UFC 213: Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko Main Card Preview and Predictions

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistJune 5, 2017

UFC 213: Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko Main Card Preview and Predictions

0 of 5

    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    UFC 212 was a solid event on the whole, but many fans were turned off by the lack of name brands on Saturday's card. That won't be a problem with UFC 213, however. Just take a look at this lineup of fights:

         

    Main Card (Pay-Per-View)

    • Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko
    • Yoel Romero vs. Robert Whittaker
    • Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone 
    • Fabricio Werdum vs. Alistair Overeem 
    • Anthony Pettis vs. Jim Miller 

         

    Preliminary Card (Fox Sports 1)

    • Travis Browne vs. Alexey Oleinik 
    • Jordan Mein vs. Belal Muhammad 
    • Alan Jouban vs. Brian Camozzi 
    • Thiago Santos vs. Gerald Meerschaert

          

    Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass)

    • Daniel Omielanczuk vs. Curtis Blaydes 
    • Douglas Silva de Andrade vs. Rob Font

    The UFC likes to pack its early July pay-per-view events with names, and UFC 213 lives up to that tradition. Two title fights sit atop the card, with Amanda Nunes defending her bantamweight title from Valentina Shevchenko as well as Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker facing off for the newly minted interim middleweight title.

    They aren't alone, either, as two sure-to-entertain action fights (Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis vs. Jim Miller) and a possible heavyweight contender eliminator (Fabricio Werdum vs. Alistair Overeem) flesh out the main card.

    The card is set for July 8, but it's worth taking a look ahead at the stacked UFC 213 main card. So jump on in!

Anthony Pettis vs. Jim Miller

1 of 5

    Anthony Pettis suffered one of the sharpest career declines ever seen in MMA.
    Anthony Pettis suffered one of the sharpest career declines ever seen in MMA.Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Division: Lightweight

    Records: Anthony Pettis (19-6), Jim Miller (28-9)

    Anthony Pettis vs. Jim Miller was a bit of a dream match back in 2013. Both delivered fun, action-packed fights, both owned serious finishing skills in different areas of the cage and both were top-level talents that just so happened to walk parallel paths to the top. But 2013 was a long time ago.

    In 2017, Pettis and Miller are on dire career straits. Pettis is 1-4 in his last five fights, with his most recent being a lopsided thrashing at the hands of Max Holloway. Miller, meanwhile, is reeling from a loss to Dustin Poirier that halted a brief career resurgence.

    They come together, at long last, at UFC 213 with little more than a win bonus and a bit of job security on the line.

    How they will match up is anyone's guess at this point. Pettis, for the most part, has looked lethargic and has struggled to maintain any kind of offense but showed that he still has some of the tools that made him a champion by beating Charles Oliveira in 2016. Miller still has the same drive that made him a Top 10 staple but seems to have lost a step in recent years.

    Pettis is the safer bet, as he is very capable of hanging with Miller on the ground and has an on-paper advantage standing. There is a window of opportunity for Miller to get the win with cage-cutting and clinch work, but the margin for error is slim for him. 

    Prediction: Anthony Pettis def. Jim Miller by unanimous decision

Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum 3

2 of 5

    Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum have faced off in every promotion they've shared.
    Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum have faced off in every promotion they've shared.Esther Lin/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Division: Heavyweight

    Records: Alistair Overeem (42-15), Fabricio Werdum (21-6-1)

    Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum are like the Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn of mixed martial arts. No matter where one goes, the other follows and, even if it takes a while, they inevitably end up facing off.

    In 2006, in the opening round of the Pride FC Heavyweight Grand Prix, they faced off for the first time, with Werdum forcing him to tap to a guillotine choke in the second round. Werdum would join the UFC following Pride's demise in 2007 while Overeem worked on the independent circuit, but they came back together in Strikeforce in 2011 in a heavyweight grand prix. This time, however, Overeem got the last laugh as he successfully avoided Werdum's grappling game and took home a decision win.

    While both of those fights took place in compelling tournaments, the stakes for their UFC 213 bout are higher than they ever have been.

    The heavyweight title picture is wide-open at this point, with no clear contender lined up for champion Stipe Miocic. The winner of this fight could easily fill that void, and that's a godsend for both men with their career clocks ticking down. 

    Despite owning a fairly recent loss to Miocic, Overeem is operating at a level where few can touch him and should be looked at as the favorite over any opponent outside the champ. Unless Werdum can sneak in a hard shot, expect Overeem to stay disciplined and win the fight with his striking.

    Prediction: Alistair Overeem def. Fabricio Werdum by TKO in Round 3

Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone

3 of 5

    Robbie Lawler's reputation for violence has made him a fan favorite.
    Robbie Lawler's reputation for violence has made him a fan favorite.Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Division: Welterweight

    Records: Robbie Lawler (27-11), Donald Cerrone (32-8)

    This is a fight that fans have been aching for.

