JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The story coming into the fight was mainly about Khamzat Chimaev. How good was one of the top prospects to ever grace the Octagon? Could he hang with the top welterweights in the world, one of which is Gilbert Burns?
The answer to the latter question was a resounding yes. The undefeated Chimaev outlasted Burns via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) on the UFC 273 main card Saturday night at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. It went back and forth, and both men scored punches that dropped the other. It was one of the best UFC fights in recent memory, a spectacular three-round brawl.
"I didn't know he was so tough," Chimaev said in his postfight interview.
ESPN had Burns ranked No. 3 in the world at welterweight coming in. Chimaev was unranked, but he won't be for long. This was the first time in his career that Chimaev did not finish.
Chimaev dropped Burns with a perfect left jab near the end of the first round and nearly finished with huge ground and pound. A big elbow from the top caused a cut on Burns' forehead. Burns fired back and dropped Chimaev twice in the second, though the first one seemed more of a slip. Burns had Chimaev hurt toward the end of the round, though.
Chimaev fired back in the third. Burns was tired from the grueling battle, and Chimaev got him against the cage and was landing hard shots while Burns covered up. To his credit, Burns was able to get another wind and land some shots later in the round. But the hard flurries put Chimaev over the top, earning him the biggest win of his career.
Chimaev (10-0) is now 5-0 in the UFC and the previous four wins all came via finish. The Chechnya native, who trains out of All Stars in Sweden, holds the record for the fastest two wins in the UFC modern era (10 days) and is coming off a win over Li Jingliang at UFC 267 last October. Chimaev, 27, was a -550 favorite despite Burns being highly ranked and a former title challenger.
Burns (20-5) was coming off a unanimous decision win over Stephen Thompson at UFC 264 last July. The Brazil native, who trains out of Florida, fell to champion Kamaru Usman in a title fight at UFC 258 in February 2021. Burns, 35, is a former Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion.
Men's featherweight championship: Alexander Volkanovski (c) (24-1, 11-0 UFC) def. Chan Sung Jung (17-7, 7-4 UFC) by TKO (Watch on ESPN+)
Alexander Volkanovski keeps Chan Sung Jung guessing throughout their fight and wins the bout via technical knockout.
Since becoming UFC featherweight champion, Alex Volkanovski vowed to finish Saturday night, something he has yet to do to an opponent. One of the world's top fighters lived up to his promise.
Volkanovski stopped Chan Sung Jung, "The Korean Zombie," via TKO (punches) at :45 of the fourth round in the main event of UFC 273. With the victory, Volkanovski picked up his third featherweight title defense.
It was one-way traffic the whole way, with Volkanovski doing damage to Jung every round. Volkanovski dropped Jung at the end of the third round and nearly finished him with ground and pound. At the start of the fourth, it was pretty clear referee Herb Dean was keeping an eye on Jung, whose face was badly marked up and whose nose looked broken. When Volkanovski landed a big combo early in the fourth, Dean stepped in to stop it even though Jung was still standing.
"He actually took a lot more than I wanted him to," Volkanovski said in his postfight interview. "I thought they could have stopped it earlier. That's the sport we're in."
ESPN has Volkanovski ranked No. 4 on its MMA pound-for-pound list. At featherweight, Volkanovski is ranked No. 1 and Jung is No. 9. Max Holloway, whom Volkanovski has defeated twice in title fights, was the originally scheduled opponent for Volkanovski before withdrawing due to injury.
"Everybody in my division, I've been saying it for a while now," Volkanovski said. "Get your s--- together and earn that No. 1 spot. If you don't, you're gonna miss out."
Volkanovski dropped Jung with a right hand at the end of the first round and then took him off his feet again with a leg kick shortly after. It was more big combos for Volkanovski in the second round. Jung, who had the crowd's support, started the third round hot. But before long, Volkanovski took over again. It felt like he was landing every combination he threw, including the one at the end of the round that nearly stopped Jung. Early in the fourth, it was over.
