Amanda Nunes has already accomplished what her two immediate predecessors, Holly Holm and Miesha Tate, could not: defend the UFC women’s bantamweight title. At UFC 213 Nunes looks to put any questions about her place as the top fighter in the division behind her when she meets Valentina Shevchenko in a rematch of their March 2016 bout.
The first meeting was a three-round contest, and while Nunes took the first two rounds, Shevchenko turned the tables in the third stanza, leaving many to wonder just how the fight would have ended had it been a five-round bout. That question will be answered when the two meet in the main event of Saturday’s card.
In the co-main event, highly ranked middleweights Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker meet in a highly anticipated interim title fight. A little further down the card, heavyweight contenders Fabricio Werdum and Alistair Overeem look to make their case for the next shot at champion Stipe Miocic.
UFC 213 takes place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas with a pay-per-view main card following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.
Here are 10 reasons to watch the event.
While Nunes (14-4 MMA, 7-1 UFC) was on her championship run, Shevchenko (14-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC) defeated ex-champion Holly Holm and also Julianna Pena. Now, the two women, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA women’s bantamweight rankings, run back that first meeting.
This rematch is going to be about game plan. Will Nunes come out quicker against “Bullet” in pursuit of 14th career finish? Will Shevchenko slow the pace even further, knowing she has two additional rounds with which to work? Or will Shevchenko surprise “The Lioness” and aggressively deploy her muay Thai skills in the hopes of getting an early stoppage of her own?
This is the type of fight in which the slightest adjustment from the first meeting could make a big difference.
In Romero and Whittaker, we have two fighters who have gone undefeated since moving to middleweight.
Romero (12-1 MMA, 8-0 UFC), ranked No. 2 in the division, has posted an 8-0 record with six wins by knockout since “The Soldier of God” dropped from light heavyweight. No. 4-ranked Whittaker (18-4 MMA, 9-2 UFC) has gone 6-0 since moving up from welterweight, with “The Reaper” (aka “Bobby Knuckles”) winning four bouts by knockout.
Additionally, both fighters have won five fight-night bonus awards during their middleweight runs, including “Performance of the Night” bonuses in their last victories – Romero knocking out ex-champ Chris Weidman and Whittaker earning a TKO win over Ronaldo Souza.
While Romero has scary and unpredictable one-strike finishing power, Whittaker is the better overall striker, and he possesses what may be the key if this fight goes past two rounds: the better gas tank.
Despite his relative inexperience, oddsmakers have installed Curtis Blaydes as the biggest favorite on this fight card. Blaydes has appeared in only three UFC fights, but his mix of knockout power and formidable wrestling have some thinking the 26-year-old heavyweight has a bright future with the UFC.
His opponent, Daniel Omielanczuk (19-7-1 MMA, 4-4 UFC), is much more experienced than Blaydes (6-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC), with more than three times as many professional fights, including eight in the UFC.
This is the kind of fight that will tell us if Blaydes is ready to make the jump to ranked competition in his next bout or if he still needs some seasoning.
UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic doesn’t know who his next title defense will come against, but he does know the winner of the UFC 213 matchup between No. 2 ranked Werdum (21-6-1 MMA, 9-3 UFC) and No. 4 ranked Overeem (42-15 MMA, 7-4 UFC) is going to want another shot at the Cleveland, Ohio native.
Miocic took the belt from Werdum at UFC 198 with a first-round knockout, and in his first defense of that title, the champ knocked out Overeem at UFC 203. Both fighters recently told MMAjunkie they expect a shot at redemption.
UFC 213 marks the third meeting between Werdum and Overeem. Werdum won the first bout, submitting Overeem via kimura in 2006 under the PRIDE FC banner. Overeem evened the score with a unanimous-decision victory during the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament in 2011.
Anthony Pettis is in a pickle heading into UFC 213. The former lightweight champion lost three fights in a row between March 2015 and April 2016 and decided to try his hand at featherweight. He won his first bout at 145 pounds, but in his next outing, he missed weight, losing his opportunity to win the interim title on the scale.
That chance at the title became moot when he was knocked out in the third round of that bout with Max Holloway. Now, 1-4 in his past five contests, Pettis returns to lightweight in the hopes of getting his career back on track.
Standing in his way is Jim Miller (28-9 MMA, 17-8 UFC), who makes his record-tying 27th UFC appearance in this fight. He’s just the kind of combatant who will test Pettis (19-6 MMA, 6-5 UFC) in every way.
Miller is 3-1 in his last four fights, most recently dropping a majority decision to Dustin Poirier in February.
It’s been almost four years since Travis Browne enjoyed his last winning streak. Between April and December 2013, Browne ran off three straight first-round knockout wins and was one victory away from a heavyweight title shot. But he lost that title eliminator to Werdum via decision. Including that fight, Browne is 2-5 in his last seven contests, and he’s currently in the midst of a career worst three-fight losing skid.
Despite the rough patch, Browne (18-6-1 MMA, 9-6-1 UFC) is ranked No. 13 in the division. His hopes of holding onto that ranking rest on his ability to avoid the grappling expertise of Aleksei Oleinik (51-10-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC), who has 42 submission wins in his professional career, including the first Ezekiel choke in UFC history, which he scored in his last bout, a first-round stoppage of Viktor Pesta.
The last time Gerald Meerschaert went the distance was May 2014, when he dropped a unanimous decision to Sam Alvey on a North American Fighting Championship card. Since then, Meerschaert has gone 7-0 with seven finishes, and six of those have come in the first round. Included in those first-round stoppages are his two UFC bouts.
Meerschaert (26-8 MMA, 2-0 UFC), who has more than 10 years of professional MMA experience, gets his first step up in UFC middleweight competition at UFC 213 facing Thiago “Marreta” Santos (14-5 MMA, 6-4 UFC), who’s coming off a second-round “Performance of the Night” bonus-winning TKO win over Jack Marshman.
Belal Muhammad, the former Titan FC welterweight champion, entered the UFC on a 9-0 run. Four fights into his UFC career, Muhammad is now 11-2 after a 2-2 octagon run. He’s fared well over inexperienced fighters, most recently defeating Randy Brown by decision, but when his competition has more than a handful of UFC fights, Muhammad has faltered against those more experienced fighters.
Muhammad’s (11-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC) opponent at UFC 213, Jordan Mein, fits into the latter group, but he has not been all that active, fighting just once in the past two years after returning in December after a brief retirement. Mein (29-11 MMA, 3-3 UFC) lost that return bout, dropping a decision to Emil Meek.
This fight is an excellent status check for these two fighters who are both in their late 20s.
The first is these two have a preference for striking battles. Font (13-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC) is one of the more active strikers in the UFC bantamweight division while De Andrade (24-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) is more of a power striker with one-punch knockout power.
The second reason is that De Andrade has an impressive 75 percent takedown defense and that could negate any chance of Font using his wrestling skills to take this one to the mat.
And the third and final reason this fight is likely to feature striking? These two have combined for 24 knockout victories in their careers.
If you’re interested in checking out the newest UFC signings, you’re going to want to make sure you have your UFC Fight Pass subscription up to date; the two opening fights feature four promotional newcomers.
Each of these fighters brings a winning streak with him into UFC 213. Stamann has won his last six while Ware is unbeaten in four straight. As for Giles, his 9-0 record features eight stoppages while Bochnovic, whose only defeat came in his professional debut, has never been the distance.
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