FightWatch- UFC 273: Volkanovski vs. Zombie
By Mick Robson
Back in Jacksonville, Florida, but this time it's not for an AEW show. Rather, we're getting back to MMA! Today's UFC PPV offering boasts two title fights from a couple of the more action-packed divisions in the UFC.
Headlining the night is Alexander Volkanovski, defending his UFC Featherweight Championship against veteran contender Chan Sung Jung, the "Korean Zombie". Volko is on a 20 fight win streak coming into this third title defence. He first put on a master-class of striking to take the title from Max Holloway, before squeezing a narrow decision in a rematch. And because of that close decision, Volkanovski has attracted a ton of hate. Like, he's not a judge. Some haters even try and say he's 0-2 against Max, but he definitively shut "Blessed" down the first time. Even a Fight of the Year candidate last time out against Brian Ortega hasn't quelled the doubters.
Zombie is a long-time fan favourite, and if he was fighting anyone else, I'd be on his side all the way. He's no stranger to exciting fights, having won Fight of the Night many times against the likes of Dustin Poirier, Leonard Garcia and the aforementioned Ortega. He lost a good chunk of his prime to Korean mandated military service, but made a statement in his last bout against Dan Ige in a five-rounder. But Volko is a local boy from Windang, so I gotta support the champ this time out.
The co-main is a bantamweight title fight between Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan. Sterling won the title due to a blatant illegal knee from Yan. People don't like it, but rules are rules. Sterling hasn't helped matters by crowing in a similar manner to the King of Cringe, Henry Cejudo. Yan is a killing machine at the best of times, so this should be a nail-biter.
Finally, of the featured fights, the hype train of Khamzat Chimaev is put to the test. The man who became a phenom on Fight Island, winning twice in 10 days and absorbing only ONE significant strike in his UFC career to this point, takes a major step up against #2 ranked Gilbert Burns. No title on the line, but a big fight feel for sure.
Let's do this!
Fight Pass Prelims
Fight 1: (Catchweight- 136.5) Julio Arce def. Daniel Santos via unanimous decision (30-27 X 2, 29-28)
Thoughts: Fun fight where both men showed a lot of aggression, but Arce was just that bit sharper and more active. Santos had a good accounting of himself and is sure to shine in another prelim spot in the future, as he had his moments against the much more experienced Arce.
Fight 2: (W Catchweight-118.5) Piera Rodriguez def. Kay Hansen via UD (29-28 X 3)
Thoughts: Rodriguez just used her grappling acumen to take Hansen down and control much of the fight. Hansen being one of the youngest fighters on the UFC roster is a cool little stat, but it also means that she has a lot more learning and growing to do. Back to the drawing board after some early promise, as this is 3 straight losses AND a weight miss for Hansen. She might be better off gaining some more experience in smaller promotions and working her way back. At 22 years old, she's got nothing but time.
Fight 3: (265) Alexey Oleynik def. Jared Vanderaa via submission (scarf hold) at 3:29 of R1
Thoughts: I love watching Oleynik fight. He looks so uncoordinated and outmatched, and then he somehow pulls the submission out. After getting cracked a little early, he engages in grappling- only to end up in a seemingly bad position on the ground. Then he somehow reverses position- in a way that seemed less about finesse and more about sheer willpower- and locks in the scarf hold on the much younger Vanderaa for yet another submission victory.
Fight 1: (170) Mike Malott def. Mickey Gall via TKO (punches) at 3:41 of R1
Thoughts: This is listed as a TKO, but our boy Gall faceplanted. Commentary were talking up Gall's improvements and confidence in striking, and it certainly was there, but Malott connected on the sweet spot for a very impressive UFC debut. Malott referred to Gall as "a veteran" in his post-fight interview, and I guess at this stage, he kind of is. We're six years removed from the CM Punk debacle, and I suddenly feel very old. Definitely an explosive way to kick off the ESPN prelims!
Fight 2: (W-135) Raquel Pennington def. Aspen Ladd via UD (29-28 X 3)
Thoughts: Impressive performance by Rocky, more accurate and active with her striking over 15 minutes. Ladd was game, and really pushed the pace in the 3rd round, trying to incorporate her grappling, but in the end, the early pressure from Pennington gave her the nod. She took the fight on 9 days notice, so all the respect in the world to her.
