UFC 213 headlines International Fight week in Las Vegas this Saturday and fans should get treated to a tremendous pay-per-view card. The card has numerous explosive matchups but a title fight and two future title shots on the line are the biggest draws on the card. I’ll breakdown the three best fights on the card and offer some fight predictions to hopefully help your bank accounts. Let’s get to the fights:
Notable Main Card Fights:
Fabricio “Val Cavalo” Werdum (1st) vs Alistair “The Reem” Overeem (3rd) (Heavyweight)
Preview: The heavyweight division will see two of its biggest stars finally settle who is best as Alistair Overeem will take on Fabricio Werdum for their rubber match. Both men are slightly different fighters from their two previous fights in 2008 and 2011, both occurring outside the UFC. Overeem has become a more complete mixed-martial artist and Werdum has become a dominant foe who has beaten everyone in the heavyweight division not named Stipe Miocic. Trilogy fights vary when it comes to interesting or entertaining bouts. Some trilogies end with a definitive answer about who is better via a knockout or decisive decision. While others have fighters who are so familiar with their foe that it becomes a painful tentative fight that ends in a boring controversial decision. I think Overeem’s and Werdum’s styles will likely make their trilogy bout end in an entertaining and decisive fashion. Overeem’s size and confidence heading into this fight should factor into the early pace of the fight. Overeem would like nothing more than to bait Werdum into a slugfest that favors the Dutch kickboxing legend. Werdum has a propensity to run into dangerous strikers when he finds himself in danger on his feet. Werdum’s camp is likely trying to get him to focus on grinding Overeem out. Overeem at times can seem to take partial or entire rounds off, which should make Werdum focus on forcing the fight to the ground as soon as he can. The man who can dictate his style should give him a chance to come out as the winner of this trilogy and lineup a title shot against the champ Stipe Miocic.
Odds: Werdum (+105) vs Overeem (-125)
Prediction: The odds makers are dead on with this fight essentially being a coin-flip. Both man can absolutely come away with a victory if they can impose their game plan on the other; and seeing either man with his hand raised after this fight would not surprise me at all. However, I’m in the picks and opinion business so I’ll take Overeem. I think he has more ways to finish this fight, and enters the octagon with the knowledge he can knock out anyone in the heavyweight division. Werdum is a monster but I worry about his chin and athleticism as he approaches 40 years old; if he’s even slightly diminished like I fear he might be, Overeem knocks him out in spectacular fashion to win this grudge match.
(Overeem via KO (-125))
Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker (3rd) vs Yoel “Soldier of God” Romero (1st) (Middleweight 185lbs)
Preview: This is by far my favorite fight on this card. It has all the potential for fight of the night and it has a middleweight title shot on the line. Yoel Romero is one of the most feared fighters in any division and his reward as a number one contender is to fight a man who single handily is destroying some of the best middleweights‘ on the planet in Robert Whittaker. Both men in my opinion would crush the current champion Micheal Bisping, so the winner of this fight in all likely-hood will hold the keys to the Middleweight championship. Neither man will have a height or reach advantage in this fight, and both come into this fight on long win streaks. Romero has not lost since 2011, and has never lost in the UFC. Meanwhile, Robert Whittaker hasn’t lost since 2014 at UFC 170 when he lost to the immensely talented Stephen “Wonder boy” Thompson, so confidence is not an issue for either man when they enter the octagon. The biggest question marks for Romero is can he take Whittaker down; if he can he can impose his superior wrestling on the New Zealander. However, getting Whittaker to the mat is easier said than done as he has a tremendous takedown defense having defended nearly 92% of all take downs attempted on him. If Romero is unable to take Whittaker down, he could find himself in some real trouble against a devastating striker who can knock anyone at 185lbs out if he catches them clean. Romero also will need to have his cardio correct as Whittaker will likely match Romero’s frenetic early pace but he does not have the gas tank issues Romero has had at times throughout his career. Age could also play a factor as Romero closes in on his 40th birthday. Romero has always been in phenomenal shape but eventually the weight cutting and aging process slows even the best men down. I expect we will see Whittaker not wait on Romero to try to take him down, and immediately test his willingness to engage standing up early in the 1st round. This fight could end at any moment due to both men possessing knockout power which means fans should get their money’s worth when these two men fight to see who gets to challenge Micheal Bisping for his belt.
