamweight title to Dominick Cruz back in January, losing via split decision, but he bounced back in July when he got the nod from the judges to beat Raphael Assuncao. However, that was not enough to earn him a rematch with Cruz, but a win over John Lineker will almost certainly put him at the front of the queue to face the winner of Cruz v Garbrandt.
But will he get the job done? Lineker is riding a six-fight win streak and you know what you are going to get from the Brazilian. Lineker throws every punch with the intention of knocking out his opponent and those fireworks are probably the reason he still has a job despite missing weight on several occasions over the past few years. However, that style plays in to the hands of Dillashaw, a excellent technical striker that uses his great footwork to pick apart the opposition and stay out of trouble. That is what will happen here.
Recommended Bet: Back TJ Dillashaw by decision @ 6/5 bet365
Johny Hendricks v Neil Magny
Johny Hendricks. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
From welterweight champion to fighting just to stay in the top 10, the last couple of years have been miserable for Johny Hendricks. ‘Bigg Rigg’ was on top of the world when he edged a decision win over Robbie Lawler to win the vacant 17-lb belt in March 2014, but he lost the rematch nine months later and he goes into this fight having lost to both Stephen Thompson and Kelvin Gastelum this year.
Hendricks desperately needs to stop the rot against Neil Magny, who saw a three-fight win streak come to an end at the hands of Lorenz Larkin back in August, and I believe he will. Magny is a step down in class from the fighters Hendricks has been losing to, so I expect the former champion to use his wrestling to grind out a win that stops his slide down the welterweight rankings.
Recommended Bet: Back Johny Hendricks to win @ 4/5 bet365