UFC 273 Main Card Predictions: Part 2

Sep 28, 2019; Copenhagen, DEN; Gunnar Nelson (red gloves) fights Gilbert Burns (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Royal Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

“AND NOW! This is the moment you all have been waiting for!” In honor of the legendary introductions from UFC announcer Bruce Buffer, it’s only fitting to incorporate a bit of that special flare of his for this part two feature, considering the fact that each of these first three matchups are all main event worthy.

The last two fights that UFC fans will get to soak in are two Championship clashes that have every bit of firepower, athleticism, and versatility you could ask for in a mixed martial arts bout.

Headlining the card is the thrilling and explosive showdown between Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski and the number four ranked contender in Chan Sung Jung. Following his third straight title defense last September, Volkanovski is seeking to continue his championship reign within the division and will be tested when he takes on one of the most revered veterans in the Top 10.

Prior to this fight, the contested belt of the Bantamweight division will finally be settled between current champion Aljamain Sterling and the interim champion Petr Yan. Following an illegal knee to the head by Yan against Sterling during their first bout, the bad blood between these two has reached a boiling point as each set out to secure the title honors they feel is rightfully theirs to own.

But before we even get into these title matchups, UFC fans will get to behold the exhilarating and much-anticipated battle between two electric welterweights, as number two ranked Gilbert Burns will face off against arguably the hottest UFC mixed martial artist in the world in Khamzat Chimaev.

On that note, let’s get right to it with the final predictions on which of these talents will walk away victorious come Saturday night.

3. Gilbert Burns vs Khamzat Chimaev:

Gilbert “Durinho” Burns:

Since he decided to move up from 155 to 170 in 2019, Gilbert Burns has been one lethal force to contend with in the welterweight division. Sitting second overall in the rankings, Burns is there for good reason and has defeated the likes of Gunnar Nelson, Demian Maia, Tyron Woodley, and most recently, kickboxing expert Stephen Thompson to solidify his spot in the Top 3.

Even in his sole loss as a welterweight to Kamaru Usman, Burns was able to land detonating strikes that stunned the champion on more than one occasion, one of which briefly knocked down Usman to the mat in the first round.

But what makes Burns so tough to go up against comes down to his dual-threat skill of one-shot knockout power combined with a tremendous grappling game that’s fueled by his raw strength and endurance on the ground. And his ability to dominate his opponents one way or the other depending on how they approach him, makes him very difficult to work around.

Despite being 35 and entering his eighth season in the UFC, Burns’ veteran experience and continuous drive to challenge himself against some of the best has led him to evolve into one elite mixed martial artist. And he has shown no signs of slowing down as he seeks to get a second shot at the welterweight belt.

Khamzat “Borz” Chimaev:

The hype about Khamzat Chimaev is very real and has been unfathomable to behold. Yes, the bearded Chechen who keeps on saying, “I’m going to smash everybody”, has become the most dangerous threat to this welterweight division since the rise of Usman.

Although Chimaev is still fairly new to the UFC, his relentless work ethic and hunger have driven him to develop an arsenal of versatile skills that have proven to be unstoppable in each of his first four UFC fights.

What’s so scary about Chimaev starts with the exceptionally accurate precision he delivers with his thunder-strike punches. This is a skill that he’s continuously refined since entering MMA, and whether he’s standing or on the mat, Chimaev can unleash fight-ending shots.

That said, if you think his striking is good, Chimaev is even better on the ground and is a freak of nature with his wrestling skills. Operating like that of a giant yet quick alligator, Chimaev possesses immense strength on the ground, and once he has a hold of you, doesn’t let go, locking his grips ever so tightly while dragging you into deep waters with vicious, pounding strikes.

Whether the fight remains standing or winds its way to the mat, Chimaev is as deadly as they come and will look to deliver his best yet against his toughest opponent of his young career.

Winner: Gilbert Burns

Some of you reading this might be thinking, ‘How in the world does Burns win this fight?’ In all honesty, he very well could lose, considering how overpowering Chimaev has proven to be since setting foot into the UFC. In addition, Chimaev is also taller, bigger, and bares a significant four-inch reach advantage over his opponent, which does put Burns in a tougher position to succeed both standing and on the ground.

But here’s why Burns has the edge entering this matchup, and the answer is threefold. First and foremost, Burns is no ordinary striker and possesses not only incredible power but can also unleash a ruthless flurry of damaging strikes in a matter of seconds, a skill that Chimaev’s never been confronted with in his young UFC career.

