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UFC 273: Volkanovski vs. Korean Zombie staff picks and predictions

Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for UFC 273.

The Bloody Elbow staff has made its picks for Saturday’s UFC 273 pay-per-view in Jacksonville, and we’re unanimously picking Alexander Volkanovski over Chan Sung Jung to retain his men’s featherweight belt. As for the co-main event, we’re going unanimously towards Petr Yan to not get himself DQed again and indeed win back the men’s bantamweight strap from Aljamain Sterling. However, not everyone is picking Khamzat Chimaev over Gilbert Burns. To see the latest betting lines for these fights, head over to DraftKings Sportsbook.

Note: Predictions are entered throughout the week and collected the day before the event. Explanations behind each pick are not required and some writers opt not to do so for their own reasons. For example, if Zane Simon entered all of his predictions on Wednesday without adding in any explanations, he has no idea if he’s going to be the only one siding with one fighter for any given fight.

Alexander Volkanovski vs. Chan Sung Jung

Anton Tabuena: Jung can give him problems with his power and underrated submission game, but Volkanovski should be able to dictate where this fight takes place, and also be faster and far more technical on the feet. The main thing for me is that Volkanovski has always been the type to be ultra-vigilant, with zero issues sticking to a great game plan. So while this is still MMA, I think Volkanovski is far less likely than others to get caught or get sloppy against Zombie. Alexander Volkanovski by Decision.

Mookie Alexander: The odds for this are super wide. Volkanovski is tremendously durable and thus I would trust his chin to hold up against the Korean Zombie, but to go full cliche it only takes one shot. If this goes to the ground it could get interesting given TKZ’s underrated grappling chops and Volkanovski’s scare against Brian Ortega. In the end I just fear Jung is too hittable and Volkanovski will have a pronounced edge in speed and accuracy with his striking that he’s going to be broken down as the fight progresses. Alexander Volkanovski by TKO, round 4.

Zane Simon: It may sound a bit like an oversimplification, but I think there’s a lot to be garnered from both TKZ & Volkanovski’s bouts against Brian Ortega. Against Ortega, Chan Sung Jung struggled hard to work past his jab and length to land powerful countershots or otherwise create meaningful offense, getting forced to flurry from too far away, or otherwise get picked apart off the back foot. Volkanovski doesn’t have Ortega’s natural size, but he is a better, more consistent and trickier range fighter. Similarly, against Ortega, Volkanovski was faced with a bigger, rangier counterpuncher who could throw surprising grappling threats into the mix, and while he did find himself in extreme danger at least once, the ‘Great’ showed off his remarkable calm and consistency to keep Ortega at bay throughout. TKZ is a better wrestler than Ortega, but Volkanovski is such a squat bowling ball of a man, that I can’t imagine that being an easy avenue for success. Alexander Volkanovski by decision.

Staff picking Volkanovski: Mookie, Anton, Dayne, Lewis, Zane, Stephie, Victor
Staff picking Jung:

Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan

Anton Tabuena: I actually hope Sterling can prove me wrong and make this interesting – especially if he finds ways to get on top early – but I really think this will be very one sided. Even with Sterling’s improvements on the feet, Yan is still levels above not only with his striking, but with how he blends and flows through every facet of MMA so well. I wouldn’t even be surprised if he wins the majority of the grappling exchanges again (those trips are gorgeous!). Basically, I think Yan is technically among the very best in the sport right now, so I’m picking him to dominate this again, minus the dumb foul. Petr Yan by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: Sterling’s path to victory involves opportunism of the highest order or Yan doing something stupid again. His striking has improved significantly but he doesn’t have the power to dissuade Yan from throwing constant, free-flowing offense in his face. The wrestling was the most interesting part of their first fight and Sterling couldn’t hold him down at all and indeed got tripped to the mat several times in response. Sterling is an elite fighter but Yan is one of the three or four best fighters in the world. Unless we get Human Jansport Aljo I think Yan beats him sans illegal strike. Petr Yan by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: It really feels like Aljamain Sterling came out with all the right ideas in their first fight. He went to the body more than any Yan opponent to date, he pursued his wrestling early and often, and he tried to keep Yan from getting reads with a wealth of volume and range kicking attacks. And it still didn’t really help at all. Beyond his uncanny ability to solve just about any striking problem given enough time, Yan even managed to solve Sterling’s wrestling, and start taking it to the Serra-Longo fighter in grappling exchanges. Given how good he is at getting reads, it seems like there’s a good chance he comes out that much faster and on point this time through. Sterling’s never been a power threat, so can he find some hail mary sub before Yan breaks him down? Seems unlikely. Petr Yan via TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Sterling:
Staff picking Yan: Mookie, Anton, Dayne, Lewis, Zane, Stephie, Victor

