Curtis Blaydes Claims UFC Is Protecting Derrick Lewis With Alexander Volkov Matchup

Alexander Volkov, UFC

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.

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

Curtis Blaydes, UFC

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.

UFC: Curtis Blaydes’ planning on waiting for a title shot if he wins Saturday, but he could be waiting a while

Curtis Blaydes, UFC

There is no question that UFC heavyweight, Curtis Blaydes (13-2, 1 NC), is one of the best heavyweights in the world. Blaydes is currently ranked as the third best heavyweight in the UFC’s heavyweight division. Since joining the UFC back in 2016, Blaydes has a very good record of 8-2 with one no contest. Blaydes is going up against the fifth ranked heavyweight this Saturday night in Alexander Volkov (31-7). Blaydes told MMA Junkie if he beats Volkov, he will likely try to sit out until he gets a title shot, but is that smart?

State of the UFC’s heavyweight division

The UFC‘s heavyweight division is in a very weird spot at the moment. Current champion, Stipe Miocic, is scheduled to conclude his trilogy with former champion, Daniel Cormier on August 15th. Cormier has publicly said that this would be his last fight win or lose. One has to wonder what the future would hold for Miocic if he was to win. The champion will turn 38-years-old four days after the title fight with Cormier. If he’s able to beat Cormier, what’s left for him at heavyweight? There is only one true number one contender right now, and Miocic has already defeated him. That number one contender is the frightening, Francis Ngannou. Is the risk of fighting Ngannou worth the reward for Miocic if he’s able to beat Cormier for a second time? The UFC could be looking at a situation where both Miocic and Cormier walk away from the sport after UFC 252. The only man that I could see either guy fighting after the August 15th title fight is Jon Jones.

The Ngannou Problem

If Ngannou is the number one contender and Blaydes is right behind him, Blaydes should just wait to see what happens after August 15th right? I mean if both men retire, Blaydes would have to get the title shot against Ngannou for the vacant heavyweight title, right? Here’s the issue with that. Blaydes has lost twice to Ngannou already, and neither fight was close. In-fact, Blaydes didn’t even last one minute the last time they fought. Even if Blaydes beats Volkov which would be his fourth win in a row, I’m not sure the UFC would be jumping at the chance to book him and Ngannou for the vacant heavyweight title if the 8/15 winner retires. The likely scenario would be that the UFC would throw a lot more money at Jon Jones to make the superfight with Ngannou happen for the heavyweight title, leaving Blaydes on the sidelines.

Blaydes’ Dilemma

Another intriguing possibility to fight Ngannou if the title was to become vacant is Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. I wrote about that being a potential superfight that the UFC could put together this year. Of course, Johnson wouldn’t have the heavyweight resume that Blaydes has, but that fight would sell a lot more, and the UFC is a business at the end of the day. I get where Blaydes is coming from in saying that he wants to wait for a UFC title shot if he wins on Saturday. Unfortunately his two losses to the current number one contender really puts him behind the eight-ball in the title shot pecking order. I think it’s going to be a long time before Blaydes gets a UFC title shot with the way things currently stand.

UFC: Blaydes And Volkov To Headline Fight Night On June 20

Curtis Blaydes, UFC

Just about everyone wants more sports right now, with most of the leagues around the world currently recovering from pandemic related disruptions, and the UFC is delivering on what fans want by continuing to set up new events. This time, the recent fight announcement was for June 20th’s Fight Night card, which will be headlined by two contenders in the heavyweight division: Alexander Volkov and Curtis Blaydes.

With both of them considered to be part of the new wave of heavyweights taking the reins in the division, and in good recent form in terms of results, it’s seemed like it would only be a matter of time before this fight would happen. Now, barring injury or some other unexpected events, fans around the world will finally get to see this matchup that was officially announced on Wednesday.

Blaydes is currently third in the divisional rankings while Volkov is seventh, meaning this matchup will also have large implications on the road to the belt. Blaydes has won his last three fights and can use a win against Volkov as part of his argument to compete for the title. Volkov, on the other hand, can get back to a winning streak with a win. His most recent fight was a victory against Greg Hardy, but in the fight before that, Derrick Lewis snapped his six fight winning streak.

The matchup is also a stylistic contrast. Blaydes is more known for his wrestling, something that has earned him praise from those who like that style and criticism from others who consider it ‘boring,’ while Volkov is known for his striking and size. Regardless of the end result and the styles used, there’s likely no way for Blaydes to make the fight boring against a fighter like Volkov.

The fight was originally supposed to happen in Saskatoon, but because of the current coronavirus situation, the fight is almost definitely going to be held at the UFC Apex facility. Still, it’s better than nothing as the sports world slowly makes its way back.