This is a terrific card.
Sometimes the best way to say something is to just say it, and the best way for me to convey what I think about this weekend’s return to pay-per-view is to simply tell you this is a terrific card.
With two championship fights, one of which carries a ton of tension and animosity, plus a handful of critical matchups in talent-rich divisions, and a couple top prospects sprinkled in for good measure, UFC 273 features everything you could ask for in a fight card. Plus there are bound to be one or two surprises, the crowd in Jacksonville will be vocal and boisterous from the jump, and we’re going to get a whole lot of clarity on how things shape up at the top of not one, not two, but three divisions once the smoke clears from the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena this weekend.
Here’s a look at Saturday’s fight card to start getting you excited for UFC 273.
Alexander Volkanovski vs Chan Sung Jung
For the second time in eight months, a featherweight title fight headlines a UFC pay-per-view event, as Alexander Volkanovski searches for his third successful title defense as he squares off with veteran contender Chan Sung Jung.
The champion enters Saturday’s main event on a 20-fight winning streak, including victories in each of his first 10 UFC assignments. Only three other competitors have built double-digit winning streaks inside the Octagon without incurring a loss — Royce Gracie, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Kamaru Usman, which puts the Australian champion in exclusive company.
And Volkanovski merits being included amongst the best to ever grace the UFC cage — there are no holes in his game, offensively or defensively, and his Fight IQ is off the charts. Last time out, he dominated Brian Ortega, taking the fight to the challenger from the outset and working free from two deep submission attempts to secure his second successful title defense.
Jung enters Saturday’s contest off a unanimous decision victory over Dan Ige last June, tagging in for the injured Max Holloway as a live underdog looking to make the most of his second short-notice championship opportunity. The 35-year-old veteran previously fought for the featherweight title at UFC 163, suffering a fifth-round stoppage loss to Jose Aldo after replacing Anthony Pettis.
One of the most durable and dangerous fighters in the division, Jung has earned four wins in six appearances since returning to action following his mandatory military service, including first-round stoppage wins over Renato Moicano and Frankie Edgar. He’s an unrelenting offensive fighter with incredible durability, and will be looking to push Volkanovski from the outset.
Will the champion retain his title or will the challenger rise to the occasion and ascend to the throne?
Aljamain Sterling vs Petr Yan
Before Volkanovski and Jung do battle for the featherweight title, Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan clash for a second time to crown a new undisputed UFC bantamweight champion.
Sterling won the first meeting by disqualification after getting lambasted with an illegal knee late in the fourth round of their initial encounter at UFC 259, claiming the bantamweight title in the process. He had neck surgery soon after the contest and when he wasn’t cleared to compete last October, Yan faced off with Cory Sandhagen for an interim title, leaving Abu Dhabi with the belt over his shoulder.
Now the rivals will run it back in Jacksonville, squaring off for a second time to determine once and for all which of them is the top talent in the 135-pound weight class.
Sterling was on the best run of his career heading into their first meeting, having posted five straight victories, including a first-round submission win over Sandhagen, while Yan had won his first seven appearances inside the Octagon, claiming the vacant bantamweight strap with a fifth-round finish of Jose Aldo at UFC 251.
Each man believes they are the superior talent and aim to prove that beyond any possible doubt this weekend, which means fans in attendance and everyone watching at home should be treated to one helluva fight on Saturday night.
Gilbert Burns vs Khamzat Chimaev
The tandem championship fights closing out the show might not even be the most intriguing matchups on Saturday’s card, as welterweight contender Gilbert Burns squares off with Khamzat Chimaev in what is easily the unstoppable juggernaut’s toughest test to date.
Burns turned a short-notice assignment in August 2019 into a permanent move to welterweight, posting four straight victories to secure a championship opportunity. After rocking champ Kamaru Usman right out of the gate, the Brazilian ultimately succumbed to his former training partner and close friend, but rebounded last July with a dominant decision win over Top 10 fixture Stephen Thompson.
