Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight strikers Alexander Volkov and Walt Harris will battle this weekend (Sat., Oct. 24, 2020) at UFC 254 inside Flash Forum on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Volkov is in need of a win. He remains a top-ranked contender and could conceivably find himself in a title fight with just a couple wins, but unfortunately for “Drago,” his only victory in the last two years comes over Greg Hardy. Even at Heavyweight, that’s not going to cut it if he’s to stay relevant. Harris came damn close to taking out Alistair Overeem’s head back in May and scoring the biggest win of his career in the process, but the crafty veteran survived to overwhelm him on the mat. Nevertheless, “The Big Ticket” will receive another major opportunity here, as victory would propel him into the Top 10 for the first time.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Fabricio Werdum (UFC 229), Stefan Struve (UFC Fight Night 115), Blagoy Ivanov (Bellator 120), Tim Johnson (UFC Fight Night 99)
Keys Losses: Curtis Blaydes (UFC on ESPN 11), Derrick Lewis (UFC 229), Vitaly Minakov (Bellator 108), Cheick Kongo (Bellator 139)
Keys to Victory: Heavyweight doesn’t often produce fighters like Volkov. The Russian kickboxer makes great use of his range, but he does so with a high output game, looking to break down opponents rather than knock them out in one big shot.
The danger with this approach is that Volkov typically must land far more than his opponents to win, and each of those exchanges carries a risk that he gets clocked. He improves his own odds by operating at such a long distance that his opponent cannot reach him, but Harris is really not that much shorter, and his reach is comparable.
Boxing with “The Big Ticket” is a scary proposition ... at least early on.
To win this bout, Volkov has to establish his long front kick early. Harris hits extremely hard and is quite athletic, but he’s always struggled to move forward through offense. If Volkov presents an obstacle that keeps him back early, it will go a long way in ensuring Volkov is landing without getting cracked in return.
Record: 13-8 (1)
Key Wins: Aleksei Oleinik (UFC on ESPN 4), Sergey Spivak (UFC Fight Night 151), Chase Sherman (UFC Fight Night 103), Cyril Asker (UFC Fight Night 111), Cody East (UFC 197)
Key Losses: Alistair Overeem (UFC on ESPN 8), Fabricio Werdum (UFC 216), Shamil Abdurakhimov (UFC Fight Night 96), Nikita Krylov (UFC on FOX 10)
Keys to Victory: There is nothing overly complicated about Harris. The Southpaw is a big Heavyweight at about 250 pounds, but he moves with the quickness of a much smaller man. The resulting combination is a great deal of power, typically delivered in the form of a blistering left hand.
Though he lost, Harris’ performance against Overeem was encouraging. He’s historically had issues pulling the trigger, but that seems to be a problem of the past. Against Volkov, that’s especially important, because immediately pressuring the lanky kickboxer is better strategy than patience.
On the whole, Volkov does a decent job of getting his head out of range by ducking away or leaning back. For that reason, I’d like to see Harris doubling up on his left hand, targeting the mid-section first before firing at the chin. In addition, Harris has proven good at scoring with his left than wrapped up the head and firing knees.
Against a non-wrestling threat in Volkov, that combination is low risk and could pay off big.
The winner is back in the mix at Heavyweight.
Admittedly, the title picture among the big men is plenty jammed, as both Francis Ngannou and Jon Jones are pretty much guaranteed to the next two title shots ... and then Curtis Blaydes is likely in line after that. So, when talking about Heavyweight title contention for anyone else, keep in mind that we’re talking about a long timeline here.
Ultimately, the winner is close to the Top 5, and he’ll have time to build a stronger statement for his own title shot against top Heavyweights like Derrick Lewis, Alistair Overeem and Jairzinho Rozenstruik while the division sorts itself out.
There’s a lot to be lost for either man. As mentioned, Volkov doesn’t have any recent wins keeping him ranked highly, so he could drop several spots. Harris, meanwhile, is fighting up, but consecutive losses will really hurt his ability to climb the ladder moving forward.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 254 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN 2/ESPN+ at 12 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 254: “Khabib vs. Gaethje” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
At UFC 254, Alexander Volkov and Walt Harris will square off. Which man will earn the victory?