UFC 273 Predictions: Back Big Favorite Volkanovski

Alexander Volkanovski (left) lands a left hook on the nose of Max Holloway during UFC 245
Image Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Considering the UFC has hosted multiple electric — and free — Fight Night events in the past few weeks, it was going to be difficult for the next pay-per-view card to live up to the price tag. Well, UFC 273 is ready for the challenge — as is Props.com with a handful of UFC 273 predictions!

Saturday night’s event from VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, features two title fights at the top of the card. And the match directly preceding the championship bouts could easily qualify for main-event status: The world’s No. 2-ranked welterweight contender faces the scariest rising contender in any of the neighboring weight classes.

Throw in some elite welterweight prospects at the top of the prelims (which begin at 8 p.m. ET), and UFC 273 is loaded with interesting scraps that should appeal to fans, bettors, and those who identify as both.

With that, let’s dive into five UFC 273 predictions from the stacked card.

Odds via DraftKings and updated as of 2 p.m. ET on April 9.

Alexander Volkanovski vs. Chan Sung Jung

Chan Sung Jung (right) strikes Yair Rodriguez (left) with a looping right hand punch during a UFC Fight Night event
Image Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Volkanovski -675/Jung +475

How did Chan Sung Jung — who hails from Seoul, South Korea — land the nickname “The Korean Zombie”? More than a catchy moniker that helps with pay-per-views sales, it speaks to Jung’s fan-friendly fighting style.

The 35-year-old featherweight likes to stand in the middle of the octagon with his hands low, inviting opponents to attack. When those opponents are lured in range, Jung bites with either a knockout punch or crippling grappling moves that set up submissions. And he’s had more than a few stoppages: Jung is 17-6 as a professional, including  7-3 in UFC with six wins by finish.

It’s a safe bet that Jung will stick with his usual approach when he challenges featherweight champion Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski. Just don’t expect the savvy Volkanovski to take the bait. A 33-year-old from New South Wales, Australia, Volkanovski is a gifted — and relentless — striker who has never been out-struck in his UFC career.

The trifecta of above-average striking output, accuracy, and defense propelled Volkanovski to featherweight gold and two subsequent title defenses. The 33-year-old, who has never lost in his 10-fight UFC career on the way to a 23-1 professional mark, also sports a rock-solid chin. Just ask two of MMA’s all-time greats in Max Holloway and Jose Aldo, neither of whom dropped Volkanovski.

When they hit the ground, both Jung and Volkanovski average a minuscule 3 percent of the time in their opponent’s control. That suggests Volkanovski has the submission defense to stave off Jung’s grappling.

With seemingly no threat of the Zombie defeating the champ, DraftKings has Volkanovski was a mammoth -760 favorite earlier in the week. Several ours before the fists start flying, the champ has dipped to -676, with Jung +475 on the take-back. Look for Jung to emulate the strategy of previous title challenger Brian Ortega, who nearly submitted Volkanovski with a tight guillotine choke. And, like Ortega, look for Jung to fail.

Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan

Aljamain Sterling (right) connects with a straight right hand to the chin of Petr Yan (left) in their UFC bantamweight championship fight during UFC 259
Image Credit: Jeff Bottari/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Odds: Yan -410/Aljamain +310

UFC fans have been waiting a long time for this rematch. After claiming the vacant bantamweight belt with a dominant win over the aforementioned ex-featherweight champ Aldo, Petr “No Mercy” Yan appeared to have a long and comfortable reign ahead of him. Hailing from the far northern Russian town of Dudinka, where he trained by boxing with his older brother, Yan fought his way to a 16-2 professional record on the back of his masterful boxing and elite wrestling.

Yan displayed those very skills in his first title defense in March 2021. Yan dominated Long Island native Aljamain “Funk Master” Sterling — until he was disqualified in the fourth round for a knee to the head while Sterling was on the ground. Sterling (20-3 overall, 12-3 in the UFC) could not continue and was given the win, along with the bantamweight championship belt.

While the disqualifying strike was both intentional and illegal, many fans sympathized with Yan, who was clearly winning the fight. The betting market agrees that Yan will comfortably take the rematch and regain the undisputed title. At DraftKings, the 29-year-old Russian was a -475 favorite midweek, but money has since come in on his 31-year-old opponent, dropping the odds to -410/+310. It appears the best chance for Sterling — who, like Jung, is a submission specialist — is to sneak in a choke or lock up a limb during the wrestling exchanges.

One interesting subplot: Because of the war in Ukraine, Yan’s Russian coach and cornermen were all denied visas to enter the United States. Yan has verbal agreements in place to be cornered by former bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo and rising bantamweight star Sean O’Malley.

