This article is part of our UFC Picks series.
The UFC returns to Jacksonville, Florida for UFC 273 which goes down on Saturday, April 9. In the main event, featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski looks to defend his belt against Chan Sung Jung (aka "The Korean Zombie").
In this series of articles, I'll share my favorite play, an underdog pick, a prop and a three-fighter parlay I like. All lines are taken from DraftKings online sportsbook and are accurate as of the post date of this article.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik (12-3) vs. Marcin Tybura (22-7)
Weight Class: Heavyweight
Jair Rozenstruik was once the talk of the heavyweight division, but he has gone 2-3 in his last five trips to the cage. Still, he is one of the best strikers and power-punchers in the division.
There's no question Tybura's game plan will be to try and get Rozenstruik down, but the latter does have a 75 percent takedown defense. On the feet, Rozenstruik doesn't throw a ton of volume, but he makes the punches count, and Tybura is there to be hit.
We have seen when Tybura faces a power puncher, he does get rocked. Even in wins, Walt Harris and Greg Hardy were able to hurt him badly. Also of note is that he has been knocked out in four of his seven losses. Rozenstruik has a ton of power that he could KO Tybura, but even if he doesn't, he can keep this fight standing and land the harder shots to win a decision.
The Play: Jair Rozenstruik (-150)
Mark O. Madsen (11-0) vs. Vinc Pichel (14-2)
Weight Class: Lightweight
The oddsmakers opened Mark Madsen as the betting favorite, but the public has been backing Vinc Pichel, which I don't understand.
There's no question Pichel is the better striker, but he doesn't have KO power. Furthermore, in his two losses, he got out-wrestled badly and now faces a Greco-Roman Olympic silver medalist wrestler. Madsen averages 4.33 takedowns per 15 minutes and has a 60 percent takedown accuracy, while Pichel has a brutal 25 percent takedown defense.
Madsen's cardio is a worry, but he should be able to take Pichel down and control him to win the first two rounds and just survive the third to secure a decision. On the feet, his striking is good enough to avoid the power shots, which is why I like him as my underdog pick.
The Play: Mark O. Madsen (+110)
Tecia Torres (13-5) vs. Mackenzie Dern (11-2)
Weight Class: Strawweight
The fight is a pick'em with a slight lean towards Dern, but I actually like Torres to be able to keep the fight standing and win a decision. Everyone knows how good Dern's grappling is, but she only has a 10 percent takedown accuracy. We have seen this before with really good grapplers that struggle with wrestling, and on the feet, Torres is the much better striker.
Torres lands 4.71 significant strikes per minute while absorbing 3.61. On the flip side, Dern lands 3.13 while absorbing 4.22. I don't think Dern will be able to get the fight to the ground, and Torres will just out-land Dern to win the rounds.
Along with that, Torres has won 11 of her 13 fights by decision, while Dern has never been finished in her career. If Marina Rodriguez couldn't finish Dern over five rounds, I don't think Torres will either, so take Torres to win by decision.
The Play: Tecia Torres by decision (+150)
Raquel Pennington (13-8) vs. Aspen Ladd (9-2), Khamzat Chimaev (10-0) vs. Gilbert Burns (20-4) & Alexander Volkanovski (23-1) vs. Korean Zombie (17-6)
Weight Class: Women's Bantamweight, Welterweight & Featherweight
Pennington is taking on Aspen Ladd, who is dropping back down to bantamweight – a division in which she has struggled to make weight. Even if she does make 136, this is a bad style matchup for her, as Pennington will be able to keep it standing. On the feet, she will be able to out-volume Ladd, similar to what Norma Dumont did, as Ladd doesn't throw enough volume for my liking.
In the second leg, I'm backing Khamzat Chimaev to beat Gilbert Burns, as Chimaev is the real deal. Chimaev will be much bigger and stronger than Burns, and I expect him to keep this fight standing and land the bigger shots to eventually rock and drop the Brazilian in the first round. We have seen Burns be knocked out before (Usman knocked him out with a jab), and Chimaev should be a harder puncher than the champ. Chimaev is a problem, and he will prove it here with a first-round stoppage.
For my final leg, I'm taking the champ Alexander Volkanovski to retain his belt. The Korean Zombie is not the same fighter as he used to be, as Brian Ortega out-struck him over five rounds back in late-2020. Volkanovski will be able to mix in the wrestling, and on the feet, he will just out-land Zombie to either win a decision or perhaps get a late finish. I simply don't see a way Zombie wins this fight, as Volkanovski has a good chin and is the better striker and wrestler.
The Play: Pennington, Chimaev & Volkanovski parlay (+106)