UFC 213

Nunes x Shevchenko 2 / Romero x Whittaker

Picks, Parlay, and Predictions

Don't You Steal My Sunshine

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PICKS

Nunes x Shevchenko
Romero x Whittaker
Blaydes x Omielańczuk
Werdum x Overeem
Pettis x Miller
Oliynyk x Browne
Laprise x Camozzi
Santos x Meerschaert
Mein x Muhammad
Font x Andrade

Parlay

“WHAT AM I MISSING?” EDITION
Romero (+110)
Werdum (+100)
Pettis (-240)
Mein (+130)
$2.13 to win $27.02

PREDICTIONS

Take me down to the Paradise city, where the guys fight mean and the girls are gritty

Amanda Nunes x Valentina Shevchenko 2 for the Women’s Bantamweight Championship

After sinking her claws into Ronda Rousey's face, Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes has become the undisputed queen of the UFC’s bantamweight division. During her last two outings, she dismantled two of MMA’s most famous female fighters in under five minutes combined. Nunes has predominantly been a striker throughout her career, even though she owns a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt and Judo brown belt. Fans have even dubbed her Shetor to draw a comparison to Vitor Belfort, a UFC legend who highlighted his power with aggression and used his adept grappling skills to scare opponents back to their feet and force a brawl. Unfortunately, a comparison to Belfort can also be made when it comes to cardio.

Nunes has been known to slow down considerably in later rounds which has cost her in the past, most notably to Cat Zingano in 2014. It also almost cost Nunes a victory in her first fight against Shevchenko, where Amanda dominated the first two rounds and barely made it out of the third to win a close decision. That was actually the last time The Lioness has gone a decision and the first time she won one. Outside of those examples, Amanda hasn’t needed a full fifteen minutes to put her opponents away. She's finished all of her fights with the exception of Shevchenko long before the final bell. That kind of stopping power is a rare find in female combat sports.

Amanda Nunes seems to be an intense person, but Valentina Shevchenko lives an intense life. The Russian (who would have guessed?) Shevchenko is prepared for any scenario inside and outside of the octagon. Valentina has traveled the world with her team, competing in Muay Thai, boxing, kickboxing, and MMA bouts in over 12 countries in the last 14 years. That’s very Mortal Kombat of her. As if that wasn’t enough, Shevchenko is also a competitive marksman and Russian folk dancer, certifying her as a top tier pick for an apocalyptic draft. Her only legitimate loss in MMA came from the first fight against Amanda Nunes early last year – and it was close decision. While Shevchenko isn’t known for her stopping power in the UFC, every win has been impressive. Especially her five round decision against the beloved Holly Holm and second round surprise submission against the relentless Juliana Peña. What sticks out about Shevchenko is her technique and durability. Her striking has been battle tested around the globe and developing a sneaky submission game proves there is a clear dedication to the martial arts. Maybe even an infatuation, as she’s only had four losses in a combat career that spans almost eighty professional fights.

The first fight between Nunes and Shevchenko was entertaining. Amanda roared after the opening bell and gave Valentina everything she could handle for the next two rounds. The Brazilian came close to finishing the fight with strikes and a submission, but Shevchenko persisted. The comeback in the third round from Valentina was unexpected and brought the crowd to their feet, as she clearly stole every moment leading up to the final bell. Nunes’ cardio almost lost her that fight. My point? It didn’t. Two rounds to one is still a victory and Nunes was consistently closer to finishing the fight early. Now that we’ve got a full five round fight, things might be different.

It’s hard for me to envision Amanda being put in any fight-stopping danger. Valentina Shevchenko might be able to find space to sneak in a few tight jabs while Nunes swings heavy, but the Russian is going to have to guarantee Amanda’s gas tank teeters on empty before finding an easy finish. A bloody nose won’t stop the champion. Nunes is dangerous and has the power to put her, or any other bantamweight, away with a handful of punches. Valentina would be smart to stay on the outside and attack the body as The Lioness pounces to ensure an eventual slowdown. From there, she could point fight her way to victory or grind out a TKO.

Amanda can be frustrated, but that will only come with an ample amount of patience and perfect technique. It’s absolutely possible, but something tells me Amanda Nunes is just getting started. The champion may be a barbaric striker, but that doesn’t mean she throws caution to the wind. She knows this fight is likely to go the distance and will pace herself accordingly. I don’t envision The Lioness in any trouble on the ground unless she gets tired. Her power will make the difference on the feet. It’s going to be a scrap. The threat of Nunes landing a fight-ending strike at any point is a heavy burden to bear and I don’t think cardio will come into play, despite the hype. To be honest, this fight could go either way. I’m officially siding with Amanda Nunes but I suggest you root for a competitive fight and bet on the underdog.

