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Hot Tweets: UFC 273 extravaganza, Korean Zombie’s swan song, Petr Yan’s revenge, triple champ Khamzat Chimaev

UFC 273 Ceremonial Weigh-in Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

UFC 273 is upon us, and as is fitting with a card of this caliber, there were A LOT of great questions this week, so we have no time to dilly and very little time to dally. Let’s get to it.

The Korean Zombie’s last run

Yes, absolutely. Zombie has been a darling of both casual and hardcore MMA fans for well over a decade. He’s one of the original action fighters and someone who has done everything in the sport other than win a major title. And like with Bisping, he’s stepping in on short notice, at the end of his peak years, and is a massive underdog to the champion. If he wins, it’s going to be extremely similar to Bisping’s win, except, honestly, people might be even more stoked about it, because while Bisping was definitely popular, there was also a segment that hated him. Nobody hates TKZ. And if he wins, Zombie isn’t going to tie up the title chasing a money fight with GSP.

Man, it would be sick if he won.

Sadly, Alexander Volkanovski is going to win.

Well, it’s not that sad, because Volko is a good dude and one of the absolute best fighters in the world. It’s just he’s standing in the way of an all-time feel-good moment. Alas, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

As for moving to lightweight, I think we’re still a few years off for Volko, if he ever goes up. After he beats TKZ tonight, next up he’ll have the trilogy fight with Max Holloway, sometime later this year. If he loses that, then we’re probably going to get a fourth fight and maybe even a fifth, and if he wins it, then maybe he could consider going up, but he’d still have plenty of viable featherweight opposition available. Calvin Kattar, Yair Rodriguez, Arnold Allen, and Josh Emmett are all in the title conversation after Max gets a third crack at it. I think Volko is content to continue building his legacy at featherweight and try to get into the GOAT conversation with Jose Aldo.

Aljamain Sterling and pressure

Yes, if for no other reason than he has openly courted it.

Given everything that happened in his first fight with Petr Yan, and the long delay before a rematch, Aljo was likely always going to be the fighter coming into this weekend with the most to lose, because a loss will reinforce all the horrible things that fans (and fellow fighters) have said about him for the past year. But Sterling has ratcheted all of that up to 11 this week with the way he’s carried himself. All fight week, Sterling has been telling everyone that come Sunday, he’s gonna be talking “a lot of s***” to all the haters. Had he come in less antagonistic, a loss would still be bad, but it wouldn’t be nearly as catastrophic for him as it will be now. If Yan whips Aljo, he seriously will need to delete all of his social media, because he won’t hear the end of things for the rest of his career.

Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling

It’s not even close to the most intriguing fight on the card. It’s probably one of the least, actually, since we’ve already seen this fight before, and the outcome is overwhelmingly likely to be similar. Petr Yan is quite possibly the best fighter in the world, if you’re looking purely at skill set in comparison to his peers. It’s between him, Volkanovski, Valentina Shevchenko, and Kamaru Usman. He does everything exceptionally well, he blends it all together exceptionally well, and he has a brilliant mind for fighting. Sterling is a very good fighter and a predatory grappler, but he’s very likely outmatched in this one.

Aljamain Sterling path to victory

He can hope Yan throws the title away again?

Don’t get me wrong, Sterling has the tools to put forth a competitive fight with Yan, and maybe even win. But it’s extremely unlikely, because of who he is as a fighter. Sterling isn’t a comfortable fighter. Once he is in grappling exchanges, he’s excellent, but until such time when he gets locked onto an opponent, you can see the gears turn in his head. He’s not a man who comes out thinking, “I want takedowns.” He’s a man who thinks ,“I need takedowns.” And when those don’t come easily, he starts doing everything, all at once. This is an exceptionally bad idea against Yan, who builds as the fight goes on, and that’s basically exactly what happened in the first fight — Sterling gassed himself out and Yan ran away with it down the stretch. If Sterling can entirely change his mentality, work behind his range and let the takedowns come to him, he could make things challenging for Yan, but that’s simply not who he is.

There is, however, another path for him. In my opinion, Sterling should treat this as a five-minute fight. Come out like hell on wheels and try to Cory Sandhagen him as quickly as possible. It’s a risky gamble, but one that I think presents his best path to victory and would be a much easier adjustment for him to make than turning into prime GSP overnight.

