Photo Credit: Alexander Volkanovski’s Twitter
*This was originally posted on April 7, 2022*
After taking a week off, the UFC is back with the biggest PPV of the year so far! We’ve got two title fights and one of the most exciting matchups of the year just before that. In the main event, for the Featherweight strap, we’ve got Volkanovski squaring off against the fan-favourite Korean Zombie. Just before that we’re finally going to see the heated rematch between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling in this Bantamweight title unifier. If that wasn’t enough, we’ve got the return of one of the most exciting and dominant fighters in the entire UFC, Khamzat Chimaev taking on his toughest competitor yet in Gilbert Burns. That isn’t all, we’ll also be treated to some other ranked fights between Mackenzie Dern and Tecia Torres, Rozenstruik and Tybura, as well as Aspen Ladd and Raquel Pennington. Finally, we’ve also got the return of UFC veteran Aleksei Oleinik and the promising young fighter Ian Garry. All of these matchups (plus more) are covered below and feature BLÜ’s predictions along with the Bet99 Sportsbook Odds.
Main Card (7:00 PM PST)
Vinc Pichel vs. Mark Madsen
Pichel: -125 Madsen: +105
Over 2.5: -200 Under 2.5: +154
This was a late addition to the main card as it was originally scheduled as a prelim.. Out of all the prelim. matchups, this would’ve been the last one I’d expect to see on a main card, but that’s what they’ve gone with. Both men are nearing the end of their careers, finding themselves in their late 30s. Since his UFC debut in 2012, Pichel hasn’t fought a whole lot, but he’s managed to rack up a record of 7-1. He hasn’t fought the biggest names, but he’s beaten respectable contenders like Jim Miller and Roosevelt Roberts in 2 of his last 3 fights. Also, his only loss was by a submission from the ranked contender Gregor Gillespie. Mark Madsen is slightly newer to MMA, but has a record of 11-0 and is known for his olympic experience in wrestling.
Normally, in a matchup like this you’d clearly be leaning towards Madsen thanks to his olympic experience and his undefeated record. Honestly, watching his last two performances… it wasn’t all that impressive AND most people (including myself) thought he clearly lost the decision to Clay Guida in his last fight. Not only that, Pichel was pretty impressive in his last couple fights. It’ll be a VERY close matchup, either man could take it, but I’m actually going to go with Vinc Pichel.
Pichel by Decision
Mackenzie Dern vs. Tecia Torres
Dern: -119 Torres: -105
Over 2.5: -193 Under 2.5: +150
In this exciting women’s flyweight matchup, two of the division’s best will face off. Dern, coming off a decision loss to Marina Rodriguez, is currently ranked 5th. Before her loss to Rodriguez, Dern earned her spot in the rankings after getting THREE 1st Round finishes in her 4 fight win streak, all by submission. Torres has been in the UFC since all the way back in 2014 and has fought all of the best fighters in the division’s history. Sadly, she’s lost all of the fights against the bigger names like Weili, Joanna, Andrade and Rose. In fact, 4 of those losses were in a row in 2018-19. Since then though, she’s found herself on a 3 fight win streak.
This may be the tightest matchup of the entire night. Both of them are experienced, both of them are talented in their own areas: Torres on her feet and Dern on the ground. The only insight that I can think of is that Dern only struggled with Rodriguez in her last fight because Marina had a longer reach and is one of the best strikers in the division. I don’t believe that Torres is on that same level, plus she doesn’t have the extra reach. Thanks to those factors, I think Dern will be able to get past Torres’ striking and control her on the ground. She’ll threaten submissions all night long and she MAY notch one in, but Torres has never been finished in her career, so I think we’ll see a close decision win for Dern.
