MMAjunkie Radio co-host and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of UFC Fight Night 127’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main event.
UUFC Fight Night 127 takes place Saturday at The O2 in London. The entire card streams live on UFC Fight Pass.
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Fabricio Werdum (23-7-1 MMA, 11-4 UFC)
- Height: 6’4″ Age: 40 Weight: 249 lbs. Reach: 77″
- Last fight: Decision win over Marcin Tybura (Nov. 18, 2017)
- Camp: Kings MMA (California)
- Stance/striking style: Orthodox/muay Thai
- Risk management: Fair
+ Former UFC heavyweight champion
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ Multiple ADCC and jiu-jitsu accolades
+ 6 KO victories
+ 11 submission wins
+ 10 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Dynamic attack arsenal
+ Deceptively effective showman
^ Baits opposition into game
+ Dangerous from Thai plum
+/- Aggressive in exhcanges
^ Counter availabilities
+ Superb submission and ground game
+ Excellent sweeps and scrambles
+ Thrives and capitalizes in chaos
Alexander Volkov (29-6 MMA, 3-0 UFC)
- Height: 6’7″ Age: 29 Weight: 251 lbs. Reach: 80″
- Last fight: TKO win over Stefan Struve (Sept. 2, 2017)
- Camp: Strela Team (Russia)
- Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
- Risk management: Good
+ M-1 heavyweight title
+ Bellator tournament winner
+ Kyokushin karate brown belt
+ 19 KO victories
+ 3 submission wins
+ 15 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Accurate right hand
^ Coming forward and off the counter
+ Well-balanced combination attack
^ Often punctuates off of left side
+ Deceptively effective knees
+ Improved defensive wrestling
^ Head and hip position/over and underhooks
+ Serviceable grappling ability
– Traditionally struggles from bottom
Coming off of two victories over some of the division’s more youthful members, Werdum finds himself pitted against yet another young lion. Showing little hesitation to fill the headlining slot, Werdum will attempt to earn a shot at the gold belt that he once held.
Looking to crash that party is Volkov, a fighter who is already riding a three-fight winning streak under the UFC banner and is considered by some to be a dark horse threat to the heavyweight title. Seeking his first scalp of a former champion, the 29-year-old Russian will be trying to make a statement of his own.
Starting off on the feet, we have a battle between a pressure-fighting muay Thai striker and a diverse kickboxer who comes from a karate base.
Volkov, the kickboxer, comes from a traditional martial arts background in kyokushin and tsu shin gen, styles of karate that emphasize more on the sparring and sporting aspects. Making the jump into MMA from a young age, Volkov has done well in regards to translating his style.
Taking more of a squared stance than most traditional martial artists tend to, Volkov opens up his offensive options from both sides, all while still carrying the in-and-out abilities typically associated with karate fighters. A diverse striker who is effective coming forward and off of the counter, Volkov keeps an accurate right hand at the ready and can also be sharp from a southpaw stance.
When feeling in stride, the Volkov will come forward in combination, punctuating his presence off of his lead leg like many Eastern European and Russian kickboxers. And considering the success that Marcin Tybura found with head kicks from his front foot, I would not be surprised to see Volkov follow suit here.
Still, the Russian fighter will need to respect what’s coming back at him as Werdum has proven to be more than just a jiu-jitsu fighter throughout his storied career.
Under the care of Rafael Cordeiro, we’ve seen Werdum steadily parlay his sporadic showmanship into more of a pressure-fighting process over the years. Putting together his punches more fluidly, the Brazilian veteran will finish his combinations with hard kicks or knees in the clinch.
However, when not throwing in combination, Werdum does have a tendency to throw his kicks naked and without setup; it is not uncommon to see him getting seated due to counter right hands finding their mark. That said, many of the former champion’s falls may have been arguable flops given that he is known for his in-cage baits and showmanship.
Akin to a basketball player trying to draw an offensive foul, Werdum will deceptively roll with punches as he relinquishes to his back. Although this may not win Werdum favor with the fans and judges, there is a method to his madness.
Presenting the ambush known as his guard game, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt offers up a unique predicament to all who approach.
As we’ve seen time and time-again, Werdum can submit world champions here – but more importantly, he creates situations to sweep and scramble his way topside, often utilizing deep-half and X-guard variations to escape out the back door.
If Werdum’s opposition decides not to pursue him into deep waters, then they inherently let him off the hook if he is in fact hurt, or give him a breather to recover at the very least. This tactic has stifled the best of killer instincts and has allowed the former champion back into many of fights.
Nevertheless, Werdum cannot rely on Volkov to willingly enter into his terms, which makes me wonder how potential wrestling stanzas will shake out.
Despite wrestling traditionally being Volkov’s foil, the nine-year pro, slowly by surely, had shored up his fundamentals and takedown defense in recent years. Whether he is utilizing over or underhooks, Volkov does much better at stopping his opposition from attacking his hips.
The Russian fighter is also very diligent when it comes to head position, proactively placing his forehead as a stopper of momentum. With that in mind, Volkov has been prone to preemptively dipping his head in harm’s way, and he has eaten his fair share of uppercuts throughout his career.
In facing a fighter who has become one of the more dangerous clinch fighters in the division, Volkov could be forced to decide between defense and offense in unfavorable conditions. And should Werdum get the Russian’s respect inside of said space, then he will only increase his chances of hitting a takedown.
A fan of the single-leg snatch, Werdum may be able to find more success than Volkov’s recent opponents have.
Between Volkov’s previously mentioned improvements and his deceptively strong (and wide) base, double-leg takedown variations against the fence have been harder and harder to hit against the tall man in recent years. But if Werdum can secure a leg, he can either break Volkov’s balance and complete a takedown or create a scramble that opens up an advantageous opportunity.
Should the former ADCC world champion successfully ground or gain dominant position, then it will probably be a worst-case scenario for Volkov.
Although the 29-year-old appears to be a competent purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, he’s arguably too comfortable and conservative when fighting off his back. Opponents who have implemented a top-heavy pursuit have typically succeeded in grappling stanzas with the Russian, or at the very least, earned enough control time to win the round.
Against Werdum, Volkov faces – in many people’s opinion – the most talented submission grappler that heavyweight MMA has had to offer.
The oddsmakers and public have seemed to tentatively settle on an opinion, listing Werdum -210 and Volkov +175 as of this writing.
I believe that Werdum is a justified favorite, but I also think that Volkov is a bit more of a live ‘dog than the betting line suggests. If he can defend Werdum’s takedown attempts and lull the former champion’s ego into a striking match, then I could easily see Volkov’s building pace and pressure take over this fight. The Russian has a right-hand counter that will be live and a lead-foot head kick that could also get the job done.
Still, I ultimately find myself siding with Werdum here. He has sternly stated his intentions to get back to his belt, and his recent fight trends have backed that up. After a strange performance in his rematch with Travis Browne, Werdum has since made a much more conscious effort when it comes to winning rounds and getting fights to the ground.
Despite MMA having a way of foiling the most well-laid plans, I have to believe that both Werdum and his team know that the clear path to victory resides on the floor. For that reason, I’ll pick Werdum to score a submission by the second round, but I’d be lying if I said I was confident in it.
Official pick: Werdum inside the distance
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: UFC-London main-event breakdown: Can Alexander Volkov get Fabricio Werdum to fight his fight?