Gilbert Burns vs. Khamzat Chimaev

Anton Tabuena: Am I crazy here? Because I think Burns is the riskiest and worst possible matchup on his path to Usman, but Chimaev is somehow still a massive favorite. Burns is an elite grappler and BJJ champ (Fun fact: he gave Mikey Musumeci his black belt), and he’s shown to also be equally explosive, quick and potent as a kickboxer. Can Chimaev outstrike someone like Burns? Can he also just manhandle a top level grappler? Can he handle adversity and make proper adjustments? Maybe! But what’s the basis for that so far? If he can also dominate Burns, I will readily buy the hype and proclaim him as a future champ, but right now, we know very little about Chimaev and what he can actually do. In the very few moments we’ve seen, Chimaev looks very explosive, can really wrestle, d’arce or smesh the (sub par) competition he’s had so far. Against Meerschaert, he also showed that he has true KO power, but even then, we literally only saw one punch and still don’t have a clue on his actual striking skill and technical proficiency. Chimaev is bigger and possibly the better athlete, and he seems to have scary scary potential, but I’m going to wait until I actually see more of him. Fortunately I’ll likely get a lot of those answers on this match up. The odds are insane, and I believe this is a risky, sink or swim moment for Chimaev. It can go either way, but I’m picking Gilbert Burns by Decision.

Mookie Alexander: I want to pick Burns but can’t bring myself to do it. At the very least i’d like to see him push Chimaev in ways we’ve yet to see him pushed in his brief yet sparkling UFC career. If Chimaev takes him down, for instance, will Burns be able to reverse position and put Chimaev on his back? Or what happens if Burns’ potent boxing can catch Chimaev cleanly? I’d like to see those questions answered in this bout. Unfortunately, it’s hard to ignore that Burns can be caught cold and Chimaev has sledgehammers for fists whether standing or on the mat. His talent is just too hard to ignore and perhaps he really is that dude. BJJ has a funny way of failing when the other person can punch you in the face. Khamzat Chimaev by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: My general rule of thumb with any prospect is that I have to see it to believe it. You tell me that Aaron Pico could be the next Fedor? I need to see it happen. Sometimes that leads to disastrous fight picks, like taking Alexander Volkov over Tom Aspinall, but I’ll stand by the cautious approach. That said, where Khamzat Chimaev is now is at a point where I need to see him get beat to prove that he has an obvious flaw to his game and is easily beatable. I’ve seen Gilbert Burns lose fights, I know that he tends to make his punching reads a couple steps before he actually throws his strikes, and winds up on his shots a bit. I know he’s comfortable pulling guard and giving up positions because he’s confident in his grappling. And I know his chin can be cracked. I think both fighters here will start incredibly hot, looking to throw power out of the gate, and willing to wrestle and grapple within the first minute or so. And in that kind of fight, I’m taking Chimaev to win. Khamzat Chimaev via TKO, round 1.

Staff picking Burns: Anton, Victor
Staff picking Chimaev: Mookie, Dayne, Lewis, Zane, Stephie

Mackenzie Dern vs. Tecia Torres

Anton Tabuena: Despite Rogan and others gushing about her training with Parillo, Dern is still so limited on the feet, so it’s entirely possible that Tecia just keeps her at bay with those kicks, quick combinations, and enough defensive wrestling to win a decision. The skill gap is much much wider on the mat though, so I’m curious to see how and if Dern can get it there. I wish Dern uses more of a Maia approach by fully committing and forcing grappling exchanges, but I’m guessing she will again unnecessarily test her new boxing skills for long periods. I think it’s a toss up because of that, but it honestly shouldn’t be. Mackenzie Dern by Submission.