    Robbie Lawler, former UFC welterweight champion, is not just known for his ability to beat opponents...but his ability to beat them into a living death. Few in recent years have been able to step into the cage with Lawler without leaving something behind, and that savagery has made him one of the most beloved—and feared—fighters in MMA.

    Donald Cerrone is no less popular, however. True to his Cowboy nickname, he is a gunslinger in the cage, equipped with a high-octane offensive game and serious finishing skills. His "anyone, anytime, anywhere" approach to the MMA game has made him a darling to fans and the UFC alike, and the strong list of names on his resume more than makes up for his empty trophy mantel. 

    While it might be overdue and while both men are coming off tough losses, this is a fight that is easy to get excited for, standing as "the people's main event" to UFC 213.

    Lawler should be the favorite, given Cerrone's general struggles with heavy pressure. There's a chance that the wear and tear on Lawler's body from seven consecutive wars and a brutal knockout loss may have dulled his edge a bit. Still, at this point, it's a safe assumption that he doesn't operate in the way that normal humans do.

    Predictions: Robbie Lawler def. Donald Cerrone by unanimous decision

Yoel Romero vs. Robert Whittaker

4 of 5

    Yoel Romero has pounded numerous champions to dust and now has a chance at UFC gold...more or less.
    Yoel Romero has pounded numerous champions to dust and now has a chance at UFC gold...more or less.Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

    Division: Middleweight

    Records: Yoel Romero (12-1), Robert Whittaker (18-4)

    The UFC middleweight division is a mess these days. Despite being more talent-rich than ever before, the UFC's haste to put together a middleweight title bout between Michael Bisping and a returning Georges St-Pierre has ground the division to a halt and left numerous top-end talents in a holding pattern as the expected date for the fight has been pushed back further and further.

    Two of the fighters left twiddling their thumbs were Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker.

    In a different time, both would have had their chance already. Whittaker has steadily risen up the middleweight rankings since 2014 and secured his place as an elite challenger and bona fide champion-level talent in April by handily defeating longtime contender Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza. Romero, meanwhile, is riding an eight-fight winning streak that includes knockouts of former champions Lyoto Machida and Chris Weidman, giving him a resume beyond question at this point.

    For a time, it felt as though Romero and Whittaker were doomed to choose between an incredibly long layoff and high-risk, low-reward bouts with other contenders. Thankfully, the UFC saw fit to introduce an interim title into the division, adding an extra weight to an already interesting fight.

    Picking a winner is a tough task, given how phenomenal both men have looked and how many questions still linger about either man. Romero will likely open as the favorite due to his reputation as an unstoppable finisher, but Whittaker is the safer bet given his technical striking and presumably stronger cardio. Granted, Romero is capable of snapping a man in two in the blink of an eye, but Whittaker's youth and discipline should win the day.

    Prediction: Robert Whittaker def. Yoel Romero by unanimous decision

Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko 2

5 of 5

    The first bout between Nunes and Shevchenko was a tight one.
    The first bout between Nunes and Shevchenko was a tight one.Christian Petersen/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Division: Women's Bantamweight

    Records: Amanda Nunes (14-4), Valentina Shevchenko (14-2)

    The UFC women's bantamweight division is progressing at an incredibly rapid rate. The greatest testament to that is the careers of champion Amanda Nunes and challenger Valentina Shevchenko.

    This time two years ago, neither fighter was particularly noteworthy. Nunes was still reeling from her latest punted fight, a TKO loss to Cat Zingano, while Shevchenko was still trotting the globe as a journeyman, taking fights in Kyrgyzstan, Peru, South Korea and any other country that would give her entry.

    And this time last year? Again, neither was on a pedestal with the MMA fandom, given their unremarkable UFC 196 fight. Nunes, a slave to her limited gas tank, was doomed to fade after a brief jump to the main event scene while Shevchenko was just too green to hold up against elite-level competition.

    The narrative is radically different today.

    Entering UFC 213, Nunes is a force of nature with four finishes in her last five fights, with her most recent contests being back-to-back knockouts of Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey. Shevchenko, on the other hand, has established herself as arguably the best dual threat in the division, capable of outstriking a former boxing champion like Holly Holm or submitting a powerful grappler like Julianna Pena. 

    Both women have undoubtedly improved since their first fight, but the shift from three rounds to five heavily favors the challenger. Nunes has not yet had the opportunity to prove herself as someone capable of putting in five hard rounds, while Shevchenko has repeatedly shown herself to be a fighter who improves down the stretch. 

    Nunes is capable of finishing anyone in her division with her heavy hands, but unless she can brutalize Shevchenko early, the Peruvian should be able to take control late and walk away as the new UFC women's bantamweight champion.

    Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko def. Amanda Nunes by unanimous decision