The UFC returns to our screens (on UFC Fight Pass) today as the octagon lands in the Netherlands for UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs Struve.
The card may not feature the A-list names casual fans may recognise, but there are plenty of intriguing matchups on deck.
The Main Event: Alexander Volkov vs Stefan Struve
These twin towers of the UFC heavyweight division offer an unusual look to the top of the fight card, with six-foot-seven Volkov taking on seven-foot Struve in a battle of giants in the night’s featured attraction.
Struve has the experience advantage in the UFC, but despite having a height and reach advantage over the rest of the UFC’s heavyweight division, he’s struggled to fully make use of his physical gifts inside the octagon.
And that’s why I’m leaning towards Volkov to get the job done in the main event. He may be the shorter man, but his style of fighting should nullify Struve’s three-inch reach advantage.
Despite being a colossal human being, Struve’s best chance of victory here will be on the mat. He has underrated submissions and, against a more striking-focused opponent, he’ll want the fight on the floor.
But Volkov has shown he’s more than capable of using his footwork and jab to good effect, as he outpointed heavy-handed Roy Nelson in his last outing. I think he can gradually break down Struve over the course of five rounds, either winning by decision or claiming a finish via strikes.
Pick Rocky to beat Bam Bam
The opening bout on the main card sees rising British star Leon ‘Rocky’ Edwards take on Bryan ‘Bam Bam’ Barberena in a fascinating contest at 170lbs.
Barberena is an underrated, talented scrapper who has shown he’s more than capable of halting the momentum of rising prospects, defeating Sage Northcutt and Warlley Alves.
But against Edwards he’s facing a fighter who’s slowly coming into his prime. Once considered only a striker, Edwards’ all-round MMA game has developed rapidly since joining the UFC. His last two outings saw him claim notable victories over highly-rated opposition in Albert Tumenov and Vicente Luque.
There’s zero British bias here as I pick Edwards to defeat Barberena. The Brit’s striking technique is slicker and more powerful, while his wrestling and ground game has evolved significantly to the point that he has the tools to not just defend, but to win, on the ground (just ask Tumenov).
Other selected picks
Another Brit, Darren Till, has the potential to be a real force at 170lbs. Big and strong at the weight, and blessed with a powerful striking game, Till could become a star for the UK if he can fight a little more regularly. I have him picked to defeat Bojan Velickovic, whose knockout of Nico Musoke last time out may have shortened his odds further than his actual chances this weekend.
Chechen lightweight Mairbek Taisumov is another fighter flying a little under the radar, but he has all the tools to be a serious threat in the UFC’s talent-stacked 155lb division. Injury and visa issues have means he hasn’t fought in over a year, but he’s definitely one to watch tonight.
And another lightweight, Russian Rustam Khabilov, may not be the most spectacular fighter on the card, but he’s incredibly tough to beat, having won his last four outings by decision. He’s a horrible fighter to look good against, which makes him a tough prospect to match up against ranked opposition. Today he takes on American Desmond Green, who picked up a hard-earned split-decision win over Josh Emmett on his UFC debut in April. Green is a dogged opponent, but I think Khabilov has enough to grind his way to another decision win here.
[Photo Credit: Simon Head]