blaydes vs volkov
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FSM Essential Fight Preview: UFC on ESPN- Blaydes vs Volkov


If last week’s UFC on ESPN: Eye vs Calvillo did not deliver enough exciting fights, fear not. The UFC is back at it again this Saturday with a banger of a card on ESPN, with heavyweights Curtis Blaydes and Alexander Volkov headlining the show. 


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Blaydes (13-2., 1 NC) has been knocking at the door of title contention for the past few years. He has recorded key victories over Junior dos Santos, Alistair Overeem, and Mark Hunt, but his two setbacks at the hands of Francis Ngannou have derailed the title talks for the time being. Meanwhile, Ngannou is sure to get a crack at the title after Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier handle business this summer.

Still, Blaydes’ development as a fighter has been steadily improving, and a main event win against another top-10 heavyweight could make him undeniable. The former Division I wrestler has recently shown a willingness to stand and strike with his opponents, utilizing his massive 80-inch reach and mixing in takedowns for a complete package. Should his game keep developing in leaps and bounds as he has shown since his last loss to Ngannou, he will be a nightmare matchup for anyone at heavyweight. 

For his part, Volkov (31-7) has seen a few ups and downs since joining the promotion in 2016. He started his UFC tenure impressively, going 4-0, including knockout wins over Stefan Struve and former champion Fabricio Werdum. His lone defeat in the promotion came in his next fight by way of knockout at the hands of Derrick Lewis at UFC 229.


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Though he did avenge that loss in his last outing against Greg Hardy, the performance left much to be desired.  Volkov couldn’t dictate the pace in what many would consider being a tune-up fight against the relative newcomer in Hardy. He earned the unanimous decision, winning every round, but the match was nothing to write home about. 

The big stage is set for the winner of this heavyweight clash to make some noise and put his name into the contenders’ spot. It will be up to them to deliver the goods to force the UFC’s hand into putting a title fight in the winner’s future. 


The evening’s co-main event bout is sure to be a highlight reel between two of the UFC’s most heavy-handed strikers. Josh Emmett and Shane Burgos will meet in a clash of top-10 featherweights to move further up the ranks.


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Burgos (13-1) is riding a three-fight winning streak since suffering his only career loss to Calvin Kattar at UFC 220. Despite the loss, that fight against Kattar helped cement Burgos as one of the most punishing rising fighters in the featherweight division. It was an evenly-matched brawl until the 3rd round when Kattar landed a flush straight right, followed by an uppercut that put Burgos away. The fight rightfully earned Fight of the Night honors, rewarding both men for an entertaining brawl.


Since then, Burgos has been must-see-TV. His biggest test came against Cub Swanson last year, with Burgos outstriking the veteran en route to a split decision victory.  Burgos showcased a diverse striking arsenal and landed good strikes but just couldn’t put away the crafty Swanson. He is undoubtedly a rising star and someone to keep an eye on as he takes on new challenges. 


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His next challenge, however, is as tough as they come. Emmett (15-2) is a powerful puncher with an uncanny ability to absorb punishment and keep moving forward. He did just that in his fight against Michael Johnson last year. Emmett had a slow start, and Johnson was picking him apart throughout the majority of the battle. With just seconds left in what was looking to be a decision loss for Emmett, he unleashed a punishing right haymaker that laid Johnson out flat for the one-punch knockout.

He has shown excellent power in his left hand as well, as seen in his clean left-hook knockout of Ricardo Lamas in 2017. He will certainly be looking to put Burgos’ chin to the test Saturday, and this fight has Fight of the Night written all over it. 


Also on the card will be Jim Miller fighting for a record-tying 35th time in the UFC. He will be fighting Roosevelt Roberts at a catchweight of 160 lbs to open the main card on ESPN. Miller has been a mainstay in the UFC lightweight division for years and is no stranger to performance bonuses himself.


Roberts, a Contender Series alumni, is making a quick turnaround, coming off a 2nd round submission win over Brok Weaver on May 30. 

UFC on ESPN: Blaydes vs Volkov will be live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas Saturday. The preliminary card will air at 2 PM Pacific on ESPN+, followed by the main card at 5 PM Pacific on ESPN

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-Leo Schauer – Franchise Sports Media 

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