After a week off from action, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns from “Fight Island” to stage UFC Vegas 18 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, featuring a Heavyweight bout between Alistair Overeem and Alexander Volkov. In the co-main event, former UFC Lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar, will look to secure himself a shot at the Bantamweight title when he battles Cory Sandhagen.
Overeem is one of the best Heavyweight fighters to ever compete in mixed martial arts (MMA), capturing gold under the Strikeforce and DREAM banners and wreaking havoc during the glory days of Pride FC. He also captured a K-1 kickboxing title. But, the one belt that has ghosted him to this day is the 265-pound UFC strap. He had his shot, nearly forcing Stipe Miocic to tap at UFC 203 before eventually getting knocked out. Since then, “The Reem” has been unable to make it back to the big dance. But, now the big man is getting close once again thanks to back-to-back wins over Walt Harris and Augusto Sakai. If he can earn his third straight victory over Alexander Volkov, there is no reason to deny him a shot at the belt. And it could be his last one, too, because “The Demolition Man” has stated that the clock on his combat career is winding down, meaning it’s now or never for the striking standout.
Overeem has faced the cream of the crop in MMA, and his level of competition is unmatched so there really isn’t anything that Volkov will bring to the table that he hasn’t already seen. Sure, “Drago” may have a few inches on Overeem, but that isn’t anything out of the ordinary for him. As far as the striking department goes, while it’s safe to say Overeem has lost a small step, he is still as dangerous as ever (see why here) so Volkov needs to be on point if he intends to strike with his fellow big man. “Drago” got back on track with a stunning knockout over Walt Harris in his last bout (see it here), his third such win inside the Octagon. The Russian big man hasn’t been too consistent as far as wins go, preventing him from scaling the championship ladder.
A big win against Overeem will change all of that.
All that said, I will give Overeem the edge in the stand up department, but that doesn’t negate the fact that “Drago” can crack very hard, too. If it goes into the later rounds, Volkov may have a bit better conditioning to give him the advantage to put it on the hulking Dutchman.
I have to say that for a “Fight Night” event that the card doesn’t look too shabby so there isn’t much to complain about, especially since some of the promotion’s events toward the end of 2020 were severely lacking.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
Merab Dvalishvili was set to face Cody Stamann on this card, but was forced out due to lingering COVID-19 issues. As a result, Andre Ewell was pegged as his replacement. Weeks later, Ewell himself was forced out of the card leaving Stamann to face UFC newcomer Askar Askar. Julio Arce and Timur Valiev were set to collide on the card before Arce was forced out for private reasons. Valiev will now face Martin Day.
Former UFC women’s Flyweight champion Nicco Montano was forced out of her scheduled bout against Karol Rosa for undisclosed reasons and was replaced by Joselyne Edwards. A fight between Marion Reneau and Macy Chiasson was scratched after “The Belizean Bruiser” tested positive for COVID-19. The bout was moved to another event set for Feb. 27, 2021.
Despite several cancelations, withdrawals and postponement of fights on this card, none were due to injuries.
Manel Kape will finally get to make his Octagon debut when he takes on Alexandre Pantoja after their initial fight was scrapped because of COVID-19 in Dec. 2020. The former RIZIN Bantamweight champion is one of UFC’s best recent signings since all but one of his 15 wins have come via stoppage. Kape is currently riding a three-fight win streak, while Pantoja is coming off a loss to Askar Askarov.
Askar Askar got the late call up to the big leagues to face Cody Stamann on a week’s notice. While not ideal, Askar couldn’t pass up the chance to show off his stuff inside the Octagon, albeit against one of the toughest fighters at 135 pounds. Askar has won 11 of 12 so far in his career. To make Askar’s debut even sweeter, the fight will take place on the main card giving him a big stage to make a splash right off the bat.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
The “Prelims” will be headlined by a Lightweight bout between Michael Johnson and Clay Guida, which we will discuss in further detail in the following section. In Light Heavyweight action, Mike Rodriguez will face Danilo Marques in a fight pitting two up-and-comers against one another who are looking to make some noise in a crowded division. Rodriguez hasn’t been very consistent, so he needs a win against Marques to get a bit more of the spotlight on him. On a side note, click here to see a pic of Rodriguez meeting Alistair Overeem while working at an airport six years ago, and then one of present date of him sharing the undercard with “The Reem.”
