International Fight Week is capped off by UFC 213, which features plenty of amazing matchups and two title fights atop the PPV.
The main event was supposed to be Amanda Nunes vs Valentina Shevchenko for the UFC bantamweight title. However, UFC fight news broke when Nunes was admitted to the hospital on the day of the fight and has been ruled out. The new main event will see wrecking ball Yoel Romero and upstart Robert Whittaker face off for the interim middleweight title.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at each fight on the UFC 213 main card.
Amanda Nunes vs Valentina Shevchenko
*This fight has been pulled from the card on fight day, as Amanda Nunes was admitted to the hospital.
Nunes (-110) is one of the best finishers in MMA today, as 13 of her 14 victories have come via stoppage. However, the one fighter to make it to a decision against “The Lioness” was Shevchenko, in a fight that easily could have gone Valentina’s way if it had been five rounds.
Throughout the early part of her career, Nunes got by on her physical gifts but has been gaining the technical skills to go along with it. The biggest leaps and bounds have come in the standup game, as she is learning how to harness her length and power thanks to her work at American Top Team. Speaking of her power, Nunes might have the heaviest strikes in the bantamweight division and excels at throwing counter combinations in close range.
Nunes’ wrestling skills are not exactly stellar offensively, but she is great at keeping the fight standing so she can utilize her natural power. If she can get into the clinch, she is powerful and will routinely use this power as a faux wrestling game by knocking her opponent to the ground with her strikes.
Top control is vital to Nunes on the ground, as any extra stress on her cardio is damning for the champion. If she can attain top position, she has brutal ground and pound that capitalizes on her power and her long reach relative to the division. The Brazilian has a black belt in BJJ, but rarely uses it unless she can get hold of her opponent’s back.
There has been one big knock on Nunes throughout her career and that is her cardio. To be quite frank, her cardio is bad. Nunes gases early and she has never been able to put forth much of an effort past the second round. This is a major concern for a fighter who fights an aggressive style like Nunes does.
Shevchenko (-120) is a technical marvel on the feet. “Bullet” has black belts in both taekwondo and judo to go along with Masters of Sports in Muay Thai, boxing and kickboxing. She is at her best when she can keep her distance and land her big counter right hook, which is the punch she has built her striking around. However, her extensive Muay Thai experience has made her deadly in the clinch as well.
On the ground, Shevchenko is solid. She is far from an expert in this aspect of the game, but she knows how to pass guard and take advantage of opportunities that may present themselves. From her back, Shevchenko is capable but again, she is opportunistic more than anything.
Shevchenko will want to dictate the range and pace of this fight. “Bullet” fights a methodical style where she can wait for her opponent to make a mistake that she can capitalize on. She wilted at times in her first fight with Nunes when pressured and suffocated but she ultimately survived. Shevchenko will almost always win a war of attrition thanks to her precise striking and cardio.
I’ve been saying this for some time now, I think Shevchenko will hold the 135-pound belt for a long time. Her style and toughness make her a difficult test for any opponent. I imagine this playing out much like the first fight with Nunes attacking for the first couple of rounds before gassing out, but with 25 minutes on the clock this time around, Shevchenko should pick up the victory.
Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko (-120)
Yoel Romero vs Robert Whittaker
Romero (-105) is an athletic marvel. Despite being 40 years old, he has the speed and athleticism that most fighters can only dream of. He has parlayed this nicely in the striking game, as he sort of floats around until he can explode forward in a flurry of bombs. He can be a little tentative in the striking game, but this means he can pace his cardio and remain pretty accurate.
‘The Soldier of God’ is also an Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling for Cuba. Much like his striking, Romero explodes into takedown attempts that make it extremely hard for his opponent to stop him. Generally speaking, he uses wrestling more defensively so he can keep the fight standing where he has ridiculous one-punch power. However, if Romero gets on top and starts working ground and pound, most opponents are done.
Romero gases. There are no two ways about it; his entire style is built around controlled bursts of energy to pace out his cardio as much as possible. The longer a fight wears on, the less effective Romero is. That’s not to say he loses power, but he can be overwhelmed later in fights.
Whittaker (-125) is a young finisher who is coming off back-to-back knockout victories. He generally prefers to strike and is able to gauge distance well despite being relatively short in stature for the division. He will continuously throw jabs and kicks to keep the proper distance until he can explode inside with his speed and unleash powerful combinations. Whittaker shows great head movement but his lack of size means he can get tagged himself.
