Heavyweight contenders Curtis Blaydes (13-2, 10 KOs) and Alexander Volkov (31-7, 20 KOs, 3 SUBs) will meet at UFC Fight Night 173 on Saturday, June 20, 2020, at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. The card airs live on ESPN+ starting at 9 pm ET.
Curtis Blaydes (13-2, 10 KOs)
If it had not been for Francis Ngannou, there’s a good chance that Blaydes might’ve been the current champion - he’s that good. Take out those two KO losses to The Predator, and Blaydes has been perfect in his pro career. That includes an 8-2 stint in the UFC, with high-profile wins over Mark Hunt, Alistair Overeem, and Junior Dos Santos.
Blaydes’ best weapon is his wrestling, and anyone that’s 6’4”, 255 pounds who can take dudes down is gonna make some noise as a UFC heavyweight. He lands 6.63 takedowns per 15 minutes, which is a stat that I had to italicize simply because it’s a number that tops wrestling greats like Khabib and Cormier.
Currently riding a three-fight winning streak and carrying the No. 3 ranking, Blaydes is taking the long route to a title shot as the mess between Miocic and Cormier sorts itself out. A win over Volkov likely won’t be enough to cement a shot at the strap, but it certainly keeps his name top of mind.
Alexander Volkov (31-7, 20 KOs, 3 SUBs)
The Russian was a low-key signing in 2017 - not much was expected from a guy that ended a Bellator career with losses to Cheick Kongo and Tony Johnson. But his UFC stint has been surprisingly successful, as the 31-year old has notched together a 5-1 record. That lone loss shouldn’t even really count, as Volkov was knocked out by a Derrick Lewis prayer shot in the final seconds of a fight he was handily winning.
Still, we’re not sure if “Drago” is ready to step into the big boy tier. His biggest win thus far came against an old Fabricio Werdum, and beating fat Roy Nelson, chinny Stefan Struve and amateur Greg Hardy really doesn’t mean much. The fact that he wasn’t able to stop a newbie like Hardy is actually a really bad look.
But if he beats Blaydes? That’s instant title contender status. The 6’7”, 240-pounder is an intriguing fighter: he’s tall, he moves well and he pours on the volume with a long-range striking game.
- Strikes landed per minute: Blaydes 3.74 / Volkov 5.36
- Striking accuracy: Blaydes 51% / Volkov 60%
- Strikes absorbed per minute: Blaydes 1.86 / Volkov 2.48
- Defense: Blaydes 57% / Volkov 58%
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- Takedown average: Blaydes 6.63 / Volkov 0.75
- Takedown accuracy: Blaydes 55% / Volkov 75%
- Takedowns defended: Blaydes 25% / Volkov 76%
- Submission average: Blaydes 0.0 / Volkov 0.2
Blaydes is a big favorite in this one, with a -260 money line. That’s not low enough to scare us away, as his wrestling chops makes him an easy pick to win. We’d also recommend looking at the prop that he finishes inside the distance, as Razor is excellent and laying on heavy GNP from the top position. With 25 minutes to do damage, there’s an excellent chance that Blaydes takes care of business before going to the judges.
Live UFC Betting Picks
Keep an eye on the Betcris online sportsbook during the fight. If Blaydes fails to land his first few takedowns, you might want to think about throwing down a bet on Volkov. In a pure kickboxing match, the Russian’s volume and technique could absolutely flummox the shorter Blaydes
Bet UFC on ESPN: Blaydes vs. Volkov
|Main Card (ESPN+)
|Curtis Blaydes vs. Alexander Volkov - Heavyweight
|Josh Emmett vs. Shane Burgos - Featherweight
|Raquel Pennington vs. Marion Reneau - Women's Bantamweight
|Lyman Good vs. Belal Muhammad - Welterweight
|Jim Miller vs. Roosevelt Roberts - Catchweight (160 lbs)
|Preliminary card (ESPN+)
|Clay Guida vs. Bobby Green - Lightweight
|Tecia Torres vs. Brianna Van Buren - Women's Strawweight
|Marc-André Barriault vs. Oskar Piechota - Middleweight
|Cortney Casey vs. Gillian Robertson - Women's Flyweight
|Frank Camacho vs. Matt Frevola - Lightweight
|Roxanne Modafferi vs. Lauren Murphy - Women's Flyweight
|Austin Hubbard vs. Max Rohskopf - Lightweight
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