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UFC 213 Observer Panel Picks: International Fight Week Edition

It's UFC's International Fight Week in Las Vegas, typcially the biggest fight week of the year, with two events. We've already had one which featured what may be the best fight you will see this year with Michael Johnson and Justin Gaethje having an instant classic.

Now comes time for what is traditionally the biggest UFC pay-per-view event of the year with UFC 213. However, it lacks the luster of previous International Fight Week pay-per-view events, and it isn't even the most stacked event this month with UFC 214 and three title fights looming large three weeks from now.

While this show lacks names like Conor McGregor, Anderson Silva, Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey that have made this the can't miss weekend in the past, UFC 213 is a good card at Vegas' T-Mobile Arena with two title fights.

Amanda Nunes defends the UFC women's bantamweight championship against Valentina Shevchenko in the main event, the second time they will have fought inside the Octagon. Nunes is wanting to make it 2-0 against her foe, while Shevchenko is looking to end the Brazilian's title reign before it hits 365 days.

The co-main event sees an interim title being made at 185 pounds as Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker do battle. It remains to be seen what is next for the winner of this fight. Do they get Michael Bisping? Is Bisping still going after a fight with Georges St. Pierre, and if so and GSP wins, what happens then? Perhaps, in the event Romero wins, Bisping immediately announces his retirement. There have been a lot of crazy things going on in this division.

Former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum and Alistair Overeem will fight for the third time, making history as it will be the first time that the same fight has happened in the big three promotions of UFC, PRIDE, and Strikeforce. Former lightweight chapion Anthony Pettis looks to return to lightweight glory as he takes on Jim Miller. Finally, Travis Browne looks to break out of a slump when he takes on Aleksei Olienik on the featured bout of the prelims.

If you're new here, our panel picks are listed below and listed alongside the fighters' names are their worldwide FightMatrix rankings, as well as BestFightOdds.com betting odds. The panelists' 2017 records are in parentheses, and we also have panel consensus picks as well as a line where we show how the betting favorites did:

  • John Pollock (32-15; .681) -- Fight Network analyst, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, MMA Report co-host
  • Favorites (31-16; .660)
  • Consensus Picks (30-16; .652)
  • Dave Meltzer (30-17; .638) -- Wrestling Observer publisher
  • David Bixenspan (30-17; .638) – Deadspin pro wrestling columnist; Between the Sheets podcast host
  • Steve Juon (29-18; .617) -- MMA Mania writer, Angry Marks publisher
  • Tom Lawlor (6-4; .600) – Co-host Filthy Four Daily; pro wrestling undercard fighter; UFC enhancement talent currently suspended due to wellness violation
  • Mike Sawyer (28-19; .596) -- Tough Talk MMA publisher
  • Josh Nason (28-19; .596) -- Host of Josh Nason’s Punch Out, WrestlingObserver.com assistant editor
  • Mike Sempervive (28-19; .596) -- Wrestling Observer Live and Big Audio Nightmare co-host
  • Ryan Frederick (26-21; .553) -- WrestlingObserver.com UFC writer
  • Paul Fontaine (24-23; .511) -- MMADraws.com publisher, WrestlingObserver.com writer
  • Front Row Brian (23-24; .489) -- MMA newsbreaker, beloved internet personality, podcast host

> UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes (14-4) vs. Valentina Shevchenko (14-2) II

Amanda Nunes won the UFC Women's Bantamweight Championship from Miesha Tate at UFC 200 at last year's International Fight Week event. She earned that title shot on the heels of a win over Valentina Shevchenko, her challenger on that night. Since that night Nunes won the title from Tate, she has defended just once- a first-round mauling of Ronda Rousey that seemingly ended the career of the trailblazer and established Nunes as the dominant female fighter at 135 pounds.

Since that loss to Nunes, Shevchenko has scored an impressive decision win over former champion Holly Holm, and, in January, she dominated and submitted Julianna Pena on FOX. Shevchenko may very well be a future champion at 125 pounds when the UFC adds the flyweight division later this year, but having another championship on her mantle wouldn't bug her at all.

When Nunes defeated Shevchenko in March 2016, it was interesting in the sense that Nunes started to fade late and Shevchenko won the third round, but Nunes got the decision based on winning the first two rounds. With two more rounds now coming into play in a title fight, it seems to put the advantage in the hands of Shevchenko, who many see enters the fight as the favorite.

  • Nunes #1; -110 betting favorite -- Fontaine, Juon, Bix, Nason, Meltzer
  • Shevchenko #2; +100 betting underdog -- Pollock, Sawyer, Frederick, FRB, Lawlor, Sempervive

> Yoel Romero (13-1) vs. Robert Whittaker (18-4) - Interim UFC Middleweight Championship

When you look at every single fight that could possibly be made, a match-up between Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker might be the single-best piece of matchmaking there can be. It is the best 185-pound fight put together in a long time, and perhaps ever, no offense to any other fight made. Romero is a freak of nature at his age, and he looks just unreal. Whittaker fights unreal, as exciting as one can be, with dangerous power.

Romero has yet to lose inside the Octagon, having won eight straight fights, many by vicious finish, making him arguably the single scariest male fighter in the sport. He has never lost at 185 pounds. However, neither has Whittaker, who has won seven straight fights, and is coming off a dominant finish of Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza in April. No offense to champion Michael Bisping, but the winner of this fight is the best middleweight in the world.