“The Reaper” is one of the best defensive grapplers in the game, as he has only been taken down once in his past eight fights – and that was against Jacare Souza. He is plenty capable of evading a takedown if an opponent gets his hands on him, but his grappling defense is set up by his control of distance and foot speed. Getting in onto Whittaker’s hips is nigh impossible and when you add in his lethal counter-striking abilities, many opponents prefer to not even try.
There are no clear holes in Whittaker’s game. He is hittable due to his desire to push the pace but he’s not bad defensively. He’s not an ace in terms of offensive wrestling but he can compete if he gets top control.
This is a ridiculously hard fight to call. I give the edge to Whittaker because of his cardio and fight IQ. The Kiwi will enter the cage knowing that Romero is at his most deadly early in the fight and Whittaker has the cardio to stretch this fight out. Romero hasn’t really been ending fights very early but he does his best work in the Sportsbook two frames. I think Whittaker can minimize damage while Romero’s gas tank slowly drains.
Prediction: Robert Whittaker (-125)
Daniel Omielanczuk vs Curtis Blaydes
Omielanczuk (+450) is a stocky, thick man who brings some good technical striking to the Octagon. Though typically much shorter than his opponent, the Pole does a good job at flicking out the jab and kicks to dictate the space. He’s at his best when he can get in tight, either throwing some combinations inside or initiating the clinch. Omielanczuk is not a good wrestler and can be rendered basically useless by a guy who can put him on his back.
“Razor” Blaydes (-700) is a young fighter who has an intriguing ceiling in the heavyweight division. The Chicago native was a national junior college champion in wrestling and can still break out these skills. Blaydes is getting better and better in the striking game with a strong jab and kicking game. He has no problem getting into a scrap – see his fight against Francis Ngannou – while working behind a consistent jab and kicking arsenal.
This is Blaydes’ fight to win. He has a massive advantage in terms of grappling and, you can argue, a slight edge in the striking game. There is no need to get cute with this pick, Blaydes should walk through Omielanczuk.
Prediction: Curtis Blaydes (-700)
Fabricio Werdum vs Alistair Overeem
Werdum (EVEN) is one of the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners in MMA today. “Vai Cavalo” is a world champion BJJ practitioner who has notched nearly 50 percent of his career victories via submission. Once a fight is to the ground, there are few fighters who can defend themselves. Though underappreciated, Werdum’s striking is formidable thanks to his training under Rafael Cordeiro. The former champ can strike with his feet, but it’s Werdum’s jab that really sets up his attack.
Overeem (-130) has always been one of the deadliest strikers in the heavyweight division. He has a wide array of attacks from every distance and has power in all eight limbs. ’Reem is dangerous in the clinch, as his tight grip and power cause problems for opponents — if you get tied up in the clinch with Overeem, then massive knees are incoming. He has done a good job at becoming more measured in the Octagon, which has helped him pick his spots and hide his questionable chin. Overeem is a surprisingly solid grappler, though many don’t talk too much about it. If he does take the fight to the mat, he is more likely to look to pound on his opponent rather than go for the submission.
It’s a hard decision but I lean to the ’Reem in this one. The Dutch fighter doesn’t really lose unless he gets knocked out. I’m not saying that Werdum can’t knock out Overeem but I give the edge on the feet to the former K-1 World Grand Prix champion. If Werdum initiates the clinch, he might get a takedown but it will come at some major cost.
Prediction: Alistair Overeem (-130)
Anthony Pettis vs Jim Miller
Pettis (-250) is about as black and white a fighter as you will find in the UFC. When given space, he is absolutely lethal with his wide array of lightning-quick strikes. He will use his jab and leg kick to chip away at his opponent before throwing in the flashy strikes that made him famous. However, if you suffocate Pettis along the cage and grind him out, “Showtime” doesn’t really have much of an answer.
Miller (+195) is almost the opposite, as he is a dangerous, jack-of-all-trades kind of fighter. He will stand and bang with an opponent, utilizing his vicious left kick that can cut down an opponent, while demonstrating good movement. Miller was also a former collegiate wrestler and holds a black belt in BJJ, so when he wants to grapple, he is a handful.
This basically plays out like every Pettis fight at this point of his career. His opponent gives him space and he pieces them up or he gets suffocated and stymied. Miller is the consummate grinder who should be able to land timely takedowns and grind out Pettis, though he needs to be careful because “Showtime” has some sneaky submissions.
Prediction: Jim Miller (+195)