For over a year, Amanda Nunes has had to hear questions about fading against Valentina Shevchenko in their March 2016 fight—even after taking the belt from Miesha Tate with a first-round finish in her next fight.
Questions persist about what Nunes can do when a fight gets out of the first round. Even after demolishing Ronda Rousey in under a minute, the attention shifted to the third round of her fight with Shevchenko.
That's what makes the main event of UFC 213 so intriguing.
Nunes has taken over as the most dominant force in the women's bantamweight division. She's won five fights in a row, with four of those wins coming in the first round. She even won the fight against Shevchenko via decision, but the biggest question she must answer as a champion is what she'll look like in the championship rounds.
Shevchenko might just be the fighter to give us the answer to that question.
It's a strong main event for a fun card set to take place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Here's a look at the rest of the card along with the latest odds from OddsShark and predictions for the biggest fights.
Main Card (PPV at 10 p.m. ET)
- Amanda Nunes (-110) vs. Valentina Shevchenko (-120) (for Women's Bantamweight Title)
- Yoel Romero (-105) vs. Robert Whittaker (-125) (for Interim Middleweight Title)
- Curtis Blaydes (-700) vs. Daniel Omielanczuk (+450)
- Alistair Overeem (-130) vs. Fabricio Werdum (EVEN)
- Anthony Pettis (-250) vs. Jim Miller (+195)
Prelims (Fox Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET)
- Travis Browne (-235) vs. Aleksei Oleinik (+185)
- Chad Laprise (-600) vs. Brian Camozzi (+400)
- Thiago Santos (-160) vs. Gerald Meerschaert (+140)
- Belal Muhammad (-150) vs. Jordan Mein (+120)
Prelims (UFC Fight Pass at 6:30 p.m. ET)
- Rob Font (-325) vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade (+250)
- Cody Stamann (-275) vs. Terrion Ware (+215)
- Trevin Giles (-305) vs. James Bochnovic (+235)
Jim Miller over Anthony Pettis
Anthony Pettis returns to the lightweight division where he was once champion in desperate need of a win. Showtime has lost four of his last five fights, including three at 155 pounds where he once held the belt.
Pettis once ruled the division with his lethal and versatile striking at range. Rafael dos Anjos destroyed the aura of invincibility that he once had by applying constant pressure, closing the distance and blasting the champion from close range.
It's been the recipe for shutting down Pettis ever since.
Pettis tried dipping down to 145 pounds in hopes that smaller opponents would mean less grinding, but after getting TKO'd by Max Holloway in an interim title fight, he's back to 155 pounds and actually decided to focus less on his wrestling.
"Wrestling is a big part of the sport," Pettis said, per Fernanda Prates of MMAjunkie. "But if you look at it, I'm not gonna catch up to this guys. I'm not going to catch up to a Clay Guida in wrestling, and they're not going to catch up to me in striking. So I've got to go out there and make sure that my striking is OK for the fight and not get caught up on the who's on top and who's doing the takedowns."
It's clear that Showtime is the better striker. Miller only has four wins by knockout in his 12-year career, but he is among the best grapplers in the lightweight division and could spell trouble for Pettis if he's able to close the distance.
Expect Miller to be all over Pettis and ruin his return to lightweight by submission or decision.
Yoel Romero over Robert Whittaker
The middleweight interim title fight might just be the best on this card, as Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker truly represent two of the hottest fighters in the middleweight division.
For a division that has Michael Bisping as champion and no return date for an actual title fight, this is the best it gets at 185 pounds right now.
It's hard to pick against Whittaker. The 26-year-old has brutalized his way to the top of the division. He's on a seven-fight win streak highlighted by knockout wins over Derek Brunson and Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza.
But Romero is a slightly different beast. Even Whittaker will admit that.
"I want to be known as one of the best fighters ever," Whittaker said, per Will Swanton of The Australian. "So in order to walk that path I need to fight the toughest and baddest dudes in the world. More than anything this week, more than that shiny belt at the end of it, I get the chance to fight Yoel Romero. He's such a tough dude. I'm in this game to fight hard dudes."
Where Brunson had the power on the feet and Souza had the slick submission game, Romero is a threat to end this fight on the feet or on the mat at any point. Whittaker has the power to turn this prediction on its head, but Romero has more ways to win the fight.
The stand-up exchanges in this fight should be fun. Whittaker's vicious combinations set up an interesting contrast to Romero's explosive one-punch power, but if/when Romero is able to get this to the ground, the talent disparity will show.
That should be the difference as Romero secures a TKO via ground-and-pound.
Valentina Shevchenko over Amanda Nunes
As previously described, this fight comes down to what Nunes can get done in the first round and what is left of Shevchenko if and when this fight gets to the third round and beyond.
Nunes' pressure game is hard to beat. She's so long for the division and attacks with combinations that make it hard to get away without getting hit by at least one of her strikes.
But Shevchenko's ability to pivot and counter could be the difference. Shevchenko has an impressive kickboxing and muay thai record that demonstrates her technical abilities in the stand-up department.
It isn't just Shevchenko's elite level striking, though. She's also proved to be an adept grappler. She has secured multiple takedowns in each of her UFC fights except her loss to Nunes, per Fight Metric, so she could be looking to either utilize an early takedown to quiet Nunes' early rush or take down a tired Nunes in the later rounds to do her damage that way.
Regardless, the chances are that we will know exactly how this fight is going to go after the first round. If Shevchenko is still standing, it's a good sign for her. Nunes is 3-3 in fights that have gone past the first round in her career, with the latest win coming against Shevchenko (the other two came in 2009 and 2010).
Even in the third round of that fight, Shevchenko outstruck 17-3 and scored the takedown.
With a revised game plan that includes more early takedown attempts, Shevchenko has the slight advantage in this one. Expect her to stall for a decent part of the first round, ride the storm and take over the fight with a mixture of her counters and ground game.
If Nunes' prior forays into the later rounds are any indication, it's not out of the realm that Shevchenko should secure the finish by the fourth frame.