Men's bantamweight championship: Aljamain Sterling (21-3, 13-3 UFC) def. Petr Yan (16-3, 8-2 UFC) by split decision to retain title (Watch on ESPN+)
Aljamain Sterling wins his long-anticipated rematch with Petr Yan via split decision at UFC 273.
Aljamain Sterling is the UFC's undisputed bantamweight champion. Undisputed. Kind of.
Sterling (21-3) got the last laugh on Petr Yan (16-3) and all of his critics on Saturday, as he pulled out a razor-close split decision over Yan. The 135-pound title fight, which was supposed to end any controversy left from the initial meeting between the two in March 2021, co-headlined UFC 273.
That controversy might not be completely cleared up, however, as some scored the fight in Yan's favor. Two judges had it 48-47 for Sterling, while a third had it 48-47 for Yan. Sterling, who won the belt in 2021 when Yan was disqualified for an illegal knee, seemed to enjoy the win, even though the Jacksonville crowd booed the decision.
Sterling must have seen a realtor before this fight, location, location, location. #UFC273— Teddy Atlas (@TeddyAtlasReal) April 10, 2022
"I had a tough ass opponent in Petr Yan," Sterling said. "He's dangerous and he brings out the best in me. He beat my ass the first fight. This is for the haters who keep writing me off."
Yan, who is from Russia, looked incredulous as the scorecards were read.
"I think I won this fight and I got robbed," he said through a translator.
Strawweight: Mackenzie Dern (12-2, 7-2 UFC) def. Tecia Torres (13-6, 9-6 UFC) via split decision (Watch on ESPN+)
The third round was just 40 seconds old when Dern jumped guard, locked in a kimura while the fighters still were standing, then brought Torres down on top of her on the canvas. This was Dern's world. She is a multiple-time jiu-jitsu world champion, one of the best grapplers in all of MMA, with submissions in seven of her 11 victories. Was she about to deliver No. 8?
Dern continued to work on the kimura, and after Torres defended that well, Dern switched to a leg lock. Torres made it to the horn but looked drained as she went to her corner. And when Round 3 began with Dern getting a quick takedown, it didn't look good for Torres -- until she unleashed an upkick that floored Dern against the cage. And Torres took over from there.
Close fight but thought Tecia had 1 & 3 #UFC273— Angela Hill (@AngieOverkill) April 10, 2022
But it was not enough for two judges, who turned in 29-28 scorecards in Dern's favor, giving the 29-year-old from Huntington Beach, California, her fifth win in her past six fights. Dern is No. 6 in the ESPN strawweight rankings.
For the eighth-ranked Torres, a 32-year-old from Colorado Springs, Colorado, the tight defeat halted her three-fight winning streak.
2016 UFC Fight of the Year Cub Swanson vs. Doo Ho Choi goes into HOF
The Greatest night of my life :) https://t.co/95s6KJXuTk— Cub Swanson (@CubSwanson) April 10, 2022
Lightweight: Mark O. Madsen (12-0, 4-0 UFC) def. Vinc Pichel (14-3, 7-3 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch on ESPN+)
Denmark's Madsen remained undefeated with a decision over Pichel, following three grueling rounds.
All three judges scored it in Madsen's favor: 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28. It was a tough fight, as Madsen and Pichel's best skill seemed to be negating each other's offense. Every strike and inch on the ground took effort, and both were tired by the end.
In the end, Madsen's wrestling was the difference. He was credited with success on all three of his takedowns and racked up 5:10 of control time to just 48 seconds for Pichel.
There were several stalemates on the ground, and neither lightweight ever appeared to hurt his opponent on the feet. For Madsen, who said he plans on moving to the U.S. to train for his next fight, it's his third consecutive win by decision.
Madsen, 37, is 4-0 in the UFC overall. Pichel, of California, sees a three-fight win streak snapped.
Suit vs. Sweats: Who wore it better?
