*Fight Order subject to Change*

UFC 273 PPV Main Card on ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):

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145 lbs.: UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski vs. “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung – The main event comes in the Featherweight division, as Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski makes his third title defense against “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung. Making his first appearance in 2022, Volkanovski returns to the octagon looking to continue his reign at 145 pounds. Undefeated in the UFC and a winner of twenty straight, Volkanovski has quietly been improving his status among the pound-for-pound best. With little signs of slowing down, Volkanovski is inching closer and closer to being in the conversation as the Featherweight Goat. Meanwhile, Jung comes into this fight seeking redemption. Having dislocated his shoulder in a 2013 title fight against Jose Aldo, to then being out of action for over three years with some of time being due to mandatory military service, one would suffice to say, Jung has had quite the journey back to the title. With wins in three of his last four, Jung comes into this fight with momentum.

As for a prediction, I have Volkanovski winning. While Jung is a very credible foe, the wave that is Volkanovski doesn’t seem to be crashing anytime soon. Well rounded, with exceptional striking and wrestling, Volkanovski has been dominating everyone with the exception of Max Holloway. Having most recently defeated Brian Ortega, Volkanovski proved that his submission defense and striking abilities are next level. In fact, Volkanovski landed an absurd 214 significant strikes. The third straight fight he has eclipsed 136 strikes. Now, Jung isn’t going to be an easy out. Armed with an iron chin, power on the feet and under utilized grappling skills, it’s plausible that he can threaten both on the feet and the ground. However, Volkanovski is too good and too cerebral. To survive Ortega’s submissions not once, but twice and go on to land over 200 strikes is sign of growth and a fighter evolving. So with all that said, I predict Volkanovski will retain via decision.

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135 lbs.: UFC Bantamweight Champion Aljamain Sterling vs. Interim Bantamweight Titleholder Petr Yan – The Co-Main event comes in the Bantamweight division, as Aljamain “Funk Master” Sterling looks to defend his title in a rematch against Petr “No Mercy” Yan. Having been out of action for over a year, Sterling will return to the octagon for the first time since capturing the Bantamweight title due to a disqualification. A winner of six straight and eight of the last nine, Sterling has been on a tear. Unfortunately recency bias seems to have overshadowed Sterling’s dominance. Meanwhile, Yan comes into this fight having most recently defeated Cory Sandhagen for the Interim Bantamweight Championship. A fight that Yan looks sharp, showing off perhaps the best boxing in the UFC. The victory improved Yan’s UFC record to 8-1, with the lone loss coming via the disqualification against Sterling.

As for a prediction, I’ve got Sterling winning. While I may be among the few, and I understand why, I believe that Sterling is being overlooked here despite what the odds may indicate. A well rounded fighter, Sterling is dynamic on the feet and has excellent grappling abilities. With great cardio and comfortability wherever the fight goes, Sterling is championship material regardless of how he won the belt. The worry for me in this fight, isn’t necessarily if Sterling can get the fight to the mat. It’s if Sterling can go toe-to-toe with Yan on the feet for five rounds. Yan being an exceptional talent with boxing abilities that put even the best strikers to shame, is hard out for any Bantamweight. Throw in his ability to wrestle and grapple, and he’s a walking nightmare.

The reason however that I’m siding with Sterling, is that I believe the first fight between the two spotlighted a very uncharacteristic Sterling. One who fought frantically and with reckless abandon, expending cardio at a rate that even his usual hard pace wasn’t accustomed to. It allowed Sterling to look vulnerable and very silly at times. Despite that, on the judges scorecards, Sterling won the second round on all three cards and even the first round on one of the judges scorecards. If Sterling could be more tempered, there is a real chance his wrestling and grappling could also be utilized in spots. It won’t be easy, as Yan has amazing takedown defense. However, if Sterling isn’t isn’t out there just diving, it’s very possible. While in the end there may not be a very good reason to go against an incredible talent like Yan, there just seems like an overwhelming amount of recency bias clouding Sterling’s abilities. So with that said, I predict that Sterling wins via decision.

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170 lbs.: Gilbert Burns vs. Khamzat Chimaev – One of the more anticipated fights of the card comes in the Welterweight division, as Gilbert “Durinho” Burns takes on Khamzat “Borz” Chimaev. Coming off a victory over Stephen Thompson, Burns has once again positioned himself for a title shot. With seven wins in the last eight fights, despite what the odds may indicate, Burns is one of the very best at 170 pounds. Meanwhile, Chimaev will make his first appearance of 2022. Having most recently walked through Li Jingliang, much like he has to every opponent thus far in the UFC, Chimaev may be the most electric fighter since Conor McGregor.

