UFC 213 comes to us live from Las Vegas on Saturday night and it looks like a pretty solid card, even without the Cody Garbrandt vs. T.J. Dillashaw bantamweight championship fight that was originally scheduled to headline it. After Garbrandt was forced out with a back injury, the UFC still pieced together an exciting card that will feature two championship bouts, plus a handful of other fights that could have explosive finishes.
Amanda Nunes will defend the women’s bantamweight title against Valentina Shevchenko, an old foe, in the main event. Right before that, Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker will battle for the interim middleweight championship, as current champ Michael Bisping and potential challenger Georges St-Pierre sort out their respective injuries and scheduling conflicts. The card also features hard hitting heavyweights like Alistair Overeem and Travis Browne, plus entertaining lightweights Anthony Pettis (a former champion) and Jim Miller.
Read on for our official UFC 213 preview and our betting predictions (if you’re into that sort of thing).
Prelims on Fox Sports 1
Like usual, we’ll start off by quickly rattling through the preliminary fights that will air for free on Fox Sports 1 at 8:00 P.M. Eastern. The prelims feature a few relative unknowns, with a more famous name in Travis Browne (aka Mr. Ronda Rousey) headlining the non-pay-per-view portion of the card.
Belal Muhammad (-165) vs. Jordan Mein (+135)
The televised card kicks off with Belal Muhammad vs. Jordan Mein, two welterweights in their mid-to-late 20s trying to claw their way up the UFC ladder. We’ll keep this simple: Mein has lost two fights in a row and hasn’t won since 2014. He actually announced his retirement two years ago, before making a comeback. Muhammad, meanwhile, it coming of a decision victory over Randy Brown at UFC 208 and seems to be the more dangerous fighter.
Prediction: Muhammad by Decision.
Thiago Santos (-155) vs. Gerald Meerschaert (+125)
The second prelim fight also features two unranked fighters, this time in the middleweight division. Thiago Santos impressed the UFC enough on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 2 in 2013 to stick around with the company, but he’s only gone 6-4 since (including losing two of his last three fights). Gerald Meerschaert, on the other hand, is on a seven-fight win streak, and has finished every one of those victories (five submissions and two knockouts). It may his first appearance on a big UFC PPV after previously appearing twice on UFC Fight Night cards, but we think he’ll upset the betting odds.
Prediction: Meerschaert by Submission.
Chad Laprise (-600) vs. Brian Camozzi (+400)
Surprisingly, these odds aren’t even the most lopsided of the night, even with Chad Laprise being a massive favorite over Brain Camozzi in their welterweight battle Saturday night. The odds are a bit surprising, since Laprise (11-2) hasn’t fought in almost one full year (a win against Thibault Gouti) and actually lost his two fights before that. Camozzi (7-3) has less experience, but was on a five fight win streak before losing to Randy Brown in his UFC debut in December 2016. Additionally, Laprise was a late replacement for Alan Juban, Camozzi’s original opponent. The odds are juicy to pick an upset here.
Prediciton: Camozzi via Submission.
Travis Browne (-200) vs. Aleksei Oliynyk (+160)
Headline the prelims is Travis Browne vs. Aleksei Oliynyk, a battle between two huge men who are actually both ranked in the top 15 of the official UFC fighter rankings. Oddly enough, Browne is being considered the favorite here despite losing three in a row and five of his last seven (against admittedly tough opponents). Oliynyk has only lost a single fight in his last 13, dating back to 2012. Then again, he just turned 40 and definitely has a lot of wear and tear on his body, with a career MMA record of 51-10-1.
Browne has been on a serious slide lately, but we think he will right the ship on Saturday.
Prediction: Browne via Knockout.
Anthony Pettis (-240) vs. Jim Miller (+190)
Jim Miller is a nine-year UFC veteran at this point, but has never managed to work his way into a lightweight title fight, often following up a couple of wins with a couple of losses and ever really getting on a hot streak. He was on a three-fight win streak before falling to Dustin Poirier in February 2017 at UFC 208.
