UFC on ESPN 11 Preview: Curtis Blaydes & Alexander Volkov look to take a step towards the title

Curtis Blaydes, UFC
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UFC on ESPN 11 will mark the fourth consecutive Saturday night where we’ve had a UFC card from the APEX. The main event of the evening pairs two top ten heavyweights against each other as Curtis Blaydes (13-2, 1) takes on Alexander Volkov (31-7). The card is stacked from the prelims all the way through the main card. Let’s dive into the card that fight fans will be tuning into this Saturday night on ESPN.

Curtis Blaydes vs Alexander Volkov

Curtis Blaydes is one of the best heavyweights in the world. Since joining the UFC back in 2016, Blaydes has an impressive record of 8-2 with one no contest. He’s got ever-improving striking skills, elite wrestling, and a ground attack that is vicious. The problem for Blaydes in the heavyweight division is the fact that he’s lost twice to top contender, Francis Ngannou, and neither fight was competitive. Earlier this week, I wrote about the problem that Blaydes is facing. He said he wants to wait for a title shot if he wins against Volkov, but he might be waiting a while.

If it wasn’t for a last minute rally by Derrick Lewis back at UFC 229, Alexander Volkov might have fought for a UFC title by now. Volkov has an impressive record of 5-1 in the UFC with wins over guys like Roy Nelson and former heavyweight champion, Fabricio Werdum. Volkov has really good striking technique, and presents multiple different looks on his feet. He’s got great kicks, and his accuracy does nothing but help his power. However, Volkov’s weakness is Blaydes’ strength. Volkov does not historically do well against grapplers. Volkov is better when he can use range and pick his opponents apart on the feet. Blaydes is going to try to take this fight to the ground almost immediately. Another big disadvantage Volkov has is the smaller cage. With this fight being at the UFC‘s APEX, the cage is 30% smaller. That’s a big advantage for a guy like Blaydes who wants to close the distance. Blaydes is a massive betting favorite for these reasons, and I think it’s pretty safe money. Volkov is one of the best, but this is an awful matchup for him.



Prediction: Curtis Blaydes by TKO – Round 3

Josh Emmett vs Shane Burgos

The co-main event of the evening is the fight that I’m the most excited about when it comes to Saturday’s card. Two top ten featherweights will be going head-to-head as Josh Emmett (15-2) takes on “Hurricane” Shane Burgos (13-1). Any time you see Josh Emmett fight, you have to tell yourself, “Don’t blink.” Emmett has incredible power for the featherweight division. If he connects flush, I’m not sure anyone in the division can take it. Emmett also has really good wrestling and grappling skills, but he seems to be content with standing and trading with his opponents. In this matchup, he might be wise to look to mix in some of the grappling just to give Burgos something to think about.

Shane Burgos is one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC‘s featherweight division. His lone career loss came to Calvin Kattar back in 2018, but since then, Burgos has rattled off three impressive victories. Burgos has incredible foot-work and speed which will help him greatly in this matchup. Going into this fight, I think Burgos has the clear advantage when it comes to the overall striking game. Burgos is the faster guy with cleaner boxing. However, Burgos likes to get inside with some of his shots, and that can leave him open to a massive shot from Emmett. My gut is telling me to go with Burgos due to the advantage on the feet, but it’s hard to pick against a guy who is always one shot away from winning the fight. I’m going to go with my gut on this one, but it’s truly a toss-up.

Prediction: Shane Burgos by Unanimous Decision

Raquel Pennington vs Marion Reneau

The third fight on the main card is a very intriguing matchup between two top ten bantamweights as former title challenger, Raquel Pennington (10-8), takes on Marion Reneau (9-5-1). Pennington has had a very up and down last five years if you just look at her record. Since 2016, Pennington is just 4-3, but those losses have all come against either current or former UFC champions. Pennington is as tough as they come in the bantamweight division. She doesn’t have any skills that will wow you, but she will always come forward, and push the pace. Pennington has decent wrestling, okay hands, and does okay in the clinch. However, she’s able to bring the skills she does have together to put on pretty good performances.

