The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to pay-per-view for international fight week with two shows in one week.
The Ultimate Fighter Finale 25 takes place on Friday with Michael Johnson vs. Justin Gaethje featuring in the main event of the free fight card on Fox.
The finale is followed up by UFC 213 on Saturday which is headlined by two of the fiercest women on the planet.
A welterweight clash between Robbie Lawler and Donald Cerrone was originally slated for the card, but a blood infection to ‘Cowboy’ meant the bout was rescheduled for UFC 214.
Also planned was a highly anticipated fight between Cody Garbrandt vs. TJ Dillashaw, but Garbrandt withdrew with a back injury.
Nevertheless, the card is packed with big names and promises to be an exciting night of fights.
We preview and predict the main card below…
MAIN EVENT – UFC WOMAN BANTAMWEIGHT TITLE
Bantamweight – Amanda ‘The Lioness’ Nunes (C) (14-4) vs. Valentina ‘Bullet’ Shevchenko (14-2)Embed from Getty Images
Amanda Nunes will look to defend her bantamweight title for the second time against old foe Valentina Shevchenko in the main event at the T-Mobile Arena.
Nunes shocked the world at UFC 207 when she knocked out Ronda Rousey in devastating fashion after just 48 seconds – making it look so easy against a former dominant champion to defend the crown she won at UFC 200 against Miesha Tate.
‘Lioness’ has lost just once in the UFC, against Cat Zingano, but has taken her game to the next level since joining American Top Team and is riding a five-fight win streak; finishing four of those wins.
She will face the #1 ranked contender in Shevchenko who earned an impressive submission victory over Julianna Pena and beat Holly Holm to earn a shot at the UFC gold.
Shevchenko has also lost just once in the UFC, her sole defeat coming at the hands of Nunes in March 2016.
Nunes dominated the first two rounds, but ‘Bullet’ was the clear winner in the third suggesting that the 29-year-old might have won the fight if it was five rounds instead of three.
The champion is a devastating finisher but seems to fade in the later rounds meaning if she fails to get Shevchenko out early, the advantage could be handed to the challenger.
Nevertheless, the Brazilian has some of the best hands in the bantamweight division, and I’m backing her to retain her gold via knockout.
PREDICTION: Nunes via knockout
CO-MAIN EVENT – UFC INTERIM MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Middleweight – Robert ‘Reaper’ Whittaker (18-4) vs. Yoel ‘Soldier Of God’ Romero (12-1)Embed from Getty Images
The UFC middleweight division has been up in the air recently but will finally get some clarification on Saturday when Robert Whittaker meets Yoel Romero for the interim title.
Current champ, Michael Bisping, was expected to meet the returning Georges St-Pierre for the title but the Canadian insisted on delaying the bout with Bisping also sidelined over the summer.
The UFC finally lost patience with many middleweights complaining over the current title situation leading to the interim title fight being booked.
Romero emerged as the clear number one contender at UFC 205 when he knocked out former champion Chris Weidman with a huge flying knee to set up a clash with Bisping.
The Cuban extended his unbeaten record in the UFC to 8-0 including wins over Jacare Souza, Tim Kennedy, and Lyoto Machida.
With Bisping out of action, Whittaker earned his shot at the title when he stopped Souza at UFC on Fox 24 despite being the heavy underdog against one of the most feared jiu-jitsu practitioners on the planet.
He will aim to become the first Australian to hold a UFC championship belt.
The Australian showed excellent takedown defence against Jacare and has the seventh highest takedown defence percentage in UFC history – something he will have to rely on heavily against Romero.
‘Soldier of God’ is an Olympic medallist in wrestling and will be looking to send the fight to the mat with his outstanding takedowns but he is also capable of a knockout.
However, Whittaker’s boxing is sleek and ‘the Reaper’s should hold the advantage on the feet. Whether that will be enough against a wrestler of Romero’s calibre remains to be seen.
It is an extremely tough fight to call with both men worthy of being named middleweight champion however I’m backing Romero to take a close decision.
PREDICTION: Romero via decision
Heavyweight – Alistair ‘The Reem’ Overeem (42-15) vs. Fabricio Werdum (21-6-1)Embed from Getty Images
Two of the best heavyweights on the planet will collide yet again, for the third time, as Alistair Overeem takes on Fabricio Werdum with both fighters looking to earn another shot at the heavyweight title.
Back in 2006 fighting for Pride, Werdum won via submission in the second round, but Overeem was victorious when the pair met in the Strikeforce, taking home a decision win.
Both fighters came up short against reigning champion Stipe Miocic – both losing via knockout in the first round against the Cleveland native.
Werdum responded with a decision win over Travis Browne at UFC 203, the same card that Overeem was knocked out by Miocic. ‘The Reem’ got back on track with a knockout win over Mark Hunt at UFC 209 to put himself back in the title picture.
There is no clear number one contender in the heavyweight division and a win for either man could set up another title bout.
Both have made significant improvements to their overall game since they last met meaning the third fight is an intriguing match-up.
Werdum has improved his striking and is one of the most dangerous heavyweights on the ground. However, Overeem is a dangerous kickboxer and looked outstanding against Hunt.
I’m backing the Dutch striker to take home a knockout win to make the score 2-1 against the Brazilian.
PREDICTION: Overeem via knockout
Lightweight – Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis (19-6) vs. Jim Miller (17-8)Embed from Getty Images
Anthony Pettis returns to the lightweight division following two fights at featherweight and meets unranked Jim Miller looking to rekindle his UFC career.
Pettis was once the UFC lightweight champion, but two straight losses against Eddie Alvarez and Edson Barboza after losing the belt to Rafael Dos Anjos meant he decided to move to featherweight.
He won his first fight at 145lbs against Charles Oliveira but missed weight in a potential title fight against Max Holloway where he lost via knockout. Making the weight proved too much for Pettis who decided to move back to 155.
‘Showtime’ faces Miller who is coming off a loss to Dustin Poirier at UFC 208. The 33-year-old will have to look to clinch against the cage with Pettis holding the advantage on the feet and is equally adept on the ground.
Pettis’ losses after losing the title came against the elite in the division, and he will benefit from a less strenuous weight cut.
I’m backing ‘Showtime’ to get his career back on track and look to regain his lightweight belt by knocking Miller out.
PREDICTION: Pettis via knockout
Heavyweight – Curtis ‘Razor’ Blaydes (6-1) vs. Daniel Omielanczuk (19-7)Embed from Getty Images
With Lawler-Cerrone scrapped, a heavyweight clash between Curtis Blaydes and Daniel Omielanczuk was promoted to the main card.
Blaydes enters the octagon with a 1-1 record in the UFC after having a win over Adam Milstead overturned to a no contest after testing positive for marijuana. His sole defeat came at the hands of Francis Ngannou in his UFC debut.
He faces Omielanczuk who is coming off two straight losses to Stefan Struve and Timothy Johnson.
The Pole is an incredibly tough man to finish, but he has his work cut out for him against an aggressive and deadly finish in Blaydes.
‘Razor’ gets my pick to win the fight via knockout.
PREDICTION: Blaydes via knockout.
Leave your predictions for UFC 213 below!