Through four appearances inside the Octagon, Chimaev has out-landed opponents 112-1 in terms of significant strikes, mixing in four takedowns, five submission attempts, and nearly eight minutes of control time while amassing four consecutive stoppage wins. The 27-year-old terror has pitched a shutout in each of his last three fights, securing first-round finishes over Rhys McKee, Gerald Meerschaert (at middleweight), and Li Jingliang to stand as the most dominant and intriguing emerging talent on the roster.
The Brazilian veteran is a different fighter than anyone Chimaev has faced thus far — a well-rounded, battle-tested, former title challenger with a 13-4 record in the Octagon. But “Borz” looks like a different animal, as well — an ultra-confident competitor who quickly and emphatically imposes his will on whomever stands across from him, punishing them for deigning to believe they can halt his climb towards the top of the division.
This is the massive test everyone has been waiting to see Chimaev tackle, and how it plays out will have an immediate and significant impact on how things line up in the welterweight division in the second half of the year.
Mackenzie Dern vs Tecia Torres
Mackenzie Dern and Tecia Torres square off in this pivotal clash of Top 10 strawweights looking to cement their place in the rankings to begin their respective 2022 campaigns.
Four straight victories including an April submission win over Nina Nunes carried Dern into the Top 3 in the 115-pound weight class last fall, but a loss to Brazilian contender Marina Rodriguez slowed her momentum. Now the 29-year-old Brazilian jiu jitsu world champion looks to get back in the win column with a victory over the experienced divisional stalwart Torres.
The 32-year-old Torres went 10-1 in her first 11 bouts before suffering through a four-fight losing streak built on losses to three former champions and the aforementioned Rodriguez. She snapped out of her funk with a win over Brianna Fortino (nee Van Buren) in June 2020, followed it up with a dominant effort against Sam Hughes six months later, and made it three straight with a unanimous decision triumph over Angela Hill in her lone appearance of last year.
This is a tremendously compelling fight, as Dern has shown flashes of championship upside, but struggled when she cannot dictate the terms of engagement, while Torres has gotten back to her high-output ways during her current run of success. It will be interesting to see if Dern can hang with the veteran kickboxer on the feet and how Torres acquits herself if the action hits the canvas on Saturday night.
Aleksei Oleinik vs Jared Vanderaa
Aleksei Oleinik’s quest to claim his 60th career win was delayed a couple weeks and now comes against a different opponent, as Jared Vanderaa steps in for Ilir Latifi in this matchup against the one-of-a-kind veteran grappler.
The 44-year-old Oleinik has been stuck on 59 victories since edging out Fabricio Werdum in the summer of 2020. Stoppage losses to Derrick Lewis and Chris Daukaus were followed by a unanimous decision defeat at the hands of Serghei Spivac last June, leaving “The Boa Constrictor” on the first three-fight losing streak of his career heading into this one.
Vanderaa has been one of the more active heavyweights in the UFC since joining the roster after a dominant showing on Season 4 of Dana White’s Contender Series. He made three starts last year, sandwiching a win over Justin Tafa between stoppage losses to Spivac and Alexander Romanov, and already stepped into the Octagon earlier this year, dropping a split decision to former champ Andrei Arlovski at UFC 271 in Houston.
Will Oleinik secure his elusive 60th victory or can Vanderaa avoid a three-fight losing streak of his own to prolong the veteran’s wait?
Raquel Pennington vs Aspen Ladd
Ranked bantamweights coming off very different results collide her as Raquel Pennington steps in on short notice to take on Aspen Ladd.
There was a point when Pennington had to feel snake-bitten, as she dealt with major injuries and a scary ATV accident following the biggest win of her career at UFC 205, then struggled thought a 1-3 stretch upon her return to action. Since then, however, the former Ultimate Fighter contestant has posted a trio of victories, capped by a second-round submission win over Macy Chiasson last December.
