UFC 273: Volkanovski vs. The Korean Zombie Predictions
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Chan Sung Jung
Back-to-back wins over Max Holloway followed by another against Brian Ortega have taken Volkanovski to 10-0 in the UFC so far and solidified his status as the undisputed 145lb champ. Meanwhile, ‘The Korean Zombie’ is a cult hero among fans and his action-packed time in the UFC includes a recent 3-1 run, during which he has TKO’d both Frankie Edgar and Renato Moicano, as well as earning a decision win over Dan Ige last time out.
Volkanovski is a very well-rounded fighter with little in the way of obvious weaknesses. He’s not the flashiest striker or the heaviest hitter, but his fundamentals are at a high-level technically, as is his fight IQ. That enables him to implement a high-pressure style that incorporates clever feints and footwork to ensure exchanges swing in his favor, in addition to being highly durable and possessing excellent cardio.
Meanwhile, Volkanovski is also a strong wrestler and works well with ground-and-pound once on top, and while he’s not the most submission-orientated fighter, he has shown strong grappling defense and is hard to get down in the first place.
While not quite as indestructible or reckless as his Korean Zombie nickname and early rise to prominence might suggest, Jung is unquestionably an exciting and talented fighter who will seek to pose problems for Volkanovski both on the feet and on the mat. Striking wise he operates well from range and throws heavy punches down the pipe, whether it’s the jab, straight or well executed uppercut and he’s not the type of fighter to be troubled when opponents bring the fight to him.
TKZ can also look for takedowns, but it won’t be easy to get a compact wrestler like Volkanovski down. However, if he does find himself on the mat at any stage then the Zombie is certainly a very dangerous submission grappler and that’s something Volkanovski would have to be very wary of.
Overall I have to pick Volkanovski here as he’s smarter, sharper and quicker with his delivery on the feet and can also win the wrestling battle to claim rounds if required, leading him to a decision victory.
Prediction: Alexander Volkanovski to win by decision.
Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan
It’s been a long and somewhat uncomfortable wait for this bantamweight title rematch given that Sterling seized the belt from Yan in controversial fashion after being unable to continue due to an illegal knee from Yan, which led to a DQ.
In the lead-up to that moment Yan had gained the upper-hand and put Sterling in major trouble on the feet, to the extent that a finish could have been on the cards. Instead, the illegal blow landed, Sterling won the belt by DQ and after a lengthy spell out due to surgery he’s finally ready to prove he deserves to still retain the title.
The fact that Yan had big success on the feet last time out is no surprise as he excels as an active and offensive, yet still very methodical technical striker with his boxing in particular being a strong point, together with adding solid kicks to his potent combination work. He also reads his opponent’s well, and always keeps a strong, high defensive guard. He’s already shown he can find openings and hurt Sterling, so he’ll come into this fight determined and high on confidence.
Sterling is a good striker in his own right and while he’s not as technically skilled or hard-hitting as Yan he will look to counter-act that with a high volume output aided by a 4″ reach advantage and good athleticism.
Sterling is also a very good wrestler and has developed a crafty submission game to go along with it, which his most likely route to a stoppage win in any given fight. Yan has stern takedown defense though and solid wrestling of his own, so I think that will result in the fight playing out more on the feet.
I’m going with Yan again here as I think he has the skills and the power to deal with Sterling and will gradually start to pick apart Sterling’s busy, but less effective work on his way to securing a third round TKO stoppage.
Prediction: Petr Yan to win by TKO in Rd3
Gilbert Burns vs. Khamzat Chimaev
It’s rare that a fighter builds a fearsome reputation as quickly as Chimaev, who has yet to fight a ranked opponent during his 4-0 start to life in the UFC, but is already considered one of the next-big-things in the sport. Now he’ll really have to live up to the hype though as he’s facing a former welterweight title contender in Burns who has won 7 of his last 8 fights, including a decision win over Stephen Thompson last time out.
Chimaev has comfortably been moving between welterweight and middleweight during his UFC run so far and that’s reflected in his significant 4″ height and reach advantage over Burns, who is a former lightweight.
That size differential will only add to Chimaev’s already completely dominant wrestling ability, which no-one has yet found an answer to. Burns doesn’t have the wrestling chops to challenge that, but he does have excellent submission skills, so he will be hoping he can find the space under his opponent’s stifling control to catch him out.
Chimaev is not a one-trick pony though as he has good grappling and a few submission finishes to his name along with heavy ground-and-pound, and on the feet he’s also shown a certain level of comfort and finishing power.
Burns is a good striker and will be more versatile and dynamic than Chimaev with his offensive weapons on the feet, but it does feel like having any success there would lead Chimaev to return to his bread-and-butter takedowns and top control.
As such I feel Chimaev will emerge victorious here, although I’m less sure of whether he’ll find a finish as Burns is clearly a step-up from his previous UFC competition. I think the size difference could make the difference though so I’ll say he gets the TKO win, but have to go to the third round to secure it.
Prediction: Khamzat Chimaev to win by TKO In Rd3.
Mackenzie Dern vs. Tecia Torres
After a four fight winning streak, Dern suffered a decision loss to Marina Rodriguez last time out, while Torres is currently in the midst of a three-fight unbeaten stretch.
Dern has always been best known for her extremely high-level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ability, but heading into her ninth UFC bout it still feels like the rest of her game is very much of a work-in-progress.
On the feet Dern carries power, but not so much in the way of clean technique, finesse or defensive mechanics. More problematic though is that she doesn’t have a solid wrestling game with which to execute the takedowns she needs to implement her deadly submission game, which can leave her somewhat stranded if the fight doesn’t hit the mat via a knockdown or scramble.
As for Torres, she’s far more comfortable than Dern on the feet, being faster and more agile with her boxing combinations and footwork, which will help her navigate a 3″ height and 2″ reach disadvantage.
Torres has never had significant power in her strikes though, and indeed she’s not known as a finisher on the mat either, but she is a respectable wrestler who will look to utilize that to keep the fight upright.
Torres recent winning streak flatters to deceive a little as the level of competition hasn’t been great, but nonetheless I do feel her mix of movement, volume striking and takedown defense will frustrate Dern’s attempts to get the fight to the mat and lead her to a decision victory.
Prediction: Tecia Torres to win by decision.
Vinc Pichel vs. Mark Madsen
10 years into his UFC career, the 39-year-old Pichel has actually only fought nine times, but he has compiled a very solid 7-2 record, while the 37-year-old Madsen holds a perfect 11-0 record, including three wins in the Octagon so far.
Madsen is a former Olympic wrestling silver medalist and that’s certainly the biggest focus of his MMA game too as he seeks to plant opponent’s on their backs multiple times over the course of the fight, and of course given his credentials that’s something he’s very effective at. However, other aspects of his MMA ability are more limited. He tried to focus more on his striking last time out against Clay Guida and it was an underwhelming performance which he only scraped by via split decision.
That could be a problem against Pichel, who is certainly the better striker of the two, with solid boxing, fairly respectable power and toughness on his side. Pichel’s takedown defense is fairly poor however, although to his credit once he’s on the mat he can scramble and so won’t make it easy for Madsen to keep him there.
I think it’s likely Madsen will be more focused on his wrestling this time out and should get clear opportunities to land the takedowns he needs to emerge with a decision win.
Prediction: Mark Madsen to win by decision.
UFC 273 Prelims
(Predicted winners in bold)
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
Ross Cole is one of the most prolific mixed martial arts writers in the world, having written more than 17,000 MMA news stories for MMA Insight, which he founded in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts, and reaching millions of die-hard MMA fans in the process.
You can read more of Ross’s work at MMAInsight.com.