UFC Vegas 18: Alistair Overeem vs. Alexander Volkov preview and predictions

Preview and predictions for UFC Vegas 18: Alistair Overeem vs. Alexander Volkov

The UFC returns to its home of Las Vegas for a solid card topped by a battle of two big (literally and figuratively) heavyweight fighters, as Alistair Overeem and Alexander Volkov do battle in an important bout of contenders in the main event of UFC Vegas 18.

Overeem will come into this contest ranked No. 5, having won four of his last five, all coming after a switch to Elevation Fight Team in 2018. His wins have seen him score finishes of Sergei Pavlovich, Alexey Oleynik, Walt Harris and Augusto Sakai. He would have five wins in a row if it weren’t for a last-minute knockout loss to Jairzinho Rozenstruik.

Volkov, ranked No. 6, will come into this contest off a second-round finish of Harris at UFC 254. It was a win well needed after losing a one-sided outing to Curtis Blaydes in June.

Who will win at UFC Vegas 18: Alistair Overeem or Alexander Volkov?

The co-main event of the evening is just as anticipated and could be a pivotal fight for the bantamweight division, as Cory Sandhagen does battle with Frankie Edgar. Sandhagen, after losing in quick fashion to Aljamain Sterling at UFC 250, rebounded with a big second-round finish of former title challenger Marlon Moraes in October. Edgar, the former UFC lightweight champ, made his bantamweight debut in August with a narrow split-decision win over Pedro Munhoz.

The rest of the UFC Vegas 18 main card will feature talents such as Cody Stamann and Beneil Dariush. The prelims will be topped by Michael Johnson vs. Clay Guida, as well as appearances from Devonte Smith, Justin Jaynes and Molly McCann.

Let’s take a closer look at the UFC Vegas 18 main card.

Alistair Overeem vs. Alexander Volkov preview and prediction

Coming up short in a heavyweight title fight with Stipe Miocic at UFC 203, Overeem rebounded with wins over Mark Hunt and Fabricio Werdum before suffering back-to-back brutal KOs at the hands of Francis Ngannou and elbows of Curtis Blaydes. Since moving to Elevation Fight Team in 2018, however, the 40-year-old Overeem appears to have been reborn, scoring wins in four of his last five with big finishes against Sergei Pavlovich, Alexey Oleinik, Walt Harris and Augusto Sakai. He would be on a five-fight win streak right now had it not been a last-second loss to Jairzinho Rozenstruik.

The former heavyweight champion of M-1, Alexander Volkov got off on a hot start in the UFC with wins against Timothy Johnson, Roy Nelson, Stefan Struve and Fabricio Werdum before a last-second loss at the hands of Derrick Lewis at UFC 229. Volkov rebounded with a win over Greg Hardy the next year but was dominated by Curtis Blaydes in June. Volkov was most recently in action at UFC 254, where he finished Walt Harris.

Checking out the Tale of the Tape, Volkov will have a three-inch height edge, but both men will display 80-inch reaches. According to FightMetrics, the men are close in striking numbers ‚— Overeem is slightly more accurate, but Volkov has a slightly better striking differential. As for the grappling numbers, Overeem usually gets at least one takedown in a fight, but he’ll have to handle Volkov’s 65 percent takedown defense.

Both guys are hard hitters, and both have chins that aren’t glass but can fail at any point. With both men kickboxers, this one should just come down to who lands the better shots and harder shots — and who can stun and knock their opponent down first. One thing worth noting though is over his last few fights, Overeem has displayed excellent ground-and-pound work, so could we perhaps see this fight go to the ground at least once?

Volkov is not an easy guy to finish, but he may not have faced many who have the power that Overeem possesses. At the same time, Overeem is the kind of guy who, in most cases, needs to get the job done before the final horn. Overeem can certainly get the finish here, but it might not be far off to say the longer this fight goes, the more risk Overeem has of getting popped and finished — or overwhelmed by strikes to a decision.