After suffering a serious knee injury midway through 2020, Ladd was poised to return against Chiasson last July, only to have the bout postponed until October when Chiasson was injured, and then canceled entirely when Ladd weighed in over the bantamweight limit. The Northern California native hustled into a featherweight matchup with Norma Dumont soon after, but landed on the wrong side of the results, sending her into Saturday’s contest with plenty to prove.
This is a low-risk, high-reward situation for Pennington, who replaces Irene Aldana, as she gets the opportunity to face a Top 5 fighter and potentially extend her winning streak to four, while Ladd remains tasked with taking on an experienced, capable veteran as she looks to get things back on track in 2022.
Ian Garry vs Darian Weeks
Ian Garry looks to follow up his memorable debut with a similar effort in his sophomore outing, while Darian Weeks looks to build off a quality showing in defeat on short notice in his first UFC appearance with a full training camp.
Garry entered 2021 as one of the top prospects in the sport and quickly showed why with tandem wins under the Cage Warriors banner, winning welterweight gold before signing with the UFC. The unbeaten Irishman moved to South Florida to train at Sanford MMA and made his promotional debut at Madison Square Garden, collecting a stoppage win over Jordan Williams in the final second of the opening round at UFC 268 to push his record to 8-0.
After having to withdraw from a Contender Series assignment due to COVID protocols in September, Weeks got the call to replace Matt Brown opposite Bryan Barberena in December, giving “Bam Bam” a run for his money on short notice. Buoyed by that effort and back after logging a full training camp, the former amateur standout looks to send shockwaves through the division by handing Garry his first loss this weekend.
Will Garry continue to prove he’s one of the most promising young talents on the UFC roster or can Weeks slow his climb up the rankings?
Anthony Hernandez vs Josh Fremd
Entering off one of the biggest upsets of 2021, Anthony Hernandez looks to collect a second straight victory as he welcomes Josh Fremd to the Octagon for the first time.
Hernandez collected a Performance of the Night bonus in his lone appearance of last year after rallying and submitting multiple-time Brazilian jiu jitsu world champion Rodolfo Vieira at UFC 258. The DWCS grad has struggled to find consistency since joining the roster, so it will be interesting to see if his massive win over Vieira last year in Las Vegas will the catalyst for a run of success.
Fremd landed a UFC deal after an impressive victory in February in front of Dana White and the Lookin’ for a Fight crew and sports a 9-2 record overall. The Factory X Muay Thai representative has won two straight and seven of his last eight appearances, with his lone setback coming against current UFC middleweight Gregory Rodrigues.
This one came together on short notice after some lineup reshuffling, with each man having roughly the same amount of time to prepare for this weekend’s events. Each has flashed upside and quality finishing abilities at times, making this an intriguing preliminary card pairing with sneaky Fight of the Night potential on Saturday.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs Marcin Tybura
Top 10 heavyweights looking to begin the year with a victory clash at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena this weekend as Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Marcin Tybura share the Octagon on Saturday.
“Bigi Boy” raced out of the gates with four straight stoppage wins during his 2019 rookie year, but has alternated losses and wins in his five fights since. The 34-year-old Rozenstruik has only lost to elite contenders, while collecting all six of his UFC wins — and 11 of his 12 victories overall — inside the distance, and will be looking to maintain that streak against Tybura.
The veteran from Poland snapped out of a 1-4 run and two-fight skid by rattling off five straight victories between February 2020 and June 2021, capped by consecutive stoppage wins over Greg Hardy and Walt Harris. Alexander Volkov at UFC 267 halted his run of success, and now he aims to get things moving in the right direction again with a victory over Rozenstruik in Florida.
Things are unsettled in the heavyweight division at the moment, with current champ Francis Ngannou having recently undergone knee surgery and several top-end talents earning major wins. How this one shakes out will influence how things get booked in the second half of the year, and determine which of these two will remain a fixture in the Top 10 going forward.
Mickey Gall vs Mike Malott
Mickey Gall begins his seventh year on the UFC roster by welcoming DWCS grad and Team Alpha Male member Mike Malott to the Octagon for the first time this weekend.