Hard work pays off.
“Contender Series” alum Devonte Smith will look to get back on the winner’s podium when he battles Justin Jaynes. Prior to his loss to Khama Worthy, Smith was riding an impressive six-fight win streak. As for Jaynes, he hopes to avoid his third straight loss and possible pink slip after agreeing to take the fight on short notice.
Karol Rosa will look to earn her fifth straight win — third inside the Octagon — when she battles Joselyne Edwards in women’s Bantamweight action, while Molly McCann battles Lara Procopio at Flyweight.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Johnson was once considered a legit title contender, but the former Ultimate Fighter (TUF) champion has fallen on hard times as of late. “The Menace” has lost three in a row — his second such losing streak inside the Octagon — and hasn’t tasted victory since 2018, a win over Artem Lobov. He will look to snap his skid when he takes on long-time UFC veteran, Clay Guida, who is also on thin ice after losing two in a row. Both men need wins in a hurry to avoid the chopping block, but more-so Johnson because if he suffers his fourth straight defeat it could be the end of his UFC career.
Interest Level: 7 of 10
Aside from the stellar big man main event, the co-headlining act is just as juicy. Frankie Edgar has competed at Lightweight, Featherweight and is now trying his hand in the Bantamweight division. More important, “The Answer” has held the 155-pound strap, competed for the 145-pound belt (twice) and now plans to do the same at 135. Edgar feels if he can get a win over Cory Sandhagen he will take his spot in the championship line. And since Edgar is ranked No. 4, it’s not too far fetched to believe that he will get yet another shot at winning a UFC title.
It won’t be an easy night at the office for the long-time veteran because Sandhagen is as legit as they come and has quickly become one of the best Bantamweight fighters on the planet. He proved as much with his last performance, knocking out Marlon Moraes with a spinning wheel kick (see it here). Going 6-1 so far inside the Octagon, Sandhagen’s lone loss came to current No. 1 contender, Aljamain Sterling. A win over Edgar will solidify his spot as the next challenger to the strap, which will either be against champion Petr Yan or Sterling, who are set to collide at UFC 259 on March 6. It’s a battle of old versus new, veteran versus up-and-comer and we will see if the old dog can reclaim some of his glory days or if the fresh blood can add to his ever-growing resume.
In further main card action, Beneil Dariush and Diego Ferreira will collide in a pivotal Lightweight bout that is flying under the radar given the current mess at 155 pounds. Thanks a lot, Dana. Dariush has quietly won five in a row, taking out some tough competition along the way such as Drakkar Klose and Drew Dober. A win over Ferreira will be huge for his hopes to climb the 155-pound ladder. Ferreira, however, has been even hotter after winning six in a row against the likes of Anthony Pettis, Rustam Khabilov and Mairbek Taisumov. The winner here will get a huge bump in the rankings and closer to facing the cream of the crop at 155 pounds.
Enjoy the fights!
UFC Vegas 18 Full Fight Card:
UFC Vegas 18 Main Event on ESPN+:
265 lbs.: Alistair Overeem vs. Alexander Volkov
UFC Vegas 18 Main Card on ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):
135 lbs.: Frankie Edgar vs. Cory Sandhagen
125 lbs.: Manel Kape vs. Alexandre Pantoja
135 lbs.: Cody Stamann vs. Askar Askar
155 lbs.: Beneil Dariush vs. Diego Ferreira
UFC Vegas 18 ‘Prelims’ Under Card on ESPN+ (5 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Clay Guida vs. Michael Johnson
205 lbs.: Danilo Marques vs. Mike Rodriguez
135 lbs.: Martin Day vs. Timur Valiev
155 lbs.: Justin Jaynes vs. Devonte Smith
135 lbs.: Joselyne Edwards vs. Karol Rosa
125 lbs.: Molly McCann vs. Lara Procopio
145 lbs.: Seungwoo Choi vs. Youssef Zalal
135 lbs.: Denys Bondar vs. Ode Osbourne
***Fight card, bout order and the amount of matches subject to drastic change because of the various global quarantine restrictions.***