As for a prediction, I have Chimaev winning. While Burns is a major step-up in competition, Chimaev is so skilled, that the Welterweight title doesn’t seem like his ceiling. Armed with mauling wrestling and Duralast cardio, Chimaev can and has broken the will of many fighters. Even his striking, which isn’t often highlighted, is an asset. Just ask Gerald Meerschaert. Now, Burns is a tough out for any fighter. Already equipped with one of the best ground games, Burns evolved striking has turned him into one of the more well rounded fighters in the division. Having fought Usman toe-to-toe, even rocking the champ at one point, Burns isn’t far off from being a Champion. Unfortunately though, so isn’t Chimaev, who is an absolute terminator. One whom is determined and destined to fight for the title by 2023. So with all that said, I predict that Chimaev wins via TKO.

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115 lbs.: Mackenzie Dern vs. Tecia Torres – We have a pivotal fight in the Women’s Strawweight division, as Mackenzie Dern takes on Tecia “The Tiny Tornado” Torres. Seeing a four-fight win streak snapped in a main event against Marina Rodriguez, Dern will look to get back up on the horse. Checking in at 5th in the rankings, with a victory, Dern may be one fight away from contending for the belt. Meanwhile, Torres will look to continue her career resurgence. Having bounced back from a four-fight skid with a three-fight winning streak, Torres is on the precipice of cracking the division’s top five.

As for a prediction, I have Torres winning. While Dern is one of the most dangerous BJJ practitioner’s in the UFC, her ability to get the fight to ground has often been problematic. Landing only three of the twenty-eight takedowns attempted, Dern has often relied on pulling guard or inviting opponents to take her down. Surprisingly, some have obliged. However, when Dern is forced to stand, she can be beaten. Given Torres is a solid striker, who can light you up like a Christmas tree with output, I’d say the game plan for the Tiny Tornado is rather simple. It’s really on Dern to get this fight to the ground, which as I stated hasn’t been easy. So with that said, I predict that Torres wins via decision.

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265 lbs.: Aleksei Oleinik vs. Jared Vanderaa – After constant shuffling, the Heavyweight division will now feature a fight between Aleksei “The Boa Constrictor” Oleinik and Jared Vanderaa. At 44 years of age and on a three-fight losing streak, this may very well be Oleinik last stand in the UFC. Still searching for win number sixty, this would be the opportune time to cash in. Otherwise, it may have to come on the regional scene. Meanwhile, Vanderaa steps into this fight on short notice and desperately needing a victory. Having dropped two straight and three of the last four, Vanderaa’s tenure in the UFC most likely is on the line.

As for a prediction, I have Oleinik winning. While Vanderaa presents issues on the feet for Oleinik, his lackluster takedown defense leaves him vulnerable to be taken down. Something in which Oleinik looks to do in everyone of his fights, as his game revolves around grappling. Seeing that Vanderaa has been taken down eights times in only ten attempts, I don’t foresee Oleinik struggling much to get this fight to his world. One in which has seen the Boa Constrictor consume forty-six opponents via submission. Add another victim, as I believe Oleinik notches win number sixty via submission.

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UFC 273 ‘Prelims’ Under Card on ESPN/ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):

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170 lbs.: Ian Garry vs. Darian Weeks – We have an exciting scrap in the Welterweight division, as Ian “The Future” Garry takes on Darian Weeks. After a successful UFC debut, one that saw Garry knock out Jordan Williams, the Irishman will attempt to put forth an encore. Undefeated and with immense potential, Garry has a bright future ahead of him. Meanwhile, Weeks is coming off an unsuccessful UFC debut. One that came on short notice and against a grizzled veteran in Bryan Barberena. With a full camp and a second chance inside the octagon, we may see the best version of Weeks.

As for a prediction, I have Weeks winning. While Garry is all the rave, and rightfully so, I believe Weeks has the abilities to turn this fight into a grind. Having landed 118 significant strikes and four takedowns in a fifteen minute brawl with Barberena, all while tired due to the short notice nature, Weeks showed to me that he has the moxy and will to win. With an extensive twenty fight amateur career, Weeks brings forth more experience than his seven fights would indicate. Now, Garry has shown little weaknesses throughout his young career. Flawless on the feet, he’s technical, precise and powerful. Often keeping distance and landing leg kicks, Garry isn’t afraid to chop down his target before going for the kill. Even his takedown defense and grappling have looked sharp. He’s a legitimate prospect who fights with more experience than you’d expect someone at only twenty-four years of age. However, the reason I’m picking against the Irishman, is that I’m fascinated how he will approach and adjust in this fight. Knowing Weeks will be physically in better shape and have the cardio necessary to go a hard fifteen minutes, I’d expect more wrestling and overall activity than he achieved in his debut. Something in which I don’t think Garry has yet to face. So with all that said, I could be dead wrong here, but there is something to be said about catching an upstart early in their career. While Weeks isn’t a grizzled UFC veteran, he still possesses the ability to grind out what I believe will be a hard-fought decision victory.