Yoel Romero x Robert Whittaker for the interim Middleweight Championship

Just when I thought we were finally clear of the Interim Fighting Championships, we’re gearing up for another extraneous belt in the UFC. Let’s be clear – I’ve been a dedicated fan of the current champion Michael Bisping since day one. However, it’s painfully obvious that his time at the top is coming to an end. Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker are the two men next in line, respectively, and they pose an enormous threat to the champ. Neither of them will give Bisping the big payday or smooth ride into the sunset he’s looking for. Whittaker is too reserved to trash talk and Romero, who could actually be a movie villain, is simply too much of a risk. Since there hasn’t been a deserved title defense in over a year, I guess it makes sense to set up the two top competitors with a fast pass. That won’t leave Bisping with much of a choice. Romero and Whittaker deserve a shot at gold and they’ll each get one on Saturday.

Robert Whittaker tries to rep the moniker “The Reaper” but true fans know him as Bobby Knuckles. The level-headed Kiwi won his season of TUF at welterweight in 2012 and it took him two years of ups-and-downs before he made his middleweight debut. Adding the extra fifteen pounds has made all the difference and allowed him to taste everything except defeat. He’s been on a ruthless seven fight win streak, piling up four knockouts and four Performance of the Night bonuses. Bobby Knuckles knows how to bang.

Brutalizing the indomitable Jacare Souza in April, whom many considered the top contender, cemented Whittaker’s chance for a title. I mean, he really mauled one of the most dangerous men alive and was on the brink of sending him into the land of wind and ghosts. It was violent and unexpected. Whittaker has always shown a heavy-handed striking offense, but his pacing, positioning, and grappling defense was on another level. He’ll need that grappling offense again if he wants to avoid getting bombed on by a Cuban missile.

Some say Yoel Romero was carved out of a Cuban limestone deposit and brought to life during a Santeria ritual sometime in the late 1970s. Others say he was two-time Olympic freestyle wrestling competitor who defected to Germany in 2007. Whichever story you believe, a few things are clear: Yoel has a comical physique, he’s unbearably tough, and he is an expert wrestler. I cannot overstate his wrestling credentials. The man can put anyone in the world through a wall or, better yet, on canvas. Not canvas like an artist. Well, yes like an artist, but this guy paints with physicality instead of paint. It’s beautiful.To be an athlete at that level (I’ll pretend to know) you have to be impossibly competitive and willing to do anything to win. The latter is especially true, as Romero is notorious for funny business inside the cage. I’ll spare you details, but keep an eye out for extracurriculars during the fight. That’s just going to be another obstacle that Whittaker will have to overcome.

MMA is a grappling match first and a fist fight second. While this formula stays true most of the time, a few variables always arise to make things interesting. In this case, neither Romero nor Whittaker have ever completed a five round fight. This will actually only be their second attempt at a full twenty-five minutes. Whittaker has looked strong in his decision victories, but his power and timing may start to wilt with more rounds. We’ve actually seen Romero look gassed in fights before, despite having so many third round finishes. It’ll be interesting to watch their skills translate throughout an extra ten minutes.

Robert Whittaker is going to have to fight the smarter fight and avoid the takedown. All night. Any big shot he throws might be met with a disastrous double leg. Whittaker showed impressive offense against Jacare, but Romero’s top game, if he can get there, is as good as it gets. Whittaker is then going to have to sustain damage, which will quickly add up, or muscle back to his feet and spend an enormous amount of energy. If Whittaker sits back and spends too much time looking for a counter shot, Romero could explode and catch him with something just as dangerous. The Cuban wrestler has a mind-blowing striking game that’s culminated in a handful of highlight reels. Destructive power like that must come from the limestone. My point is that it’s going to be difficult for Knuckles to use his knuckles unless his grappling defense is on point. I’m not a huge fan of Romero but he’s a safe bet to win, especially as an underdog. I foresee the relentless wrestling being too much for ol’ Bobby and the potential for danger being incredibly high. At least until the later rounds. It’ll be a pleasure to see two of the best middleweights in the world go at it.