The crowd in Jacksonville was rowdy and loud for UFC 273. Like a lot of sports audiences, their allegiances seemed to sway between fighters with each round. Whichever combatant had the momentum in his grasp was showered with praise in the form of the crowd chanting their name. Although there was little to be had in the form of loyalty or allegiance, it always makes for a great atmosphere when the spectators are enthralled with the action. Tonight, there was plenty of action to be swept up in. Indeed, UFC 273 did not disappoint; it was entertaining from start to finish. There’s a lot to unpack here. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Volkanovski vs. The Korean Zombie
The last time fight fans had the chance to witness Alexander Volkanovski perform in the octagon, he was nearly submitted via chokehold by the challenger, Brian Ortega. That bout happened seven months ago and Volkanovski has been telling anyone who would listen that he’s a much improved fighter since then. It’s hard to imagine how the reigning undisputed featherweight champion and the third ranked pound for pound fighter in the organization could improve, but those were his claims leading up to the fight.
In round one, the reigning champion gave The Korean Zombie a tutorial on how to be effective with the jab. Volkanovski is left handed, and his left jab repeatedly found its mark under The Zombie’s right eye. When he wasn’t scoring with the jab, Volkanovski was using calf kicks to land scoring blows. It was a dominant round for the champion. In round two, The Zombie had a nice moment when he landed a nice counterpunch that stunned Volkanovski, but the champion countered with a huge takedown that secured the momentum of the round for himself once again.
Round three was completely one sided; Volkanovski was so dominant that it would not have been surprising to see Chan Sung Jung’s corner throw in the towel during the round. At the beginning of round four, Volkanovski landed an overhand left that knocked Jung’s mouth piece out; he was clearly dazed and completely out of gas. Referee Herb Dean wisely stepped in and stopped the fight. It was an impressive, one-sided win for Volkanovski. As improbable as it seemed, his claims of improving as a fighter since the classic battle he had with Brian Ortega were true. Alexander Volkanovski is going to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.Embed from Getty Images
Sterling vs. Yan
Aljamain Sterling told anyone who would listen that he was going to prove to the world that he was the rightful champion of the bantamweight division. Most who heard these claims were skeptical; the challenger, Petr Yan, was the betting favorite leading up to the fight. Sterling’s claims that he did not take in enough calories the day of their previous fight sounded like an excuse, not a reasonable explanation for why he underperformed. In any case, tonight served as Sterling’s shot at redemption and he took full advantage of the opportunity.
In round one, both fighters stayed active but neither man was able to inflict serious damage or establish any real advantage. In round two, Sterling scored a huge takedown not long after the first minute of the round had passed. Although he was unable to execute the rear naked chokehold that he attempted, he did successfully dominate the round with ground control time. In round three, the fighters started by exchanging strikes, but Sterling was again able to execute a clean takedown and dominate the majority of the round.
In rounds four and five, Yan showed a lot of resolve. He was the clear winner of round four, even scoring a takedown of his own after landing a few strikes. Round five was a seesaw battle; both men had their moments but neither was able to clearly dominate. Ultimately, Sterling won a split decision victory. After being more scrutinized than any champion in UFC history because he won the belt on a disqualification, Sterling finally got his redemption by beating the former champion inside the octagon.
Burns vs. Chimaev
Welterweight sensation Khamzat Chimaev had never been taken the distance by an opponent in the UFC. Tonight, facing the first ranked opponent of his career, that would all change. Not only did Gilbert Burns last until the final bell, he proved that he was much more than a subplot. He came to fight and in the process, he inflicted some serious damage on Chimaev before the fight was over.
Khamzat Chimaev scored a huge takedown to start round one. It looked as if another one of his opponents was overmatch and incapable of matching his strength and power. After Burns fought to his feet, Chimaev hit him with a massive overhand right, followed by a vicious elbow that opened a cut on Burns’ forehead. Gilbert Burns was lucky to escape the round without being knocked out.Embed from Getty Images
In round two, Burns showed that he was not discouraged. He started the round by attempting a takedown of his own. Throughout the round, both men landed several powerful strikes as the crowd stood to their feet in appreciation. In the last minute of the fight, Burns turned the tide by landing an overhand right that sent Chimaev crashing to the mat. The fact that he was able to get up after that shot, proves that he has a great chin and can withstand punishment that many fighters would have succumb to.
Chimaev showed that he is a skilled combatant with a high fighting IQ in round three. He switched to a Southpaw stance and hit Burns with a left handed strike that sent him crashing to the mat. Burns responded by landing three huge overhand rights before the end of the round. When the final bell sounded, the crowd gave these two warriors a well deserved standing ovation. Khamzat Chimaev was awarded a well deserved unanimous decision victory, but neither man lost this fight. This was the type of performance that will raise the profiles of both fighters and earn each of them huge paydays in future fights to come.
Dern vs. Torres
Women’s strawweight prospects Mackenzie Dern and Tecia Torres engaged in a spirited, seesaw battle. In round one, Dern dominated by being more active on the mat and by landing the more significant strikes. In round two, Dern scored a takedown, attempted both an arm bar and an ankle lock, and establish complete ground control time. However, Torres would not go away quietly. She landed kicks and strikes that clearly hurt Dern and was the more active of the two fighters.
Mackenzie Dern was awarded a split decision victory. While I agree that Dern was the victor, I do not understand why the decision was not unanimous. Sure, Torres fought back and performed admirably in round three, but Dern clearly won rounds one and two. If Torres had done enough in the third period to be awarded a ten-eight round then maybe there could be some discussion. Either way, Dern was the deserving winner of this fight.
Pichel vs. Madsen
Vinc Pichel and Mark Madsen may be in their late 30’s but they’ve got the energy of men ten years younger than them. After Madsen scored a huge takedown with a minute and a half left in round one, Pichel quickly fought to his feet and refused to be discouraged. About a minute later, he landed a big overhand right of his own, proving he was there to fight, not just to observe.
In round two, Pichel carried over the momentum he gained from the end of round one. He followed up a significant right jab with a vicious kick to Madsen’s chest that sent him sprawling backwards. However, a minute later Madsen scored a big takedown and wrestled control of the fight out of Pichel’s grasp. in the final round, Madsen scored another takedown and dominated the period with ground control time. For his efforts, Mark Madsen was awarded a unanimous decision victory.
Sidenotes and Takeaways
Middleweight challenger Kelvin Gastelum was forced to pull out of his fight with Driscus Du Plessis this week. The reason coming out of his camp in an undisclosed injury. While he is refusing to identify the nature of the injury, Gastelum did send a message to the fans that this is a temporary setback and he plans to compete again, in the very near future.
Aljamain Sterling was the most heavily criticized champion in UFC history. The prevailing feeling was that he was not a real champion; you cannot dethrone the man with the belt through a disqualification. Beating Petr Yan tonight was one of the most redeeming victories in the history of the UFC. Had he lost tonight, fans would have considered any claim Sterling made to being a UFC champion completely false. Now Sterling can count himself as the real King of the bantamweight division. It will be interesting to see how long he is able to hold onto the crown.
Next week, the UFC returns to the Apex Center in Las Vegas for another edition of Fight Night. The main event of the evening will feature welterweight challengers Vincent Luque and Belal Muhammad in a matchup of two of the most talented fighters in the division. As always, we’ll have all the latest updates about the outcomes of the fights as well as in depth analysis available right here at World in Sport! Until next time, take care of yourselves and each other.