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135 lbs.: Raquel Pennington vs. Aspen Ladd – We have a pivotal fight in the Women’s Bantamweight division, as Aspen Ladd takes on Raquel “Rocky” Pennington. After storming through the UFC early on, Ladd is in the toughest stretch of her young career. 1-2 in the last three, with a recent main event defeat, Ladd is going to need to right the ship to maintain her status as a contender. Meanwhile, Pennington comes into this bout on a three-fight win streak. Making the walk for the third time in less than seven months, Pennington is poised to get a second crack at the title sooner than later.

After going back-and-forth with this prediction, I’m ultimately picking Ladd to win. While her most recent performance may sour, I’d like to chalk it up to a bad day at the office. An excellent wrestler, with evolving striking, Ladd has the abilities to be a special talent at Bantamweight. However, mentally she will need to be at her best, as Pennington is a seasoned veteran whom has contended for the belt. Having won three straight and four of the last five, it seems that Pennington may once again be inching towards a title shot. A boxer with excellent durability, Pennington has shown she can win in both a brawl or a grind. Considering I believe this will be a grind, I don’t doubt Pennington’s ability to win. I just believe that Ladd’s wrestling is the x-factor that should be able to aid her to a close decision victory.

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185 lbs.: Anthony Hernandez vs. Josh Fremd – The curtain jerker comes in the Middleweight division, as Anthony “Fluffy” Hernandez takes on newcomer Josh Fremd. Originally scheduled to take on Dricus Du Plessis, Hernandez was part of a card shuffle that see’s him now face a debuting fighter. A winner of two of his last three, Hernandez is starting to build momentum. Perhaps his biggest win came in his most recent fight though, as he upset BJJ legend Rodolfo Vieira by submission. Meanwhile, Fremd steps into his UFC debut on short notice. Having won two straight and seven of the last eight, Fremd seems more than ready for this opportunity. Especially when you factor in that he is a former LFA veteran who has headlined two events.

As for a prediction, I’m going with Hernandez. While I’m not overly confident in this prediction, Hernandez has been better than most have given him credit for. Over his past six fights, he has defeated Brendan Allen, Jun Yong Park, Rodolfo Viera and technically Jordan Wright. His two defeats have come to Markus Perez and Kevin Holland. Outside of the Perez loss, Hernandez has been nearly flawless, notching several big victories. The only worry I have with Hernandez, is his cardio. Having only gone the distance once in ten fights, Hernandez potentially could be exposed should Fremd push a frantic pace. Something in which I’ve noticed Fremd can thrive in. However, I’ve also noticed that Fremd can be taken down and controlled. Given Hernandez has excellent grappling and previously took Park down six times in their fight, I can see the same going down here. So with that said, I predict that Hernandez wins via late submission.

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265 lbs.: Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Marcin Tybura – We have a clash in the Heavyweight division, as Jairzinho “Bigi Boy” Rozenstruik takes on Marcin “Tybur” Tybura. Ever since storming into the UFC with four-straight knockout victories, Rozenstruik has only won two of his last five fights. Most recently being defeated by Curtis Blaydes, Rozenstruik will have to once again build himself up to get another crack at a top five foe. Meanwhile, Tybura is coming off a close defeat to Alexander Volkov. A loss that halted a five-fight win streak dating back to February of 2020. With the streak snapped, Tybura has an opportunity to climb back in a position to fight a top ranked opponent next.

As for a prediction, I have Tybura winning. While Rozenstruik’s power is always a concern, he’s way too hesitant of a striker to trust. Averaging a mere 2.8 significant strikes per minute, Rozenstruik isn’t one for the long game. In fact, in nine UFC fights, Rozenstruik has only eclipsed 43 strikes once. Obviously most of his fights have ended inside the distance, but 2.8 significant strikes per minute pretty much tell the story. A reason though I lean Tybura is that he isn’t just a striker. He’s got some good wrestling, excellent top control and dangerous ground-and-pound. Having landed eight takedowns during his five-fight win streak, I have little doubt he won’t implement a wrestling attack on Rozenstruik. Especially when you consider Rozenstruik’s power and the fact that he’s been taken down fives times in the past three fights. So with that said, I predict that Tybura wins via decision.

