Hot on the heels of last night’s TUF finale, UFC 213 is set to feature two title fights with some high ranked bouts added in for good measure.
Headlining is a women’s bantamweight title fight between Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko in a rematch of their 2016 bout at UFC 196. The Brazilian would come out triumphant in a unanimous decision victory last time but Shevchenko piled the pressure on her opponent in the third and final round.
In the co-main event is a massive middleweight interim title bout between the division’s top contenders Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker. Both men have a combined 15-0 record in the UFC’s 185 lbs division and are coming into Saturday night’s event with big knockout wins over Chris Weidman and Jacare Souza respectively.
Elsewhere, Fabricio Werdum and Alistair Overeem will have their rubber match while Anthony Pettis returns to the division where he became champion as he takes on veteran lightweight Jim Miller.
Amanda Nunes (14-4) vs Valentina Shevchenko (14-2)
This fight may well be decided by how each fighter starts.
Nunes is unquestionably a fast starter and blazed her way through both Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey. Shevchenko meanwhile has a more composed and calculated fighting style and will be the more technical striker on the feet.
Since their first fight both women have made improvements but I think Shevchenko has improved in the places where she was lacking, notably on the ground.
It’s a tough pick, as most fights are at the elite level, but I’ll side with Shevchenko picking up through the gears as the fight wears on and controlling the later rounds.
Pick: Valentina Shevchenko
Yoel Romero (12-1) vs Robert Whittaker (18-4)
I feel like Whittaker is the smarter bet here but I think this is simply Yoel Romero’s time.
Whittaker has the better hands out of the two and also has the more methodical, technical style with some brilliant takedown defence to boot. Whether that takedown defence can handle the Olympic level wrestling of Romero though, is yet to be seen.
Both men also have the ability to finish the fight at any time so this could come down to who lands flush first but Romero’s ability to rally back as seen in the Brunson fight and his propensity to just explode with devastating technique and power means that I’ll cautiously side with the 40-year-old Cuban.
Pick: Yoel Romero
Daniel Omielanczuk (19-7-1, 1 NC) vs Curtis Blaydes (7-1)
Blaydes is a big heavyweight with a lot of upsides. He can wrestle and control on the mat and he holds that big power that heavyweights notoriously have.
Omielanczuk meanwhile is a strong submission grappler but his time in the UFC has been plagued by inconsistency.
I suspect the fighter with the 80’s action star name to pick up the win.
Pick: Curtis Blaydes
Fabricio Werdum (21-6-1) vs Alistair Overeem (42-15, 1 NC)
If you haven’t seen their last fight, keep it that way.
Thankfully Werdum has improved his whole game massively since begging Overeem to follow him to the mat but since that improvement, age has started to catch up to the Brazilian.
He still has technique unparalleled by 99% of the heavyweight division but he’s shown signs of slowing down in his recent outings while Overeem has become much more considered in his bouts.
Both men have power and as heavyweights, the fight can end at a moments notice but I suspect Overeem has enough to keep it on the feet and pick his moments to strike.
Pick: Alistair Overeem
Anthony Pettis (19-6) vs Jim Miller (28-9, 1 NC)
Miller has all the tools to stifle Pettis – pressure and wrestling – but Pettis, despite his recent injuries, has the advantage in athleticism and crucially speed.
Pettis is still underrated off of his back with submissions if need be but I think the former champion has enough in the striking department to get the better of a slowing Jim Miller.
It’ll be tougher than it looks on paper but I’ll pick Pettis to get over the line.
Pick: Anthony Pettis
(Last Predictions: 3/6, Total: 56/88, 64% Success Rate)
(2016: 61% Success Rate)