Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back on the pay-per-view (PPV) market later TONIGHT (Sat., April 9, 2022), as UFC 273 is set to go down from inside VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. Headlining the event will be a Featherweight title fight between division kingpin, Alexander Volkanovski, and Chan Sung Jung. In the co-main event, Bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling will defend his belt against current interim champion, Petr Yan.
Volkanovski, it seems, still does not get the level of respect a champion of his caliber should be getting. And much of that is because he defeated Max Holloway on two separate occasions. Why is that a bad thing? It’s not, really. It should be a good thing because Holloway is one of the best 145-pound fighters of all time. But, he is a fan favorite and most fans can’t accept that “The Great” defeated him twice, yes, even in the rematch that so many seem to want to debate. It seems the only way Volkanovski will get the respect — at least from his critics — is if he defeats “Blessed” a third time, which in all actuality isn’t necessary. For now, the 145-pound champion has a new challenge ahead of him in the form of Chan Sung Jung.
“Korean Zombie” got the opportunity after Holloway was forced out (read details here). Jung, like Holloway, will have a height and reach advantage over Volkanovski, but “The Great” is usually faced with that obstacle with most of his foes and it’s never been a problem for him since he hasn’t tasted defeat in nearly a decade. And as admirable of a challenge as “Korean Zombie” will be, I just don’t think he will be the one to dethrone the Aussie. Volkanovski may be giving up height and reach, but he packs more power and has better wrestling. Jung may have him covered in the submission department, but as he showed in his fight against Brian Ortega, Volkanovski can — and will — defend those submission attempts very well. At the end of the day, we are bound to be treated to a great five-round war, because for as great as Volkanovski has been, Jung is battle-tested and to take him out you have to be on your “A” game, mistake-free ... or hope to land a Hail May knockout blow. That’s not to say that Jung can’t pull off the upset because, well, anything can happen, but Volkanovski is too well-put-together when it comes to his gameplans, and barring any mistakes on his part, he should walk out with a unanimous decision and his title.
We can’t complain too much here. It’s a great well-rounded card with two title fights and several complementary bouts surrounding it. In fact, it could be the deepest card UFC has put on in 2022 to date.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
Irene Aldana was set to face off against Aspen Ladd at this event, but was forced to withdraw from the fight for undisclosed reasons. Stepping in to take her place is former title contender, Raquel Pennington. Also, Kelvin Gastelum was in line to face Nassourdine Imavov in a meaningful Middleweight bout, which was ultimately scratched after Imavov encountered visa issues. As a result, UFC matchmakers yanked Dricus Du Plessis from his bout against Anthony Hernandez to face Gastelum, which was then scrapped for “fishy” reasons. Hernandez, meanwhile, will now face UFC newcomer Josh Fremd (read details here). Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Marcin Tybura were set to throw down in a pivotal Heavyweight bout, which was ultimately derailed after Tybura was deemed medically unfit to compete by the athletic commission on weigh-in day.
After Gastelum got a late replacement in Du Plessis, the former The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) winner came down with an injury one week later and was unfortunately forced out of the event, too. Ilir Latifi was forced out of his fight against Aleksei Oleinik due to an undisclosed illness. He was eventually replaced by Jared Vanderra.
Undefeated (7-0) Strawweight sensation Piera Rodriguez will make her Octagon debut, taking on Kay Hansen on the undercard. “La Fiera” made her way onto the big show by winning a unanimous decision on Contender Series in Oct. 2021. Despite going without a win (0-2) in her last two outings inside the Octagon, Hansen is a formidable challenge for Rodriguez. Hansen began her UFC journey at the young age 21 with an impressive submission win over Jinh Yu Frey, but has since dropped back-to-back fights to Jasmine Jasudavicius and Cory McKenna. She needs a big win here to convince UFC matchmakers to keep her around a bit longer ... especially after her scale fail.
Daniel Santos will face off against Julio Arce in a Bantamweight affair in his first official fight for the promotion. Santos is 8-1 so far in an MMA career that began nearly 10 years ago as a professional. He hasn’t competed since 2019 so it will be interesting to see if ring rust will be a factor when he steps foot on the biggest combat stage in the world. Arce, meanwhile, is trying to earn a trip back to the winner’s circle after he was knocked out by Yong Sadong in his last outing, which was his second loss in the last three UFC bouts.
Winner of three straight fights, Mike Malott earned his way to the Octagon with a 39-second submission win over Shimon Smotritsky on Contender Series. The only loss on his record came against current UFC veteran, Hakeem Dawodu, under the now-defunct World Series of Fighting (WSOF) banner. He will face off against a once-rising star in Mickey Gall. After earning three straight wins inside the Octagon against Mike Jackson, Sage Northcutt and Phil Brooks (a.k.a. CM Punk), Gall has alternated wins and losses in his next seven fights to earn a 3-4 record. He is coming off a loss to Alex Morono, and he is now trying to avoid the first back-to-back losses of his career.
Fremd was initially set to face Du Plessis on this card before he was switched over to face Hernandez. Fremd is currently on a two-fight win streak and has won seven of his last eight fights. A long-time veteran of LFA, Fremd does have a bevy of experience under his belt. As for Hernandez, he is 2-2 so far in his young UFC career, so he needs to rack up wins on a more consistent basis to get some momentum going for himself.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
We have already discussed several fights going down on the undercard, so let us dive into the ones we have yet to touch on, shall we?
