UFC 273 Preview

The UFC returns from a brief hiatus this Saturday with two intriguing title bouts and the return of one of the brightest MMA prospects squaring off with a tenured veteran.

Alexander Volkanovski vs. Chan Sung Jung

UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski has put together an incredible 10-0 start to his UFC career, highlighted by two victories over Max Holloway (the first which netted him the title) and an enthralling victory over Brian Ortega last September. Initially slated to meet Holloway for the third time, Volkanovski now faces off with the “Korean Zombie” for his third title defence following a Holloway injury. Against Jung, Volkanovski will be on the wrong end of a three-inch height and one-inch reach discrepancy. However, Volkanovski has overcome size discrepancies numerous times with measured pressure, stance switches, and superior strength in the clinch and on the ground. Volkanovski’s off-beat timing, varied offence, and stance switching has yet to be solved by a foe, thus it should be expected that Volkanovski will continue his normal strategy of picking his opponent apart from the outside. The significant challenge that Volkanovski faces in Jung is incredible punching power. Should Jung land a strong shot, Volkanovski does have the option of engaging in the clinch or with a takedown where he has the strength advantage over most Featherweights.

Chan Sung Jung returns for his second UFC title fight nearly nine years after his first back at UFC 163. Since that first title bout and a lengthy hiatus due to mandatory military service, Jung has put together four wins in six bouts since 2017. Jung’s wins include stoppage victories over TUF 14 finalist Dennis Bermudez, Renato Moicano, and former UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar, as well as a decision over Dan Ige last June. At 35 years of age, this is likely Jung’s final opportunity to acquire a UFC title. Jung’s primary attribute is his power, having fight-altering firepower in his right hand. He will undoubtedly be looking to measure Volkanovski with heavy strikes, given the volume will likely fall in Volkanovski’s favor. Should Jung land cleanly on Volkanovski and force him into a grappling exchange, Jung is no slough in the grappling department having notched a submission over future Interim UFC Lightweight Champion Dustin Poirier back in a 2012 Fight of the Year as well as the first Twister submission ever recorded in UFC history when he tapped Leonard Garcia with the move back in 2011.

Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan


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UFC Bantamweight Champion Aljamain Sterling looks to silence the critics of his championship status when he rematches Petr Yan at UFC 273. Sterling enters his first title defence on the heels of the UFC’s first-ever title victory by way of disqualification when he was awarded the UFC Bantamweight Championship following an illegal knee by Yan in their March, 2021 bout. In that bout, Sterling was clearly fading after a strong opening round and was largely being dominated by Yan prior to the illegal knee. Following neck surgery, Sterling looks to show a new and improved version of himself. Prior to his last bout, Sterling had impressed with a five-fight winning streak, which included submission victories over Cody Stamann and Cory Sandhagen and decisions over Brett Johns, Jimmie Rivera, and Pedro Munhoz. In those bouts, Sterling showed two main attributes – incredible striking pace which allowed him to overwhelm his opponents with sheer volume from range, and quick submission prowess. To defeat Yan, Sterling will need to have the gas tank to put together a constant five-round attack on the Interim Champion. Yan typically starts bouts slow, which provides Sterling an opportunity to take a commanding lead. If Sterling can take command of the early rounds before his gas tank begins to taper, he may have the ability to pull off the upset over the Interim Champion.

Current Interim UFC Bantamweight Champion Petr Yan looks to be the best Bantamweight on the planet. Yan has put together an 8-1 record in the organization with his only loss being the aforementioned disqualification loss to Sterling last March. Yan has notable victories over TUF 14 Bantamweight winner John Dodson, former WEC Featherweight Champion Urijah Faber, former WEC and UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo, and a recent decision victory over top Bantamweight contender Cory Sandhagen which netted Yan the Interim title. Yan’s fighting style is reflective largely on his training in Thailand – he starts his bouts slow, making many reads in the first round. From there, he picks up the pace throughout the bout, until ultimately overwhelming them in the latter portions of the fights with superior striking techniques, high volume, and solid wrestling. In his first bout with Sterling, this strategy was paying dividends for Yan who looked to be well on his way to winning the bout prior to the illegal knee. Given the success this strategy had in his first bout with Sterling, there is no reason why Yan will not try it again. The only difference may be a stronger emphasis on finishing the bout given the constant verbal jabs that the two have exchanged since their first meeting.

Gilbert Burns vs. Khamzat Chimaev

Former UFC Welterweight title challenger Gilbert Burns looks to turn back the UFC’s most notable prospect in an effort to acquire a second shot at a UFC title. The former Lightweight has put together a strong run since returning to the Welterweight division with a 5-1 record since 2019. This Welterweight run includes notable victories over former UFC title challengers Demian Maia and Stephen Thompson as well as former UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley. In his bout with Chimaev, Burns will be on the wrong end of a number of physical discrepancies including an eight-year age gap, four-inches of height, and four-inches of reach. Against a largely untested prospect in Chimaev, Burns will look to test Chimaev’s resolve using his powerful strikes and his threatening submission game. Burns is dangerous from all positions, but has been grounded out before. Burns will need to land a fight-changing strike standing or catch Chimaev in a submission during a scramble on the ground. Either way, Burns is a significant litmus test for a prospect like Chimaev.

Undefeated at 10-0, Khamzat Chimaev is likely the most notable prospect that the UFC currently has. Chimaev’s prominence stems from his two victories on Fight Island in 2020 which were separated by just 10 days – the quickest turnaround for back-to-back victories in UFC history. In addition to those victories, Chimaev has notched flawless victories over Gerald Meerschaert and Li Jingliang where he took no strikes from his opponents. While Chimaev has looked incredible up until this point, there are still so many question marks surrounding his abilities. Chief among them is how he handles adversity, or getting hit at all. In Burns, Chimaev is very likely to experience some sort of adversity. Chimaev’s best path to victory is likely to grind out Burns from the top position, however, with the grappling acumen that Burns possesses, it is very unlikely that Chimaev dominates from top position to the extent that he has done his prior foes. Should Chimaev pull off another impressive victory here, his stardom is likely to skyrocket even further.

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