Alexander Volkanovski made an emphatic statement at UFC 273, loudly proclaiming his place as the world’s best featherweight.
Aljamain Sterling returned to the Octagon after a 13-month absence, conquering Petr Yan to crown himself the undisputed bantamweight champion.
And Khamzat Chimaev kept his undefeated streak alive with a unanimous decision victory. But it came at a price, as Chimaev no longer resembled the unstoppable juggernaut he had been in his prior 10 victories as he was forced to overcome all sorts of adversity against Gilbert Burns.
The 273 pay-per-view was full of highlights, but no performance was more one-sided than the main event. Volkanovski (24–1) collected his 21st victory in a row, defeating “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung (17–7) after referee Herb Dean mercifully stopped the fight in the fourth round. More than collect another win, Volkanovski may have ended Zombie’s career with that convincing victory. Right now, Volkanovski has no peers in the division.
The co-main event was full of tension, and ended in redemption for Aljamain Sterling. Powered by two dominant rounds, Sterling (21–3) slayed his greatest rival, Petr Yan (16–3), in a bantamweight title unification bout. Sterling was nearly perfect in the execution of his game plan. Every time Sterling took a shot, he continued to force Yan to fight a wrestling-based style. That clearly favored Sterling, and his unrelenting, determined approach paid dividends for Sterling, whose 13-month absence from the Octagon ended in storybook fashion.
In a vicious back-and-forth battle, Khamzat Chimaev did just enough to defeat Gilbert Burns by unanimous decision. This bout earned its place as fight of the night, with both Chimaev (11–0) and Burns (20–5) putting forth the performance of a warrior. After Chimaev won the first and third rounds, the unanimous decision was the right one.
This wasn’t easy. Burns put a major dent in Chimaev’s championship trajectory, showing that he is no longer that unstoppable force against elite opponents. The win is certainly important for Chimaev, but he likely needs one more win before he earns himself a title shot. A fight against Colby Covington would be an extremely exciting way to determine the top of the title picture.
After losing her last bout, Mackenzie Dern responded with a victory she desperately needed against Tecia Torres. The victory keeps Dern (12–2) in the top five of the women’s strawweight division, which she would have lost had she been defeated by the No. 7-ranked Torres (13–6). The tension picked up considerably in the second round, with Dern locking in a kimura that appeared to make the ending inevitable. But Torres has never been finished in her career, and she kept that streak alive here, giving a valiant effort as she lost by unanimous decision.
The main card opened with Mark Madsen extending his undefeated streak against Vinc Pichel. This was either man’s fight entering the third round, which Madsen (12–0) controlled with over four minutes of ground time. Pichel (14–3) looked his best in the second round, but he delivered no substantial offense in the final five minutes. Madsen now looks forward to a bout against a ranked opponent.
UFC 273 was a spectacular display of mixed martial arts at its highest level. Through his combination of speed and power, Volkanovski laid out why he belongs on top of the pound-for-pound rankings. Sterling put Yan in his rearview, and he now looks ahead to TJ Dillashaw. And Chimaev was forced to find a new way to win. A great night of fights was capped off with those three incredible bouts, making 273 a standout night for the sport.
FEATHERWEIGHT TITLE BOUT: ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI (C) VS. CHAN SUNG JUNG – 1:12 AM ET
Alexander Volkanovski decimated Chan Sung Jung in the UFC 273 main event, fighting at an entirely different level in a bout he won by referee stoppage in the fourth round.
This TKO victory was a clinic for Volkanovski (24–1). Referee Herb Dean made the right call in stopping the fight, and he could have even called for a stoppage sooner. The Korean Zombie (17–7) lived up to his nickname, as he continued to eat brutally violent shots, but he did no damage to Volkanovski, who went virtually untouched.
There were more than 3,000 days between this and Zombie’s last title bout, which took place in 2013, and he was completely overmatched. Volkanovski’s speed was a constant problem, and he simply could not match the champ’s power. This was the only fight of the main card not to end by decision, and the performance further highlights Volkanovski’s brilliance.
BANTAMWEIGHT TITLE BOUT: PETR YAN (IC) VS. ALJAMAIN STERLING (C) – 12:18 AM ET
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Aljamain Sterling is the new undisputed bantamweight champion.
In addition to winning the title, Sterling (21–3) gained redemption against Petr Yan. Their last bout ended in controversy after Yan (16–3) got himself disqualified with an intentional knee to Sterling’s head. That DQ victory gave Sterling the title, but not the way he intended. Yet history is now rewritten, as Sterling won this bout by split decision as a result of his wrestling.
Sterling combated the measured approach of Yan with a frequent change of stance in the opening round. Yan’s forward pressure seemed to indicate he was looking for a knockout blow, but he couldn’t land it.