Secondly, regardless of reach advantages, Burns is very adept at closing the gap against taller foes with his talent in Jiu-Jitsu. In fact, Burns has a third-degree black belt in Jiu-Jitsu and has the quickness, strength, and fluidity to really contend with Chimaev on the ground, whether Burns finds himself on his back or on top.

Lastly, hype is one thing, legitimacy is another. In other words, we’ve yet to really see what Chimaev can do against Top 10 welterweights in the division. And though his submission finish against an at-the-time, 11th ranked Li Jingliang was very impressive, this is Chimaev’s first real test in the UFC, and it just so happens that he’s taking on one of the best strikers and grapplers in the division.

Because of how well-balanced this matchup is, it could be a very close finish that has the potential to go to decision. But from his experience to his versatility to his athleticism, Burns is in line to secure his biggest welterweight victory to date come Saturday night.

2. Petr Yan vs Aljamain Sterling:

Petr “No Mercy” Yan:

When you hone in on the skillset that Petr Yan has, it’s quite a marvel to behold. Mixed martial arts has always been about incorporating various forms of combat in order to dominate at the highest levels this sport has to offer. And Yan just so happens to nearly check off every single skillset you can ask for from a mixed martial artist.

At the forefront of his talent, is Yan’s striking and understandably so. From his technicality, to his swift incorporation of combos, to his pinpoint precision and timing, Yan is a remarkable striking expert that has only gotten better and more dangerous over time. Though many might recognize Yan for his boxing, his piercing elbow shots, flying knees, lethal backhands, and nasty leg kicks can really dictate his striking success as he picks apart his opponents bit by bit. We saw this when he took out Uriah Faber, Jose Aldo, and a whole bunch when he faced the elite Corey Sandhangen.

But what makes Yan so dangerous is his understanding and skill for wrestling and grappling. Yan is not afraid to take fights to the mat and, upon doing so, has the full arsenal to control his opponent and smash his way to victory. Brining an uncanny sense of awareness and IQ, Yan is very elusive, quick, and powerful with his wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu execution. And should he find you in the clinch, Yan can trip you up in a heartbeat or use his strength to slam you down.

Although he might be the interim champion right now, Yan has everything at his disposal to come away with the real bantamweight belt. And expect him to put that on full display on Saturday.

Aljamain “Funk Master” Sterling:

Despite earning his first bantamweight belt via a disqualification ruling due to an illegal knee kick committed by Yan in their first matchup over a year ago, Aljamain Sterling still has every right to contend for the bantamweight title and has proven how talented of a mixed martial artist he truly is.

Unlike Yan, Sterling’s strengths gravitate far more toward the wrestling side of MMA, boasting a perfect 8-0 submission record over his career. Holding a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to go along with two All-American wrestling honors at 133 and 141 during his collegiate career at SUNY Cortland, Sterling is a sensational talent on the mat, submitting guys like Johnny Eduardo, Cody Stamann, and most notably, Corey Sandhangen in 2020.

That said, just because his strengths lean more towards his grappling background doesn’t mean Sterling is an inadequate striker. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Sterling has one of the most versatile striking skillsets in the division and can chip away at his opponents with lethal leg kicks and biting punches. Although he tends to keep his hands quite low and his head exposed, Sterling makes up for it with his shifty, juking movements and slicing quickness.

What Sterling will have to keep tabs on though, is his pace and stamina. Sterling has fought over three rounds just once in his UFC career (which was his first fight against Yan), and even then, gassed out rather quickly after delivering a fast-paced, high-pressure approach against Yan in the first round.

Winner: Petr Yan

In their first appearance, Sterling looked very good in the first round, landing more significant strikes while remaining very active with his persistent pressure on Yan. However, whether his game plan was to go for the kill in the first round or not, Sterling’s over eagerness proved to be quite detrimental as he entered the second, third, and fourth rounds more and more fatigued. As a result, he became lack luster with his attacking aggressiveness and the sting in his shots substantially faded.

In short, had there not been a disqualifying hit, there’s a very good chance that Yan would have been the Bantamweight Champion, considering how increasingly dominant he was in the rounds to follow in their first bout. And although a lot can change in a years’ time, it doesn’t appear to be enough for Sterling to defend his belt against the most dangerous opponent in this division.