  • Romero #2; +110 betting underdog: Fontaine, Sawyer, Frederick, FRB, Lawlor, Juon, Nason
  • Whittaker #5; -120 betting favorite: Pollock, Bix, Sempervive, Meltzer

> Fabricio Werdum (21-6-1) vs. Alistair Overeem (42-15 1 NC) III
Heavyweights

Two men hunting for the next title shot in the heavyweight division will meet in a trilogy bout. Fabricio Werdum would love to get a chance for a rematch against UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic, who knocked out Werdum in May 2016 to win the championship. Overeem would like another crack at Miocic, who also knocked him out when Overeem challenged for the championship in September.

In order to do so, someone has to win the rubber match. Werdum submitted Overeem in PRIDE in 2006, while Overeem won a boring decision in Strikeforce in 2011. Both mens' careers have drastically changed since they last fought, and this time they do so inside the Octagon will title shot aspirations hanging in the balance. Werdum last fought in September, scoring a win over Travis Browne, while Overeem last fought in March, knocking out Mark Hunt.

  • Overeem #3; -135 betting favorite: Fontaine, Sawyer, Pollock, Frederick, FRB, Lawlor, Juon, Bix, Sempervive, Nason, Meltzer

> Anthony Pettis (19-6) vs. Jim Miller (28-9 1 NC)
Lightweights

28 months ago, Anthony Pettis was the UFC Lightweight Champion. The king at 155 pounds. He was on a tear, and he won a championship many were expecting him to win the day he set foot in the UFC from the WEC, and many were expecting him to be champion for a long time. He then ran into Rafael Dos Anjos, who demolished him to win the title. Then came more losses. Then came a drop to 145 pounds. A win followed. A title shot at an interim title came. Missing weight for said title fight happened, and then a destruction at the hands of Max Holloway in that fight sent Pettis back to the lightweight division, where he hopes to regain glory. He needs to if he ever wants to get the fans behind him once again, and he knows his back is against the wall.

Jim Miller will be fighting in the Octagon for the 27th time, a company record. He will be in the UFC until the day he decides to hang the gloves up for good. You rarely seen an unentertaining Jim Miller fight. While he may never get that elusive title shot that he once came oh so close to securing, the fans always have had the back of Miller for his penchant for entertainment, and he is a crowd-pleaser to say the least, and one of the most likeable fighters in the sport. He is looking to get back into the win column after suffering a loss to Dustin Poirier in February, which snapped his three-fight win streak.

  • Pettis #8; -220 betting favorite: Fontaine, Sawyer, Pollock, Frederick, FRB, Lawlor, Meltzer
  • Miller #20; +200 betting underdog: Juon, Bix, Sempervive, Nason

> Travis Browne (18-6-1) vs. Aleksei Olienik (51-10-1)
Heavyweights

Travis Browne may have already scored the biggest win outside of his fighting career, having recently becoming engaged to Ronda Rousey. When it comes to what he's done inside the Octagon, he is in desperate need of a victory on Saturday. Browne has lost three straight fights, and is just 2-5 in his last seven fights. He was knocked out cold by Derrick Lewis in February, which followed defeats at the hands of former champions Fabricio Werdum and Cain Velasquez. Many thought he would challenge for UFC gold one day- now he's fighting for UFC survival.

Aleksei Olienik is a veteran fighter who made his professional debut in 1997. At 40-years-old and entering the 63rd fight of his career, he gets his highest-profile fight in the UFC to date against Browne. Olienik is not the most exciting fighter, but he is effective as evidenced by his three UFC wins in four UFC appearances. He also holds career wins over the likes of Mirko Cro Cop and Jeff Monson, while also holding a defeat at the hands of Chael Sonnen.

  • Browne #11; -225 betting favorite: Fontaine, Sawyer, Pollock, Frederick, FRB, Lawlor, Juon, Bix, Meltzer
  • Olienik #30; +205 betting underdog: Sempervive, Nason

​​​​​​​**************

The rest of the card:

Daniel Omielanczuk (19-7-1 1 NC) vs. Curtis Blaydes (6-1 1 NC)  (heavyweights)

  • Omielanczuk #35; +570 betting underdog
  • Blaydes #54; -705 betting favorite

Chad Laprise (11-2) vs. Brian Camozzi (7-3)  (welterweights)

  • Laprise #153; -605 betting favorite
  • Camozzi #268; +505 betting underdog

Thiago Santos (14-5) vs. Gerald Meerschaert (26-8)  (middleweights)

  • Santos #25; -150 betting favorite
  • Meerschaert #46; +140 betting underdog

Jordan Mein (29-11) vs. Belal Muhammad (11-2)  (welterweights)

  • Mein #58; +120 betting underdog
  • Muhammad #65; -130 betting favorite

Rob Font (13-2) vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade (24-1 1 NC)  (bantamweights)

  • Font #30; -295 betting favorite
  • Silva de Andrade #72; +265 betting underdog

Cody Stamann (14-1) vs. Terrion Ware (17-5)  (featherweights)

  • Stamann #63BW; -245 betting favorite
  • Ware #66BW; +225 betting underdog

Trevin Giles (9-0) vs. James Bochnovic (8-1)  (light heavyweights)

  • Giles #109MW; -260 betting favorite
  • Bochnovic #139; +240 betting underdog

Action begins with the Fight Pass prelims at 6:30 p.m. ET and moves over to FS1 at 8 p.m. ET. The main card airs on PPV at 10 p.m. ET, covered bymyself, Ryan Frederick.