March 13, 2018

Alexander Volkov Needs To Add His Name To the List of Rising Prospects

By Raphael Garcia

Divisional turnover has been a topic that I've heavily emphasized over the last few weeks. After seeing UFC 222, where multiple young stars found a way to continue their respective climbs up the divisional ladder, I, along with a lot of other fans, are excited for what comes next. And this weekend, there’s another “young” (under 30) fighter who is looking to supplant a longtime veteran.

UFC Fight Night 127 takes place Saturday, and the main event features Alexander Volkov taking on Fabricio Werdum. The 29-year-old Volkov is a relatively new name in the UFC heavyweight division. He’s facing a well-known former champion in Werdum, who is looking to get himself back into the title picture.

That picture is muddied at best, as the current champion, Stipe Miocic, is scheduled to fight the light heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier, at UFC 226. Then there’s the looming question of whether Brock Lesnar is headed back to the Octagon. The inclusion of his name creates another roadblock for any heavyweight fighter that is expecting to push ahead on the list of contenders.

But in this weekend’s bout, there’s an opportunity for a younger fighter to get the victory that enables him to crack the top five of the UFC rankings. One look at those heavyweight rankings shows just how stark the lack of turnover is within this division. Any division where Cain Velasquez is still even ranked is the definition of stagnant. But with Werdum sitting near the top of those rankings, the sport could be looking at another name, Volkov, creeping into the picture.

This is quite the leap in competition for Volkov. Werdum has been among the best in the heavyweight division for years. The former champion has faced a catalog of the best this weight class has had to offer. That isn’t the same for Volkov, who comes into this fight with a 29-6 professional record. Looking at that record, his biggest wins have come against Stefan Struve, Roy Nelson, and Brett Rogers, six years ago in Bellator. Betting lines have this fight closer than many expected, as Werdum is only a -205 favorite, which suggests that Volkov has the potential to get a big win on Saturday.

And a win is what the UFC needs from Alexander Volkov at this point in time. With names such as Werdum, Alistair Overeem, Velasquez, Mark Hunt, and Andrei Arlovski still populating its heavyweight top 10 list, the division needs some younger fighters to push toward the top. Curtis Blaydes and Francis Ngannou are a part of that trend, and Volkov can add his name to that list on Saturday. If he gets a win in the UFC Fight Night 127 main event, that would create a number of intriguing matchups at the top of the heavyweight division, rather than the continued “rinse and repeat” bouts that would loom if the veteran defeats the younger prospect. We'll see whether Volkov can pull it off.

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