Yan, on the other hand, has the full package as a mixed martial artist and has yet to illustrate a flaw in his game. Aside from his disqualification loss, Yan hasn’t lost a single matchup since setting foot into the UFC in 2018. And after a dominant showing against a much-improved Sandhangen last October, expect Yan to be the new UFC Bantamweight Champion once more come Saturday night.

1. Alexander Volkanovski vs Chan Sung Jung:

“The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung:

From the time he first set foot into a UFC octagon in 2011 to his second championship bout of his career on Saturday, Chan Sung Jung has really established himself as one of the most talented featherweights in the world.

Although this division contains its fair share of gifted strikers, Jung is one prolific boxing specialist and delivers fluent striking combos that are extremely dangerous to contend with. In fact, the reason why he calls himself ‘The Korean Zombie’ is because of his unrelenting ability to aggressively attack his opponents no matter how many shots he absorbs, possessing a level of toughness that can give him a chance against anyone.

To add to it, Jung is very well versed on the mat with impressive grappling skills, posting an 8-0 submission record over his mixed martial arts career, which include submission victories over Leonard Garcia and Dustin Poirier. Much like Charles Oliveira, Jung is very elite on his back and doesn’t have to be in full or half mount to seal his submission victories.

The only thing Jung will want to keep tabs on, is putting his nickname to the test. In other words, Jung does expose himself quite frequently, and as a result of being the aggressor more than often against his foes, can land himself in hot water by continuously placing himself in striking range.

Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski:

When you look at the Men’s Pound-For-Pound list in the UFC and you see Alexander Volkanovski’s name at third, even that by itself doesn’t really put into perspective just how special this Featherweight Champion truly is.

Following his only loss in his MMA career in 2013, Volkanovski has embarked on an outstanding 20-fight win streak and is undefeated since joining the UFC in 2016. This kind of success is so rare to come by. And ever since he became the Featherweight Champion, Volkanovski has only evolved into a better mixed martial artist, defeating some of the best featherweights in the division’s history in the process.

After securing the featherweight belt from Max Holloway in a grueling five-round bout that went to unanimous decision, Volkanovski defeated Holloway once again seven months later for his first title defense, before defending his belt once more against the elite kickboxing specialist, in Brian Ortega. Even before taking on the two best featherweights the division has to offer, Volkanovski went three full rounds with the legendary Jose Aldo, thoroughly out striking him and controlling more time to come away victorious by unanimous decision.

But there’s plenty of good reason behind this man’s success. Similarly to that of Yan (but better), Volkanovski brings a vast range of versatility to his mixed martial arts approach, and as a former rugby player himself, has an insane endurance level that allows him to pressure his opponents with an overbearing pace for five full rounds if need be. Although he’s devasting to contend with on the mat (characterized by a National Wrestling Gold Medal and a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), Volkanovski has also an elite striking game and closes distances very well, allowing him to pick his foes apart with slicing shots.

At age 33, Volkanovski has not only thrived in his prime, but has also developed into an unstoppable force. And from his experience to his diverse skillset, Volkanovski has everything he needs to uphold his undisputed championship legacy come Saturday night.

Winner: Alexander Volkanovski

To be quite frank, this championship showdown could be a lot closer than many might anticipate and here’s why. Over the duration of Jung’s tenure in the UFC, he’s only suffered three losses, but two of them involved plenty of bad luck for the South Korean native.

In Jung’s first loss to Aldo, he actually dislocated his right shoulder while throwing an overhand right-hook, leaving him stuck to fend for himself with one arm before Aldo knocked him out on the mat. In addition, when he suffered his second loss at the hands of Yair Rodriguez by knockout, Rodriguez pulled off his definitive upward elbow strike within the dying seconds of the fifth round, executing arguably one of the craziest buzzer-beater knockouts in UFC history. Had Jung avoided that last shot and the fight went to decision instead, there was a very good chance Jung would have walked out of the octagon with an unanimous decision victory seeing how badly he brutalized Rodriguez throughout the entire fight.

That said, Jung did lose fair and square against Ortega in 2020 within five rounds, someone that Volkanovski just so happened to dominate for his third title defense last year. On top of that, Volkanovski also took down the number one overall featherweight contender twice, someone Jung has never faced before.

With both the number one and number two contenders checked off his list, Volkanovski is now descending the rankings ladder of talent, which should only make things easier for him considering his previous success. Though the Featherweight Top 10 talent pool is filled with bright potential, no one has been able to figure out how to break through the champion. And even as gifted and dangerous as Jung is, Volkanovski is in line to remain the Featherweight Champion.