Odds: Romero (+102) vs Whittaker (-120)
Prediction: The consensus a year ago if this fight got made would be that Romero is easily a big favorite. However, in only a year Robert Whittaker has proven his evolution as a fighter was not complete as he just enters his fighting prime at 26 years old. Now Whittaker finds himself as the small betting favorite and I don’t think Vegas is wrong on this one. Yoel Romero is an absolute monster who likely would beat anyone at 185lbs, except Robert Whittaker. Whittaker’s striking and takedown defense are on another level right now, and if Romero can’t take him down I’m not sure he can win a war standing against such a devastating striker. I feel bad for Romero because he should have already got his title shot vs Bisping, a fight he likely wins. Now he gets an absolute killer and the one man who has the tools to beat him at 185lbs. This fight might very likely not make it out of the first round, and if it doesn’t its because Whittaker ices Romero announcing he is the real deal and is in line to become the next UFC middleweight champion
(Robert Whittaker via KO (-120))
Main Event: Women’s Bantamweight Title:
Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko (1st) vs Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes (Champion) (Women’s Bantamweight 135lbs)
Preview: The main event will continue the “rematch” vibe throughout the card’s biggest fights as the women’s bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes will seek to defend her title against Valentina Shevchenko. Nunes won their first matchup prior to becoming the champion in a very slim 3 round decision victory last year. Nunes was dominant early but faded in the 3rd round leading many to believe had the fight been a 5 round title or main event fight, Shevchenko may have been the one who came out victorious. Fortunately fans will get to see that “what if” as the main event and title fight scheduled for 5 rounds. The lead up to this fight has seen both women show some animosity towards one another as Nunes has not taken kindly to Shevchenko claiming she would have finished Nunes despite losing their previous matchup. Shevchenko appeared to rattle Nunes during their squaring off when the fight was announced as Nunes made contact with Shevchenko’s face with her fist. None of these pre-fight antics should matter however once these two battle tested fighters enter the octagon Saturday night. Both have shown improvement since their last matchup which could lead to an even more exciting fight this time around. After losing to Nunes, Shevchenko has looked impressive scoring victories over Holly Holm and Julianna Pena. She has appeared to fix some of the holes in her grappling game that Nunes exposed in their first matchup. I expect Shevchenko to make Nunes work for every take down attempt and look to get back to her feet in hopes of tiring the champion out. Shevchenko’s camp will look to make this a tough early fight so that they can impose their will in the later rounds as they believe they have the better conditioned fighter. Nunes has always been a tsunami to deal with in the early rounds and that likely will not change for this fight. She was able to hurt and damage Shevchenko early in their first fight so she likely assumes she can do that again. However, with the addition of two extra rounds on this fight her camp better have prepared her for the potential of a 5 round fight that goes to the judges. The first round will let fans know everything they need to know about the game plans both women bring to this fight. If Nunes goes for broke in the 1st trying to finish Shevchenko, I would worry if I’m a Nunes fan and she is unable to get the finish in that first round.
Odds: Shevchenko (-115) vs Nunes (-105)
Prediction: The odds on this fight are curious as typically the winner of the first fight typically is a considerable favorite or at least a slight favorite; but that’s not the case here. Throw in that Nunes is the champion and has a little higher profile than Shevchenko and it gets very interesting to see Shevchenko as the slight favorite. I think this is the right odds though, as I too lean Shevchenko to dethrone the champion. Their first fight was a perfect example of how the length of a fight can cater to different styles. Nunes demolishes limited strikers or weak grapplers, but struggles against higher level strikers or women with good cardio who can withstand her early surges. Valentina Shevchenko is the perfect combination of both those attributes. She’s a better striker than Nunes and has now gotten comfortable fighting different styles in the UFC. She has the gas tank to go 5 rounds, and I think she knows she had Nunes on the ropes in their first fight but just ran out of time. I think she goes into this fight supremely confident that if she can make it out of the first round without suffering too much damage the belt is hers. I actually think she gets a late stoppage as Nunes breaks down and fatigue sets in during the 4th or 5th round. I think fans get a really entertaining fight and the trend continues of a new Women’s Bantamweight Champion.
(Shevchenko via KO (-115))/Bonus Play Shevchenko via KO or TKO (+300)
Prediction Record since 2016 to Date (52-40-1) (+$635.50)
-Record & predictions based on Win vs Loss predictions only. Unless specified otherwise I use increments of $100 (for + odds predictions) & $110 (for – odds bets) as hypothetical wagers for each prediction.
-Predictions & Records are for entertainment value only