Pettis has been on a downward spiral ever since losing the UFC lightweight championship to Rafeal dos Anjos in March 2015. Including dropping the title, he has now four of his last five fights, the lone win coming against Charles Oliveira in August 2016. Pettis is coming off a fight against Max Holloway that was supposed to be for the interim featherweight title, but he missed weight by three pounds. It just seems like his career is a bit off the rails right now, so we’re putting on money Miller this time.
Prediction: Miller via Decision.
Alistair Overeem (-130) vs. Fabrico Werdum (EVEN)
We’ll be shocked if this fight goes to a decision, considering the incredible power in the hands (and feet) of Alistair Overeem and the all-around incredible skill of Fabricio Werdum. This is truly a battle of elite UFC heavyweights, as they are both ranked in the top five. They also share another trait, in that their only loses in the last few years have come to heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic. If you ignore losing to the champ, Overeem has five wins since 2014 and Werdum has seven since 2012.
The winner of this fight could very well be in line for another shot at Miocic and the title in the near future, so there’s a lot on the line. Both are in their late-30s and have a ton of MMA experience (combined they have 86 professional MMA fights, and that’s not even counting Overeem’s kickboxing stats). As you can see from the odds, the sportsbooks consider this one of the tightest calls of the night. We’re gonna go with the former champ, though:
Prediction: Werdum by Knockout.
Curtis Blaydes (-750) vs. Daniel Omielanczuk (+475)
Curtis Blaydes is, hands down, one of the best names in MMA. We assume he has a career lined up in professional wrestling when he’s done in the UFC. If he doesn’t, it’s a massive missed opportunity. All joking aside, he’s also a huge favorite over fellow heavyweight Daniel Omielanczuk on Saturday night. His career is just getting started, but he’s already 6-1 (and would be 7-1 if his last victory wasn’t turned into a no-contest when he tested positive for marijuana).
On the other side of the cage, Omielanczuk has lost two fights in a row under the UFC banner, both to guys ranked higher than him. The bookies obviously feel that at 34-years-old, Omielanczuk may be near the end of his career. After all, why else would they a 26-year-old unranked kid making his UFC PPV debut listed as such a heavy favorite? We can’t argue with them.
Prediction: Blaydes via Decision.
Yoel Romero (EVEN) vs. Robert Whittaker (-130)
Well, the UFC probably originally thought that this card might be headlined by Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre for the middleweight title. But injuries have kept them both out of action, and so the UFC is moving on and awarding the winner of this fight the interim middleweight championship, to be unified at a later date.
Much like the Overeem vs. Werdum fight, this contest features two of the very best in the weight class. Romero is the No. 1 ranked contender and Whittaker is right behind him at No. 3. Romero is 13-1 and hasn’t lost since 2011. Whittaker is 18-4 and hasn’t lost since 2014. As you can see from the betting odds, this fight is razor thin when it comes to making a prediction.
Romero is an explosive striker and a legit Olympic level wrestler. Whittaker has earned 18 wins in his MMA career, and 14 of them have come by knockout or submission, meaning that he regularly stops opponents. Likewise, Romero has 13 wins and 11 of them were knockouts. This fight isn’t likely to go to the judges.
Prediction: Romero via Knockout (because we really want to see Romero vs. Bisping sometime in the next year).
Amanda Nunes (-105) vs. Valentina Shevchenko (-125)
It feels like a while ago now, but Amanda Nunes was last seen inside an octagon knocking the stuffing out of former golden girl Ronda Rousey, and (probably) sending her into retirement for good. It was one of the most dominant 48-seconds in UFC history and firmly put Nunes into a starring role with the company.
We find it a bit strange, though that the odds for this title fight are so close. Valentina Shevchenko is a great fighter, so doubt, but she has already lost to Nunes. And it wasn’t even that long ago, as Nunes prevailed in a unanimous decision victory at UFC 196 in March 2016.
With all due respect to Shevchenko, we think Nunes is the real deal and could be the champion of this division for a long time to come. Plus there’s no value betting on Shevchenko, so we’re going with the champ.
Prediction: Nunes via Knockout.