Amanda Nunes vs Valentina Shevchenko, Robert Whittaker vs Yoel Romero and more
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA- It is International fight week and at the top 0f the bill is UFC 213 where the main event is a Women’s Bantamweight title rematch between Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko. Here is a breakdown of the upcoming event.
It does not feel that long ago when the Women’s Bantamweight division was in lockdown. Ronda Rousey was the undisputed Queen of the division and seemingly had a monopoly at 135lbs. Then Holly Holm happened and the title switched hands three times in eight months from Rousey to Holm, then to Miesha Tate before settling with the current champion. Now the Brazilian aims to defend her title for the second time against a familiar foe. Nunes fought and beat Shevchenko in a close decision back in 2016, but that was only a three round affair.
It is since that very fight where Nunes went on her mini tear. She dropped and submitted Tate to capture the Women’s Bantamweight crown at UFC 200 before running through Rousey in late 2016. Still, there are questions to just how much Nunes has matured as a fighter. We already knew she was a dangerous striker, we already knew she has vicious ground and pound, and we already knew she had a very good submission game.
The question still remains, can she keep it going over the course of five rounds? The issue with Nunes has always been her stamina. She is a quick starter and ultra dangerous in the opening two rounds, but during her career she has shown that she fades as the fight wears on. Look no further than her first fight with Shevchenko for a perfect example. The Champion noticeably faded as the Kyrgyzstani put the pressure on in the last stanza, it just was not enough to erase the first few rounds.
Shevchenko is primarily a counter puncher and an elite one at that. She was a world class Muay Thai practitioner and has translated her skills to MMA superbly. Her ground game is making some big strides too as shown with her submission victory over Julianna Pena in her last outing. The issue with Shevchenko is her lack of output, which can allow her opponent to dictate the pace of the fight. She is almost an opposite to Nunes who is a high output fighter with questionable cardio rather than a low output fighter with great cardio.
Prediction: There are many ways any fight could go, but for this one it seemingly goes two ways. Nunes starts well and either gets enough rounds for the decision or an early finish, or Nunes starts well then fades as the fight wears on as Shevchenko takes over to snatch a decision or earn a late stoppage. The problem for Nunes though is that Shevchenko is a better defensive fighter than Rousey and Tate. If the first fight was five rounds there is little doubt that ‘The Bullet’ would have emerged the victor. Expect a classic Nunes surge to start, but Shevchenko will likely weather the storm and pick off a tired Nunes for a late stoppage and in the process become the new Women’s Bantamweight Champion. Shevchenko via a fifth-round TKO.
Interim Middleweight title: Yoel Romero (13-1) vs. Robert Whittaker (18-4)
With Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping distracted with a potential fight with Georges St-Pierre that is neither here or there at the moment, the UFC feel there is a need for an interim title match-up to keep the division going, and in the current landscape, this is perhaps the best fight they can make at 185lbs.
Yoel Romero is the clear number one contender for the Middleweight crown, but with Bisping chasing a big money fight before he ends his career, ‘The Soldier of God’ will have to wait to be crowned. The Cuban is not only a former Olympic silver medallist wrestler, he is also one of the best athletes in the UFC. He is explosive, powerful and has catlike reactions to boot, making him a scary proposition to anyone across the cage. His flying knee knock-out against former Champion Chris Weidman was one of the nastiest knockouts of 2016 and is one of the staple fights of his career.
Romero can show signs of fading in the third round, but despite that he can hit you with a single shot that puts you to sleep, as proven by his five third round knockouts in the UFC. But even with his explosiveness and finishing ability, Romero is unpopular amongst some sections of the MMA community. The 40-year-old will do almost anything to win, even if it means bending the rules. Whether it is grabbing the fence or spending too long on his stool in between rounds, Romero will do whatever it takes to get the win.
Robert Whittaker is not as athletic, powerful or explosive as Romero, but he is a much better technical striker. The Australian has made huge strides since his days in the Ultimate Fighter, moving up to Middleweight and becoming one of the best fighters in the world. His jab is crisp and combinations precise as he can light up his opponent from many different angles. Whittaker also has excellent distance management, allowing him to defend well from not only strikes, but takedowns too. Whittaker has 91% takedown defence rate, but he has not faced a wrestler like Romero and his skills on the ground remain largely unproven.
Prediction: Whittaker has all the tools necessary to beat Romero: Effective distance management to keep the Cuban at range, slick counter striking to counter when he does close the gap, and good takedown defence to potentially stuff a Romero takedown attempt. However, Romero can explode at anytime and catch Whittaker with just one punch to end the fight. ‘Bobby Knuckles’ will have to be wary of that throughout the fight, and unless he gets caught then he will likely avoid most of what Romero throws at him before finishing with a late stoppage. Whittaker via fourth-round TKO.
Heavyweight: Fabrício Werdum (21-6-1) vs. Alistair Overeem (42-15)
This is the third fight between two of the greatest Heavyweight fighters of all time. Their first meeting came in 2006 in the now defunct PRIDE organisation, and it was Fabrício Werdum who came through via a second round kimura. They would rematch five years later in another organisation that has ceased to exist. In the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix quarter finals, Alistair Overeem got his revenge in a lacklustre decision in one of the stranger fights you will see. What will the rubber match bring?
