UFC 213: Nunes vs. Shevchenko 2:
The MMA DFS Playbook is back again, this time for UFC 213. The UFC is back on home soil in Vegas for UFC 213: Nunes vs. Shevchenko 2, headlined by the rematch between Nunes and Shevchenko for the bantamweight title. In the co-main event, Robert Whittaker takes on Yoel Romero for the interim middleweight championship. Let’s get into the bouts worth playing or betting on.
Valentina Shevchenko ($8,200) vs. Amanda Nunes ($8,000)
Amanda Nunes looks to go 2-0 against Valentina Shevchenko when she defends her women’s bantamweight title in a highly-anticipated rematch. Since a loss to Cat Zingano in 2014, Nunes has been nothing short of dominant, winning 5 straight fights, and finishing every opponent not named Shevchenko. She defeated Miesha Tate in the main event of UFC 200 to capture the title, and then defended it against Ronda Rousey with a 48 second TKO. Shevchenko earned a rematch with dominant victories over tough competition in Holly Holm and Julianna Pena.
Nunes will likely stick to what got her here. She’s got lightning quick hands, and unreal punching power for the weight class. Her top game is excellent as well, as she displayed in the first fight with Shevchenko. In round 2 she nearly finished Shevchenko with brutal ground and pound, as well as a neck crank. It was a dominant round, and I had her winning that one 10-8.
Shevchenko has looked incredible since the loss to Nunes. She surprisingly out-struck Holm for 5 rounds en route to a lopsided victory on the scorecards. Then in January she defeated Pena via submission, despite being viewed by many as the inferior fighter on the mat. She looks to have improved immensely since the loss to Nunes, and this bout should be a good one.
Draftkings has Shevchenko as the slight favorite in pricing, and Vegas has it even with both fighters currently at -110, and I believe it’s warranted. This is a competitive match-up, and I feel like both fighters are the class of the division. For the fight itself, I believe we are going to see a new champion crowned. My biggest takeaway from the first fight was that Nunes looked dominant in the first 2 rounds, but would have lost if it were a 5-round bout. She gassed badly in the 3rd round, almost leading to her demise. With 2 more rounds, I believe we may have had a different winner. I think Part 2 could start off a lot like the first fight, with Nunes landing harder punches, and possibly winning the first 2 rounds. We’ve seen her gas tank become an issue in a few fights, and in this one I think it’s her downfall. Shevchenko rallies in the later rounds to steal a victory with a late stoppage. The pick is Shevchenko by TKO.
Robert Whittaker ($8,300) vs. Yoel Romero ($7,900)
Yet another interim title match gets the green light for UFC 213, as Aussie Robert Whittaker faces Yoel Romero to crown a middleweight interim champion. Current champ Michael Bisping is sidelined until late this year with a knee injury, with the winner of this bout likely facing him for a title unification bout, barring a potential super-fight with Georges St. Pierre.
Romero has looked downright scary since his UFC debut in 2013. His freakish combination of size and athleticism, combined with his ungodly punching power and elite wrestling has led to quite a few devastating stoppages, and has positioned him to capture UFC gold. He demonstrated a new wrinkle to his game, as he destroyed former champ Chris Weidman with a flying knee that promptly ended the fight. His gas tank is always a concern, but hasn’t factored much as he’s finished the majority of his 3-round fights within the distance.
Since moving to middleweight, Whittaker has looked incredibly dominant, winning all 6 of his fights in the division, and is on a 7-0 run overall. He’s incredibly well-rounded, and has finished top-notch competition in his last 2 bouts. His most recent win was the most impressive one to date, as he ran right through one of the all-time greats at middleweight, Jacare Souza. He avoided the takedowns from the jiu-jitsu world champion, and knocked him out with a stunning head kick and follow up punches.
