Curtis Blaydes vs. Alexander Volkov Pick, Prediction & Odds: Bet Volkov to Extend Saturday’s UFC Main Event

Credit:

Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images. Pictured: Curtis Blaydes

Jun 21, 2020, 08:40 PM EDT
  • Curtis Blaydes will enter the octagon on Saturday as a big -435 betting favorite over fellow heavyweight Alexander Volkov (+318) in the UFC's main event of the evening.
  • The stakes are high Blaydes, the No. 3-ranked heavyweight in the UFC, as he continues to climb the rankings. But is he worth a bet at such a lofty price?
  • Sean Zerillo gives his picks and breaks down where he sees betting value in tonight's fight.

Blaydes vs. Volkov Pick, Prediction & Odds for UFC Fight Night 

Curtis Blaydes odds +275 (BET NOW)
Alexander Volkov odds +333 (BET NOW)
Over/Under 2.5 Rounds
(BET NOW)
Time 10:30 p.m. ET
Venue Las Vegas
Channel ESPN

Saturday’s main event for UFC Fight Night, between the No. 3 Heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes, and No. 7 Alexander Volkov, is significantly more exciting, and more critical to the outlook of the Heavyweight division, than the odds would otherwise suggest.

The third bout between Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic, for the Heavyweight title, is set to take place in August at UFC 252. No. 2 contender Francis Ngannou is certainly next-in-line for a title shot, and the winner of the Blaydes-Volkov bout could end up fighting Ngannou for a vacant belt; Cormier has vowed to make the trilogy fight his last dance, win or lose, and Stipe might call it quits too.

In essence, a UFC title shot could be on the line between Blaydes and Volkov, in what looks like a mismatch in the betting markets in favor of the former. But Heavyweight is easily the most volatile division in MMA.


UFC MAIN EVENT PROMO! Bet Curtis “Razor” Blaydes at +100 odds (boosted from -400) on Saturday night.


Curtis Blaydes Odds History

Date & Opponent Opening & Closing Odds Results
1/25/20, Junior Dos Santos -185, -333 W
9/7/19, Shamil Abdurakhimov -275, -668 W
3/23/19, Justin Willis -245, -315 W
11/24/18, Francis Ngannou +115, -225 L
6/9/18, Alistair Overeem +100, -225 W

Big money bettors think highly of Curtis Blaydes, steaming him from a -235 favorite (implied 70%) at open against Volkov to -455 (implied 82%) as of writing, which is part of a more significant trend.

The betting line has now moved in Blaydes’ direction, after open, in each of his 12 UFC fights, including both bouts against Francis Ngannou. If they fought a third time, I suspect that Blaydes would retake money, given his skill set, even though Ngannou won by TKO twice.

Alexander Volkov Odds History

Date & Opponent Opening & Closing Odds Results
11/9/19, Greg Hardy -175, -333 W
10/6/18, Derrick Lewis -185, -175 L
3/17/18, Fabricio Werdum +175, +155 W
9/2/17, Stefan Struve -175, -150 W
4/15/17, Roy Nelson -140, -165 W

Bettors have had pretty mixed opinions on Volkov throughout his career, rarely moving his opening line more than 30 cents. And there are now four instances amongst 16 Bellator and UFC fights where the line has moved against him.


Tale of the Tape

Main Event Curtis Blaydes Alexander Volkov
Record 13-2 (1 NC) 31-7
Avg. Fight Time 9:15 15:00
Height 6’4″ 6’7″
Weight (pounds) 265 250
Reach (inches) 80″ 80″
Stance Orthodox Orthodox
Date of birth 2/18/91 10/24/88
Sig Strikes Per Min 3.74 5.36
SS Accuracy 51% 60%
SS Absorbed Per Min 1.86 2.48
SS Defense 57% 58%
Take Down Avg 6.63 0.75
TD Acc 55% 75%
TD Def 25% 76%
Submission Avg 0.0 0.2

Volkov is extremely lean with long limbs, and he typically has more length than his opponents — but while Blaydes is a few inches shorter, he is a significantly more massive, and more powerful than the Russian, with the same reach.

Volkov is the more active striker and owns an excellent strike differential (+2.88). Still, Blaydes is no slouch on the feet (+1.88) while focusing his gameplan on takedowns (6.63 per 15 minutes, 55% accuracy) and top control.

The quality of Volkov’s takedown defense (76% career) will determine the outcome of this fight.


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Curtis Blaydes’ Path to Victory

It’s worth remembering that Blaydes’ only two career losses came at the hands of Francis Ngannou, whose raw power is as big of an outlier as exists in MMA.

Volkov doesn’t have significant enough power, like Ngannou, to force Blaydes to change his style and counterpunch.

Razor has the skills of a championship level fighter, and he is unique compared to the rest of the Heavyweight division. A rapidly improving kickboxer, Blaydes has an excellent wrestling base as a former JUCO national champion, and he pushes a hot pace against his opponents while maintaining his stamina, all of which should play well against Volkov, who prefers to strike from range.

Blaydes has a 38-0 takedown advantage in his last nine fights, and his ability to continually change levels forces his opponents to drop their hands to block his attempts, which leaves significant openings for his striking game, particularly in the clinch.

When Blaydes does get you down, his top control and ground and pound is relentless against lesser grapplers at Heavyweight:


Alexander Volkov’s Path to Victory

I generally don’t see Volkov winning by finish, and feel that he needs to outclass Blaydes with a higher number of strikes for 25 minutes while avoiding exposing his leg kicks to easy takedowns.

The Russian needs to use his length and counterpunching to make Blaydes pay for continuous pressure, and when he does get put on the mat, Volkov needs to find a way to get back to his feet quickly; as he did in a March 2018 win over Fabricio Werdum, where he was taken down three times before a TKO victory:

Volkov has registered more than 100 significant strikes in three of his past five fights, tied 48-48 with Werdum, and beat Greg Hardy 86-46 in the other bout.

He needs to defend the early takedowns, continue to counterpunch effectively in the middle rounds, and hope that Blaydes tires out late — but that is an uphill battle as the lesser athlete in a classic grappler vs. striker matchup.


My Pick for Blaydes vs. Volkov

My crowdsourced projection places Blaydes’ fair odds at -835, an implied probability of 88%.

More than 80% of people picking Blaydes to win the fight also expect him to win by KO/TKO, making his fair odds to win by knockout -238, an implied probability of 70.4% — a 4.9% edge compared to listed odds at -190 by KO/TKO/DQ (implied 65.5%).

However, I don’t like to lay that much juice in a single UFC fight, and particularly on a winning method prop as opposed to a moneyline.

One of the most profitable contrarian bets in MMA is the Over on rounds at Heavyweight since the public generally expects Heavyweight fights to finish early given the higher frequency of knockouts.

And this fight, in particular, is -400 (implied 80%) to finish early, but the total is set at 2.5 rounds, and only at +110 to the Over, which seems strange. Blaydes is +260 to win in Round 1, and +400 to win in Round 2.

I’m going to play Over 2.5 rounds (+110), alongside three result props — Blaydes Round 3 (+750), Blaydes Round 4 (+1100), and Blaydes round 5 (+1800) — for small stakes, and search for a big plus-money middle.

The Picks

  • Over 2.5 Rounds +115 (1 unit)
  • Blaydes Round 3 (+750, 0.2 units)
  • Blaydes Round 4 (+1100, 0.2 units)
  • Blaydes Round 5 (+1800, 0.1 units)

UFC MAIN EVENT PROMO! Bet Curtis “Razor” Blaydes at +100 odds (boosted from -400).


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Follow Sean Zerillo on Twitter
@SeanZerillo

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