The People’s Main Event

I think the UFC would prefer if Khamzat wins, but I honestly don’t think they’re that fussed either way, which is the sign of good promotional matchmaking.

If Khamzat wins, it’s obviously better, because it sets up the possibility of this new star challenging Usman for the title in what would be a million-buy pay-per-view, but even a loss here isn’t the worst thing. For one, the UFC seems oddly intent on not rushing Chimaev to a title fight next, even if he wins. And for another, Burns would get a huge bump from pulling off the upset. You can then run Burns in there with Covington or potentially Leon Edwards (if Usman is still taking time off) and Khamzat can be rebuilt. So again, they’d prefer it if Khamzat won, but we’re not gonna another “Cain didn’t follow the game plan” situation from Dana White if he doesn’t.

Khamzat’s future

I recognize how scorching hot this take is, but Khamzat Chimaev has a real chance to be the UFC’s first champ-champ-champ.

Khamzat is going to win the welterweight title. I’m drinking all the Kool-Aid, I’ve bought all the stock. He’s going to take the belt, be it this year or next. I also think he has a real shot to take the middleweight strap. Straight up, I think Khamzat, in a year or two, can present serious problems for Israel Adesanya. If he won both belts, I would not be even a little bit surprised.

But 205 is where it gets really interesting. For one, Chimaev is an enormous welterweight. I have no idea how he makes it down to 170, but he’s bigger than A LOT of middleweights right now. The man is not long for the welterweight division, and I think once he abandons the weight class, he will easily fill out to be a comfortable sized light heavyweight. But here’s the even more important thing — Adesanya isn’t that long for 185. He’s talked openly about moving up to 205 permanently in the near future, and when he does, he’ll stand a good chance at winning the belt there, meaning Chimaev will stand a chance at winning a belt there.

I’m not saying this is definitely going to happen, or even that it’s especially likely, but I think it is entirely possible that Chimaev could win belts in three weight classes, and even the possibility of that being true is special.

Mackenzie Dern vs. Tecia Torres

If Dern beats Tecia Torres, she’s probably one win away.

Rose Namajunas is going to defend her title against Carla Esparza next and then she’ll probably fight Marina Rodriguez. After that though, Dern is No. 4 in the UFC rankings. At that point, Dern isn’t far from a title shot.

Fan Vote Crypto Nonsense

I’m not gonna crap on this too much because fighters making more money is always good, but fan voting sucks and this is going to suck too. I would bet a SUBSTANTIAL amount of money that Khamzat Chimaev is going to win this fan vote, regardless of what happens tonight. Sterling could KO Yan with a hurricanrana in the opening 20 seconds of the fight, and Chimaev is still going to win it.

And one non-UFC 273 thing, just for kicks

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Can you imagine Conor McGregor fighting Kamaru Usman? Or Khamzat Chimaev? God love the man, but there are decided disadvantages to surrounding yourself with Yes Men.

There are, I think, three explanations for what is happening here, and none of them are trolling:

1) Conor has spent his entire fight career manifesting things, and so, even though all evidence is screaming to him that that doesn’t work anymore — that he needs a new camp, his famed power doesn’t carry to 155 in the same way, he’s a limited fighter — instead he goes back to the thing he knows: Saying stuff and believing it will come true.

2) He recognizes the situation he’s in and has made the correct determination that challenging for and losing another lightweight fight is a really tough look for him, whereas, losing to Usman, the P4P king who fights a weight division up from him, comes with baked in excuses for the loss.

3) Conor has bulked up a lot during his time recovering and now doesn’t fancy the idea of cutting to 155.

Those are the three things that make sense to me, given the circumstances, and it could be a little bit of all of them. Whatever it is though, McGregor ain’t winning the welterweight title. I’ll eat my hat if he does.

Thanks for reading and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! Do you have any burning questions about things at least somewhat related to combat sports? Then you’re in luck, because you can send your Hot Tweets to me, @JedKMeshew, and I will answer them! Doesn’t matter if they’re topical or insane. Send them to me and I’ll answer the ones I like the most. Let’s have fun.

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