Prediction: Overeem via fourth-round KO/TKO

Cory Sandhagen vs. Frankie Edgar preview and prediction

After an impressive UFC debut on days’ notice, finishing Austin Arnett, Cory Sandhagen dropped down to bantamweight and quickly rose up the ranks, scoring wins over Iuri Alcantara, Mario Bautista, John Lineker and Raphael Assuncao. Sandhagen fought Aljamain Sterling in a title eliminator at UFC 250, only to be choked out in 90 seconds. Sandhagen rebounded with a big second-round finish of Marlon Moraes in October.

After his days as lightweight champion came to an end, Frankie Edgar dropped down to featherweight and had continued to success — though he could never capture 145-pound gold, with his only losses in the division coming against Jose Aldo, Brian Ortega, Max Holloway and “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung. Considered by some of his team to be the perfect size for bantamweight, Edgar finally made his 135-pound debut in August, narrowly edging out Pedro Munhoz in a split decision.

On the Tale of the Tape, Sandhagen, who is a decade Edgar’s junior, will have a five-inch height advantage over Edgar, as well as holding two inches in reach. Looking at the FightMetrics, Sandhagen has a much better striking differential, even with a significant disadvantage in strikes absorbed per minute. He’s also the more accurate striker. The ground is Edgar’s game, however, as he scores over two takedowns per 15 minutes on average — and that may very well benefit him with Sandhagen’s takedown defense at just 30 percent.

There’s a lot of concern over Sandhagen’s ground game as he goes against a wrestler like Edgar. Sure, maybe Edgar won’t choke Sandhagen out in 90 seconds as Sterling did, but Edgar is the kind of fighter who will wrestle rings around you if you don’t fight back. At the same time, Sandhagen should use his height and physical edge to his advantage. Sandhagen did perform very well against Moraes, and Edgar has been busted up by strikers as of late. It’ll all come down to who can take the fight to their backyard and overwhelm their opponent more.

Anyone writing Edgar off completely shouldn’t be doing that, but Sandhagen has a huge chance to possibly get himself the next title shot after Petr Yan vs. Aljermain Sterling or another big bantamweight fight (i.e. Cruz, Dillashaw, etc) if he can get a win here.

Prediction: Sandhagen via unanimous decision

Alexandre Pantoja vs. Manel Kape preview and prediction

A semifinalist from the 24th season of The Ultimate Fighter, Alexandre Pantoja, the former RFA flyweight champ and the AXS TV Flyweight Superfight winner, started his Octagon tenure with wins over Eric Shelton and Neil Seery before a loss to Dustin Ortiz. He then won consecutive fights against Brandon Moreno, Ulka Sasaki and Wilson Reis before a loss to current flyweight champ Devieson Figueiredo. Pantoja knocked out Matt Schnell at the end of 2019 but dropped a decision to Askar Askarov on Fight Island about six months ago.

This will be the anticipated debut of Manel Kape, the former RIZIN talent. He joined RIZIN after winning nine of his first 10 bouts and got off on the right foot with back-to-back first-round finishes of Erson Yamamoto and Ian McCall. He’d drop three of his next four, however, including losses to former Bellator and RIZIN bantamweight champ Kyoji Horiguchi, as well as Sasaki. Kape enters this fight on a three-fight win streak, most recently avenging a previous loss to Kai Asakura by knocking him out on New Year’s Eve 2019 to win the then-vacant RIZIN bantamweight belt.

Pantoja and Kape are very similar physically, per the Tale of the Tape, with Kape having just a one-inch reach advantage. Pantoja is truly one of the better flyweights the UFC has right now, a legitimate top contender who has faced some of the other best talents currently in the division — including the two men who just put on probably the greatest flyweight fight (let alone flyweight title fight) the UFC has ever seen. But Kape has been a beast of his own in RIZIN, and his battles with the likes of Horiguchi and Asakura make not one to write off.

