If Amanda Nunes wants to be more than the woman who likely retired Ronda Rousey, she'll need to defeat Valentina Shevchenko in the main event at UFC 213.
The women's bantamweight title will once again be on the line as the Lioness looks to defend her title for a second time against a familiar foe in Shevchenko.
The champion and challenger have met once before. Nunes rode a hot start to a unanimous-decision victory in her first bout with the challenger, but a five-round affair has the potential for a different dynamic between the two.
The main event is good, but the co-main event gives it a run for its money for best fight of the night. Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker meet in a battle for the interim middleweight title.
It's a card with plenty of intrigue as the two title fights are near toss-ups, and they set the tone for the rest of the card. Here's a look at the complete lineup along with predictions for the biggest fights on the card.
Main Card (PPV at 10 p.m. ET)
- Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko (for Women's Bantamweight Title)
- Yoel Romero vs. Robert Whittaker (for Interim Middleweight Title)
- Curtis Blaydes vs. Daniel Omielanczuk
- Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum
- Anthony Pettis vs. Jim Miller
Prelims (Fox Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET)
- Thiago de Lima Santos vs. Gerald Meerschaert
- Chad Laprise vs. Brian Camozzi
- Travis Browne vs. Oleksiy Oliynyk
- Jordan Mein vs. Belal Muhammad
Prelims (UFC Fight Pass at 6:30 p.m. ET)
- Rob Font vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade
- Cody Stamann vs. Terrion Ware
- Trevin Giles vs. James Bochnovic
Valentina Shevchenko is the New Women's Bantamweight Champion
Nunes has looked like an unstoppable force in her last two fights. After submitting Miesha Tate in the first round to become the champion, she scored the biggest win of her career by brutally finishing Rousey in just 48 seconds.
But the rules of engagement when fighting Nunes seem pretty clear at this point. She's one of the best finishers in women's MMA, but if a fighter can survive the opening salvo, she's got a shot.
Shevchenko is already one of the prime examples of that in Nunes career. In their first encounter, the Lioness easily won the first round and blitzed Shevchenko in the second, but the latter started to gain some traction in the second round before outstriking Nunes 17-3 in the final frame, per Fight Metric.
Even more concerning for the champion is that her bout against Shevchenko was her best performance in a fight that got out of the first round. Her other bouts that went past the first five minutes are knockout losses to Alexis Davis and Cat Zingano and a decision loss to Sarah D'Alelio.
One thing to keep an eye on is just how many takedown attempts Nunes will attempt. In the first fight she did most of her damage on the ground but went 0-for-4 on takedown attempts in the final round.
If Shevchenko can hang on through the opening round or two, her high-level striking should take over in the later rounds. It was her ability to generate power in the clinch that turned the fight in their first bout:
Nunes cardio may be improving, but Shevchenko still took over the fight in the final round of the three-round fight. She could easily be added to the list of first-round victims for Nunes, but if she isn't, it's her fight to lose.
Prediction: Shevchenko via fourth-round submission.
Yoel Romero Takes Control of the Middleweight Division
With Michael Bisping clinging to his middleweight championship belt for dear life while sitting out for all of 2017 thus far, the UFC's distinction that this is an interim title fight actually carries some weight.
Whoever wins this fight all but guarantees they'll be the first in line to fight the champ when he gets off the sideline. The winner of this fight will likely be favored when Bisping does make his return.
The fight itself is an intriguing matchup. Whittaker has proved that he needs to be taken seriously when it comes to anyone in the middleweight division. Since moving up to middleweight from the 170-pound division, Whittaker has ripped off six-straight wins.
Whittaker has got the job done with a pressure game that forces opponents to fold and enough power to put fighters away. He has scored back-to-back finishes in his last two fights and will look to continue that streak by fighting the fight on his terms.
"My strength is definitely my stand-up ability; my stand-up ability helps me control the fight," Whittaker said, per Darren Arthur of ESPN. "I definitely want to get in there and hopefully use that on him and push the fight to my angle and my edge and my advantage through my striking."
However, pushing the pace also opens up holes for reactive takedowns. That's something that Romero is more than happy to throw into the mix as an Olympic wrestler. The mat is definitely a place that Whittaker will be looking to avoid.
Once on the ground, Romero's size and power could be too much for Australian.
Prediction: Romero via third-round TKO
Alistair Overeem Takes the Rubber Match Against Fabricio Werdum
Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum are more than just a little familiar with each other—they just can't seem to get enough of fighting one another. The two aging heavyweights will square off for the third time on the main card, with the series all knotted up at one apiece.
This fight might not have much of an impact on the title picture—both fighters have lost to current champion Stipe Miocic, but don't tell Overeem that. He plans on pushing for a rematch with the champion after taking care of business against Werdum.
"After I get my hand raised, I'm going to grab that mic, and I'm going to challenge Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight championship belt," the former Strikeforce star said, per Fernanda Prates and Ken Hathaway of MMAjunkie.
With Overeem, the possibility of a knockout loss is always just one good strike away. Ten of his 15 career losses have come by way of knockout, but Werdum hasn't knocked anyone out since Mark Hunt in 2014.
It appears that Overeem is both motivated and has just a little more punch left in him than Werdum. That should be enough to make the difference in a bout between two of the biggest names in the division who have a score to settle.
Prediction: Overeem via second-round TKO