MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC on ESPN 11, a five-round heavyweight bout between Curtis Blaydes and Alexander Volkov. The event takes place on Saturday, June 20 at the UFC Apex in las Vegas, Nevada.
Curtis Blaydes (-400)
Blaydes (13-2, 1 NC) is the No. 3 ranked heavyweight in the UFC. The 29-year-old American has been one of the top heavyweights in the Octagon since 2016, going 8-2, 1 NC overall in that time while fighting in the UFC. He has notable wins over the likes of Junior dos Santos, Alistair Overeem, and Mark Hunt, with both his defeats coming by knockout to Francis Ngannou. Blaydes is an elite wrestler and is able to take most of his opponents down at will. On the ground, he has vicious ground-and-pound and he is able to finish most of his opponents with strikes as his 10 career knockouts attest to. His standup is also improving and in his last fight he knocked out JDS on the feet. Blaydes has fantastic cardio for a heavyweight and is able to keep pushing until his opponents break. Like any heavyweight, he is susceptible to being KOed, but overall he is one of the best in the world. A win here over Volkov and Blaydes moves one step closer to getting a title shot.
Alexander Volkov (+325)
Volkov (31-7) is the No. 7 ranked heavyweight in the UFC. The 31-year-old Russian is the former Bellator heavyweight champion and he has performed well since entering the Octagon in 2016. Volkov has a 5-1 record so far in the UFC with wins over Fabricio Werdum, Stefan Struve, Roy Nelson, Greg Hardy, and Tim Johnson, with his lone UFC loss coming to Derrick Lewis via Hail Mary KO. Volkov is one of the tallest heavyweights in the UFC at 6’7″ and he is blessed with a long reach. He is generally able to use his reach and work from distance, and he can finish fights with strikes as seen by his 20 career knockouts. Volkov also has solid takedown defense, making him a tough matchup for a lot of heavyweights. He has been finished a few times in his career, but it’s few and far in-between. If he can beat Blaydes here as an underdog, Volkov will emerge as a legit contender.
Fight Breakdown: This is a heavyweight bout so there’s a higher level of variance when compared to other weight classes. When you look at the stylistic matchup, you have to favor Blaydes here due to his elite wrestling and ground-and-pound. But again, it’s heavyweight, and Blaydes has been knocked out before. Volkov has a long reach and knockout power and it’s not out of the realm of possibility he can land on Blaydes here and finish him. I feel like the odds have gone too far in the direction of Blaydes at this point. I’m still going to pick Blaydes just because I feel like he will be able to get takedowns and with five rounds to work he will probably finish the fight on the ground. But at the current odds, it has to be considered a dog-or-pass situation at this point.
Prediction: Curtis Blaydes via TKO