Now 30, Gall has alternated wins and losses since his highly publicized clash with CM Punk at UFC 203, falling to more established competitors and besting similarly inexperienced foes. There have been times where it looks like the New Jersey native is poised to put it all together and go on a run, but those sharp efforts have repeatedly been followed by inconsistent showings.
Malott ended an extended hiatus from competition in 2020 with a first-round submission win over Solomon Renfro and followed it up last fall with a 39-second finish of Shimon Smotritsky, putting away his unbeaten foe with Team Alpha Male’s signature guillotine choke. The 30-year-old Canadian has fought solid competition throughout his career, with his only loss coming to featherweight standout Hakeem Dawodu, and looks to begin his UFC tenure with an impressive win this weekend.
Gall is hoping his “win one, lose one” pattern holds after dropping a decision to Alex Morono last time out, while Malott is keen on handing him a second consecutive defeat for the first time in his career. This should be an energetic fight that will likely end inside the distance on Saturday in Jacksonville.
Julio Arce vs Daniel Santos
Veteran Julio Arce looks to get things moving in the right direction to start his 2022 campaign as he takes on Brazilian newcomer Daniel Santos in this intriguing preliminary card pairing in the bantamweight division.
Arce has split time between the featherweight and bantamweight divisions over the years, returning to the 135-pound weight class last summer with a second-round stoppage win over Andre Ewell. He was paired off with and stopped by Song Yadong in his follow-up assignment in November, and looks to continue his pattern of rebounding from each UFC setback with an impressive stoppage victory.
The 27-year-old Santos is a complete question mark at this point, having last competed more than two years ago. A member of the Chute Boxe Diego Lima team, “Willycat” brings a 10-1 professional record with stoppages in seven of his last eight victories with him into his promotional debut this weekend.
Vinc Pichel vs Mark O. Madsen
Grinders on the cusp of cracking the Top 15 in the rugged lightweight division meet here, as Vinc Pichel takes on unbeaten Danish Olympian Mark O. Madsen.
Pichel is one of the most unheralded talents on the UFC roster, brandishing a 14-2 record overall and 7-2 mark inside the Octagon, including victories in each of his last three appearances. The 39-year-old TUF Live cast member has only lost to ranked competitors (Rustam Khabilov, Gregor Gillespie) and is the kind of tenacious, gritty, unrelenting soul that makes life hell for anyone that shares the Octagon with him.
Madsen went all-in on his mixed martial arts ambitions after winning a silver medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, logging six wins in 18 months to eventually earn a call to the Octagon. He’s since added three more wins to his resume, bringing his record to 11-0, and after narrowly edging out Clay Guida last August, “The Olympian” will look to take another step forward by stopping Pichel’s momentum here.
This has the potential to be a grappling-heavy affair between two dogged competitors that are fully aware of how important a victory this weekend is in terms of getting them where they want to go in the division. Don’t be surprised if this one sets the tone for the entire evening.
Piera Rodriguez vs Kay Hansen
Saturday’s action gets underway in the strawweight division, as DWCS grad Piera Rodriguez makes her promotional debut opposite Kay Hansen.
The 29-year-old Rodriguez impressed with her toughness and tenacity in earning a victory over Valesca Machado last fall on Dana White’s Contender Series, running her record to 7-0 in the process. The former LFA strawweight titleholder started her prep for this fight at Allstars Training Center in Stockholm before shifting to Orange County, where she’s been logging time at Blackhouse and the RVCA facility, which means “La Fiera” should be ready to go once the cage door closes on Saturday.
After taking the whole of 2021 off to deal with personal health issues, Hansen returned to action in January, dropping a decision to Jasmine Jasudavicius at flyweight, having some solid moments, but ultimately being physically overmatched by the taller, longer, stronger Canadian. Now back in her natural weight class, the 22-year-old looks to get things moving in a positive direction and re-establish herself as a person of interest going forward in the 115-pound weight class.
UFC 273: Volkanovski vs The Korean Zombie took place on Saturday, April 9, 2022, live from a sold out VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!