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UFC Vegas 18 preview, ‘Overeem vs Volkov’ predictions

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UFC Fight Night: Overeem v Sakai Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

The big boys take center stage in the Octagon’s return to Las Vegas this Saturday night (Feb. 6, 2021) when ageless veteran Alistair Overeem throws down with towering heavyweight contender Alexander Volkov on ESPN+.

The co-feature sees former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar continue his pursuit of glory in a third weight class, taking on lethal finisher Cory Sandhagen in a fight that could easily see the winner challenge for bantamweight gold later this year.

Our usual main card guy is holed up at home after seeing his own shadow, so this duty falls to me once again. As usual, you can check out our “Prelims” breakdowns here and here, the odds over there, and Andrew Richardson’s expert main card analysis right here.

Let’s dig in to the main and co-main events below.

265 lbs.: Alistair Overeem vs. Alexander Volkov

Alistair “Demolition Man” Overeem

Record: 47-18 (1 NC) | Age: 40 | Betting line: +160
Wins: 25 KO/TKO, 17 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 14 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 6’4“ | Reach: 80” | Stance: Switch
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.71 | Striking accuracy: 64%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.33 | Striking Defense: 58%
Takedown Average: 1.44 (56% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 73%
Current Ranking: No. 5 | Last fight: Technical knockout win over Augusto Sakai

Alexander “Drago” Volkov

Record: 32-8 | Age: 32 | Betting line: -185
Wins: 21 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 8 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 4 DEC
Height: 6’7“ | Reach: 80” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.76 | Striking accuracy: 58%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.53 | Striking Defense: 56%
Takedown Average: 0.69 (70% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 65%
Current Ranking: No. 6 | Last fight: Technical knockout win over Walt Harris

Though I still harbor some resentment towards him from his time as “Ubereem,” Alistair Overeem never ceases to amaze me. I thought he was completely done as a contender after Ben Rothwell turned his lights out in 2014, but he’s constantly managed to reinvent himself and remain relevant as the years go by. It’s not like he’s been fighting chumps, either; the guy’s legitimately more dangerous at 40 than the vast majority of Heavyweights are in their primes.

If he hasn’t grown old overnight, this latest iteration is more than sufficient to sink “Drago.”

Despite his size, Volkov generally relies on patient attrition to get the job done, a tactic that doesn’t figure to pay dividends against an Overeem who’s proven consistently able to fight five hard rounds. To make matters worse for Volkov, Overeem can more than hold his own at range, and any attempt to press the issue and engage in the pocket opens up Overeem’s underrated wrestling.

Overeem may not be as scary a takedown artist as Curtis Blaydes, but Volkov isn’t escaping his top control unscathed.

Going by recent efforts, which saw “The Reem” survive barrages from heavy hitters like Sergey Pavlovich, Walt Harris, and Augusto Sakai, Volkov can’t reasonably expect the infamous Overeem chin to crumble during the few windows of opportunity he’ll get. He’ll need to outclass Overeem for five rounds to secure victory, and between the Dutchman’s incredible striking experience and his ostensible ability to exploit the wrestling issues that have plagued Volkov for so long, that doesn’t seem particularly likely.

Considering that the likes of Francis Ngannou are above him and young guns like Ciryl Gane are rapidly climbing the ranks, Overeem will almost certainly never secure UFC gold. He’s still too much for most of the rest of the pack, however, Volkov included. Overeem takes Volkov apart on the back foot and mixes in a regular diet of takedowns to secure his third consecutive victory.

Prediction: Overeem vs. Volkov by unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Cory Sandhagen vs. Frankie Edgar

Cory Sandhagen

Record: 13-2 | Age: 28 | Betting line: -400
Wins: 5 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 70” | Stance: Switch
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 6.88 | Striking accuracy: 48%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.89 | Striking Defense: 59%
Takedown Average: 1.07 (50% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 30%
Current Ranking: No. 2 | Last fight: Technical knockout win over Marlon Moraes

Frankie “The Answer” Edgar

Record: 23-6-1 | Age: 39 | Betting line: +325
Wins: 7 KO/TKO, 14 SUB, 13 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 6 DEC
Height: 5’6“ | Reach: 68” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.70 | Striking accuracy: 39%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.70 | Striking Defense: 66%
Takedown Average: 2.28 (31% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 65%
Current Ranking: No. 4 | Last fight: Split decision win over Pedro Munhoz

Edgar deserves all the credit in the world for beating Pedro Munhoz, whose punching power and takedown-repellent guillotine seemed perfect counters to the seemingly faded former champion. Dropping in weight after several losses can often be the death knell of a fighter’s career, but Edgar looked like a genuine contender at 135 pounds.

Unfortunately, Cory Sandhagen is a different animal entirely. For all his ferocity, Munhoz can be flat-footed and linear at times, two adjectives that in no way describe Sandhagen’s free-flowing offense. The 28-year-old proved his ability to deal with a fast-twitch, hyper-mobile opponent in Marlon Moraes last time out, and his arsenal is far deeper than either Munhoz’s or Edgar’s. “The Edgar” can’t rely on pace and movement to carry him to victory, especially considering Sandhagen’s edge in firepower and impressive finishing skills.

That said, there is one stat up there that almost certainly caught Edgar’s eye: Sandhagen’s 30% takedown defense, which has allowed every single one of his UFC opponents to put him on his back at one point. That even includes John Lineker, who’s usually far too absorbed in grievous displays of violence to bring it to the mat. That said, only Aljamain Sterling has managed to actually keep Sandhagen down; elite black belts like Raphael Assuncao and the aforementioned Moraes both failed to do so, and though Edgar can be surprisingly violent from top control, I don’t see him consistently winning scrambles against someone this dynamic.

Sandhagen just has too many weapons for Edgar, who finds himself in the rare position of being equal to or lesser than his opponent in terms of mobility. The former champ’s only shot at victory lies in a vintage grind that Sandhagen’s impeccable scrambling ability simply will not allow. Edgar clearly still has some surprises left in the tank and the rumors of his demise may have been premature considering the level of competition he’s faced, but he’s up against an unfavorable style matchup who also happens to be 11 years his junior. Sandhagen clips Edgar early and never lets up for a dramatic first-round finish.

Prediction: Sandhagen def. Edgar by first-round technical knockout

Remember, the rest of the UFC Vegas 18 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 18 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 18: “Overeem vs. Volkov” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.