UFC 213 PREVIEW & PREDICTIONS: Grocke’s guide to Nunes vs. Shevchenko, Whitaker vs. Romero, Werdum vs. Overeem

By Michael Grocke, MMATorch contributor

The UFC makes its way back home to the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC 213. Amanda Nunes puts her UFC Bantamweight Title on the line against Valentina Shevchenko in the main event. The co-main event features #1 contender Yoel Romero taking on Robert Whittaker for the interim 185 lb. title.

Although UFC 213 lost the Lawler vs. Cerrone fight to UFC 214, the remaining three fights on the main card are solid. Curtis Blaydes vs. Daniel Omielanczuk gets bumped up to the main card in a battle of heavyweights, we stay in the heavyweight division where #2 ranked Fabricio Werdum takes on #4 Alistair Overeem with the winner in all likelihood getting another crack at Stipe Miocic, and finally in the middleweight division Anthony Pettis takes on Jim Miller.

The early prelims will air on Fight Pass starting at 5:30 PM CT, with Fox Sports 1 taking over at 7 PM CT for the prelims. The main card will air on PPV starting at 9 PM CT.

Note: The predictions in this column do not necessarily mean that I will betting them. I have changed my mind in the past and gone the other way after conducting more research. For all of my official bets follow me on Twitter @FightChampBlog. You can also find all of my official MMA bets at betmmatips.com. 

Main Card

#1 Amanda Nunes (14-4) vs. #2 Valentina Shevchenko (14-2) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.

Current Odds: Shevchenko -120; Nunes -110

Amanda Nunes defends her title for the second time when she steps into the cage against Valentina Shevchenko on Saturday night. Nunes won the title by beating Miesha Tate at UFC 200 and she successfully defended it by destroying Ronda Rousey at UFC 207. Nunes comes into this fight with a ton of confidence. Not only has the champion won five fights in a row, but she also owns a 1-0 record against Shevchenko. The two faced each at UFC 196 with Nunes winning by unanimous decision.

Valentina Shevchenko is 3-1 in the UFC. After losing to Nunes, she beat Holly Holm by decision at UFC on FOX 20 and then she submitted Julianna Pena at UFC on FOX 23. Shevchenko will seek out the finish whenever possible. She boasts ten finishes in fourteen career wins.

The fact that these two have fought before helps Shevchenko more than Nunes in my opinion. Although she lost the first two rounds to Nunes in their first fight, she dominated the third round. Had that fight been scheduled for five rounds I think Shevchenko wins. But, it was a three round fight so kudos to Nunes for doing what she had to do to win.

Amanda Nunes is known as a fast starter. During her current five-fight win streak four of the wins came in the first round. Only one win came via decision. Because Nunes doesn’t have the best cardio I expect her to come out aggressively as she usually does in an effort to get Shevchenko out of there early. If Nunes is going to win it will be a stoppage in the first or second round. She may very well do it too.

Shevchenko proved she can withstand Nunes offense. She took everything Nunes threw at her and almost got the finish in the final round. I think Shevchenko comes into this fight with a ton of confidence as well. I think these two are fairly close in skill on the feet, the biggest concern I have is whether or not Shevchenko can defend the take down. If Nunes has success getting the fight to the ground I think her chances of winning improve.

While I expect Nunes to land some take downs I don’t expect her to be able to keep Shevchenko on the mat. The more success Valentina has in defending the take down, the quicker Nunes will gas out. I see Shevchenko getting the fight into the championship rounds and taking over the fight leading to the crowning a new bantamweight champion.

I recommend backing Shevchenko in this one.

Pick: Shevchenko by decision 

#2 Yoel Romero (12-1) vs. #3 Robert Whittaker (19-4) – Middleweight 185 lbs.

Current Odds: Whitaker -120; Romero -110

After losing back to back fights to Court McGee at UFC Fight Night 27 and Stephen Thompson at UFC 170, Robert Whittaker has rattled off seven straight wins. He got the biggest win of his career in his last fight by stopping Ronaldo Souza in the second round at UFC on FOX 24. The twenty-six year old Australian boasts fourteen finishes in eighteen career wins.

At forty years old Yoel Romero is at the top of his game. He is undefeated in the UFC at 8-0, with his lone loss coming against Rafael Cavalcante in Strikeforce. Romero has beaten the best fighters in the division including Chris Weidman, Ronaldo Souza, Lyoto Machida and Derek Brunson. Like Whittaker, Romero will go for the finish when the opportunity presents itself. He has ten finishes, all by KO/TKO in twelve career wins.

This is the fight I’m most interested in seeing and is probably the best match-up so far this year. I expect this fight to take place primarily on the feet. While Romero is an excellent wrestler, Whittaker is very good at getting back to his feet after getting taken down. While I do expect Romero to have success with take downs, I don’t expect him to be able to keep Whittaker down.

Both fighters possess knockout power so it wouldn’t surprise me to see either of them get KO’d. While Romero certainly has more power, Whittaker is the better striker and counter-puncher.  Whittaker also works at a faster pace and will out volume Romero here. They both have very good chins. The fact that this is a five round fight I think favors Whittaker who has the better cardio.

