- Date & Location: Saturday, June 20 @ Apex Gym in Las Vegas, NV
- Odds: Curtis Blaydes -315, Alexander Volkov +245
- Prediction: Blaydes via decision
On June 20, Curtis Blaydes faces Alexander Volkov in the main event of UFC on ESPN 11. Blaydes, who has been holding steady as the No. 3-ranked fighter in the official UFC heavyweight rankings, looks to add a fourth consecutive win to his record while preventing Volkov from moving up from the No. 7 spot in the division.
Blaydes began his UFC career in 2016 with a TKO loss to former heavyweight title-challenger Francis Ngannou. Since that defeat, Blaydes has become one of the more feared wrestlers in the heavyweight division. His only other career loss was a another TKO at the hands of Ngannou in 2018.
Volkov, who has held heavyweight titles with Bellator and M1 Global, also joined the UFC roster in 2016. His only setback under the UFC banner was a late third-round knockout at the hands of Derrick Lewis.
BLAYDES VS VOLKOV ODDS
BLAYDES VS VOLKOV PREDICTION & PICK
Volkov knows what he is in for when it comes to his matchup against Blaydes.
“Despite my limited training, long-distant flight and jet lag, I’m prepared for our upcoming fight and he will have to face certain challenges, as well,” the Russian fighter told MMA Junkie. “I allocate lots of time to wrestling. Even though it’s not my strongest skill, I am used to opponents like him. Obviously, he’ll count on his wrestling. That’s his only recourse. Otherwise, I will defeat him with my striking.”
Twenty of Volkov’s 31 career victories have come via knockout. He will have his work cut out for him when it comes to Blaydes, who, despite his short time with the UFC, is already the all-time leader in takedowns in the heavyweight division with 45. To go along with that number, Blaydes has spent 43:03 of his fight time in top position on the mat, which equals 42.5 percent of his total octagon time.
This is a striker vs. grappler situation and it looks like the grappler should win this one.
Pick: Blaydes (-315)
BETTING VALUE WITH BLAYDES
While Blaydes is mostly known for the insane number of takedowns he has racked up in a relatively short amount of time, his striking cannot — and should not — be overlooked. Blaydes has 10 knockout wins in 13 career victories. He is not a one trick pony as some would suggest.
With that in mind, I think he is smart enough to avoid tangling with Volkov on the feet and will look to get the fight to the mat and keep it there, especially since Volkov has struggled on the ground. I expect Blaydes to grind out a decision win.
WHO HAS THE EDGE?
Blaydes is the more complete fighter of the two and his relentless pursuit of takedowns gives his heavyweight opponents something they usually don’t have to worry about in the weight division. Most UFC heavyweights are content to focus on their striking, Blaydes is not your average heavyweight. I expect his wrestling skills will give him the edge over Volkov in Las Vegas.
Blaydes’ most recent fight showed how much he has progressed. He was unable to land a single takedown on former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos, so he relied on his striking. When he caught Dos Santos with a 1-2 that stunned the ex-champ, Blaydes rushed in and finished him with knees and punches. That fight might have been Blaydes’ most complete performance with the UFC.
Volkov is coming off a strange unanimous decision win over Greg Hardy. He didn’t show a sense of urgency in that fight and seemed happy with doing just enough to defeat Hardy. One reason Volkov might have played it safe was because he had not fought for more than a year. Volkov’s win over Hardy came in November.
FIGHT STATS: BLAYDES VS VOLKOV
|Curtis Blaydes||Category||Alexander Volkov|
|3.74||Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute||5.36|
|1.86||Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute||2.48|
|6.63||Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes||0.75|
|0.0||Submission Average Per 15 Minutes||0.2|
WHAT’S AT STAKE
For Blaydes, this is a fight he needs to win if he wants to hold onto his spot in the rankings. Now that the UFC has booked heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier, the division will start moving forward. Ngannou is likely to get the next title shot, but with a Blaydes win, he should land behind Ngannou in line to get a shot at UFC gold.
This is a big opportunity for Volkov. If he can defeat Blaydes, he could leapfrog him in the rankings and that could get him a matchup against Ngannou if Ngannou does not want to sit and wait for a title shot.