Mookie Alexander: A chancy pick but it’s a toss-up fight anyway. If Dern is able to use her striking (as awkward as it is) to close the distance and get Torres to the mat, then Tecia is in for a difficult night even if she doesn’t actually get submitted. But Torres is faster, the better striker, and has a consistently higher workrate that may compromise Dern’s questionable gas tank. The longer that this is a kickboxing contest, the more likely I see Dern just getting outworked, outlanded, and ultimately forcing her into predictable takedown attempts that Torres will see coming. Tecia Torres by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: There are a couple of key points in this bout that leave me struggling to know just how it’s going to go. A) Tecia Torres gets taken down a lot. Her style of striking and footwork leaves her open to a lot of easy takedown attempts. Even to fighters that aren’t amazing wrestlers. B) She’s never been submitted. And while Mackenzie Dern got Rodriguez down in their recent fight, and spent a dominant round on top, it did prove that she’s not a submission guarantee every time the fight hits the floor. I expect Torres to have at least one really bad spot. Maybe even a bad round. Won’t be shocked if she gets caught and taps for the first time in her life. But until that happens, I’m banking on her to get back up, and outwork Dern down the stretch for the win. Tecia Torres by decision.

Staff picking Dern: Anton, Lewis, Stephie, Victor
Staff picking Torres: Mookie, Dayne, Zane

Vinc Pichel vs. Mark O. Madsen

Mookie Alexander: This could be a bit of a difficult fight to both watch and score. I don’t expect a high-paced affair and this could either be both men trying to establish their wrestling or the famed 15 minutes of kickboxing between two guys who’d rather be wrestling and grappling. I’m leaning towards Pichel slightly to get the better of the exchanges on the feet and to have more left in the tank as it drags towards the back-end of the contest. Watch for the clinch battles as Pichel’s strength could really be pivotal against the Dane. Vinc Pichel by split decision.

Zane Simon: At this point, I’m just not all that convinced that Mark O. Madsen has a truly functional high level MMA game. He’s a highly accredited wrestler, and can definitely put poor wrestlers on their backs. But I’m not sure that he can keep people down and do much damage from top control without letting them back up. And when faced with a good MMA wrestler like Clay Guida, it was really an improving striking game that led him on to victory. Pichel may be a bit of a jack of all trades, but he’s not bad at anything, and given any advantage over an opponent, he usually turns that to his favor. Most notably, Pichel just has fantastic cardio and stamina. Won’t be surprised if Madsen gets him down early, but the longer the fight goes, the more I think Pichel shines. Vinc Pichel by decision.

Staff picking Pichel: Mookie, Zane, Stephie, Victor
Staff picking Madsen: Anton, Dayne

Ian Garry vs. Darian Weeks

Mookie Alexander: Much like Paddy Pimblett, I am not super high on Garry as a future title contender, but I am definitely entertained by his fighting style. Weeks hits hard and Garry has some defensive flaws that can be exploited, but will Garry’s diverse striking attack be too much for Darian to handle? I think so. Ian Garry by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: This is a bit of a weird fight, in that I like both Garry and Weeks as developing talents, but think they both got to the UFC without much in the way of complete MMA games. Can either of them turn their Octagon careers into opportunities for growth? I’m not sure. Mostly, while I like the ideas and processes that Weeks has, he’s a lot less technically proficient with single strikes and moves than Garry. He’ll probably do a lot of pressuring and put out a lot of volume, but also walk onto big single shots that could turn his lights out. Still, I”m not confident about banking on Garry as a sniper just yet either, especially with how porous his defense is off the back foot. I’ll take Weeks to grind out the win, but that’s mostly me banking on his chin to carry him. Darian Weeks via decision.