This is potentially one of the best fights of the year for me personally. It’s not often that we get a match-up with 2 guys riding such long win streaks. Romero and Whittaker are the class of the division, and whoever wins this one, beats Bisping easily in my opinion. It should be a compelling fight while it lasts. Both men are elite strikers with huge knockout potential, so the stand-up will be interesting to watch. If it stays on the feet, I think Whittaker has the advantage. He’ll be quicker, and provide to be a more difficult target to hit. Romero will need to pick his shots if he wants to take home a KO victory. Also favoring Whittaker is his takedown defense. He’s defended 91% of takedown attempts in his UFC career, so if he can avoid being grounded by Romero, he should run away with this one late. Romero has managed to avoid letting his questionable cardio derail him in past fights, but those were all 3 round affairs. With this fight schedule for 5 rounds, I think his gas tank finally becomes a detriment. I’m taking Whittaker by TKO in the 4th round.
Curtis Blaydes ($9,500) vs. Daniel Omielanczuk ($6,700)
Curtis Blaydes and Daniel Omielanczuk have a golden opportunity to shine on the main card of a huge pay-per-view, and a chance to become a known commodity to fans. Blaydes is the huge favorite here, and his previous outings support that. Following a loss to Francis Ngannou, Blaydes knocked out Cody East and Adam Milstead. The win over Milstead was overturned due to a drug test failure, but his performances have warranted a step up in competition. Omielanczuk has lost his last 2 in a row over lower ranked fighters, and it looks like he’s being thrown to the wolves here.
This is going to be a quick, brutal fight in my opinion. Blaydes is the much bigger fighter, and will likely add to his knockout streak against Omielanczuk. Omielanczuk isn’t a UFC caliber fighter at this point, despite a victory over Aleksei Olienik on his resume. Both men will come out swinging, with Blaydes landing a huge blow to end the fight early. The pick is Blaydes by KO in the first round, earning his biggest victory to date.
Alistair Overeem ($8,400) vs. Fabricio Werdum ($7,800)
A compelling heavyweight bout with high stakes takes place when the #3 ranked Alistair Overeem takes on #1 ranked Fabricio Werdum. This will be the 3rd time they’ve faced off, with both fighters winning once against each other. A win will put one of these guys firmly back into the title picture. Werdum dominated the first bout, winning by kimura way back in 2006 under the Pride Fighting Championships banner. Overeem avenged the loss with a unanimous decision victory in Strikeforce, in one of the worst fights I’ve ever seen personally.
Draftkings has Overeem as the slight favorite, and I think they’re taking his last victory over Werdum into account with the pricing. Following a devastating loss to Stipe Miocic, Overeem rebounded in dominant fashion with a huge KO victory over Mark Hunt. His hands are going to be the key to a potential victory for him here, and he’ll have the advantage on the feet. With 74% successful strikes landed in the UFC, his best bet is to avoid Werdum’s slick submission game, and try to take him out standing.
Though Werdum has a competent striking game, the obvious path to victory for the Brazilian is to drag Overeem to the mat. Werdum is arguably the greatest grappler ever in the heavyweight division, and knows he can submit Overeem again. Though his submissions are elite, his takedown accuracy is not great, with a 31% success rate. In addition, Overeem has a 76% takedown defense rate, meaning Werdum will have to work extremely hard to submit him.
Unfortunately, I think this fight could end up being a carbon copy of the last time these 2 faced off, as Overeem’s advantage in the striking game, and Werdum’s advantage in the grappling department could lead to a stalemate and a boring fight. If there’s any other deciding factor for me, it’s Overeem’s mental game. He has proven time and again that he can be broken if the fight isn’t going his way. If that is the case here, then Werdum is taking a submission win. That is the most likely outcome in my opinion, and I’m rolling with that result. Werdum wins by submission late in the 3rd round.
Anthony Pettis ($8,900) vs. Jim Miller ($7,300)
Former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis returns to 155 lbs. looking for his first victory in the division since 2014. He’ll face longtime veteran Jim Miller in a bout with the potential for fireworks. Pettis will try to reverse his fortunes, as he’s dropped 4 out of his last 5 bouts after reigning atop of the lightweight division. Miller will also look to get back into the win column, as his 3-fight win streak was halted by Dustin Poirier in a compelling match at UFC 208.
