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UFC Fight Night 115 preview and predictions

MMA: UFC 204-Struve vs vs Omielanczuk Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back on UFC Fight Pass this weekend (Sat., Sept. 2, 2017) with the UFC Fight Night 115 mixed martial arts (MMA) event, which features a heavyweight main event between Alexander Volkov and Stefan Struve, who battle for a spot in the 265-pound title chase.

In the UFC Fight Night 115 co-main event, held inside Ahoy Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Netherlands, rugged bantamweight standout Marion Reneau faces late-notice opponent Talita de Oliveira. Elsewhere on the four-fight main card, Siyar Bahadurzada collides with Rob Wilkinson while Bryan Barberena tangles with Leon Edwards.

If you want a closer look at the UFC “Rotterdam” preliminary card, also on Fight Pass, head over to Patrick Stumberg’s detailed breakdown here and here. Odds and betting lines for “Volkov vs. Struve” can be found here.

Let’s get to it.

265 lbs.: Alexander “Drago” Volkov (28-6) vs. Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve (28-8)

It’s hard to believe that Stefan Struve has been with UFC for over eight years and has 36 professional fights, especially since “Skyscraper” is still just 29 years old. Longevity in MMA is difficult in and of itself, but longevity when you’re of little value to the bottom line is nearly unheard of.

That might sound like harsh criticism, but consider that in those eight years, Struve has never fought for the heavyweight title and has yet to headline a pay-per-view (PPV) event. In addition, he’s been plagued with physical issues like a leaking heart and a broken jaw, in addition to mental issues like locker room panic attacks.

Struve’s last three wins have come against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Antonio Silva, and Daniel Omielanczuk. The first was forced into retirement, the second was cut from the promotion, and the third has lost three in a row.

Where is the “Skyscraper” who planished Stipe Miocic?

On the flip side, you won’t find a heavyweight who’s been to hell and back like Struve, fighting just about everybody worth fighting at 265 pounds. Alexander Volkov, who is also one of the tallest fighters in the division, has spent most of his career recycling tomato cans, or exorcizing ghosts of greatness past.

Bellator losses to Cheick Kongo and Tony Johnson — which aren't exactly ancient history — are cause for alarm. Beating Roy Nelson, like Volkov did at UFC on FOX 24, was a big deal in 2008, not in 2017 when it was pretty well known that “Big Country” was running out his UFC contract.

Struve has 17 submission wins, which is more than Cain Velasquez has in total fights, so the last thing Volkov wants to do is end up on the ground in a jiu-jitsu fight. For as tall and long as he is, the Dutchman still has a hit-or-miss jab and his head movement sucks, which is more to blame for his knockout losses than his chin.

Fortunately for “Skyscraper,” I think his confidence is back after putting together consecutive finishes and he’s fighting in front of his hometown crowd. Unless he goes out there and completely lays an egg, I believe his experience, as well as his ground game, reign supreme.

Final prediction: Struve def. Volkov by submission

135 lbs.: Marion “The Bruiser” Reneau (7-3-1) vs. Talita de Oliveira (5-1)

There isn’t a whole lot to break down for this fight and we can blame Germaine de Randamie for that. The “Iron Lady” — who is more like paper mache these days — withdrew roughly 10 days ago, which means Talita de Oliveira pretty much jumped off the couch to make her Octagon debut.

Reneau is a grizzled veteran with experience against three former title contenders, including Holly Holm, Jessica Andrade, and Bethe Correia. More importantly, she’s had a full camp and even at 40 years old, is going to have the advantage.

Oliveira, like most Brazilian fighters, is a skilled grappler and is not completely inept at MMA, having racked up six pro fights over the past two years. That said, I can’t pick a fighter with zero UFC fights and no time to get in shape and there is no such thing as a one-hitter quitter in the women’s bantamweight division.

Magic 8-ball says all signs point to Reneau.

Final prediction: Reneau def. De Oliveira by technical knockout

185 lbs.: Siyar “The Great” Bahadurzada (22-6-1) vs. “Razor” Rob Wilkinson (11-0)

With just one fight over the last four years, it’s going to be hard to gauge where Siyar Bahadurzada is at in his combat sports career. He trains at a great camp in Holland and brings a ton of experience into the cage, but another X-factor is opponent Rob Wilkinson.

“Razor” is a huge middleweight and has torn through the international circuit with a finishing rate that is extremely impressive (10 of 11). But without any fights on the big stage against opponents who are ranked, or at least experienced inside the Octagon, it’s nearly impossible to predict how Wilkinson will perform.

We do know that at 25 he’s certainly got a bright future.

Even with the layoff, I’m still leaning in favor Bahadurzada. He’s never been knocked out and has good enough wrestling to keep Wilkinson’s takedowns at bay. That said, it won’t be a landslide and “The Great” will have to be the more aggressive fighter and consistently cut off the cage if he wants the decision.

Final prediction: Bahadurzada def. Wilkinson by unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Bryan “Bam Bam” Barberena (13-4) vs. Leon “Rocky” Edwards (13-3)

Final prediction: Bryan Barberena was able to make headlines and gain all sorts of momentum when he beat Sage Northcutt at UFC on FOX 18. Unfortunately, it only lasted about a week because this is MMA and fans don’t like “Bam Bam.”

Not because he’s a jerk off or anything, he’s just doesn’t have the “it” factor, which means a win over Warlley Alves and Joe Proctor — sandwiched around a loss to Colby Covington — didn't really do anything for his career, either good or bad.

That’s life in the welterweight division.

Opposing him is the rough-and-tumble Leon Edwards, who was outwrestled by Kamaru Usman but managed to bounce back to capture three straight wins. In addition to his crafty submission game, “Rocky” proved he can pack a punch by putting Seth Baczynski out to pasture back in 2015.

This fight will not be difficult to break down. Edwards is going to try to rough up Barberena on the feet, while “Bam Bam” will try to weather the storm and implement his wrestling. I think as the fight wears on, “Rocky” will begin to tire and lose the pop in his punches. From there, it’s survival mode.

Final prediction: Barberena def. Edwards by unanimous decision

There you have it. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 115 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. ET, followed by the main card start time of 3 p.m. ET, also on Fight Pass.

For much more on UFC Fight Night 115 click here.