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Alexander Volkov spoke to FanSided about the heavyweight division.
In October 2018 at UFC 229, heavyweight contender Alexander Volkov was on his way to winning a clear-cut decision over Derrick Lewis, soundly out-striking the lumbering Lewis for well over 14 minutes. But late in the third round, Volkov was dropped by a massive Lewis right hand and finished with just 11 seconds remaining in the fight. A month later, Lewis would unsuccessfully challenge for the UFC heavyweight title on the heels of that improbable comeback victory.
For Volkov, the loss snapped a six-fight win streak and, at least momentarily, dashed his hopes of a title shot. A year later, though, Volkov bounced back with a win over Greg Hardy in front of a hometown Moscow crowd. Now, on June 20, in the main event of UFC Vegas 3, Volkov once again finds himself on the cusp of a title shot as he squares off with Curtis Blaydes.
Does a win over Curtis Blaydes mean a title shot?
Volkov recognizes that with a win over Blaydes, he could argue he deserves the next title shot after current champion Stipe Miocic and former champion Daniel Cormier settle their rivalry in a rubber match in August. However, Volkov also recognizes that the title shot likely belongs to the no. 2-ranked Francis Ngannou.
“I understand that Ngannou deserves a title shot because he won a lot of fights really quick, [against] a lot of top guys, so if it’s his turn then he goes next. I don’t worry about that,” Volkov told FanSided.
Indeed, Ngannou is riding a four-fight win streak, each victory coming by first-round knockout, including a 45-second starching of Blaydes. Still, Volkov feels a showdown with Ngannou is inevitable.
“[Ngannou] is a good fighter. I really like his style, how he fights,” Volkov said. “[A fight with Ngannou] has to happen someday, after my win. Probably he wants a title shot first and maybe I will fight with him after, but for sure, someday we will meet because we are both good strikers, and we can make a good show.”
Volkov also welcomes a fight with long-time light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who has hinted at a move to heavyweight on numerous occasions. Volkov, though, isn’t holding his breath for a match-up with Jones.
“I don’t think about it because [Jones] thinks about heavyweight many years… More than five years he wants to jump to heavyweight,” Volkov said. “Right now, he is playing with the fans or something, I don’t know. If he came to heavyweight, I’d really appreciate a fight with him because he won the belt, he’s the best fighter in the world, a big name, and everything. I love his style and I’d really want to challenge him in the Octagon someday if he became a heavyweight.”
Before he can entertain any fights with Ngannou or Jones, Volkov will need to get past Blaydes, who is fresh off a TKO victory over former champion Junior Dos Santos. While Blaydes is primarily known as a wrestler and takedown artist, the Dos Santos win showed his ever-evolving striking game. A veteran of nearly 40 professional fights, though, Volkov believes his experience will carry him against Blaydes.
“I see [Blaydes is] getting better in the striking in every fight… Junior was really concentrated on his takedown defense and that’s why he made these mistakes,” Volkov said. “But you have to do everything in this sport, and I’ve been in this sport a really long time, more than 10 years, so I’m used to fighting this type of fighter. For sure, his striking is becoming better and better and I respect this, but I am also not a simple guy in this sport.”
So, how does Volkov get the win against Blaydes?
Still learning English, Volkov hesitated as he searched for the right words to describe how he sees the fight playing out. At that moment, Volkov’s wrestling coach Kenny Johnson chimed in, half-joking but nonetheless expressing confidence in his fighter’s gameplan.
“Something with one of the two hands, or one of the two feet,” Johnson said, earning a chuckle from the typically stoic Volkov. “Some combination of that.”
UFC Vegas 3 takes place on Saturday, June 20, 2020 live from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, NV. Follow along with FanSided for all your live news and highlights.
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