The UFC has a competitive top half of the rankings right now in the heavyweight division and the race to the top will definitely be impacted by the matchup between Curtis Blaydes and Alexander Volkov that’s set for June 20th.
Interestingly, however, Blaydes believes that being placed against the seventh ranked heavyweight and the winner of seven of the last eight fights is actually a move that sells him short to an extent. According to Blaydes, his skills are good enough to destroy currently fourth ranked Derrick Lewis, who Blaydes says that the UFC wants to protect.
“After I beat Junior, I knew it was going to be Volkov. I knew they weren’t going to give me Derrick Lewis. They don’t want him to lose, and they know if they gave him me, I would destroy him, so I knew he was off the table. I knew it had to be Volkov, so as soon as it was offered, I said yes,” Blaydes said to MMA Junkie.
While Volkov has had an impressive run of results since entering the UFC, Blaydes also has an impressive record of his own – only two career losses and one no-contest, with both of the losses coming at the hands of Francis Ngannou. There’s no shame, of course, in losing to Ngannou. The hard hitting heavyweight is currently the number two contender and has already fought for title title himself, losing to current champion Stipe Miocic.
While Blaydes believes he deserves a fight with Lewis, he also hasn’t dismissed his current opponent.
“I respect every opponent. I know he’s got skills. I know he’s efficient in striking, but I also know he’s not the best grappler in the world. I know he’s not the caliber grappler I am, and I believe I have the better conditioning,” he continued.
Blaydes may just get the fight he’s looking for with Lewis in the future, but that defends on a win against Volkov, who is a tough challenger in his own right. It won’t take long, though, for the final result to be determined – Blaydes and Volkov are set to fight on the 20th at the UFC APEX facility, as the headliners for UFC on ESPN 11.