The fists and dollars will fly Saturday at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena for UFC 273. The event begins at 6 p.m. EST. The main card starts at 10 p.m. EST. This article helps readers stay in the green, while OddsJam’s picks make opponents see red from frustration and damage.
Alexander Volkonovski (C) (-3500 at DraftKings) vs. Chan Sung Jung/”Korean Zombie” (+900 at DraftKings)
Volonovski isn’t a fighter anyone looking for marketability lessons wants to study. Aspiring mixed martial artists and sports bettors alike walk away with a great chance to succeed if they watch the results speak for him. Balance? Volkonovski is one of the best at staying within his base in the sport.
Takedowns and powerful grappling? He weaponizes the leverage lessons taught from a stellar wrestling background in Australia, his Rugby experience before MMA, and the generous size advantage, weighing 214 pounds in his previous sport.
Striking? Volkonovski obliterated Jose Aldo (one of the greatest strikers in MMA history). Bested Max Holloway twice in five-round fights (many consider Holloway the best boxer in MMA), and he trains with arguably MMA’s best current striker Israel Adesanya at City Kickboxing.
“The Korean Zombie”’s route to conquering City Kickboxing’s prized product entails landing with his signature aggression, including uppercuts when Volkonovski inevitably level changes for a takedown. The challenger feels at home in any grappling exchange.
He owns eight professional submission wins obtained via six-different techniques. Ensnaring Volkonovski in one forecasts to be incredibly challenging. The champion survived a deep attempt by submission specialist Brian Ortega, to the point where Volkonovski’s head turned purple. Statistics and achievements remain by his side if the fight reaches that point again.
Volkonovski holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. That pedigree helps maintain the trend of smarter submission defense. Less than 20 percent of fights ended in submission in 2020, with only 10 of 85 submission wins happening at featherweight.
Simply put, it’s almost impossible to forecast “The Korean Zombie” weathering the oddsmaker’s confidence-zapping odds here.
This title bout seeks a definitive conclusion after the controversial illegal knee resulting in a disqualification from the last bout. While the ultimate question of who is better awaits an answer, their title fight last year gave clues leading to a potential answer.
Petr Yan leveraged an obvious power advantage over Aljamain Sterling, consistently earning takedowns and trips, better positioning on grappling exchanges, and even sitting Sterling down in the first round with a right hand. Sterling pushed the pace in round two, but Yan’s signature patience and extremely high fight IQ evidenced by his division-best defensive grappling canceled the atypical attack Sterling mounts much more successfully against contenders.
Patience paid off, allowing Yan to dominate the fight as it got deeper. Familiarity fails to change fundamentals, presuming Yan returns to form after his war with Corey Sandhagen. Fundamentally, UFC 273 is a steep stylistic hill for Sterling to climb to claim he’s the rightful king of the bantamweight mountain.
Sterling vs Yan Prediction:
Yan by KO/TKO in the championship rounds (Yan to win by KO/TKO/Submission +130 at DraftKings)
It’s a bird. It’s a plane. We don’t know what Khazmat Chimaev is against top-ranked competition, but fans and oddsmakers know he’s resembled Superman so far. Chimaev absorbed one significant strike in four UFC fights. Not four UFC minutes, four complete fights! He’s outstruck his opponents 254-2 in these star-making contests. One of Khazmat’s blows knocked out UFC veteran Gerald Meerschaert for the first time in 48 bouts.
Gilbert Burns presents a far greater challenge than Meerschaert or any fighter the conductor of UFC’s latest hype train has rolled through, but there’s no denying Chimaev’s relentless engine that pushes commendable power, whether hitting one-punch knockouts or one-liners to Dana White while carrying Li Jianglang before a slam.
Chimaev’s name sits at the top of the page, but Burns captures accolades at the top of the ranks. His classic combination of pace and wrestling overwhelmed former welterweight title challenger Stephen Wonderboy Thompson and former champion Tyron Woodley.
A precise overhand right staggered welterweight kingpin Kamaru Usman in Burns’ unsuccessful bid to become champion himself. Burns becomes the first top-10 opponent (Burns currently ranks No. 3 at welterweight) Chimaev has faced. Consequently, nobody knows if Chimaev’s dominance transcends tiers.
Chimaev’s chin remains an equally puzzling mystery, given the aforementioned lack of punishment he’s sustained. Nobody has attempted a takedown on Chimaev either, which is one of Burns’ biggest weapons
Regardless, historical dominance over known UFC commodities counts for something big enough to say Chimaev passes the logic test in thinking he’ll pass his first true test in the Octagon. Meanwhile, Burns’ wins look great on paper, but within context came against heavily declined names and favorable stylistic matchups, perhaps unlike Chimaev who boasts lightning-quick takedowns that should land against Burns’ 50 percent defense.