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UFC 273 Early ‘Prelims’ on ESPN+/UFC Fight Pass (6:15 p.m. ET):

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170 lbs.: Mickey Gall vs. Mike Malott – In the Welterweight division, we have a showdown between Mickey Gall and newcomer Mike “Proper” Malott. Trading wins and loses for the past eight fights, Gall has yet to find his footing inside the octagon. Having signed with the promotion with only one professional fight, the expected growing pains have shown their teeth. Meanwhile, Malott steps into his UFC debut a winner of three-straight. Most recently fighting on Dana White’s Contender Series, Malott impressively submitted Shimon Smotritsky in 39 seconds. Thus earning him a UFC contract and big opportunity against Gall.

As for a prediction, I have Malott winning. While Gall is due for a win, Malott is a tough customer. Well rounded, with a lone blemish coming to the talented Hakeem Dawodu, Malott looks UFC ready. Having won all seven of his victories via stoppage, Malott has shown that he doesn’t need the judges to partake in his fate. He also has not discriminated on how he finishes opponents, with four wins coming via submission and three via knockout. Now, Gall has significantly improved since touching down in the UFC in 2016. However, his striking and cardio still are not where they need to be in order to progress in the Welterweight division. I mean, Gall hasn’t had a winning streak since he started out 4-0. With good grappling and submissions, Gall can stylistically beat lesser grapplers. Something which doesn’t apply to Malott. So with that said, I have Malott winning via TKO.

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155 lbs.: Mark Madsen vs. Vinc Pichel – We have a pivotal fight in the Lightweight division, as Vinc “From Hell” Pichel takes on Mark “The Olympian” Madsen. Unranked, despite winning three straight and seven of the last eight, Pichel will look to once more prove he’s a top Lightweight. At 39 years of age, father time isn’t on his side. It also isn’t slowing him down. Meanwhile, Madsen comes into this fight undefeated. Having most recently edged out Clay Guida in a barnburner, the former Olympian will look to continue his trek to a title shot.

As for a prediction, I have Pichel winning. While Madsen is stylistically a fighter who has given Pichel fits, this isn’t a Rustam Khabilov or Gregor Gillespie. It’s an Olympian, who is rather inexperienced and has shown gas tank issues. Having most recently defeated Clay Guida by split decision in a straight up striking contest, Madsen showed a new wrinkle to his game. One that has evolved, but clearly isn’t something he can rely on against better strikers. Pichel, a technical, yet powerful striker being one of them. The question is, can Pichel fend off Madsen’s wrestling? In the early portions of the fight, I don’t think so. However, as the fight wanes and Madsen tires, Pichel will begin to turn the tide. So much so, that I believe he will not only defeat Madsen, but finish him. So with that said, I predict Pichel to win by TKO.

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135 lbs.: Julio Arce vs. Daniel Santos – We have an intriguing fight in the Bantamweight division, as Julio Arce takes on promotional newcomer Daniel “Willycat” Santos. Having traded wins and loses for the past six fights, Arce will seek to find some consistency. In a stacked Bantamweight division, Arce can’t afford to continue losing if he will ever want to fight for the title. Meanwhile, Santos comes into his UFC debut on a two-fight win streak. Having not fought for 2.5 years, due to event cancellations and Injuries, Santos will need to shake off the rust under the brightest lights.

As for a prediction, I have Arce winning. Despite failing to win two-straight fights since 2018, Arce is a good fighter in a tough division. Having most recently fought Yadong Song, who is currently ranked in the top ten, Arce learned what it will take to get to that level. While Santos is a tough customer, notably throwing several spinning strikes, the layoff is problematic. To not only debut in the UFC, but after a 2.5 years since you’re last fight just seems like an enormous obstacle to overcome. Throw in a tough customer like Arce and I don’t like Santos’ chances. So with that said, I predict that Arce wins via decision.

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115 lbs.: Kay Hansen vs. Piera Rodriguez – We have an intriguing fight in the Women’s Strawweight division, as promotional newcomer Piera “La Fiera” Rodriguez takes on Kay Hansen. Undefeated, Rodriguez will look to continue her dominance in MMA under the brightest lights. Having most recently competed on Dana White’s Contender series five months ago, the Venezuelan appears more than ready for this opportunity. Meanwhile, Hansen comes into this fight needing a victory. Having lost two straight, both of which came to promotional newcomers, Hansen’s shine is starting to wear off. Still only twenty-two, Hansen will have plenty of time to right the ship. But if she keeps losing, it won’t be in the UFC.

As for a prediction, I have Rodriguez winning. While at one point, Hansen looked to have turned a corner in her career, this recent stumble may suggest that she isn’t quite ready for the UFC. Often looking uncomfortable on the feet, Hansen looks to get the fight down to the ground. When in top control, her grappling at times has looked good. It’s clearly a strength, but one that isn’t capable of beating certain fighters at this level. That includes Rodriguez. A powerful and technical striker, who is also physically strong and has shown good grappling abilities herself. A tough matchup for Hansen if you ask me. So with that said, I predict that Rodriguez wins via decision.

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