Welterweight: Ian Garry (9-0, 2-0 UFC) def. Darian Weeks (5-2, 0-2 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch on ESPN+)
Garry is one of the best prospects in the UFC, and Saturday night's performance did nothing to dispel that notion.
"The Future" outpointed Weeks via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27) to stay undefeated in a workmanlike effort. In the third round, Garry started getting into his rhythm when he dropped Weeks with a right hand and landed a big left head kick.
"He was good," Garry said in his postfight interview. "He was tough, he was big, he was strong. I wanted to stop him. ... At the end of the day, it was 15 minutes in the cage. I'm happy with it."
Afterward, Garry announced his wife was pregnant with their first child. He gave a message to UFC president Dana White and matchmakers Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard: "Line them up, I'll knock them down," and said, "Everybody is gonna call me daddy."
Garry had a solid first round, mixing in combinations with a jab and leg kick that briefly took Weeks off his feet. Weeks rallied a bit in the second, using a clinch and landing shots that bloodied Garry's nose. But Garry found his groove in the third, using his length and striking to keep Weeks at bay with jabs, kicks and a stiff right hand.
Garry, 24, is now 2-0 in the UFC. The Ireland native is the former Cage Warriors welterweight champion and has taken inspiration from countryman Conor McGregor. Weeks, a 28-year-old fighting out of Missouri, has dropped both of his UFC fights.
Middleweight: Anthony Hernandez (9-2, 3-2 UFC) def. Josh Fremd (9-3, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch on ESPN+)
Hernandez, of California, earned a hard-fought decision over a late replacement opponent in Fremd to improve to 3-2 inside the Octagon. All three judges scoring the fight had it for Hernandez, by scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
Hernandez was initially supposed to fight Dricus du Plessis on Saturday. However, du Plessis was moved to another opponent. Fremd agreed to take the fight on short notice in his UFC debut.
Fremd, of Pennsylvania, put up a reasonable effort, especially in the second round. Hernandez looked to sap his gas tank and controlled the fight with his wrestling, but Fremd worked into top position several times and threatened with a guillotine.
However, by the third, Hernandez's strategy had paid off. Fremd looked tired, and Hernandez took him down to start the round and spent most of the frame in dominant position. He also went for several submissions but settled for the decision.
Women's bantamweight: Raquel Pennington (14-9, 11-5 UFC) def. Aspen Ladd (9-3, 4-3 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch on ESPN+)
It's been nearly four years since Pennington challenged unsuccessfully for the UFC's bantamweight title. If she keeps this up, she might get another crack at it.
Pennington, of Colorado Springs, picked up her fourth win in a row by thoroughly outpointing the 27-year-old Ladd. All three judges awarded the fight to Pennington, 29-28. According to UFC Stats, she out-landed Ladd in total strikes, 131 to 82.
Pennington's boxing skills set the tone in the first and second rounds. She landed straight punches early and dominated the exchanges up close. She took the fight on nine days' notice and got out-grappled in the third round but still won the cards.
Pennington looked freaking incredible on just 9 days notice!! #UFC273— Megan Anderson (@MeganA_mma) April 10, 2022
Even in the third round that didn't go her way, Pennington did well defending Ladd's wrestling, especially considering the short-notice nature of the fight. She called out Sara McMann in her postfight speech.
Ladd, who was once considered one of the brightest prospects in the division, falls to 1-3 in her past four.
Welterweight: Mike Malott (8-1-1, 1-0 UFC) def. Mickey Gall (7-5, 6-5 UFC) by TKO (Watch on ESPN+)
Mike Malott wins his UFC debut by knocking out Mickey Gall in the UFC 273 prelims.
It's been a good night for UFC debutants.
Malott starched Gall with a left hook, resulting in a TKO at 3:41 of the first round. Gall face-planted on the punch and Malott followed up. But the referee rightly stepped in to save Gall and end the fight.