Fight 3: (185) Anthony Hernandez def. Josh Fremd via UD (30-27 X 2, 29-28)
Thoughts: Joe Rogan used the same word I was using to describe Hernandez's performance- relentless. The gas tank was seemingly never ending between heavy amounts of grappling and submission attempts, and some moderate levels of striking, but Fremd showed a ton of heart and had some moments of his own in the second round. The mix of Hernandez returning from a long injury lay-off, and Fremd making his UFC debut, resulted in a battle of two men with something to prove, and it made for a hell of a fight!
Fight 4: (170) Ian Garry def. Darian Weeks via UD (29-28, 30-27 X 2)
Thoughts: I was very surprised at the 30-27s, as it seemed like Weeks largely shut Garry's game down in the first round with grappling. I'm not overly impressed with Garry- he got the next two rounds in mediocre fashion, and comes across completely like a Conor McGregor wanna-be. Post-fight, he led the crowd in the "Ole" singing, which was a bit cringe. McGregor never had to ask for the crowd support like that.
Fight 1: (155) Mark Madsen def. Vinc Pichel via UD (30-27 X 2, 29-28)
Thoughts: This was a fairly dull way to open the PPV. The third round featured Madsen showing off a lot of his wrestling dominance, but R1 and R2 were fairly uneventful on both sides, with Madsen managing to be a shade more active. By the end of the fight, it seemed clear he was the winner, but it was nothing to write home about.
Fight 2: (W-115) Mackenzie Dern def. Tecia Torres via split decision (28-29, 29-28 X 2)
Thoughts: Gotta give Dern credit, her dodgy accent aside, she's made definite, significant improvements in her striking. She hurt and stunned Torres on a number of occasions, and that allowed her to move to her bread and butter, the grappling game. The second round was particularly fun as she climbed Torres like a spider monkey and locked in a standing kimura, but Tecia was able to carry her for a good length of time before eventually working her way out of the submission and surviving the round. Big improvement on the dull opener, and a statement win for Dern.
Fight 3: (170) Khamzat Chimaev def. Gilbert Burns via UD (29-28 X 3)
Thoughts: This was meant to be a test, a step up for the surging Khamzat, and boy, was it? The previously unhittable fighter got blasted every which way by the top ranked Burns. Khamzat did almost get a first round stoppage, but Burns recovered and fired back, rocking his shit in the second round and bloodying him up. By the end, it was so close that many saw a Khamzat victory as a bit of a robbery, and Dana White said post fight that he would pay Burns his win bonus as well. It was a fantastic fight!
Fight 4: UFC Bantamweight Championship- Aljamain Sterling (C) def. Petr Yan (IC) via SD (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
Thoughts: This had even more controversy in the scoring than the previous fight, and none of the fight quality. A pedestrian first round seemed to lean in Yan's favour, and then rounds 2 & 3 saw Aljo take the back and get a lot of ground control time. Yan prevented that from happening in the final 2 rounds, and although nothing spectacular happened, he appeared to gain the edge in the fight. So Sterling is now the undisputed champ... but it's still pretty disputed. Not very fun to watch at all.
Main Event: UFC Featherweight Championship- Alexander Volkanovski def. Chan Sung Jung via TKO (punches) at 0:45 of R4
Thoughts: Maybe now Volko will get the respect he deserves. He beat the holy hell out of Zombie for the whole fight, with the challenger getting very little offense in himself, although obviously swinging back with power. Volkanovski dropped Zombie a couple of times and increasingly caused more visible damage to the face, to the point that he stopped at the beginning of Round 4 to ask Zombie if he was sure he wanted to fight. Zombie barely got out of the 3rd round, and Herb Dean saw enough very early into the championship rounds. Essentially a flawless performance from Volkanovski.
Reading the results doesn't give the full story of this fight card. You might look at the number of decisions against the number of finishes and think it was a boring card, but it was anything but. We had some absolute wars, with the highlight of the main card being Chimaev vs. Burns, and Dern vs. Torres not being far behind. Volko put on a stellar one-man show, and the prelims were filled with motivated fighters throwing down.
Madsen vs. Pichel and Sterling vs. Yan is largely a waste of your 40 minutes though. Definitely more good (to great) than bad in this show.
Until next time, take care.