Dern by Decision
Gilbert Burns vs. Khamzat Chimaev
Burns: +350 Chimaev: -500
Over 1.5: -129 Under 1.5: +100
These last 3 fights are all equally fascinating and incredible matchups that I can’t wait to see! Once again, we are going to be blessed with another appearance by Chimaev. At this point, you probably already know everything there is to know about him. He’s 10-0, 4-0 in the UFC and has been so outrageously dominant that he’s only been hit by ONE significant strike with 2 KOs and 2 submission wins. Although his first three opponents may not have the rankings or accolades that Burns holds, his last win was an insane 1st Round submission over the well-respected Li. Burns doesn’t have the undefeated record or the hype behind him, but his recent record is still impressive. In his last 4 bouts he’s gone 3-1 against some of the best welterweights in recent UFC history. He beat Woodley and Thompson in fairly dominant decisions and lost his title shot in spectacular fashion in the 3rd Round to the champ, Usman.
I don’t even need to say much here, there’s something so unique, terrifying and entertaining about Chimaev; something that I personally have never witnessed in MMA that reminds me of athletes in other sports that just seem untouchable. This will very clearly be his toughest matchup yet, but when you’ve only been hit once in your 4 fight UFC career… you have to expect that he’s holding the edge. Burns is tough and experienced on the ground; that being said, I’m not 100% sure that that’ll make much of a difference. The only thing that I can gather from all of that information is that Burns might be able to hold on until the 2nd Round. It also might mean that Chimaev is going to get a KO or a ground and pound TKO without a submission. One other factor that has me leaning towards a TKO win is that Burns has never lost by submission in his entire MMA career.
Chimaev by Finish
Co-Main Event (Bantamweight Title Fight)
Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan
Sterling: +350 Yan: -500
Over 4.5: -129 Under 4.5: +100
FINALLY, after a year of waiting, we finally see the rematch between Sterling and Yan. Of course, everyone knows at this point, Sterling last fought against Yan and ‘won’ the belt after he kneed illegally and almost knocked out. As for Yan, he grabbed the interim belt after a dominant, incredible performance against Cory Sandhagen in October.
This pick is simple, Aljo hasn’t fought since last year against Yan. In that title fight, Yan was dominating him for the entire fight and was clearly winning the decision before his mistake cost him the belt. Sterling likely learned some things after fighting Yan, but Yan is SO skilled, so dominant, that it’s unlikely Sterling will be able to catch up. Not to mention, Yan keeps getting better; Sandhagen came in looking amazing in October, but Yan still outclassed him. I think it’s gonna be a real good one and that we’ll see another dominant decision win from Yan.
Yan by Decision
Main Event (Featherweight Title Fight)
Alexander Volkanovski vs. The Korean Zombie
Volkanovski: -750 Zombie: +500
Over 4.5: -145 Under 2.5: +114
To cap off this incredible PPV, we get to see another Volkanovski title defence. Volk is one of the most dominant featherweights in UFC history sitting at a record of 10-0 in the UFC with his last 4 over future Hall of Famers Jose Aldo, Ortega and Max Holloway TWICE. His wins over Holloway were questionable to some, BUT there’s absolutely no denying the fact that he’s clearly the best in the division and nobody comes close except for Holloway. The Zombie is a beloved fighter to all UFC fans; he joined all the way back in the WEC days in 2010 and has fought against some of the best fighters in the division. he’s gone 3-1 in his last 4 with wins over Edgar, Moicano and, most recently, Dan Ige in a decision.
No offence to the Zombie, I love the guy, but this seems like it’ll be pretty one-sided. His last win was over Ige and he really only got this fight because everyone else was busy and Holloway pulled out. I’m sure that he’ll make it interesting and fun to watch, but Volk is on a different level and will dominate him for all 5 rounds. Since Ortega couldn’t finish the Zombie… plus it’s literally his name, I think he’ll keep coming back and make it to the final bell.
Volkanovski by Decision
BLU’s Prelim Picks (Prelims begin at 3:00 PM PST)
Piera Rodriguez vs. Kay Hansen
Rodriguez: -113 Hansen: -109
Over 2.5: -234 Under 2.5: +180
I’m featuring this bout not just as a fan of Kay Hansen, but because both women are young and have a promising career ahead of them in the UFC. We recently saw Hansen in January where she made her return… but up a division at flyweight. For this one she’ll return down to her natural weight at 115. That’s an important fact because she holds a huge edge in grappling at 115 due to her strength and skill. On the other side of the Octagon this weekend will be the undefeated DWCS alum. Piera Rodriguez. She’s only 6-0, but she earned her way into the UFC with a decision win on the Contender Series in October.
This is an extremely difficult matchup to pick. Hansen has been in a rough patch recently with her (questionable) decision loss to McKenna and her loss to another DWCS alum. Jasudavicius in her last bout. This is going to be a close one and I’m sure the fight will go back and forth pretty evenly, but I’m going to side with the one who’s got UFC experience and a great ground game: Kay Hansen.
Hansen by Decision
Aleksei Oleinik vs. Jared Vanderaa
Oleinik: -112 Vanderaa: -110
Over 1.5: -107 Under 1.5: -120
Originally scheduled as a bout between Oleinik and Latifi 2 weeks ago, this matchup has now morphed into a bout between the veteran, Aleksei Oleinik and the younger prospect of Jared Vanderaa. Oleinik is the most prolific MMA fighter I’ve ever seen with a mind-blowing record of 59-16-1. Although he’s almost always fought some of the toughest heavyweights in the division, things haven’t gone his way most of the time with a record of 2-5 in his last 7 bouts. It should be said that all 5 of those men are currently in the top 15 (except Overeem who has retired from MMA). Vanderaa started his UFC journey on the Contender Series in 2020 and made his debut here with 3 fights in 2021. Sadly, much like Oleinik, he’s had a rough record recently with a 1-3 record so far in the UFC. It should be said though that all 3 losses were against noteworthy opponents Spivak, Romanov and Arlovski.
The matchup between Oleinik and Latifi seemed like a toss-up to me, but this matchup seems to slant in one direction. Oleinik has an edge in experience over pretty much anyone in the division’s history, plus he’s known for his stamina, grit and ground skills. Vanderaa is also a tough man to beat, but has notably had problems against grapplers. Being that Oleinik is ALWAYS a danger on the ground and will be able to stand up to Vanderaa’s power, it seems as though he holds a fair advantage over Vanderaa. Being that Aleksei is so skilled, there’s a very real chance we see a submission win for him, but the safer bet is likely a decision win thanks to his grappling.
Oleinik by Decision
Aspen Ladd vs. Raquel Pennington
Ladd: +150 Pennington: -184
Over 2.5: -334 Under 2.5: +240
Here we’ve got our first ranked fight of the night between the bantamweight contenders Aspen Ladd (4th) and Raquel Pennington (7th). Interestingly, both of their last bouts were fought at 145 instead of their ranked weights of 135. This is VERY important for me to point out because Aspen Ladd is famous for her weight-cutting issues. If you remember, last year there was a clip of her shaking and almost collapsing on the scales at weigh-ins. She was also a topic of discussion last year when she headlined with Norma Dumont and had one of the most boring main event performances in recent memory. Prior to all of these weight-cutting issues, all the way back in 2019, she was 9-1 with wins over Kunitskaya and Eubanks with her only loss coming from de Randamie. Pennington, on the other hand, has a few more losses, but she’s also been around the UFC since 2013 and has only lost to the best: de Randamie, Andrade, Nunes and then Holm twice. Recently, she’s been on a 3 fight win streak including an impressive submission win over Chiasson in December.