That Malott hook is absolutely disgusting! Oof! #UFC273— Julian marquez (@JMarquezMMA) April 10, 2022
The fight was pretty even before the finish, with both men trading combinations. Malott was bleeding from the nose as a result of Gall's offense.
Malott, 30, has won four straight overall. The Canada native, who trains out of Team Alpha Male in California, beat Shimon Smotritsky via first-round submission to earn his way into the UFC on Dana White's Contender Series. Gall, a 30-year-old from New Jersey who trains out of Florida, has dropped two straight.
Heavyweight: Aleksei Oleinik (60-16-1, 9-7 UFC) def. Jared Vanderaa (12-8, 1-4 UFC) via scarf hold submission (Watch on ESPN+)
Aleksei Oleinik proves that he can still hang with the best of them at 44 years old with an impressive submission of Jared Vanderaa.
Oleinik won by submission. Stop the presses.
For the graybeard 44-year-old Russian, the neck crank he used to elicit a tapout from Vanderaa was his 47th submission victory in a 60-fight career. The submission, which came at 3:39 of the opening round, was Oleinik's second scarf hold in the Octagon and only the seventh in UFC history. He has seven submissions in the UFC, the second most in heavyweight history behind Frank Mir's eight.
Hope I could grapple like Oleinik in a decade, WOW! #UFC273— Henry Cejudo (@HenryCejudo) April 9, 2022
Vanderaa, a 29-year-old from Memet, California, knew Oleinik planned to take the fight to the canvas, and he prevented that from happening early on. Then he took Oleinik to the mat himself and took back control, threatening a rear-naked choke. But Oleinik used a leg lock to reverse position, then clamped on the finishing move to hand Vanderaa his third loss in a row and fourth in his past five fights.
Strawweight: Piera Rodriguez (8-0, 1-0 UFC) def. Kay Hansen (7-6, 1-3 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch on ESPN+)
Early on, it looked like Hansen's wrestling would be the difference in the matchup, but Rodriguez proved to be a notch above as the fight wore on.
Rodriguez picked up a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) win in her UFC debut against Hansen. Known as a striker, Rodriguez has been training in Los Angeles with noted wrestling coach Kenny Johnson and the results were apparent.
Hansen got a takedown in the first round, landed some decent ground-and-pound and finished the first five minutes working for an arm-triangle choke. Rodriguez got takedowns in the second and third rounds, and Rodriguez got Hansen's back in the second and worked for a rear-naked choke.
Rodriguez, 29, is the former LFA women's strawweight champion. The Venezuela native earned her way into the UFC with a win in Dana White's Contender Series last October. Hansen, a 22-year-old California native, has dropped three straight following a four-fight winning streak.
Hansen missed weight Friday, coming in at 118.5 pounds, 2.5 pounds over the nontitle women's strawweight limit.
Should Dillashaw get the winner of Sterling-Yan 2?
TJ Dillashaw is here backstage at #UFC273. He says he plans on fighting the Yan vs. Sterling winner.— Marc Raimondi (@marc_raimondi) April 9, 2022
Men's bantamweight: Julio Arce (18-5, 5-3 UFC) def. Daniel Santos (10-2, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch on ESPN+)
Santos walked into the cage for his UFC debut and never took a backward step for three rounds, firing every shot with significant power. In the face of that aggression, Arce spent 15 minutes moving left, moving right, sliding backward and stepping forward to crack Santos again and again in a show of veteran mastery that earned him the nod on all three scorecards (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
Arce, 32 and from New York, has won two of his past three, with the loss coming against rising star Song Yadong. He was patient and elusive, avoiding most of what Santos threw and marking him up with a steady flow of right jabs, straight left hands and high kicks. One downside: Arce missed the bantamweight limit at Friday's weigh-in, at 136.5 pounds.
Santos, a 27-year-old Brazilian, saw a two-fight winning streak end. He was aggressive but too wild with punches and spinning attacks, landing just 17 of 70 in the first round and losing steam from there.