Staff picking Garry: Mookie, Anton, Dayne, Stephie
Staff picking Weeks: Zane

Raquel Pennington vs. Aspen Ladd

Mookie Alexander: I think what concerns me the most about Ladd apart from her weight cutting difficulties is that she doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Norma Dumont had her befuddled with a jab. When she’s not the vastly superior physical fighter I think her game just falls to pieces. I expect the same thing to happen against Rocky Pennington. Raquel Pennington by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Pennington isn’t a particularly fast, or athletic bantamweight. But she’s been at this game long enough to carve out a space for herself as a decent puncher and a calm, controlling clinch fighter. Ladd has often struggled to get to her grappling early in fights. And when she can’t get opponents to the mat consistently, has found herself walking onto a whole lot of strikes from her opponents. There’s more chances that Ladd comes out with something new and surprising than there is that Pennington looks any different than the past. But, until I see Ladd become more defensively capable, or more dedicated to aggressive wrestling, I gotta take Raquel Pennington by decision.

Staff picking Pennington: Mookie, Anton, Dayne, Zane, Stephie, Victor
Staff picking Ladd:

Mickey Gall vs. Mike Malott

Zane Simon: Malott has promise. Notably, he seems to be a fantastic opportunist when opponents give him easy access to a submission. And Gall may very well do that. There’s nothing that Gall does so well that it can’t be turned against him by the right opponent. Still, despite his notable losses, Gall has been consistently becoming a much better striker and more composed talent in the cage. To date, Malott has yet to show me that. If Gall sticks Malott behind 1s and 2s, what’s going to be Malott’s plan to change the momentum of the bout? Mickey Gall via TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Gall: Mookie, Dayne, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Malott: Anton

Alexey Oleinik vs. Jared Vanderaa

Zane Simon: I know heavyweights have a shelf-life like military grade dehydrated rations, but there are still limits. And at 44, it feels like Oleinik has finally run up against them. His cardio has never been great, but it’s been an especially sharp drop off lately. And while Vanderaa has been taken down and beaten up before, it’s usually taken multiple rounds to put him away. Not sure Oleinik has the gas to do that at this point. Jared Vanderaa via TKO, round 3.

Staff picking Oleinik: Dayne
Staff picking Vanderaa: Mookie, Anton, Zane, Stephie

Anthony Hernandez vs. Josh Fremd

Zane Simon: Technically I’m not sure there’s much separating these two. They’re both at their best pushing forward as aggressive opportunists. But to date, I’ve seen Hernandez make that work against higher caliber opponents. Anthony Hernandez via submission, round 2.

Staff picking Hernandez: Mookie, Anton, Dayne, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Fremd:

Kay Hansen vs. Piera Rodriguez

Zane Simon: I really honestly like Rodriguez a lot. And if Hansen has any of the kind of offensive tunnel vision that she had against Jasudavicius, then Rodriguez has the tools to win this. Notably, she’s a fantastic puncher and has a great knack for sitting down on strikes in the pocket and returning clean counters on opponents. If Hansen wasn’t such a technical wrestler, I might just say Rodriguez deserves to be the favorite. But Hansen really does have the offensive tools everywhere to create clear paths to victory. The only question is, will she choose the right ones, or will she get caught up struggling for the hardest version of the fight she wants to have. I’ll take Kay Hansen by decision, but not without reservations.

Staff picking Hansen: Mookie, Anton, Dayne, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Rodriguez:

Julio Arce vs. Daniel Santos

Zane Simon: Santos is a lot of fun. Clearly a dedicated kickboxer, with some slick technique and a love of prolonged pocket exchanges. He should make a solid action-fight addition to the UFC’s roster. Much more than Santos, Arce really prefers to have a controlled, evenly paced fight. So if Santos can keep pressure high and his output up, he could make Arce pretty uncomfortable. Unfortunately for Santos, Arce is also a pretty good wrestler and grappler in those kinds of situations, and has the striking tools to hang with just about anyone on the right night. A tough ask for a fighter who loves to throw spinning attacks and sit down on long combos in the pocket. As long as he keeps his head, Arce will have lots of opportunities for counter hooks and double leg takedowns. Julio Arce by decision.

Staff picking Arce: Mookie, Anton, Dayne, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Santos:

Poll

Who wins?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Volkanovski and Sterling
    (75 votes)
  • 73%
    Volkanovski and Yan
    (700 votes)
  • 7%
    Jung and Sterling
    (70 votes)
  • 11%
    Jung and Yan
    (105 votes)
950 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who wins?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    Gilbert Burns
    (227 votes)
  • 67%
    Khamzat Chimaev
    (481 votes)
708 votes total Vote Now