If Romero can keep Whittaker on the ground for extended periods of time I can see him out-pointing Whittaker. I can also see him connecting with a big punch or knee and sleeping Whittaker. However, if Whittaker can get back to his feet quickly and keep the fight standing while avoiding the big power shots from Romero then I think he gets the win.

I like Robert Whittaker here and recommend backing him as the small favorite.

Pick: Whittaker by TKO

Curtis Blaydes (7-1) vs. Daniel Omielanczuk (19-7-1, 1 NC) – Heavyweight 265 lbs.

Current Odds: Blaydes –700; Omielanczuk +485

After losing his UFC debut to Francis Ngannou at UFC Fight Night 86, Curtis Blaydes has won his last two fights. He beat Cody East by second round TKO at UFC Fight Night 96 and followed that up with a finish of Adam Milstead at UFC Fight Night 104. All seven of the twenty-six year olds wins have come by way of knockout.

After winning three fights in a row, Daniel Omielanczuk now finds himself in the midst of a two fight skid. First he lost to Stefan Struve by second round submission at UFC 204 and then he dropped a split decision to Tim Johnson at UFC Fight Night 107.

Daniel Omielanczuk’s best chance at winning is to keep the fight standing. But while he is the better technical striker, I’m not so sure he wins that battle against Blaydes. Curtis Blaydes has excellent take downs and ground and pound. The heavyweight prospect has incredible strength in which he will use to get Omielanczuk to the ground and finish him.

Pick: Blaydes by TKO 

#2 Fabricio Werdum (21-6-1) vs. #4 Alistair Overeem (42-15, 1 NC) – Heavyweight 265lbs.

Current Odds: Overeem -125; Werdum -105

After unifying the heavyweight title by beating Cain Velsquez at UFC 188, Fabricio Werdum dropped it to Stipe Miocic in his first title defense at UFC 198. Werdum returned at UFC 203 where he beat Travis Browne by decision. The thirty-nine year old Brazilian has ten submissions to go along with six KO/TKOs in twenty-one career wins.

Alistair Overeem will make the walk for the fifty-eighth time on Saturday night. Overeem was given a shot at the title against Miocic at UFC 203 after winning four straight fights. Unfortunately the fight did not go well for the thirty-seven year old Jackson-Wink product. Miocic knocked Overeem out in the first round. Overeem is a finisher boasting thirty-eight finishes in forty-two career wins.

This will be the third time these two face off against one another. They first fought back in May, 2006 in Pride. Werdum won that fight with a second round submission. The second fight took place in Strikeforce where Overeem evened things up by beating Werdum by decision. Overeem comes into the third fight as the betting favorite.

Considering Overeem is the better wrestler with more power and better stand-up, I tend to agree with the odds makers here. If Werdum can get the fight into the later rounds I think his chances of winning go up due to his cardio being much better than Overeem’s. Another x-factor is Overeem’s chin. He was KO/TKO’d in each of his last four losses.

Overeem is the better fighter and as long as he can avoid getting caught with a knockout punch I think he wins the rubber match against Werdum.

Pick: Overeem by decision 

Anthony Pettis (19-6) vs. Jim Miller (28-9, 1 NC) – Middleweight 155 lbs.

Current Odds: Pettis –240; Miller +190

Anthony Pettis is 1-4 over his last five fights and finds himself in a must-win situation on Saturday night. Pettis seemed to have turned things around when he submitted Charles Oliveira at UFC on FOX 21, but he found himself back on the losing end after getting stopped by Max Holloway at UFC 206. After fighting at 145 in his previous two fights – he missed weight against Holloway – Pettis returns to 155 lbs. against Miller.

Jim Miller was on a three fight winning streak until he lost to Dustin Poirier by majority decision at UFC 208. Although the thirty-three year old New Jersey native won’t be fighting for a championship again, he shouldn’t be taken lightly. Miller has fourteen wins by submission to go along with four KO/TKO in his twenty-eight career wins.

This might be the hardest fight to predict on the card. Which Anthony Pettis are we going to see on Saturday night? Pettis’s switching of weight classes and his overall inconsistency worry me about backing him. Miller, on the other hand has looked surprisingly good in his last few fights and seems to be getting better with age.

If Pettis can stuff Miller’s take down attempts and keep the fight standing, I like his chances here. However Jim Miller is the winningest lightweight in UFC history. Miller is tough and has a huge heart. If he is able to get Pettis to the ground and control him there then I can see him out-pointing Pettis. Pettis is the technically, more skilled fighter so I will back him with little confidence.

Pick: Pettis by decision

Prelims Quick Look

Browne -230 over Oleinik +180

Laprise -600 over Camozzi +425

Santos -155 over Meerschaert +125

Muhammad -140 over Mein +110

Early Prelims Quick Look

Font -330 over de Andrade +260

Stamann -270 over Ware +215

Giles -300 over Bochnovic +240

Enjoy the fights!

NOW CHECK OUT THIS OTHER PREVIEW OF UFC 213: UFC 213 PRIMER: Ecochard’s full preview of tonight’s PPV headlined by Nunes vs. Shevchenko, Romero vs. Whittaker

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