Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight contenders Fabricio Werdum and Alexander Volkov will clash TONIGHT (March 17, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 127 inside The 02 Arena in London, England.
Despite being 40 years old, Werdum shows no signs of slowing down. The former champion remains in hot pursuit of his title, currently riding a pair of wins and coming off a five-round beating of Marcin Tybura, in which the Brazilian racked up an impressive 155 significant strikes.
Meanwhile, Volkov is three fights and three wins into his UFC career, but the Russian athlete has a ton of experience around the globe. Still under 30 years old, Volkov is the rare Heavyweight contender that is not nearing retirement, making him a very important fighter moving forward.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both men.
Key Wins: Alistair Overeem (Pride FC: Total Elimination), Fedor Emelianenko (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum), Cain Velasquez (UFC 188), Travis Browne (UFC 203, UFC on FOX 11), Mark Hunt (UFC 180)
Key Losses: Stipe Miocic (UFC 198), Alistair Overeem (UFC 213, Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum), Junior dos Santos (UFC 90)
Keys to Victory: Werdum is an expert grappler with a great deal of effective kickboxing offense. He’s a bit iffy defensively, but a strong chin and above-average conditioning generally allow Werdum to maneuver past that flaw and out-strike many of his opponents.
Could that be the case opposite Volkov? Very possibly, as the Russian kickboxer has the bad habit of backing straight up that Werdum tends to thrive on. However, figuring out if Werdum can out-strike his foe is really unnecessary, as Werdum has a massive grappling advantage.
Early on, Werdum can press forward and fire kicks freely as usual. However, at the first opportunity that he can catch a kick or score a smooth entry into a takedown, Werdum should take it. Volkov has improved, but he still spent a lot of time underneath lesser wrestlers than Werdum.
Unlike those past grapplers, Werdum will do more than hold position.
Key Wins: Stefan Struve (UFC Fight Night 115), Blagoy Ivanov (Bellator 120), Tim Johnson (UFC Fight Night 99), Roy Nelson (UFC on FOX 24), Richard Hale (Bellator 84)
Keys Losses: Vitaly Minakov (Bellator 108), Cheick Kongo (Bellator 139), Tony Johnson (Bellator 136)
Keys to Victory: Volkov is largely what many hoped his last opponent, Stefan Struve, would develop into: a high-volume kickboxer who makes good use of his range. In addition to his usually sharp kicks, Volkov showed better combination punching last time out.
I touched on it briefly in the above column, but the path to defeating Werdum is known even if difficult to walk. To defeat “Vai Cavalo,” Volkov cannot retreat straight back from exchanges; he must stand his ground or pivot off.
Standing his ground will be difficult but important. Werdum charges forward and leaves himself vulnerable to counter shots in the process. Knowing when to plant his feet and counter and when to back away from exchanges will be quite important for Volkov, as standing still too long will get him taken down.
When Volkov does retreat from the pocket, it must be lateral motion. Otherwise, Werdum will trap him on the fence or put him with a kick, a pair of unpleasant options.
Finally, Volkov should be able to make good use of his lead leg snap kick. If he can dig into Werdum’s mid-section a few times, it should give the Brazilian second thoughts about charging forward so often.
Bottom Line: There is no clear Heavyweight contender in line after Daniel Cormier, so that position is up for grabs.
Another win puts Werdum in a very good position to contend. He would be deserving of a rematch with Miocic, or there’s already a rivalry with American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) if Cormier dethrones the current kingpin. Either way, Werdum will be in a great position to recapture the crown.
Meanwhile, Volkov is taking a huge step up in competition. He’s a moderate underdog as a result, but the rewards of pulling through would be great. Volkov’s youth and status as a fresh face in the UFC make him an intriguing contender, one the UFC would love to see in high profile fights. It’s hard to say if he’ll definitely secure a title shot with a win here, but his argument would be undeniably strong.
As for the defeated man, losing out on a potential title shot is never good. For Werdum, it’s a setback he cannot afford after the questionable split-decision loss to Overeem last year that hurt his momentum. Since Volkov is the far younger fighter, the consequences are less severe, as it’s a mere missed opportunity.
At UFC Fight Night 127, Fabricio Werdum and Alexander Volkov will go to war. Which man will earn the victory?