Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight veterans Alistair Overeem and Alexander Volkov will go to war TONIGHT (Sat., Feb. 6, 2021) at UFC Vegas 18 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Overeem has been in the game for some 22 years, and he’s about ready to make his exit. However, “Demolition Man” intends to leave with style, as he’s in the midst of one final run at the title. Storybook endings are rare — if not nearly impossible — in combat sports, but Overeem is still closer to gold than most. Volkov, meanwhile, is in a solid position as well as the No. 6-ranked Heavyweight contender, but the Russian kickboxer is currently in need of a win streak to re-enter the title mix. Stopping Overeem would help jumpstart that process, as well as simply being a significant feather in his cap.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 46-18 (1)
Key Wins: Fabricio Werdum (UFC 213, Strikeforce: Overeem vs Werdum), Junior dos Santos (UFC on FOX 17), Brock Lesnar (UFC 141), Mark Hunt (UFC 209, Dream 5), Walt Harris (UFC on ESPN 8), Augusto Sakai (UFC Vegas 9)
Key Losses: Stipe Miocic (UFC 203), Francis Ngannou (UFC 218), Curtis Blaydes (UFC 225), Jairzinho Rozenstruik (UFC on ESPN 7)
Keys to Victory: Overeem is a legend of the sport, a famously accurate and efficient fighter. He can do it all, as Overeem has stopped high-level opponents at distance, in the pocket, and in the clinch with kicks, punches and elbows alike. On the mat, Overeem is plenty capable of smashing his foe to bits with elbows or locking up a guillotine choke.
Kickboxing champion or not, Overeem should be wrestling in this fight. Volkov is too dangerous and too durable for the 40-year-old veteran to safely outwork on his feet. Overeem likely has an early edge in exchanges, but that hardly matters when the margin for error is so small.
Overeem’s recent wrestling preference works perfectly for this match up. Volkov has never been impossible to take down, as the lanky Russian’s typical tactic prefers to stall from his back and allow his opponents to fatigue rather than work hard to stop the shot. Overeem has to be careful with his energy management, but he’s a different animal from top position.
Unlike Curtis Blaydes or Fabricio Werdum — two men who took Volkov down nearly at will but struggled to do much afterward — Overeem’s top game is the complete package. He can drop brutal punches, pass the guard smartly, and advance to fight-ending positions without allowing his foe space to scramble in the process.
If Overeem is heavy and punishing from top position, it will be Volkov who slows down from the abuse.
Key Wins: Fabricio Werdum (UFC 229), Walt Harris (UFC 254), 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: Volkov is the rare volume striker among big men, an athlete who can certainly stop opponents with a single shot yet still elects to throw punches-in-bunches. The 6’7” kickboxer punishes opponents, digging to the body and legs from distance until his foe begins to break down.
The right teep kick finished Harris, and it may just be the perfect weapon against Overeem, too. That strike was so available because Harris fights as a Southpaw, allowing the right-handed Volkov to fire his power leg straight up the middle with little set up. Though Overeem is a switch-stance fighter, he largely opts to take the opposite stance of his opponent, opening up his own power kicks. As such, Overeem will likely be Southpaw for large portions of the fight.
Not only will that make Volkov’s right toe stab easily available, but Overeem has been knocked out by the strike before (by Travis Browne). If Volkov is digging his kick up the middle to the mid-section, it will help prevent takedowns, work to fatigue Overeem, and set up a front kick to the jaw.
In short ... Volkov should throw a lot of teeps!
The Heavyweight division is finally set to move forward, and that offers a glimmer of hope to contenders like these.
Overeem is in a tough spot. He wants a final title shot, and if he can put a couple more wins together, a legend like “The Reem” deserves one. Unfortunately, Francis Ngannou and Jon Jones are clearly next in line. Curtis Blaydes is now a training partner of Overeem, but he’s also ranked ahead of the Dutchman and has knocked him out.
Barring injury, there’s no quick path to the title available.
While that statement is a significant problem for the 40-year-old Overeem, it’s less of an issue for Volkov, who needs time to build his case for a title shot anyway. A win here is plenty helpful, but he’d still need another big victory to make his case for the crown. Perhaps the winner of Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Ciryl Gane? That could time out nicely, and whoever comes out on top of all these matchups would have a solid win streak built up as the Heavyweight logjam clears.
Remember that 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.
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At UFC Vegas 18, Alistair Overeem and Alexander Volkov will go to war in the main event. Which man will remain standing when the dust settles?