Across from Pennington will be the oldest fighter on the card. At 42-years-old, Marion Reneau is coming off of back-to-back decision losses. Prior to those losses, Reneau had gone 3-0-1 in her previous four fights including three finishes. Reneau has really good punching power, and an incredible ground game from the top position. She has struggled at times on her back, but on top, she’s one of the better practitioners in the division. She has multiple ways of winning the fight on Saturday night. Reneau has the power advantage, and she’ll possess the grappling advantage. However, we have seen Reneau lose some decisions due to lack of activity. She has big moments in fights, but then she’s been susceptible to taking her foot off the gas. If this fight gets finished, I think Reneau is going to be the winner. However, if the fight goes to the scorecards, I think Pennington’s forward pressure and activity will get her the nod. I think it’s a close fight, but I think this one is going to the scorecards.

Prediction: Raquel Pennington by Split Decision

Belal Muhammad vs Lyman Good

The second fight on the main card is a classic stylistic matchup that features former Bellator champ, Lyman Good (21-5, 1 NC), and Belal Muhammad (16-3). Lyman Good is going into this fight we a pretty decent advantage on the feet. In his 21 career victories, 11 of those have come via KO/TKO. The last time we saw Good was back in November at UFC 244 where he stopped Chance Rencountre in the third round. Good has some serious power in his hands, but he does have a weakness, and that’s his defensive grappling. In his two UFC losses to Demian Maia and Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, Good was controlled on the ground. If he can’t keep this fight with Muhammad standing, it could be a long night.

As you probably are guessing, Muhammad is going to have a very predictable strategy in this fight. Do not expect Muhammad to try to keep this fight standing. From the opening bell, expect Muhammad to use his grappling to try to get the fight to the ground. Muhammad is a specialist with really good top control. He’s got a pretty decent chin too only being finished once in his professional career. Muhammad fights like a wet blanket which is the exact style that can give a fighter like Lyman Good some problems. While Good is capable of putting almost anyone away, I think Muhammad is going to be able to use his grappling to nullify any advantage that Good has on the feet.

Prediction: Belal Muhammad by Unanimous Decision

Jim Miller vs Roosevelt Roberts

Kicking off the main card is a lightweight matchup between veteran Jim Miller (31-14, 1 NC), and Roosevelt Roberts (10-1). For Roberts, Miller is the biggest name that he’s fought so far in his UFC career. After coming out of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, Roberts has a 4-1 record in the UFC. Roberts looked sensational in his fight against Brok Weaver back on May 30th at UFC on ESPN 9. Roberts has really good submissions skills, and his striking his progressing nicely. This is a true test to see where Roberts is in his development. If he’s able to beat Miller with flying colors, you would have to think he’s ready for a top 15 opponent. However, Miller is the type of guy who will be able to show you any weaknesses that Roberts might have in his game.

In this fight, Jim Miller will tie Cowboy Cerrone with the most fights in UFC history at 35. Miller has fought the who’s who in the UFC over 12 years. While he’s never received a title shot, Miller is widely known as one of the better fighters in the world. Before losing a close decision to Scott Holtzman back in February, Miller had won two fights in a row. Miller is as tough as they come, and you have to know that he’s going to push the prospect, Roberts. I think Roberts has all the tools he needs to win this fight, but do not expect Miller to get steam-rolled here. I think Miller will have his moments, but I think you’re going to see Roberts take another step in the right development direction, and defeat Jim Miller.

Prediction: Roosevelt Roberts by Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) – Round 3



UFC on ESPN 11 Outlook

The UFC is putting on one helluva show this Saturday night. In addition the five main card fights, the prelims have some really intriguing matchups. Clay Guida, Tecia Torres, Roxanne Modafferi, and undefeated submission ace, Max Rohskopf, are just some of the names on the under card. While the UFC’s card last week caught a lot of criticism, the fans shouldn’t be saying a negative word about this one.

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