MMA is alive and kicking in Texarkana with Peak Fighting doing an incredible job of discovering, nurturing, and showcasing the best mixed martial arts talent in and around the local area. The goal for any MMA fighter is to get a shot at the big time, which is, of course, the UFC. The UFC cards are coming thick and fast over the next few weeks and months, and here we take a closer look at one of the best, UFC 273.
UFC Comes to Jacksonville
On April 9th the UFC bandwagon rolls into Jacksonville, Florida, more specifically, into the 15,000 capacity VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. In a stacked card, the main event sees Alexander Volkanovski defend his featherweight belt against the Korean Zombie. The UFC betting odds may have the Australian as a big favorite to retain his belt, but anyone who has seen any of the Korean’s fights to date will know that it will be anything but an easy night’s work.
Since getting into the UFC, the Korean Zombie – real name Jung Chan Sung – has tasted defeat three times, but each one of those has been to an opponent right at the top of the division, including Jose Aldo and in October 2020, Brian Ortega. Ortega was Volkanovski’s last opponent when he won the TUF fueled grudge match by unanimous decision back in UFC 266.
It is hard to see past the titleholder as he has only lost once as a professional, and that was in 2013 in just his fourth fight. Since then he has had his hand raised on 20 consecutive occasions, 10 of those in the UFC, and his resume reads like a who’s who of the featherweight big hitters.
Bantamweight Grudge Match
That is not the only title fight on the card though, and the co-main matches another mouth-watering east versus west showdown in the long-awaited rematch between Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan. The Russian lost not only the fight to Sterling, but also his bantamweight belt in the very controversial bout in Las Vegas at UFC 259 in March of 2021.
Yan was furious, perhaps understandably so, with Sterling on the night, when he was disqualified for an illegal knee, and thus surrendering his crown when he was up on two of the judges’ scorecards. The rematch was then postponed when Sterling pulled out through injury. Yan faced late replacement Cory Sandhagen, beating him for the interim belt, but it is the real thing that he wants to get his hands on again. More postponements followed, increasing Yan’s frustration further, but it is finally going down on the second Saturday of April.
Three other fights feature on the main card, and the opener is the one that really stands out. Serial fight of the night contender, and winner of fight of the year in 2019, Kelvin Gastelum never fails to bring it all to the octagon. The San Jose southpaw is in a very bad run of, if not form, certainly results. He is coming off the back of two defeats and has lost five times in his last six fights. It is hard to think his career is on the line, but that is exactly what he is fighting for when he goes in against the Russian Nassourdine Imavov. Imavov is certainly a threat, and coming off back to back second round TKO victories, and with just one loss in his last nine fights, he will see this as a huge opportunity to really announce himself on the middleweight scene.
Burns and Dern Challenging
Former welterweight challenger Gilbert Burns throws down against another Russian, the undefeated Khamzat Chimaev, while the final fight on the main card is in the women’s strawweight division. Mackenzie Dern will be looking to put her fight of the night defeat at the hands of Marina Rodriguez, when they headlined in October last year, behind her, when she takes on Tecia Torres. The Tiny Tornado is on a three-fight winning streak, and will be looking to break into the top five, with an eye on a title shot in the not too distant future.