For Pettis to win, he’ll have to get back to what he does best, and that’s controlling the stand-up portion of the fight. When he was dominating the division, he dismantled his opponents with slick muay thai and kickboxing. This dominance would lead to openings for his underrated submission game as well. If he’s able to pick apart Miller with punches, and mix in some of his nasty kicks, we could see a vintage Pettis performance.
The path to victory for Miller seems more challenging, albeit doable if he can hold his own on the feet. Miller is excellent in his striking defense, owning a career 62% strikes avoided stat line. Against Pettis, he’ll have to be elusive, or it could be a quick night. His best bet is to clinch on the feet, and make the stand-up game a dirty brawl to set up takedown attempts. Miller is nasty on the mat (13 submissions in 28 wins), and could submit Pettis if he’s careless enough.
While this could have been an exciting match-up a few years ago, I don’t believe this bout will be anything special. Miller is a shell of his former self, and Pettis seems to be stuck in a rut that he may not get out of. While there could be a few exciting exchanges, I see this being a slow paced striking clinic with Pettis landing the cleaner shots. Pettis gets back on the board with a decision victory.
Travis Browne ($8,600) vs. Aleksei Oleinik ($7,600)
A loser in 5 of his last 7 bouts, Travis Browne desperately needs a victory over Aleksei Olienik to potentially save his job. The heavyweight bout will serve as the featured preliminary fight on FS1. Browne was on his way to a victory over Derrick Lewis in his last appearance, before Lewis rallied to knock him out, extending his losing streak to 3. Olienik was last seen in January when he made UFC history with the first ever win via Ezekiel choke, improving his record inside the octagon to 3-1. While it was the first Ezekiel choke finish in the UFC, it was Olienik’s 10th total win via the choke.
Browne is absolutely in desperation mode at this point in his career. After opening 7-1-1 in his first 9 fights with the promotion, Browne has faltered against the elite of the division. The manner in which he has lost has been concerning, as he was badly knocked out in losses to Lewis, Cain Velasquez, and Andrei Arlovski. Olienik could be perceived as a step down in competition, but Browne will need to be at the top of his game to win. If he can avoid being taken down by the submission artist, he should be able to out strike Olienik.
Olienik is a straight forward fighter. He’s looking for the takedown, and he’s looking to submit you. The 40-year-old has 42 submission victories in 51 total wins. His striking game is not on par with Browne’s, so he’ll have to take him down to have a shot here in my eyes. A plodding style will get him stopped quick, so timing his takedowns accurately will be necessary.
I think Olienik is in over his head in this one. While Browne has been on a serious decline, he’s the far superior fighter in this match-up. I truly believe Olienik’s only shot at a victory is catching a fluke submission on a careless Travis Browne. Browne has a 83% takedown defense rate, so getting him to the mat will be difficult for Olienik. I would not be surprised to see some elbow strikes from Browne if Olienik stalls on a takedown against the cage. I’m taking Browne here. Olienik will get sloppy with a takedown attempt, and Browne will catch him with a big strike in the first round. Browne wins by KO in the first round.
Thiago Santos ($8,500) vs. Gerald Meerschaert ($7,700)
Thiago Santos looks to build on his win over Jack Marshman in February, when he faces Gerald Meerschaert. The win over Marshman put a stop to a disappointing 2-fight losing streak, following a promising 4-fight win streak. Meanwhile, Meerschaert has carved out a nice start to his UFC career with 2 straight submission victories, earning a step up in competition. Santos will undoubtedly be his toughest fight to date.
This fight is simple to dissect. If Santos can defend Meerschaert’s takedown attempts, he should be able to take him out on the feet. Santos has shown an impeccable striking prowess, but a lack of takedown defense, and the ground game in general. Improvements were definitely made prior to the Marshman fight, so if he’s continued to improve, this should be his fight to lose. Meerschaert is severely out-gunned by Santos on the feet, and I don’t believe he’ll be competent enough striking against Santos to find an opening for a takedown. Eventually Santos will land the knockout blow, and don’t be surprised if it’s another highlight-reel headkick. The pick is Santos by KO in the 1st round.