UFC 273: 5 Things We Learned
An outstanding night of fights took place at UFC 273 on Saturday with two titles being fought for. We got the fight of the year between Gilbert Burns and Khamzat Chimaev in an absolute slugfest. Overall there were 12 fights in Jacksonville, FL with nine fights going the distance, two ending by knockout, and a single submission that helped one veteran reach an incredible milestone. This was the fifth fight in Jacksonville since the UFC returned following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and over 14,500 fans packed VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Here are five things that we learned from UFC 273.
1. Alexander Volkanovski is too good for the featherweight division
The UFC featherweight championship headlined UFC 273 and reigning champion Alexander Volkanovski dominated The Korean Zombie, Chan Sung Jung, and proved he is the best featherweight by a long way. Volkanovski had his way with Jung in every aspect. The Australian outstruck the South Korean 152 to 51 and almost none of the shots from Jung looked to damage Volkanovski at all. While every shot that the champ landed seemed to damage the challenger. When it came to grappling Volkanovski dominated that also by taking down Jung four times and controlling him on the ground for nearly three minutes. It ended up being the striking that stopped the fight as Herb Dean stopped the fight after Volkanovski landed a flurry of punches that stopped Zombie right in his tracks for the standing TKO.
It was a masterful performance from Volkanovski that showed how even the #4 ranked fighter doesn’t stand a chance. Volkanovski moved to 11-0 in the UFC and has now won 21 straight. Every challenge that Volkanovski has faced he has passed with flying colors. The only fighters that have troubled the champion were Max Holloway and Brian Ortega the guys ranked #1 and #2 respectively. In the second fight with Holloway, Volkanovski came away with a split decision win, but there were many fighters that believed the scorecards should have gone the way of Holloway. Then against Ortega, twice Volkanovski looked like he was going to be submitted by a signature Ortega submission but managed to escape and win by unanimous decision.
If the top two guys could not defeat the champ it looks like no one will be able to. Following his win at UFC 273, Volkanovski hinted at a possible move back to the lightweight and go after the winner of Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje which will take place at UFC 274 on May 7. The featherweight champion made his UFC debut at lightweight before going down a weight class and becoming the champ. In his lone fight at 155 pounds, Volkanovski beat Yusuke Kasuya by TKO in the second round. This is a real possibility as Volkanovski seemed done waiting around for the trilogy fight with Holloway or another contender to move to #1 in the rankings, and he mentioned in an interview with BT Sport that he wants to fight three times in 2022.
2. Aljamain Sterling deserves to be called the Undisputed Champion
When Aljamain Sterling won the UFC bantamweight belt from Petr Yan for the first time there was a lot of doubt that the champion was deserving since he was being dominated before Yan was disqualified for an illegal knee. However, at UFC 273 Sterling shut all the doubters up and controlled Yan for three rounds including two insanely dominant rounds in which he kept Yan on the ground the entire time, and in my opinion, deserved at least one 10-8 round. When Bruce Buffer announced the judges’ scorecards and Sterling was named the UFC bantamweight champion it was undisputed.
It had been 13 months between Sterling’s last two fights and he kept saying he was going to come back much better, but nearly no one minus himself and his team believed that he had anything that could stop Yan. Even after he had to pull out of their original rematch because the effects from the knee were still causing issues Sterling still showed up and was as good as he has ever been. Sterling looked much bigger than he had in the first fight and used all of his ground skill to control Yan for 8:31.
A third fight would be worth seeing, but there are other challengers that Sterling has his eyes on such as T.J. Dillashaw, whom he called out in his post-fight interview as Dillashaw was sitting ringside, and Henry Cejudo, who has re-entered the USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) testing pool in an attempt to return from a two-year absence.
3. Khamzat Chimaev is a legit contender at welterweight
Highly talented prospect Khamzat Chimaev had his biggest test at UFC 273 when he faced the #2 ranked Gilbert Burns. After never having gone past halfway in the second round, the Russian-born Swede needed to go the distance to get a unanimous decision win. In his four previous UFC fights, Chimaev had been hit once which is insane to think about, but Burns managed to land 141 total strikes and even had Chimaev stumbling briefly.
Despite being outstruck Chimaev still put on an extremely impressive performance and fought through adversity to get the biggest win of his career. Coming into the fight he was ranked #11, but now 11-0 Chimaev should move into the top five of the welterweight rankings and have either a top contender or a title fight up next. It sounded like a win would set Chimaev up for a date with #1 ranked Colby Covington which makes sense as he is coming off a pretty easy win over Jorge Masvidal at UFC 272 and needs a statement win to earn a third crack at longtime champion Kamaru Usman.
As far as Burns is concerned he gave Chimaev a far tougher fight than expected and gave the fans a fight that is worthy of being in the Fight of the Year conversation. Burns was also able to show some small holes in Chimaev’s game that we had not seen before, but Chimaev still won and proved that he is deserving of being in the title conversation.
4. It’s not too late for Mark Madsen to make a run through the lightweight division
At 37 years old most fighters would be heading toward the end of their career, but Mark Madsen is not just any fighter. Madsen is a former Olympic silver medalist who has transitioned perfectly to MMA and is now 12-0 after beating Vinc Pichel by unanimous decision. Madsen came into the UFC in 2019 and has since gone 4-0 with three decision wins and a knockout, which is surprising considering he is a much better wrestler than striker.
Madsen has his eyes set on UFC gold and has made the move to Arizona from Denmark to get better MMA training. In an interview with MMA Junkie in January, he explained his “two-year plan” to become a UFC champion. The thought of Madsen becoming a champion is not out of the picture despite his age as we saw at UFC 267 when Glover Teixeira became the UFC light heavyweight champion at the age of 42.
5. Aleksei Oleinik is an all-time great submission artist
If Madsen is considered old for the UFC then 44-year-old Alexey Oleinik is ancient. That did not matter to him when he fought Jared Vanderaa at UFC 273 and submitted him in the first round. The submission was the 47th of Oleinik’s 77 fight career and also gave him his 60th professional MMA win. Oleinik proved that even at his age he is still one of the greatest submission specialists in MMA history which may be why he is one of the few people to have mastered the Ezekiel choke. Although he used a different submission to defeat Vanderaa, the Ezekiel choke is one of the hardest to execute and Oleinik is the only fighter to have ever won a UFC fight that way. Following his loss, Vanderaa was seen backstage asking Oleinik to teach him the scarf hold choke that Oleinik beat him with and Oleinik willingly did so. Who knows how many more fights Oleinik will have, but when he fights next it will be worth watching.
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