Paddy Pimblett is getting all the love and attention, but I think Ian Garry shows more promise than him and when it’s all said and done, will have a better UFC career overall. Sure, he’s not as flashy and boisterous as “The Baddy,” but Garry has the raw talent that can take him places. His next challenge will be against Darrian Weeks, who came up short in his UFC debut against Bryan Barberena. Weeks, meanwhile, has a big chance here to steal Garry’s shine if he can pull off the upset.
Former title contender, Raquel Pennington, will look for her fourth straight win when she battles Aspen Ladd in a crucial Featherweight fight. Since losing to Holly Holm in 2020, Pennington has quietly gone on her run to hang around the Top 10. Ladd is currently ranked No. 4 — three spots ahead of “Rocky” — even though she has struggled as of late, going 1-2 in her last three fights. A win here for either woman is crucial because Pennington can possibly crash the Top 5 with a victory, while Ladd can put herself in title contention.
Mark Madsen and Vinc Pichel will taango in a Lightweight scrap that has all the makings of a grappler’s delight. Madsen — the former Olympic silver medalist — will obviously have the advantage, but Pichel is adamant that taking him down won’t be as easy as Madsen thinks. Pichel — who is 7-1 in his last eight fights — wants to make a statement by handing Madsen his first-ever MMA loss. And if he manages to do so it would do wonders for his career. For Madsen, defeating Pichel would be a good way to remind everyone just how dangerous he is and the kind of potential problems he can provide for the Top 10 since he has been out of action for nearly eight months.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Long-time UFC veteran, Aleksei Oleinik, will lock horns with Jared Vanderaa — a late addition to the event — in Heavyweight action. Oleinik has seen better days, dropping his last four fights inside the Octagon, with his last win coming in May 2020. Staring down the barrel of five straight losses, Oleinik’s UFC career could come to an end should that come to fruition. The man attempting to give him his fifth straight defeat is Vanderaa, who has lost his last two fights. In fact, it’s safe to say both of these men are in desperate need of a win if they want to hang on to their UFC spots.
Interest Level: 8.5/10
After months of back-and-forth of trash talking and accusations, Yan and Sterling will finally get to settle their beef after their first fight ended in a controversial manner. Yan hit Sterling with an illegal knee, which really rocked “Funkmaster.” As a result, Yan was disqualified and Sterling was crowned the new champion of the Bantamweight division. Now, Sterling has the chance to prove that he is the better fighter of the two, all while backing up all the verbal venom he spewed over the last few months. For Yan — who won the interim title by defeating Cory Sandhagen last summer — he wants nothing more than to become an undisputed champion one more time, while silencing his outspoken foe. After all, no one likes to lose their title ... especially in that disastrous manner.
While the event is highlighted by two great title fights, the bout most people are looking forward to is the one featuring the highly-anticipated return of Khamzat Chimaev, who takes on former Welterweight title challenger, Gilbert Burns. Chimaev’s rise was quick and entertaining thanks to four straight finishes to start his UFC career with a bang. But, the biggest knock on him is the level of competition he’s faced thus far. Those questions will be answered against Burns, who is currently the No. 2-ranked fighter at 170 pounds. Burns didn’t get the spot by accident — he is one of the most well-round fighters in the division. While he is known for his Brazilian jiu-jitsu, along the way he’s upped his striking attack to give his foes something else to worry about. For Chimaev, defeating Burns puts him in the Top 5 and gets him closer to a shot at the title and the chance to prove that he’s more than just a hype machine. For Burns, derailing Chimaev’s path to the top might just be what gets him another shot at the strap, especially if it comes via knockout. This is definitely the “People’s Main Event.”
After suffering the first loss of her career against Amanda Ribas back in 2019, Mackenzie Dern reeled off four straight wins to push herself all the way up to the No. 5 spot in the women’s Strawweight division. In her last bout, unfortunately, she came up short against Marina Rodriguez, giving her just the second loss of her MMA career, once again halting her progress and championship aspirations. She will look to re-start her progress against Tecia Torres, who is on a great run, winning her last three fights inside the Octagon. That’s a drastic difference from a horrid four-fight streak she went on from 2018-2019, which almost ended her UFC career. If she can nab her fourth straight win against Dern, expect “Tiny Tornado” to infiltrate the Top 5. A loss for Dern, meanwhile, may have her contemplating switching divisions for greener pastures.
UFC 273 PPV Main Event on ESPN+:
145 lbs.: UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski vs. “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung
UFC 273 PPV Main Card on ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
135 lbs.: UFC Bantamweight Champion Aljamain Sterling vs. Interim Bantamweight Titleholder Petr Yan
170 lbs.: Gilbert Burns vs. Khamzat Chimaev
115 lbs.: Mackenzie Dern vs. Tecia Torres
185 lbs.: Kelvin Gastelum vs. Dricus Du Plessis— CANCELED (details here)
155 lbs.: Mark Madsen vs. Vinc Pichel
UFC 273 ‘Prelims’ Under Card on ESPN/ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Ian Garry vs. Darian Weeks
185 lbs.: Anthony Hernandez vs. Josh Fremd (not Dricus Du Plessis)
135 lbs.: Raquel Pennington vs. Aspen Ladd
170 lbs.: Mickey Gall vs. Mike Malott
265 lbs.: Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Marcin Tybura— CANCELED (details here)
UFC 273 Early ‘Prelims’ on ESPN+/UFC Fight Pass (6:30 p.m. ET):
265 lbs.: Aleksei Oleinik vs. Jared Vanderaa
135 lbs.: Julio Arce vs. Daniel Santos
115 lbs.: Kay Hansen vs. Piera Rodriguez
*Fight card, bout order and number of fights remain subject to change due to COVID-19.*
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 273 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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