Gilbert Burns vs. Khamzat Chimaev

UFC fighter Khamzat Chimaev raises both arms in celebration after his TKO victory over Rhys McKee (not pictured) in their welterweight UFC Fight Night bout
Image Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via USA TODAY Sports

Odds: Chimaev -490/Burns +360

Born in Chechnya, Russia, Khamzat “Borz” Chimaev came to the UFC to — as he put it — “smash everybody.” Chimaev put the world on notice in summer 2020, finishing two opponents in two weight classes (welterweight and middleweight) just 10 days apart.

The 27-year-old has subsequently taken out two more opponents, including a ranked welterweight in Li Jingliang on Oct. 30. So Chimaev enters UFC 273 with a perfect 10-0 professional record (4-0 UFC).

His UFC stats across four fights: two knockouts, two submissions, less than 8 minutes of total octagon time, and not one second in his opponent’s control. In fact, Chimaev’s opponents have collectively landed a single strike against him. At this point, the only ammunition Chimaev’s doubters have left is that he’s yet to fight an elite contender.

Brazil’s Gilbert “Durinho” Burns is the latest fighter brave enough to take a shot at Chimaev. Burns (20-4 overall, including 13-4 UFC) had a solid career going in the 155-pound lightweight division before lighting it up at welterweight with solid striking and grappling.

While his record looks much better at welterweight, Burns’ submission ability and knockout power have not translated well in his new division. This was evident in the 35-year-old’s title shot in February 2021 against welterweight champion (and current best pound-for-pound fighter in the world) Kamaru Usman. Burns landed great strikes early on, even wobbling the champ briefly with a strong right hook. But he couldn’t sustain the flurry, and Usman ultimately landed a series of jabs that led to a third-round TKO.

So here we are, with Chimaev still a heavy -490 favorite (down a tick from -510 earlier in the week) in what projects to be a finish-or-be-finished bout. Until someone can land a meaningful strike on Chimaev, fight fans and bettors have no reason to believe he’s going anywhere but the top.

Vinc Pichel vs. Mark Madsen

UFC fighter and 2016 Olympic wrestling silver medalist Mark Madsen flexes his muscles and screams in jubilation after defeating Danilo Belluardo (not pictured) during a UFC Fight Night event
Image Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

Odds: Pichel -115/Madsen +105

Kelvin Gastelum pulling out of his fight due to an undisclosed injury moved this lightweight bout up to the first slot of the main card. Fight fans might be disheartened by not getting a chance to see the popular Gastelum at UFC 273, but bettors should rejoice in a statistical mismatch that exists in the replacement fight.

At 39 years old, Vinc “From Hell” Pichel is an elder statesman in the UFC. It’s not age that should concern UFC bettors about Pichel’s chances to defeat Mark “The Olympian” Madsen, but his career 25 percent takedown defense. This is as below average as a fighter can get while still compiling an impressive 7-2 UFC record. That record is why the southern California native remains a slight favorite over Madsen across all sportsbooks.

A 2016 Olympic silver medalist in Greco-Roman wrestling for Denmark, Madsen obviously boasts well-above-average grappling skills. The now 37-year-old began his MMA career late after hanging up his wrestling shoes, but he’s off to a 3-0 start in the UFC (11-0 professionally). Madsen has displayed the ability to win fights on his feet, too, defeating UFC journeyman Clay Guida without a single takedown in his most recent bout in August.

The wrestling advantage, solid striking ability, and Pichel’s lack of a knockout punch create great value for bettors who choose to invest in Madsen. A few hours before the bout, The Olympian’s odds are now -105, down from +110 midweek.

Ian Garry vs. Darian Weeks

Darian Weeks (left) delivers a straight right-hand punch to the face of Bryan Barberena in their welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX
Image Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Odds: Garry -365/Weeks +280

This welterweight matchup of pedigreed prospects is the final preliminary bout and a potentially exciting bridge to the premier fights on the UFC 273 card (which are set to begin at 10 p.m. ET).

Called in on short notice as a COVID replacement to fight veteran Bryan Barberena in December, Missouri’s Darian Weeks put on a great show. The 28-year-old prospect out-struck his opponent and took him down four times, but he lost a tight decision. It was the first defeat in his sixth professional bout.

Weeks’ wrestling ability could be the difference-maker against Ireland’s Ian Garry, who at midweek was listed as a -365 favorite. A 23-year-old with an 8-0 record, Garry is big for a welterweight at 6-foot-3, and he put his strength on display in his UFC debut in November with a counter-punch KO of Jordan Williams late in the first round.

It’s a small body of UFC work, but the young Garry flashed signs of complementing his power with solid clinch work. He’s made it a point in his bouts to grapple and not just get in a boxing match in the style of countryman Conor McGregor. That said, Garry’s skills did look raw at times against Williams, and he ate a lot of punches before landing the big counter.

Persistent takedown attempts from a fellow hungry prospect in UFC 273 could cause Garry trouble — making Weeks (+280) a live underdog.

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