Saturday just can't come soon enough for many UFC fans as UFC 213's fight card is full of exciting fights, particularly the co-main event between Yoel Romero vs. Robert Whittaker and the main event featuring bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko.
It's been a long and tumultuous road for Romero, the UFC's No. 1 contender in the middleweight division, as he has been brushed aside for a title shot by champion Michael Bisping, who is currently recovering from a knee injury after a failed attempt to fight the returning Georges St-Pierre.
With the interim 185-pound title on the line Saturday night in Las Vegas, the "Soldier of God" will be looking to take out the fast-rising Kiwi, Whittaker, to set up a date with Bisping for the undisputed title.
As for Nunes, she is looking to defend her belt for the second time against Shevchenko after dismantling Ronda Rousey last December.
Shevchenko is looking for revenge after losing to Nunes in a three-round bout back in March 2016 in a fight where she began to takeover in the third round before it was too late. This time around, however, their fight is five rounds so things might shape up a little differently than before.
Here's a look at the complete card with odds from OddsShark, ticket information and predictions for the co-main and main event at UFC 213.
UFC 212 Fight Card and Odds
Main Card: PPV at 10:00 p.m. ET
- Amanda Nunes -105 vs. Valentina Shevchenko +125
- Yoel Romero +105 vs. Robert Whittaker -135
- Daniel Omielanczuk +475 vs. Curtis Blaydes -750
- Fabricio Werdum EVEN vs. Alistair Overeem -130
- Anthony Pettis -240 vs. Jim Miller +190
Prelims: Fox Sports 1 at 8:00 p.m. ET
- Travis Browne -200 vs. Aleksei Oleinik +160
- Chad Laprise -600 vs. Brian Camozzi +400
- Thiago Santos -155 vs. Gerald Meerschaert +125
- Jordan Mein +135 vs. Belal Muhammad -165
Early Prelims: UFC Fight Pass at 6:30 p.m. ET
- Rob Font -325 vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade +250
- Cody Stamann -280 vs. Terrion Ware +220
- Trevin Giles -305 vs. James Bochnovic +235
Tickets: Score Big
Co-main event: Yoel Romero vs. Robert Whittaker
After knocking out Chris Weidman at UFC 205 with a brutal flying knee, Romero cemented himself as the top contender in the UFC's middleweight division. It seemed as though Romero was to be given the next title shot, but the return of GSP got in Romero's way and caught Bisping's attention.
When that fight fell apart largely to GSP's inability to fight earlier than November of this year, UFC president Dana White scrapped the fight and was going to give Romero the next title shot. But then Bisping claimed that he would not recover from his knee injury in time, so the UFC put up an interim belt for Romero and Whittaker to fight over.
Whittaker is in a position that not many people saw coming so soon. When he finished Jacare Souza back in April, every fighter at 185-pounds was put on notice. A new threat emerged in the former rugby player with fists of stone, and he was awarded with a bout against one of the most physically-gifted fighters the UFC has ever seen.
Just check out how impressive he looked during his open workout Wednesday, courtesy of MMAjunkie:
Saturday's co-main event is an interesting fight for a number of reasons. Whittaker showed good takedown defense against Souza, but Romero is a whole other animal. An Olympic silver medalist, Romero's wrestling is far beyond the skill-level of any fighter in the UFC, regardless of weight classes.
Romero will look to use his wrestling and explosiveness to get Whittaker on the ground and maul him. As for Whittaker, the gameplan is simple: stay on your feet at all costs.
Whittaker has proved he can hang with the big guns of the middleweight division with wins over Uriah Hall, Derek Brunson and the aforementioned Souza, but it's hard to imagine that he can finish, let alone win against a fighter of Romero's pedigree.
Romero truly believes that he is on a mission from God to win the title, and it'll take a lot more than a good right hand from Whittaker to knock him off course. Look for Romero to take control of the fight from the get-go with his superior grappling skills and wear down Whittaker to earn the stoppage in the third round.
Prediction: Romero wins interim title.
Main event: Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko
There's no nice way of putting this: there is bad blood between Nunes and Shevchenko.
Their beef doesn't necessarily date back to Nunes' victory back in 2016, but it certainly added fuel to the fire as Nunes and Shevchenko began trash-talking just moments after Shevchenko finished Julianna Pena inside back in January.
That trash talk escalated until the fighters squared off just a matter of weeks ago, where it appeared that Nunes took a shot at Shevchenko during their stare down when the challenger got a little too close for Nunes' liking.
The first fight between "The Lioness" and "Bullet" was dominated by Nunes for the majority of the first two rounds. But in the closing moments of the second round, it appeared that Nunes was beginning to run out of gas as Shevchenko began to dictate the pace of the fight. The third round went to Shevchenko, but Nunes had done enough in the first 10 minutes of the fight to earn the victory on the judges' scorecard despite ending the fight in bad shape.
In fairness to Nunes, she didn't have to train for a five-round fight, but that might be the weakness that Shevchenko will be looking for on Saturday. A muay thai artist who has proved more than capable of competing on the ground, Shevchenko will look to keep Nunes' at a distance. The last thing Shevchenko wants is to get caught by one of Nunes' nasty combinations early in the fight.
In order to upset the champion, Shevchenko has to bring Nunes into the deep end, meaning this fight has to go into the championship rounds in order to have a shot at getting her arm raised by the referee. She won't be able to finish Nunes, who hasn't lost or been finished since 2014 to Cat Zingano, but she can win by effective striking and Octagon control, giving her the points on the scorecards.
For Nunes, she has to fight the only way she knows how. And that's by moving forward.
They will do it AGAIN! @Amanda_Leoa vs @BulletValentina run it back on July 8! #UFC213 https://t.co/76i3JKESoq2017-7-3 22:15:38
Against Shevchenko the first time around, Miesha Tate and Rousey, Nunes came out as the aggressor and was able to take care of business early and often. If she's not able to finish Shevchenko in the opening rounds of the fight, she has to be able to pace herself in order to survive, otherwise Shevchenko's muay thai strikes to the body will empty out Nunes' gas tank before she knows what hit her.
Even though Shevchenko will go into this fight full of confidence after consecutive wins over Holly Holm and Julianna Pena, she won't have enough to take down Nunes, who will continue to enjoy her time at the top of the division that is in desperate need of stability after Rousey's fall from grace.
Anticipate two fighters displaying high-level striking before Nunes catches Shevchenko with a combination in the second round, sending the Kyrgyzstani-Peruvian to the canvas. Nunes will take this fight to the ground and look for the submission via rear-naked choke en route to her third consecutive title defense.
Prediction: Nunes cements her legacy as one of the division's best-ever champions.