You could probably expect this to be a grappler vs. striker affair, as Pantoja is excellent with his jiu-jitsu and wrestling, while Kape has some legit power in his hands. The expectation is Kape to deliver a banger of a performance in his UFC debut — just like Michael Chandler recently did — and not only can he do that, he can probably get the finish here.

Prediction: Kape via second-round KO/TKO

Cody Stamann vs. Askar Askar preview and prediction

Cody Stamann was originally scheduled to face Merab Dvalishvili and then Andre Ewell. Both men pulled out due to circumstances related to COVID-19.

After a 14-1 run prior to the UFC, Stamann got off on a good start in the Octagon with three straight decision wins before falling victim to Aljamain Sterling’s Suloev stretch at UFC 228. He’d defeat Alejandro Perez by decision and battled Song Yadong to a draw before defeating Brian Kelleher at UFC 250 — a fight that came about 10 days after his 18-year-old brother tragically passed away. Stamann most recently fought in July on Fight Island, losing to Jimmie Rivera.

This will mark the short-notice UFC debut of Askar Askar, who comes in with an 11-1 record. Askar’s more noticeable wins on the regional scene include a decision over James Blair in Titan FC, a decision over Derrick Mandell at LFA 50, a three-minute submission of Alberto Martinez Jr. in Island Fights and, most recently, a decision over Kevin Wirth at LFA 92. His only loss was a 39-second knockout loss to Saidyokub Kakharamonov almost exactly one year ago.

Askar will come into this fight about five years Stamann’s junior, a one-inch edge in height and approximately a five-inch advantage in reach.

Askar has some crisp boxing, while Stamann will outwork his opponents via his wrestling abilities. And while Askar has the physical edges on paper, Stamann not only has the experience edge, but he’s faced a couple of notable names in the UFC already. Askar’s track record and opponent history isn’t bad, but Stamann is the kind of guy that might be too tough for Askar to overcome in a short-notice debut, especially when considering how well Stamann does on the ground. For Askar to score a huge win, he’ll need to either clip Stamann on the chin hard, or find a way to get in top game and use his striking to finish the fight there — both easier said than done.

Prediction: Stamann via unanimous decision

Carlos Diego Ferreira vs. Beneil Dariush preview and prediction

This will be a rematch from UFC 179 in late 2014 — a fight that Beneil Dariush won by decision to mark Carlos Diego Ferreira’s first-ever loss, and currently his first of just two (the other coming to Dustin Poirier).

Ferreira enters this fight on a six-fight win streak since that loss, including a perfect 5-0 run since a 2018 return from a USADA run-in. In his most recent fight, Ferreira scored the biggest win of his career, submitting Anthony Pettis at UFC 246.

Dariush has gone on a 10-3-1 run since the win in the first match with Ferreira, and he’ll enter the rematch on a five-fight win streak. Dariush has won four straight fights via a finish, winning performance bonuses with submissions of Drew Dober and Frank Camacho in 2019, as well as a six-minute knockout of Drakkar Klose at UFC 248. Dariush most recently competed in August, missing weight for a fight with Scott Holtzman but winning the fight via a late first-round KO.

Looking at the Tale of the Tape, Dariush will have a one-inch height edge, but Ferreira will have a two-inch advantage in reach. Per FightMetrics, Ferreira may have more significant strikes thrown per minute on average, but Dariush and his Muay Thai hold the better striking accuracy and defensive numbers. Dariush edges out Ferreira in takedowns landed on average but both men have similar ratios of takedown accuracy compared to takedown defense.

Both these guys are on similar paths and are different fighters compared to when they first fought. Both guys are also jiu-jitsu experts and are coming into this fight with win streaks over some noted names. We could see a highly competitive battle on the ground. Whenever the fight is on the feet though, Dariush’s striking skills might end up being displayed better — and it might just give him the edge in a highly close contest. This one’s a toughie but will be a great way to start the main card.

Prediction: Dariush via split decision

UFC Vegas 18 takes place on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021, live from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, NV. Follow along with FanSided for all your live news and highlights.

Published at Wed, 03 Feb 2021 23:46:30 +0000

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