Alexander Volkov stood in his belltower, tracked Alistair Overeem’s approach, trained his sights, slowed his breathing and pulled the trigger. It was a well-planned, well-orchestrated and well-executed attack.
The former Bellator MMA and M-1 Global titleholder made another strong strategic move in his quest for gold in the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight division, as he cut down Overeem with precision punches in the second round of their UFC Fight Night 184 headliner on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Volkov brought it to an emphatic close 2:06 into Round 2, having beaten his counterpart bloody and senseless.
Overeem mustered little in terms of meaningful resistance. Volkov made use of the smaller cage, trapped the Dutchman along the fence and flurried with power punches in a dominant first round. The abrasions and cuts on Overeem’s face told the tale and set the stage for what followed. Volkov ramped up his intensity in Round 2, where he battered “The Demolition Man” with jabs and mixed in crisp one-twos. A straight right-left hook combination dropped Overeem to all fours midway through the period, prompting referee Jason Herzog to act in order to prevent further abuse.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Overeem vs. Volkov,” here are four matches that ought to be made:
Alexander Volkov vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik-Ciryl Gane winner: Volkov’s physical transformation—he has packed 15 pounds onto his menacing 6-foot-7 frame since he made his UFC debut in November 2016—has turned him into harrowing proposition for anyone in the heavyweight division. While his losses to Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis, along with the pending arrival of Jon Jones, likely preclude him from an immediate post-Overeem title shot, the Russian has put himself in prime position for a run at the top in the not-too-distant future; and at just 32 years of age, he has plenty of time to further sharpen what are already world-class standup skills. Rozenstruik will lock horns with the undefeated Gane in the UFC Fight Night 186 main event on Feb. 27.
Cory Sandhagen vs. Petr Yan-Aljamain Sterling winner: A lightning bolt pushed Sandhagen to the front of the line at 135 pounds, as he knocked out Frankie Edgar with a flying knee less than a minute into their co-headliner. Edgar hit the deck 28 seconds into Round 1, the unwitting victim in the sixth-fastest knockout in the history of the bantamweight division. No follow-up shots were required. Sandhagen, 28, has rebounded from his June 6 submission defeat to Sterling with back-to-back knockouts, his ambush on Edgar coming on the heels of his spinning wheel kick finish of former World Series of Fighting champion Marlon Moraes some four months earlier. The presumed No. 1 contender can now sit back and wait for the situation in front of him to play out. Yan will defend the undisputed bantamweight crown against the aforementioned Sterling at UFC 259 on March 6.
Alexandre Pantoja vs. Alex Perez: An often-forgotten piece of the UFC’s flyweight puzzle, Pantoja spoiled the long-awaited promotional debut of Manel Kape by taking a three-round unanimous decision from the former Rizin Fighting Federation champion. Scores were 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27. Pantoja outlanded the Octagon newcomer by significant margins in the first and second rounds, then broke even in the third. The 30-year-old American Top Team export has rattled off 16 wins across his last 19 appearances, losing only to Dustin Ortiz, Askar Askarov and Deiveson Figueiredo—men with a combined record of 51-9-2. Pantoja remains one of the UFC’s best at 125 pounds. Perez has not competed since November, when he submitted to first-round guillotine choke from Figueiredo in a failed attempt to unseat the flyweight champion at UFC 255.
Beneil Dariush vs. Rafael dos Anjos: Dariush moved to 2-0 in his head-to-head series with Diego Ferreira, as he laid claim to a split decision over the Fortis MMA-trained Brazilian in their three-round lightweight rematch. All three judges scored it 29-28: Dave Hagen and Chris Lee for Dariush, Jerin Valel for Ferreira. Tossed aside by many observers after his stunning 42-second knockout loss to Alexander Hernandez in March 2018, the resilient Dariush has since pieced together an impressive six-fight winning streak to return to prominence at 155 pounds. Dos Anjos, who once trained alongside Dariush at Kings MMA, returned to the lightweight division on Nov. 14, when he was awarded a split verdict over Paul Felder in the UFC Fight Night 182 main event.