The Cody Garbrandt versus T.J. Dillashaw grudge-match was scheduled for UFC 213 (July 8th at the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas) but a back injury forced the bantamweight champ to pull out. Instead, Amanda Nunes will put her women’s bantamweight title on the line against Valentina Shevchenko.
Also on the card is an interim title fight between Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker, two of the toughest middleweights in the sport.
Let’s preview the match-ups and make some picks.
Amanda Nunes (-110) vs Valentina Shevchenko (+100)
When Amanda Nunes (14-4) and Valentina Shevchenko (14-2) fought back in March of last year, Nunes took the fight a comfortable decision win. On their feet, the fighters were evenly matched. Shevchenko drew from her kickboxing and Muay Thai background while Nunes put her striking prowess on full display.
However, on the ground, it was a one-sided affair. Shevchenko struggled to deal with Nunes’ grappling and simply didn’t have the technical ability to match her Jiu-Jitsu. Toward the end of the third round, she reclaimed the upper-hand over a tired Nunes, but by then the scorecard had already been decided.
When they meet again at UFC 213, Nunes will be putting her bantamweight title on the line. Shevchenko is coming off two impressive wins against former champ Holly Holm and number two contender Julianna Peña.
Both fighters have come a long way since the first fight, but Nunes has been particularly dominant. She’s the more well-rounded fighter and if the fight goes to ground, Shevchenko will be out of her element.
Pick: Amanda Nunes (-110)
Yoel Romero (-110) vs Robert Whittaker (+110)
Yoel Romero (13-1) is just one win away from a shot at middleweight champ Michael Bisping (whose injury has turned this into an interim title fight), but defeating Robert Whittaker (18-4) will be no easy feat. Whittaker is 6-0 since making his middleweight debut and is riding high after a huge win against Jacare Souza.
Romero clinched a split-decision win against Souza in late 2015 and landed a brutal flying knee knockout against Chris Weidman in his sole fight of 2016. He’s 8-0 since joining the UFC and making his middleweight debut.
At just 26 years old, Whittaker definitely has age on his side. He’s a high-energy, high-pressure fighter who can out-strike and out-grapple his opponents. Romero is 40 years old, but he’s somehow still in phenomenal form. He’s a brutal striker and a world champion wrestler.
This is a close one, but I’m going to have to go with Romero on this one. Age hasn’t seemed to catch up with him yet, and he’s one of the most devastating middleweights we’ve ever seen.
Pick: Yoel Romero (-110)