Monday, May 23, 2022

UFC 273: Volkanovski vs. The Korean Zombie Staff Predictions

UFC 273 is now only one day away, and what better way to get hype for tomorrow’s pay-per-view than with some MMA News staff predictions for the tripleheader as well as the rest of the stacked card?!

UFC 273 will be available exclusively on ESPN+ pay-per-view on Saturday, April 9, 2022. The main card begins at 10:00 PM ET, and the ESPN preliminary card kicks off at 8:00 PM. The early preliminary card starts at 6:00 PM.

The main event will feature #3-ranked pound-for-pound fighter Alexander Volkanovski defend the featherweight championship against “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung. The co-main event will play host to a bantamweight title unification grudge match between defending champion Aljamain Sterling and interim champion Petr Yan.

Prior to the two title fights, we will see what some are calling “The People’s Main Event” when the much-hyped and undefeated Khamzat “Borz” Chimaev takes on the #2-ranked Gilbert Burns.

Also on the main card, ranked strawweights Mackenzie Dern and Tecia Torres will battle it out, and kicking off the festivities will be Vinc Pichel and undefeated Olympic wrestling standout Mark Madsen.

UFC 273 Staff Predictions

MMA News is the place to be for all the latest UFC 273 updates. I, Harvey Leonard, and Andrew Starc have provided our picks for you below.

Here is the full main card for UFC 273:

UFC Featherweight Championship Bout: Alexander Volkanovski (c) vs. The Korean Zombie

UFC Bantamweight Championship Bout: Aljamain Sterling (c) vs. Petr Yan

Gilbert Burns vs. Khamzat Chimaev

Mackenzie Dern vs. Tecia Torres

Vinc Pichel vs. Mark Madsen

Vinc Pichel vs. Mark Madsen

Vinc Pichel, Mark O Madsen
Vinc Pichel, Mark O Madsen

Harvey Leonard: This is a pretty intriguing battle to open the main card. Despite his growing experience in MMA and unbeaten record, Madsen remains largely one-dimensional. On paper, against a fighter like Pichel, who lacks impressive defensive wrestling, the Dane may be licking his lips. However, Pichel doesn’t struggle to return to his feet when taken down, and I don’t expect Madsen to employ a top game worthy of keeping him on the ground for three rounds. I believe Pichel will gain the upper hand and use a better gas tank in the second and third rounds to secure the win. (Prediction: Vinc Pichel)

Andrew Starc: A late addition to the main card, this lightweight bout hardly screams blockbuster, but promises a classic striker versus wrestler battle between two men who are both riding win streaks. Olympic wrestling silver medalist Madsen remains undefeated after eleven pro MMA fights, including three in the UFC, having most recently defeated Clay Guida via split decision. Pichel, meanwhile, notched up his third win on the trot with a unanimous decision win against Austin Hubbard in August. For me, this one has “decision” written all over it, with Madsen likely dictating the fight with his wrestling. (Prediction: Mark Madsen)

Clyde Aidoo: If Madsen wins this fight, it’ll probably need to be an easy win or at least two easy rounds where he’s able to find the takedown and control the action on the mat. Pichel’s takedown defense isn’t at a level where I think Madsen won’t be able to get him down, yet there’s little doubt that Pichel has been drilling takedown defense throughout the entirety of his fight camp.

If Madsen were fighting in most promotions, his wrestling would be enough to probably keep him undefeated until he gets to the highest tier of competition. In the UFC, however, I believe his holes on the feet and perhaps also in heart will catch up to him when he’s paired with the wrong guy.

Pichel is a problematic opponent standing up and he won’t stop trying to take Madsen’s head off, but in a pick-em fight like this, I’m gonna go with the grappler. But don’t be surprised if Madse doesn’t go in survival mode at least once in this fight and land a desperation takedown to salvage a narrow victory. (Prediction: Mark Madsen)

Consensus: 2-1 Madsen

Mackenzie Dern vs. Tecia Torres

Mackenzie Dern, Tecia Torres
© Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports © Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Harvey Leonard: This is tough to call. Torres is extremely well-rounded and has the fight IQ and wrestling fundamentals to challenge Dern’s attempts to take the fight to her wheelhouse. She’s also never been submitted in professional MMA. Dern was met with the same challenge (handing a strawweight her first tap-out loss) last time out. While she ultimately came up short, we did see Marina Rodriguez frantically trying to survive on the ground.

If Dern does manage to get Torres down, which I’d expect to happen at some point, I back her BJJ expertise to shine again. If there’s ever a time to bet on a fighter falling to their first submission, it’s when they’re sharing the cage with Dern. (Prediction: Mackenzie Dern)

Andrew Starc: Another intriguing grappler versus striker matchup, this women’s strawweight bout will be a must-win for Dern if she wants to keep her title hopes alive. The 29-year-old is coming off a unanimous decision loss to Marina Rodriguez in October, which broke her four-fight unbeaten streak. Torres is currently riding a three-fight win streak, and will definitely have the advantage on the feet against Dern. But with seven of her eleven career wins coming via submission, I’m picking Dern to notch up her eighth submission win here to get back into the title picture. (Prediction: Mackenzie Dern)

Clyde Aidoo: Not unlike the first fight on the main card, this is another fight that is difficult to pick. This is a fight where the phrase “grappler versus striker” is activated by the other common MMA phrase of “styles make fights.” Because Tecia Torres may not be considered a “striker” by most people, but in this fight, that’s exactly how she will self-identify. Meanwhile, Dern’s game plan doesn’t change: look to take the fight to the mat and maybe throw the occasional bomb on the feet as her opponent is focused on the takedown threat.

I think Torres’ experience and fight IQ will be enough to ward off Dern’s high-stakes maneuvers. If the fight hits the mat, I think Torres is wily enough to implement enough survival tactics to get through that round if not make it back up to her feet. While standing, I think Torres will try to use side-to-side movement and volume striking to outpoint the black belt grappling ace for a competitive decision victory. (Prediction: Tecia Torres)

Consensus: 2-1 Dern

Gilbert Burns vs. Khamzat Chimaev

Gilbert Burns Khamzat Chimaev
Gilbert Burns, Khamzat Chimaev

Harvey Leonard: Chimaev’s dominance is unique. We’ve seen plenty go 4-0, but how many have done so with as much ease as “Borz?” For that reason, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence to suggest this step-up in competition is either unwarranted or too steep. Of course, it’s hard to imagine Burns playing a Li Jingliang-esque role, but having seen the pair interact in fight week, the size difference looks substantial.

This time around for Chimaev, he’ll likely have to maintain his pressure-wrestling game beyond the opening minutes. With the talk of his training and conditioning, it doesn’t seem like that’ll be an issue. We’ve also seen Burns controlled on the ground before by Michel Prazeres, a much-lesser foe than Chimaev. (Prediction: Khamzat Chimaev)

Andrew Starc: The already meteoric rise of Chimaev could graduate into perhaps the most impressive in UFC history if the Swede gets it done against Burns. And it just seems written in the stars for Khamzat to make a huge statement here. Burns is, of course, a stern challenge. He has it all. Explosive KO power and perhaps the best jiu-jitsu in the UFC.

But after losing his title fight against Karamu Usman and putting on a lackluster display against Stephen Thompson in his last outing, it seems the 35-year-old Burns will be up against it with the 27-year-old Chimaev. Bigger, faster, stronger and with an unassailable self-belief that borders on lunacy, Khamzat will get it done in style via TKO. (Prediction: Khamzat Chimaev) 

Clyde Aidoo: Khamzat Smesh.

Consensus: 3-0 Chimaev

Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan

Petr Yan Aljamain Sterling
Getty Images

Harvey Leonard: Like many, I do agree that Sterling is being seriously underrated heading into this one. It’s rare for a championship crowning to be as damaging to a talented fighter’s reputation among the casual fanbase as Sterling’s has. Nevertheless, while I think the lopsided nature of the matchup has been massively inflated, I still expect Yan to win.

It’s hard to ignore the first fight. Despite the claims it was closer than most make out, I’m just not sure it was. I think Yan had it under control early and was taking over as the fight progressed, as the Russian usually does. Sterling is the best grappler in the division, but it’s hard to turn a blind eye to a 5% TD percentage across 17 attempts at UFC 259, especially when that’s his best route to victory on Saturday. (Prediction: Petr Yan)

Andrew Starc: At last, after all the drama that ensued from their last fight, the canceled rematch, and more than a year of sniping over social media, Sterling and Yan will finally provide closure on perhaps the most drawn-out saga in UFC history. Sterling will be making a comeback after a protracted recovery from neck surgery, while Yan will be looking to continue the impressive form which earned him the interim title against Cory Sandhagen in October. With Sterling’s long layoff, I think Yan will dominate even more so than in their last bout, and get the job done via TKO. (Prediction: Petr Yan)

Clyde Aidoo: I was one of the few humans on Earth who picked Julianna Peña to defeat Amanda Nunes at UFC 269 when nearly everyone acted as if the outcome was a formality. Although the odds are much closer than Nunes/Peña was, I’m getting strong Nunes/Peña vibes with this fight in that people are wildly overlooking and underestimating Aljamain Sterling. And like Peña, Sterling is constantly telling the world the error of their ways and is defiantly brimming with confidence in the face of all the doubters.

However, I’m not going with the confident underdog this time. I do think this fight is much, much closer than people are indicating and Sterling poses a legitimate threat to Yan. I think these two’s styles complement one another beautifully and, if both at their best, we could be in store for some serious poetry in motion and one of the best fights in bantamweight history.

If this fight was one 10-minute round, I think Sterling would probably pull it out. He’s too dynamic, too funky, too fast, and also has the submission threat in his back pocket. However, once Yan gets going, he appears completely unstoppable. We’ll call this “Downhill Yan,” because just as the Art of War dictates, once a big momentum and a heavy arsenal is moving downhill, it’s almost sure to be a losing battle for those facing the uphill battle.

I think Aljamain Sterling makes a great hammer, and we’ll probably see that early on. But I see him breaking as the nail, especially when Yan is the one hammering down relentlessly and with no mercy as the fight presses on. (Prediction: Petr Yan)

Consensus: 3-0 Yan

Alexander Volkanovski vs. The Korean Zombie

Korean Zombie Alexander Volkanovski
Korean Zombie, Alexander Volkanovski

Harvey Leonard: While the Holloway trilogy will be great, I’m so glad this matchup is happening. Zombie always brings the fight, and this one should be no different. However, he’s facing an uphill task from the start.

Volkanovski is perhaps the most underrated champion in the UFC today. His movement and style are remarkable. As the Aussie has described ahead of UFC 273, his footwork and attacks present puzzles that are so hard to crack. By the time his opponents do eventually figure them out, he’s already moved on and developed two more to solve. He leaves his rivals playing catch-up from the very beginning, and while a fight-ending moment can never be counted out when Zombie is in town, it’s hard to see in this one. (Prediction: Alexander Volkanovski)

Andrew Starc: It’s not the featherweight battle everyone was yearning for, but this fight will be entertaining nonetheless. Volkanovski is, of course, the heavy favorite—and for good reason. The Australian showed his championship mettle in his last outing against Brian Ortega, a victory that went far to cement his status as the division’s best after his contentious win over Max Holloway. The Korean Zombie lost to Ortega in 2020, and in June last year, rebounded with a win over Dan Ige. But with Volkanovski having stated that he’ll be looking for a finish in this one, I think he gets it done via TKO. (Prediction: Alexander Volkanovski)

Clyde Aidoo: It’s going to take the perfect stylistic opponent or maybe Max Holloway to top Volkanovski right now. Zombie is coming off a big win, but he doesn’t have the momentum or ideal style to pose a threat to Volkanovski beyond a puncher’s chance. Zombie is a great finisher, so his puncher’s chance isn’t to be dismissed; however, Volkanovski is a better survivor than Zombie is a killer, and he carries an elevated MMA intellectual with him inside the Octagon. I see the champion being faster, smarter, and better wherever the fight goes and cruising to a unanimous decision victory. (Prediction: Alexander Volkanovski)

Consensus: 3-0 Volkanovski

That’ll do it for our UFC 273 staff picks! What do you think? Do your picks look similar? Let us know in the comments section! Also, you can check out the UFC 273 undercard below.

UFC 273 Early Preliminary Card (ESPN+/UFC Fight Pass, 6:00 PM ET)

Aleksei Oleinik vs. Jared Vanderaa

Josh Fremd vs. Anthony Hernandez

Kay Hansen vs. Piera Rodriguez

Julio Arce vs. Daniel Santos

UFC 273 Preliminary Card (ESPN/ESPN+, 8:00 PM ET)

Ian Garry vs. Darian Weeks

Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Marcin Tybura

Aspen Ladd vs. Raquel Pennington

Mickey Gall vs. Mike Malott

Be sure to keep it right here on MMANews.com tomorrow for all the results, highlights, and updates on UFC 273!

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