Werdum is arguably the best Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner in the Heavyweight division. Not only is her a former ADCC World champion, he has also transitioned his grappling skills to MMA and is a former UFC Heavyweight champion. Despite his prowess on the ground, Werdum has developed a neat striking game to his Arsenal and is a much better striker than he was the last time these two fighters met. The Brazilian has become a much more aggressive fighter over the years with added killer instinct, but he can often make mistakes, such as running into the first of Stipe Miocic to lose the Heavyweight title last year.
Overeem on the other-hand is one of the greatest strikers in the history of the Heavyweight division. Technically he is above most, and he loves to bully his opponents with brutal strikes, especially with his knees to the body. But the big question mark with ‘The Reem’ is his chin. Whilst his striking ability is top notch, he does not take a big punch well and can often mentally quit when in danger. This has led to a more cautious and tactical approach as of late from the Dutchman to avoid the big shots.
Prediction: This is a hard fight to call because both fighters can finish the fight at any given time. It will likely come down to who can land that big shot first, and gut instinct says Overeem will be that guy. However, Werdum can take a hit better than his opponent and is more likely to survive any onslaught in the fight. Therefore the pick is Werdum via second round knockout.
Lightweight: Anthony Pettis (19-6) vs. Jim Miller (28-9)
Simply put, this is a must win fight for Anthony Pettis. He has been given a second chance at Lightweight after a lacklustre and short 1-1 stint at Featherweight. The former champion is back where he belongs, and is being welcomed by the ever game and tough Jim Miller.
Pettis is a very talented fighter, but he has some fundamental flaws in his game. His kicks are devastating and he is capable of brilliance, but when put under pressure he can wilt. Rafael Dos Anjos used this tactic to perfection, pressing Pettis up against the fence and mixing in strikes and takedowns. Eddie Alvarez stalled him in the clinch using the same tactics, and Max Holloway lit him up on the feet as did Edson Barboza. Overall, the flaws come down to one major thing, footwork. He struggles to manage distance and pivot away from strikes or takedowns, all of which were used against him in his recent losses.
Miller is perfectly capable of exploiting those flaws. He is tough as nails and has a great ground game to boot. Stand-up has always been his weakness, but he has been working to try iron out those flaws and become a more well rounded fighter. He has quietly returned to form lately after going on a 1-4 streak a couple of years ago and looks back to his best.
Prediction: Pettis is capable of flashes of brilliance and can end the fight at any time with a flash head kick or submission, but ultimately we have not seen that side of him for a long time. Miller on the other hand can take punishment and use his grappling game to pressure and stall Pettis. ‘Showtime’ has the higher chance of getting the finish, but the fight will likely be controlled by Miller who could out-grapple Pettis to a decision win. Miller via decision.
Heavyweight: Daniel Omielańczuk (19-7-1) vs. Curtis Blaydes (7-1)
It was the spot on the card originally belonging to the exciting Robbie Lawler vs Donald Cerrone match-up, but that fight was postponed to UFC 214 and this Heavyweight clash has taken it’s place on the pay-per-view portion of the event.
Curtis Blaydes is arguably only second behind Francis Ngannou in terms of Heavyweight prospects, and ironically he is the only man to ever defeat the American. Blaydes is one of the better takedown artists in the division and has the power to finish fights off too.
Daniel Omielańczuk will enjoy the advantage on the feet in this match-up, and whilst he does not possess big knockout power, he is technically diverse and is quick on the feet. The ground remains his weakness however, and a lot of his losses have come due to being out-wrestled by his opponent.
Prediction: Blaydes is one of the heavier favourites on the card with the bookies, coming in at -800 in some markets and it is easy to see why. Omielańczuk is a decent striker, but has been out-wrestled by worse wrestlers than Blaydes. The chances are the Pole gets taken down, beaten up and finished by his rising opponent. Blaydes via first round TKO.
Full UFC 213 Fight card
Main Card (3am on BT Sport)
Amanda Nunes (14-4) vs. Valentina Shevchenko (14-2)
Yoel Romero (13-1) vs. Robert Whittaker (18-4)
Fabrício Werdum (21-6-1) vs. Alistair Overeem (42-15, 1NC)
Anthony Pettis (19-6) vs. Jim Miller (28-9, 1NC)
Daniel Omielańczuk (19-7-1, 1NC) vs. Curtis Blaydes (7-1)
Prelims (1am on BT Sport)
Travis Browne (18-6-1) vs. Aleksei Oleinik (51-10-1)
Chad Laprise (11-2) vs. Brian Camozzi (7-3)
Thiago “Marreta” Santos (14-5) vs. Gerald Meerschaert (26-8)
Jordan Mein (29-11) vs. Belal Muhammad (11-2)
Fight Pass Prelims (11pm BST on UFC Fight Pass)
Rob Font (13-2) vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade (24-1, 1NC)
Cody Stamann (13-1) vs. Terrion Ware (17-5)
Trevin Giles (9-0) vs. James Bochnovic (8-1)
UFC 213 will take place on Saturday July 8th
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