He’s been M-1 Challenge heavyweight champ, Bellator MMA’s too. Now, after a fourth-round knockout of former UFC champion Fabricio Werdum at UFC Fight Night 127, Alexander Volkov is coming for the Octagon’s heavyweight prize, too.
Saturday inside London’s O2 Arena, the 29-year-old Volkov (30-6 MMA, 4-0 UFC) outlasted and outwitted Werdum (23-8-1 MMA, 11-5 UFC), the best grappler in heavyweight MMA history, thwarting his ground game to punch him out at 98 seconds into the penultimate round. The bout was not just a testament to strategy, but also a clear depiction of the extent to which fighters can actualize improvements in their abilities and execution.
The 40-year-old Werdum was dominant early, landing winging punches to set up snatch single-leg takedowns, then pounding Volkov from guard. At the end of the second round, it looked like Werdum may even finish, as he passed to half guard and threatened with a late kimura attempt. However, by this point, the 6-foot-7 Volkov had staved off his attack long enough, while landing sharp jabs and long right crosses, opening up a nasty cut under the fatiguing Brazilian’s right eye.
By the third round, both heavyweights seemed fatigued, but Werdum became increasingly desperate, constantly flopping to his back and shooting weak singles, pulling guard and trying to sweep to top position. Even when “Drago” wound up on the canvas, he would fight back to his feet and punish the former heavyweight kingpin. In Round 4, Volkov shut down yet another single-leg attempt into a butt scoot. He nonchalantly told Werdum to stand and when he did, dropped him with a right hook, then followed up with punches until Marc Goddard intervened, capping the Russian’s biggest career victory.
“I’m coming right now, I’m waiting for the title shot, maybe it will be [my] next fight, who knows? I’m here for this,” Volkov said in his post-fight interview. “Just [was] waiting for my moment and our plan worked. I just defend, defend, defend and then attack. It worked.”
“Doesn’t matter who it will be,” he added. “I want to be in a title shot. Maybe it’s [Daniel] Cormier, maybe [Stipe] Miocic, who knows? But I’m here for the belt.”
Related » UFC London Round-by-Round Scoring
Blachowicz Evens Score With Manuwa
Just under three years ago, Jan Blachowicz found himself pinned to the fence, losing a unanimous decision to Jimi Manuwa. In the two light heavyweights’ second go-around, Blachowicz was happy to fight off the fence, but this time, it turned into a full-out brawl, with the Polish veteran prevailing via unanimous decision.
The 35-year-old Blachowicz (22-7 MMA, 5-4 UFC) was brilliant from the outset, though he courted open exchanges and violence throughout the 15-minute contest. It was Manuwa (17-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC) who had the forward pressure over the whole bout, but “The Poster Boy” simply couldn’t deal with the vastly improved jab of Blachowicz, who used it to set up feints, parries and fantastic combinations for three rounds. Early on, Blachowicz snapped Manuwa’s head back with the jab, then rushed forward with a four-punch combination, landing two right hooks that dropped the Brit badly, busting his nose wide open.
In the second frame, Blachowicz showed a rugged beard, absorbing a huge head kick from Manuwa but soldiering on, continuing to rely on his jab and hook-uppercut combos. The Brit’s forward march never slowed, but Blachowicz played the perfect matador, sticking Manuwa consistently with punches as his foe walked him down. Despite his history of shaky cardio, the Pole stayed on point and never fatigued, even in spite of the 205-pounders dinging each other with nasty strikes throughout the contest. When the scorecards came in, it was 30-27 and 29-28 twice for Blachowicz, who after a 2-4 start in the Octagon, has won three straight in just over five months.
Hyped Duquesnoy Gets Back on Track
When he signed with the UFC last year, two-division British Association of MMA champion Tom Duquesnoy was the most exalted prospect in the sport, but at UFC 216 last October, Cody Stamann cooled his heels. “The Fire Kid” wasn’t exactly on fire in London, but still managed to pull out a unanimous decision win over an extremely tough Terrion Ware.
The 24-year-old Duquesnoy landed beautiful, low leg kicks at will, but none of them seemed to deter the forward pressure of Ware, who consistently marched him down, touching him with the jab and combinations before it. Ware also showed atypical dimensions to his game, mixing in body and head kicks, while consistently sinking punches to the Frenchman’s guts.
In both the first and second round, Ware ended up on top at junctures and dished out some damage to Duquesnoy, though on the whole, the much-hyped prospect showed improved defensive wrestling and scrambling after being grounded for much of his upset loss to Stamann last October.
Despite a willingness to play into his opponent’s hand by backing himself up to the fence and allowing Ware to throw his hands, Duquesnoy’s slick, snappy volume and consistent, chopping leg kicks clearly curried the judges’ favor. “The Fire Kid” won with scores of 29-28 twice, as well as a highly questionable 30-27 card, much to the American’s chagrin.
Related » UFC London Prelims: Byrd Taps Phillips
Edwards Takes Card’s Second Buzzer-Beater Stop Over Sobotta
Leon Edwards might be the most underrated fighter on UFC roster, but he certainly made an impression in London with a third-round finish over Peter Sobotta -- the card’s second, literal last-second finish -- and then, perhaps talked his way into his first UFC main event.
The 170-pound Edwards (15-3 MMA, 7-2 UFC) was true to his typical form, showing all facets of a well-rounded, workmanlike game, though Sobotta (17-6-1 MMA, 4-5 UFC) was in the fight until literally the last second. Sobotta pressured from the outset, only to walk into a right-hook counter that put him on the floor. Edwards was forced to defend a slick armbar from the Germany-based Pole, but pulled out and kept hammering away. In the second stanza, Edwards flexed his wrestling chops, taking Sobotta down and hammering away, though he was forced to escape a brilliant kimura transition from Sobotta where he hip bumped up to take the Birmingham, England, native’s back.
The third proved decisive. Sobotta landed a beautifully-timed takedown on an encroaching Edwards, but the Brit was up to his feet in a flash, then forced his man to the mat and got down to business. Eventually, elbows from “Rocky” opened up Sobotta, who began streaming blood onto the mat. Sobotta tried valiantly to regain his feet, but wound up turtled late, eating copious amounts of punches. With one second left on the clock, referee Rich Mitchell intervened, giving Edwards his fifth straight win in the Octagon. With the UFC having announced its debut in Liverpool’s Echo Arena on May 27, Edwards seized the opportunity to call his potential headlining shot.
“Darren Till, heard you want to fight. In Liverpool, let’s go. Me and you, Liverpool versus Birmingham, let’s go,” yelled Edwards, grabbing the microphone from interviewer Dan Hardy, staring at Till seated cageside. “All day, easy work. I’m the best fucking welterweight in the U.K., soon to be in the world. End of. Bye!”
Finish Reading » UFC London Prelims: “Hot Chocolate” Scalds Enkamp With Sizzling Left Hand