Burns is not the stepping stone his line suggests though and presents great potential value for those willing to take a leap of faith into the unknown.
Former Olympic silver medalist Mark Madsen embodies the wrestling cliche “embrace the grind.” He takes down opponents, or his undefeated MMA record will get taken down trying. Vinc Pichel’s horrid 25 percent takedown defense in the UFC shouldn’t blockade the obvious path to a decision victory.
What Pichel lacks in sprawling ability, he makes up for with experience. UFC 273 marks Pichel’s 10th time entering the Octagon, outnumbering Mark Madsen’s fourth appearance.
Saturday’s opponents share a common victory against Austin Hubbard. Mark Madden cruised through the first two rounds with easy takedowns. Rapidfire shooting gassed him out in round three, endangering Madsen’s chances of winning in the closing seconds. Pichel grew stronger as his fight against Hubbard progressed. Calf kicks hindered Madsen’s later abilities, while Pichel walked out of the Octagon relatively unscathed.
This is an unadvisable fight to bet on. Madsen holding down Pichel in the first couple of rounds represents a likely scenario. Pichel slowly outworking Madsen and using veteran patience to steal a decision victory sounds like music to oddsmakers’ ears.
History favors the grappler over the striker in this even of a scenario. Consider it a coinflip.
This fight replays the endless game between striker and grappler. Mackenzie Dern tops the list of female Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners. That recipe to creating success calls for throwing caution to the wind to throw her opponents to the ground.
Tecia Torres stays safe on the outside thanks to her reach advantage and karate style, which she will use to accumulate points similar to Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson or Lyoto Machida. All three typically win by decision through point fighting.
Fighters on the bottom without a ground game find their heads sulking as well. Torres’ takedown defense fails to impress at 58 percent. She surrendered a takedown to heavy striker Angela Hill last time in the UFC.
Torres escapes quickly but has never dealt with anyone whose offensive ground game matches Dern’s. Muscles require oxygen that Torres’ compact frame and explosive defense quickly diminishes.
Aspen Ladd vs. Raquel Pennington & Piera Rodriguez vs. Kay Hansen To Go the Distance (Both +110 at DraftKings)
Raquel Pennington hasn’t knocked anyone out in 16 UFC fights and hasn’t added to her three UFC submission victories in over six years. She remained upright vs. Holly Holm twice and Jessica Andrade once.
Only the consensus WMMA GOAT Amanda Nunes managed to finish her. Aspen Ladd has never been submitted in her career.
Kay Hansen has only been knocked out once between 17 combined professional MMA and boxing matches and only caused two knockouts in her favor. She has never been submitted in MMA.
Piera Rodriguez arrives at UFC 273 fresh off “Dana White’s Contender Series,” entering the event with a curious 7-0 record that includes zero broadcasted fights from a notable organization.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik To Win by KO/TKO/DQ (+110 at DraftKings)
JairzinhoRozenstruik loves counterpunching, love takes patience, which he shows in spades. Rozenstruik exudes the power of love when it comes to counterpunching, knocking out six of his nine UFC opponents. Rozenstruik’s losses include current heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, former interim champ Ciryl Gane, and most recently Curtis Blaydes. All four of those heavyweights place in the top five rankings.
Marcin Tybura looks at the top 10 from the outside, currently ranking No. 11. He prefers wrestling over striking. His durability leaves room for improvement, as he’s been knocked out four times. Albeit that’s par for the heavyweight course, three of those losses were at the hands of people not known for heavy hands.
Rozenstruik’s grappling inexperience flares up at inopportune times, including succumbing to legendary MMA fighter Alistair Overeem’s ugly takedown attempts. There’s still a very good chance Rozenstruik keeps the fight standing long enough to catch Tybura on a setup and end the fight victorious.
Alexey Oleynkik To Win by Submission (+150 at DraftKings)
Alexey Oleynkik’s professional record features more submission victories (46) than the entire main card combined. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but he’s forgotten more about rolling than young pups remember. That analogy applies to this matchup, creating a ‘ruff’ time for adversary Jared Vanderaa.
Vanderaa suffered two submission losses to unknown names in the lower leagues, despite obtaining a black belt from the famed Team Quest gym. He lacks a single submission victory since 2017 and has never faced a notable ground specialist. Vanderaa approaches his 20-fight milestone (fifth broadcasted UFC fight).
Oleynkik triples the latter number and nearly quadruples the former. Perceptive bettors speculate that anyone with such staggering mileage can’t be trusted. Oleynkik prolongs his historic career by silencing these doubts for years in these exact scenarios.