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Lesnar beats Hunt, Nunes stuns Tate for title at UFC 200

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Brock Lesnar returned from a 4 1/2-year UFC absence with a unanimous-decision victory over Mark Hunt, and Amanda Nunes took the bantamweight title from Miesha Tate with a stunning first-round stoppage at UFC 200 on Saturday night.

Jose Aldo also won a competitive decision over Frankie Edgar to claim the interim featherweight title on the UFC’s star-studded landmark show.

Daniel Cormier dominated a decision over Anderson Silva, who took the fight on two days’ notice after Jon Jones was dropped from the main event for failing a drug test.

While Brazil’s Nunes shocked Tate in the main event, the hulking Lesnar (6-3) was the greatest curiosity on the card. The pro wrestler earned his first mixed martial arts victory since July 2010, dominating Hunt with wrestling skill and sheer mass.

Ronda Rousey slight favorite against Amanda Nunes at UFC 207

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Betting lines can be influenced by popularity, which is important to keep in mind when looking at the women’s bantamweight title bout between Ronda Rousey and Amanda Nunes that will be the culmination of UFC 207 on Friday in Las Vegas.

Rousey is the -140 betting favorite with Nunes nominally the underdog at +110, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Rousey is fighting for the first time since losing her title to Holly Holm in November 2015, while Nunes is making her first defense since her victory by submission against Miesha Tate in July.

Since she has been away for so long, Rousey is a bit of a blank slate, but during her title reign she had the knack for using her judo background to get a fight to the mat. That might give her a shot at nullifying some of Nunes’ punching power and forcing the champion, whose cardio is below-average, to burn energy getting out of clinches and back on her feet. Of the two, Nunes is the more powerful puncher.

Dominick Cruz is a -225 favorite on the UFC 207 odds in his bantamweight title defense bout against underdog Cody Garbrandt (+175). One case for the challenger is that Garbrandt, who is undefeated in the UFC, averages more significant strikes per minute than Cruz, and hits at a higher percentage. His quick-strike power gives him a chance to get the win, but the unknown variable is his stamina. Cruz has shown throughout his career than he can elude heavy punchers and allow his stamina to carry the day.

T.J. Dillashaw is listed at -240 in his bantamweight bout against John Lineker (+190). Dillashaw’s propensity to strike early and frequently, along with being sounder technically than Lineker, makes him the clear favorite. Lineker’s brawling style makes him entertaining to watch, but he’s not efficient in his striking and that can land a fighter in trouble if he is unable to land a knockout.

Dong Hyun Kim is a -145 favorite against Tarec Saffiedine (+115) in a welterweight match that was moved to the main card after Cain Velasquez was scratched from his showdown with Fabricio Werdum. Kim, who has won six of his seven fights with the lone defeat coming against Tyron Woodley, has been able to handle any opponent who is isn’t elite. Saffiedine has dropped two of his last three fights and, from a betting perspective, doesn’t offer great value as an underdog.

And in a late add to the main card, Ray Borg is a slight -135 betting favorite against Louis Smolka (+110) in a flyweight bout. Borg is the savvier grappler of the two whereas Smolka has greater reach and striking ability. Smolka’s defense might not be strong enough to prevent Borg from turning this into a fight that is contested mostly on the mat.

Holloway favored over Pettis on UFC 206 odds for Saturday night event

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Whether one buys the premise of an interim featherweight title bout, it’s easy to see why Max Holloway is a big favorite against Anthony Pettis in the headline matchup for UFC 206 in Toronto on Saturday.

Having won nine fights in a row, Holloway is listed as the -190 betting favorite with Pettis at +165 for the co-main event at Air Canada Centre, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The interim belt was created after Conor McGregor moved up to win the lightweight strap at UFC 205.

Holloway is a much busier striker who prefers to attack, while Pettis picks his spots for counter-attacks. There is definitely potential for Pettis to win if he can slow the pace and get the match to the ground, although no one has done that against Holloway recently. It will also be interesting to see what form Pettis shows now that he has cut body mass to compete at featherweight (145-pound limit).

The match is scheduled for five rounds. The winner will likely advance directly to a title fight against champion Jose Aldo.

In the co-main event, welterweight Donald Cerrone is the main card’s heaviest favorite at -280 as he takes on veteran Matt Brown, who is listed at +220. Cerrone is looking for a fourth consecutive win since moving up to welterweight and it’s fair to take a pass on Brown, who has lost four of his last five bouts. If Brown prevails it would be the biggest upset, in terms of odds on the underdog, at a UFC event since UFC 200.

Featherweight Doo Ho Choi is a -210 favorite against Cub Swanson, who is listed +180. Swanson’s defense is top-notch but he is spotting some reach to Choi, who is also the more efficient of the two in the striking game. Choi defends well and, if anything, might be underpriced. The line could narrow closer to fight time, since Swanson has more name recognition among casual North American and European fight fans.

Coming out of nearly two-year hiatus, Jordan Mein is favored at -155 against +135 underdog Emil Meek. Meek, a Norwegian newcomer to UFC, is a powerful striker who has seven of his eight career wins by knockout. A loss here won’t hurt his prospects in the UFC, so essentially he has been handed a nothing-to-lose scenario which might foment trying to attack Mein and get him off-balance early. There is upset potential here.

Middleweights Tim Kennedy (-145) and Kelvin Gastelum (+125) have been matched after each was pulled out of UFC 205. The prices have been shifting toward equilibrium – Kennedy opened -222 with Gastelum at +175 – as oddsmakers try to balance out the enthusiasm for Gastelum. Gastelum is now likely a middleweight for good after failing to make the weight limit for UFC 205 and should be motivated, whereas it’s unclear what to expect out of the 37-year-old Kennedy, who last fought more than two years ago.

Underdogs have won 163 of 440 fights this year in the UFC, or 37 percent. That trend has been consistent from UFC 201 through UFC 205 with underdogs prevailing in 14 of 41 fights, or 34.1%.