Sterling dominated the next round, controlling Yan’s back and exhausting him on the mat. The third round again saw Sterling take Yan’s back. In a calculated, methodical manner, Sterling dictated the action, working from deep within his grappling wheelhouse and built up over seven minutes of ground control.
Yan came out furiously in the fourth, shifting his approach to control the round with ground-and-power. That fourth gave Yan a fighting chance. Round five started with the unrelenting approach from Sterling, whose wrestling gave him a distinct advantage. Yan continually scrambled to avoid the takedown, and while he closed out the fifth in an impressive manner by controlling Sterling’s back, it wasn’t enough when it went to the judges.
Next for Sterling appears to be TJ Dillashaw, who sat cageside for the title fight. Yan expressed his frustration afterward, claiming he was “robbed” in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan in the Octagon. But this was a night that belonged to Sterling, where he cemented his spot as bantamweight champion.
WELTERWEIGHT BOUT: GILBERT BURNS VS. KHAMZAT CHIMAEV – 11:38 PM ET
For the first time in his career, Khamzat Chimaev entered the third round. And Gilbert Burns made him fight like he never had before.
Chimaev (11–0) passed the test in an outrageously captivating fight, winning by unanimous decision. Defeating Burns (20–5), who was ranked second in the division, is a massive accomplishment for Chimaev.
The pace to open the fight was explosive, with shots landed by both fighters. The tide turned in the final moments when Chimaev dropped Burns with a right jab, followed by a vicious right elbow to the forehead that split him open. Yet Burns survived the onslaught, then did damage to Chimaev in the second round. Two right hands from Burns ended the second round, and it was remarkable that those shots didn’t knock Chimaev out.
The edge in the third round belonged to Chimaev, but it was close. So this fight ending in a unanimous decision seems awfully hard to believe, especially considering Burns won the second round in lopsided fashion.
Chimaev had to endure a great deal of punishment, and his hype train certainly takes a hit because of it. He keeps his undefeated record, but Burns made him look mortal. That is especially bad news for Chimaev if he steps into the cage against Kamaru Usman, who knocked out Burns in their title bout last year.
WOMEN’S STRAWWEIGHT BOUT: TECIA TORRES VS. MACKENZIE DERN – 11:02 PM ET
Mackenzie Dern defeated Tecia Torres by split decision in a closely contested bout, doing just enough in the first two rounds to secure the victory.
This fight was extremely compelling, especially round two. Torres (13–6) has never been finished as an MMA pro, though that came precariously close to changing in the second round when Dern (12–2) applied her kimura. Torres was in a bad place for almost the entire second round, but found new life in the third after landing an up kick to Dern’s face.
Coming off a loss, this was a victory Dern desperately needed to remain in the top five of the strawweight division. She has now won five of her last six, and she will have a top-five opponent in her next bout. Torres’s three-win victory streak is now broken, but after previously struggling with elite opponents—losing to Rose Namajunas, Zhang Weili, Joanna Jędrzejczyk, and Marina Rodriguez—this was a great showing, even despite the defeat.
LIGHTWEIGHT BOUT: VINC PICHEL VS. MARK MADSEN – 10:24 PM ET
Mark Madsen held on to his zero.
Madsen (12–0) defeated Vinc Pichel by unanimous decision, overcoming a stiff challenge by dominating the third round with over four minutes of ground control.
This was a fight that was right there for Pichel (14–3), who entered the bout having won three in a row and seven of his last eight. But after a particularly strong second round, working the body and even taking Madsen down, he could not capitalize any of that momentum in the third and final round.
Madsen isn’t flashy in the cage. At 37, he is older than most other rising stars. But his success in the cage cannot be denied, and he has himself in position to fight a ranked opponent in his next bout.
UFC 273 is built around three bouts, including the main event of Alexander Volkanovski defending his featherweight title against Chan Sung Jung, who is best known as the Korean Zombie.
Somehow, that is the least anticipated of the top three matches. The card also features a bantamweight unification title bout pitting Aljamain Sterling against Petr Yan. This fight features an unparalleled backstory, as Yan intentionally injured Sterling in their last fight and has shown no remorse for nearly ending his career. Sterling has not stepped foot in the Octagon since that vicious knee from Yan in March 2021, and he has been patiently awaiting this chance at redemption.
But the fight with the most intrigue will be third from last, with Khamzat Chimaev seeking to continue bulldozing his way through the UFC’s welterweight division. A dominant victory could elevate him into title contention, even bypassing Leon Edwards on his way to a title match against reigning champ Kamaru Usman. Standing in Chimaev’s way is Gilbert Burns, a top-tier talent who ranks among the best in the division.
Burns has no intentions of serving merely as a stepping stone for Chimaev. This marks the toughest test for Chimaev in his career, making it a must-see encounter.
The top three fights of UFC 273 have the potential to make this card spectacular.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism