With recent UFC cards lacking big names, you could hear moans of fight-gasms from fans when the stacked UFC 213 came together.
This is no surprise as the UFC loves to make the most of their early July pay-per-views. July 8 marks the start of International Fight Week, which has become an annual tradition of big fights that carry even larger expectations.
In the main event, UFC Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes looks to defend her title against Valentina Shevchenko. It’s a marquee bout, to be sure, but with Werdum vs. Overeem, Lawler vs. Cerrone, Romero vs. Whittaker all carrying title-shot implications, it could get overshadowed by the undercard.
T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas will be hopping because, not only is there a lot riding on these fights, but these combatants throw nasty leather. If you’re an MMA promotion, these are the types of matchups you use to showcase the sport.
The action isn’t just reserved for the main card either. The preliminary fist-a-cuffs feature the return of Canadian Jordan Mein and a potential show-stopping fight between Chad Laprise and Brian Camozzi. You may as well make an afternoon of it.
So who will have their hand raised and life changed? I go through the main card and play the grand wizard of preview and predictions.
UFC 213 ODDS AND PREDICTIONS
Amanda Nunes (C) (-135) vs. Valentina Shevchenko (+105) (Bantamweight Title)
Two years ago, most fans hadn’t heard of either of these two women, but now here they are on the big stage showing how fast women’s MMA has evolved. (Ronda who?) Right now, Nunes (14-4) is one of the baddest ladies on the planet and she will be defending against the dangerous Shevchenko (14-2) for the second time.
Back at UFC 196, these two competed in a pretty boring fight that did nothing for their stock. That was last year, though, and after beating Holy Holm and Julianna Pena, Shevchenko more than earned another go around with Nunes.
Meanwhile, Nunes is on five-fight winning streak, four of those being finishes with notable knockouts over Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey. The 29-year-old Brazilian looks like a force of nature who is out to prove she is unstoppable.
Although the odds are slightly favoring the champ, this is her first ever five-round affair, and her aggressive style might cost her in later rounds. Shevchenko is a late-bloomer in fights. If you can’t put her away early, she gets stronger as each round passes by. The Peruvian is an accomplished Muay Thai practitioner who can dictate a fight with her range. Not to mention, she knows how to get out of the way of haymakers.
If you’re looking for an upset, this might be the place. It will be Nunes aggression vs. Shevchenko’s patience and precision. I’m thinking we are going to see a new women’s bantamweight champion and the carousel continues.
Pick: Shevchenko (+105)
Yoel Romero (-105) vs. Robert Whittaker (-115) (Interim Middleweight Title)
Both these men deserve a real title shot instead of facing off for a fake interim title, but that’s what we are doing in this new era of UFC matchmaking. Currently, the middleweight title is being held hostage by Michael “The Count” Bisping, who is looking for a big payday to defend his championship against GSP instead of the number one contender. As that fight gets pushed further and further away, Whittaker (18-4) and Romero (12-1) will face off in what I personally think is one of the biggest fights of the year.
At first glance, most of you are probably thinking that Yoel Romero should be able to squash anyone that they put in front of him. You’re not crazy for thinking that way, but has the 40-year-old beast ever faced someone like Whittaker, i.e. a technically-sound fighter entering his prime?
The 26-year-old is on a meteoric rise and many have anointed him the future of the division. He has knocked off seven wins in a row including a vicious TKO victory over a very tough Ronaldo Souza back in April. If I’m Romero, I would make sure that my head is bolted down tight because the man they call “The Reaper” has a head kick that nobody gets up from.
Romero, of course, has been making mincemeat out of his competition, as well. He is riding an eight-fight winning streak that includes nasty knockouts over former champions in Lyoto Machida and Chris Weidman, only adding to his undeniable resume. He can pick you up, throw you down, and maul you like grizzly bear.
Picking a winner in this fight is incredibly hard. The pick’em odds are spot on, in my view. I feel the difference will be Whittaker’s athleticism and youth. Romero is more likely to have problems with cardio, carrying all that muscle mass into the later rounds. This is a five-round affair and, like Nunes in the main event, Romero needs to finish it early or he’ll find himself on the mat due to a careless mistake or losing via decision because of exhaustion.
In what should be an extremely entertaining, even contest, I’m strapping my money to Whittaker’s rising star.
Pick: Whittaker (-115)
Robbie Lawler (-150) over Donald Cerrone (+130) – Fight Cancelled
Alistair Overeem (-130) over Fabricio Werdum (+110)
Anthony Pettis over Jim Miller (no odds available)