On paper, this seems fairly close, but based on what we’ve seen in their last few fights, Pennington holds an edge thanks to her experience and her very well-rounded skill set. As for Ladd, we all mentioned this after what happened last year; she shouldn’t be fighting down at 135 any more. Honestly, it’s at the point where you shouldn’t make any bets on her fight until after the weigh-ins are done; in fact, it’s fighters like this that pushed me to never bet until after weigh-ins. There’s always the potential that a young, promising prospect like Ladd will be able to figure things out and put on an incredible performance against Pennington, but the MUCH safer bet is to side with the veteran.
Pennington by Decision
Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Marcin Tybura
Rozenstruik: -163 Tybura: +130
Over 1.5: +120 Under 2.5: -150
Here we’ve got our mandatory, Heavyweight slugfest for the night; there’s always at least one on every good card. Rozenstruik has had a tough time in his last few fights with a record of 2-3 in his last 5. It should be said though that those 3 losses, the only 3 of his MMA career, came to N’Gannou, Gane and Blaydes. Other than that he’s had KO wins over Arlovski, Overeem, dos Santos and Sakai. Tybura is coming off of a decision loss to Volkov, but was on a 5 fight win streak before that with wins over Rothwell, Spivak, Hardy and Harris.
This is an old-school heavyweight fight, meaning there’s no need for judges or wrestling, only huge shots from both sides. Essentially, it’s going to come down to who’s more powerful and who can land the bigger shot first. That’s where it starts to separate for me. Rozenstruik is a world-class kickboxer, has the same reach as Tybura but comes in around 10 pounds heavier. Thanks to the extra power and skill, I’m going to say that Rozenstruik gets the finish here. I should also point out that all of his UFC wins have come by KO/TKO.
Rozenstruik by Finish
Ian Garry vs. Darian Weeks
Garry: -367 Weeks: +280
Over 1.5: -175 Under 1.5: +136
The story of this fight is, of course, Ian Garry’s star power. He’s not on the same level as Paddy ‘the Baddy’, but he’s got quite a following in Ireland. He’s also got some skills to back it up as he sits at 8-0 with a 1st Round KO over Jordan Williams in his UFC debut in November. Darian Weeks doesn’t have the hype or the UFC win under his belt as he lost his debut and now sits at 5-1.
Much like what the UFC has done with Paddy, they’ve likely given Garry an opponent here that matches up with him very well; they’re not rushing him in against extremely tough opponents. It should still be a tight, interesting matchup, but I think Garry’s got the edge in skill and will probably cruise to a decision win.
Garry by Decision
BLÜ’s Best Bets
Here I highlight some betting lines that you might want to take advantage of for UFC 273. These are odds that favour the bettor. Although some of them may conflict with my picks, they offer a fair reward for a slight bit of risk.
Aleksei Oleinik vs. Jared Vanderaa Over 1.5 at -107
When heavyweights are concerned, the general trend is that the fight is going to be shorter. In this case though, because both men are VERY tough to finish, Over 1.5 makes the most sense. Not only are they both tough, but Oleinik is known for his ground game, meaning there will be a lot of clinching and a lot of time spent on the ground. All these factors together should extend the fight and push it well into the 2nd Round, if not the third.
Ian Garry vs. Darian Weeks Over 1.5 at -175
Ian Garry may be undefeated and have a finish in his first UFC fight, but up until Weeks’ last fight, he was also undefeated. Weeks also lost by decision, meaning he’s never been finished. If this were set at 2.5 rounds, I may bet differently, but at 1.5, this betting line is a great one to take advantage of.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Marcin Tybura Under 2.5 at -150
As I mentioned in the Oleinik and Vanderaa bet, heavyweight fights tend to run shorter. This is one of those fights that I would very much expect to run short. Their both strikers, plus, Rozenstruik is a world-class kickboxer who’s grabbed ALL of his UFC wins by KO/TKO. Since I believe he has the edge in this matchup, it makes sense that we’ll see a finish before the 3rd Round.
The Short Run
Chimaev + Yan + Volkanovski
The Long Run
Arce + Rozenstruik + Garry + Chimaev + Yan + Volkanovski