UFC 273 takes place tomorrow night in Florida and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights for you below.
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Chan Sung Jung
Volkanovski has firmly cemented himself as the featherweight champ after back-to-back wins over Max Holloway followed by a win over Brian Ortega took his UFC record to 10-0 so far. ‘The Korean Zombie’s’ record isn’t as flawless, having gone 7-3 in the UFC, but he’s always in exciting fights and during his recent 3-1 stint he’s managed to TKO both Frankie Edgar and Renato Moicano as well as claiming a decision win over Dan Ige.
Volkanovski has proven to be a very skilled striker without having to rely on having the most eye-catching techniques or the most devastating strikes. Instead his fundamentals are at a high level, as high is fight-IQ, and that allows him to implement an effective high-pressure strategy in which he incorporates movement and feints alongside punches and kicks to his advantage, while also being able to rely on his durability and cardio.
Of course, as you’d expect from a proven champion there’s more strings to his bow, being a strong wrestler who can made a big impact with ground-and-pound, while his submission defense has so far proven to be well-versed to avoid moments of danger on the mat.
As for the Korean Zombie, he’s not quite as indestructible as his nickname suggests, but he is certainly a talented fighter who poses a threat both on the feet and on the mat. Upright he has very solid punches from range, working the jab, straight and a well executed uppercut and isn’t the kind of fighter who crumbles under pressure, instead rising to the challenge and being capable on the counter.
Zombie is also known for being a dangerous grappler due to his submission skills and he will at times look to mix in takedowns to get the action on the mat. However, against a very good, compact wrestler like Volkanovski that seems like it’ll be a very difficult task to execute successfully.
As such I like Volkanovski here as he’s the sharper, quicker fighter on the feet, while he also holds the wrestling advantage, which will take him to a decision win.
Pick: Alexander Volkanovski wins by decision.
Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan
Sterling won the title from Yan in controversial fashion last year after his opponent landed an illegal knee in the fourth round that led to a disqualification ruling in a fight that he had appeared to be winning up until that moment.
It’s been a long wait since then as newly crowned champ Sterling opted to undergo surgery that kept him out of action for some time and now he’s finally ready for the rematch to prove he still deserves to be the champ.
Yan will come in high on confidence here as he had some major successes on the feet against Sterling last time out. That’s not a surprise given that Yan is a dangerous, yet impressively methodical and technical striker, whose boxing in particular stands out, though he does mix in solid kicks to his combo’s as well. Yan also has a high and very disciplined defensive guard that benefits him, while he’s good at reading what his opponent’s are doing.
Sterling is a very capable striker in his own right, but since he’s not as technical or as heavy a hitter as Yan he tends to try to make up for that with a high-volume output and his natural athleticism, along with having a 4″ reach advantage.
On the mat Sterling is a very good wrestler who has also proven to have a crafty submission game that provides his best route to a finish. Yan is also a good wrestler too though and is strong defensively in that regard, which means he has a good chance to keep the fight standing more often that not if he so chooses.
I feel this fight will head the same way as the first with Yan simply having the better and more potent striking ability and the tools to deal with Sterling’s grappling threat. Yan will increasingly find ways to exploit Sterling’s busier, yet less effective work on the feet, leading to a third round TKO finish.
Pick: Petr Yan wins by TKO in Rd3
Gilbert Burns vs. Khamzat Chimaev
Just four fights into his UFC career, Chimaev is already considered one of the next big stars of the sport, which is certainly an impressive achievement. However, he’s now facing a significant step-up in competition as he goes up against former welterweight title contender Burns, who has won 7 of his last 8 bouts and is coming off a decision win against Stephen Thompson.
Chimaev’s biggest strength is his dominant wrestling, which no-one has really found an answer for yet, and it’s likely to be accentuated further in this match-up due to the size disparity between them. Chimaev has a 4″ height and reach advantage over Burns, but it’s also worth noting that he’s regularly competing at both 170lbs and 185lbs, while Burns is actually a former lightweight.
That being said, Burns is a top-tier Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu player so while he can’t compete with Chimaev in the wrestling department, he will be harboring a hope that he can make something happen in terms of a submission finish. That’ll be easier said than done though given that Chimaev is likely to give him very little room to operate when he’s on top and also is a capable submission threat in his own right.
Burns is also a more dynamic and versatile striker here, but while it’s not his strongest suit, Chimaev does have a level of comfort on the feet and clearly has good power, while if he feels under threat he’s only a takedown away from swinging the momentum back in his favor.
As such I have to go with Chimaev here to impose his physical presence and will on Burns. A finish might not be quite so forthcoming as in previous bouts due to the level of opponent, but the size differential does leave me feeling that he can secure a TKO stoppage by the third round to continue his unbeaten run.
Pick: Khamzat Chimaev wins by TKO In Rd3.
Mackenzie Dern vs. Tecia Torres
Dern’s four-fight winning streak ended last time out with a decision loss to Marina Rodriguez, while Torres is riding a three-fight unbeaten run.
Dern’s one of the best female BJJ players of her era which meant there was a high level of interest and excitement around her transition to MMA, but while she’s done fairly well it’s become clear that her all-round MMA game is still a work-in-progress.
On the feet Dern does have the advantage of having natural power, but on the downside her lack of solid technique or defensive mechanics tends to let her down. She also struggles with not having the wrestling ability required to set up takedowns and get the fight to the floor where she would have a big advantage over many of her opponents.
Torres is significantly smaller than Dern, coming in at a 3″ height and 2″ reach disadvantage, but while she also doesn’t carry much in the way of meaningful power, she is certainly the better striker here, with her clean boxing technique, speed, footwork and combinations ensuring she’ll have a real chance to gain the upper-hand on the feet.
It should be noted that Torres latest winning run flatters to deceive somewhat due to the level of competition she was facing, but I still believe that this is a match-up that could favor her, with constant movement, volume striking and solid takedown defense being the keys to frustrate Dern and emerge with a win on the scorecards.
Pick: Tecia Torres wins by decision.
Vinc Pichel vs. Mark Madsen
The 39-year-old Pichel has been fighting in the UFC for a decade, but it’s interesting to note he’s actually fought less than 10 times, producing a solid 7-2 record in the promotion. As for the 37-year-old Madsen, he’s won three fights in a row since joining the UFC and holds a perfect 11-0 record overall.
Madsen is best known for being a former Olympic silver medalist in wrestling and that is at the very core of his success in MMA as he’s been able to plant opponent’s on their backs almost at will. That being said, he is more limited from an MMA perspective when it comes to other aspects of his game. That was evident last time out when he tried to focus on striking against Clay Guida and didn’t impress in a rather flat performance that he only won via split decision.
Pichel is likely to offer more problems for him on the feet as he is a solid boxer with respectable power and gritty determination on his side. That being said, Pichel’s takedown defense is fragile, though he does scramble well, so he will make Madsen work hard to actually make use of his time on top.
I think after his last Octagon outing Madsen will be more eager to get back to his wrestling roots here and doing so should pave the way for a decision victory.
Prediction: Mark Madsen to win by decision.
Aspen Ladd vs. Raquel Pennington
Ian Garry vs. Darian Weeks
Anthony Hernandez vs. Josh Fremd
Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Marcin Tybura
Aleksei Oleinik vs. Jared Vanderaa
Mickey Gall vs. Mike Malott
Julio Arce vs. Daniel Santos
Piera Rodriguez vs. Kay Hansen