UFC on ESPN: Blaydes vs. Volkov

Curtis Blaydes vs. Alexander Volkov

This was one of those times when a fighter looks great-but-who-gives-a-shit. 

Heavyweight Curtis Blaydes knocked out Junior Dos Santos heading into this one, which was a decent recovery after two losses in the last few years to the scariest guy in the UFC, Francis Ngannou. Alexander (just me who wants to call him Nicolai?) Volkov had been on a decent run since 2016, beating Roy Nelson, Stefan Struve and Fabricio Werdum, before stuttering with a knockout loss to Derrick Lewis in October 2018. Since then he beat Greg Hardy, which I wouldn’t consider a return to form necessarily. 

So neither man is amazing, but certainly still near the top of a weak heavyweight division. In this one, Blaydes used his wrestling to bypass Volkov’s striking advantage and essentially dominate him on the ground. Great, right?

Not so much. There were comparisons raised between Blaydes and Cain Velasquez; people even called him “a heavyweight Khabib”. Both comparisons were way off the mark. Both Cain and Khabib are really active when they drag a victim howling to the ground. They tie up the legs, constantly work on their position and never fail to drop many bombs on their opponent. Blaydes did what Stipe Miocic did to Ngannou: control position very well, tire out your man… but not do very much actual damage at all. 

Rather than a heavyweight Khabib, Blaydes is a heavyweight Sean Sherk. He got the win, but who cares. In fact, in the fourth and fifth rounds, it looked like Volkov was getting a second wind, and defending takedowns as Blaydes tired. Alas the knockout eluded the Russian.

Justin Jaynes vs. Frank Camacho

Next on my review was actually the televised prelim opener, but I’m bumping it up the running order because there was such a good performance for the winner. So Frank Camacho is the Crank, not Macho. Who’s Macho Camacho then? Jaynes overcomes a three inch height and five inch reach disadvantage to get a very aggressive win. He ducks a wild shot and drops the Crank with a double left hook. He then piles on the pressure until Herb Dean stops it, but manages to get cut in the chaos. No idea when that happened, but man this was good. Jaynes one to watch.

Josh Emmett vs. Shane Burgos

Co-main event Emmett vs. Burgos was a really good fight in terms of heart, if not the best technically. Emmett injured his lead knee in the first round, but fought through it heroically. Burgos took a bunch of head shots throughout but only fell in the third. Emmett sat him down twice with left hooks, after threatening the right previously. That was clever. Very kickboxing-dominated fight. I think there was a takedown late in round one, and then a bit of guard each time Burgos went down. Very entertaining, mind. Emmett won it, blown ACL and all.

Raquel Pennington vs. Marion Reneau 

This was another good scrap. Reneau was good early, as she displayed better skills than the much bigger Pennington. I swear, it was hard to believe they are in the same weight group. And that size told as the fight went on. Pennington went a lot to the Thai clinch for which Reneau had no answer. Knees to the body tired her out, and elbows damaged her. First round to Reneau, but decision to Pennington. 

Belal Muhammed vs. Lyman Good

Pretty fun contest. Good is a muscle guy, and he fought like a muscle guy – bit stiff, throwing power rather than volume. Muhammed was more finesse, and did more in rounds one and two. Good finally started seeing dividends from his power shots in the last round, and had Muhammed in a lot of trouble. Muhammed did enough for the decision though. 

Jim Miller vs. Roosevelt Roberts

Crafty veteran Jim Miller made quick work of the celebrated Roberts. Roberts seemed to slip throwing a kick, Miller got on top of him and never let him up… at least until Roosevelt had verbally submitted to an arm bar. Really impressive win from a man that I thought was on the slide. But he’s only 36 after fighting for what seems like centuries. So let’s see what he does next.

Bobby Green vs. Clay Guida

Green won. I don’t know. Guida was doing his usual energetic “dancing about with a bit of wrestling” strategy. Green decided to play it cool, arms down, throwing pot shots. I think combos would have been more effective. I remember very little about this one. Green got a decision.

Tecia Torres vs. Brianna Van Buren

The experts had Torres winning all rounds on this one, but I thought Van Buren edged the first on her wrestling. But soon enough, Torres got really comfortable with her striking. Van Buren had no answer for that, so she walked rounds one and two. 

Marc-André Barriault vs. Oskar Piechota

Barriault did the business against Piechota. Piechota looked a lot physically better – leaner, bit rangey, no dodgy tattoos. But Barriault had the confidence, moving him against the fence, hit a decent takedown, and mainly landing the decent shots. He piled on the pressure until Pichoda wilted at the end of the second. 

Gillian Robertson vs. Cortney Casey

Robertson took Casey down pretty much twice, and won two rounds from that. Her wrestling was too good. She didn’t throw much ground and pound, and Casey threw up more submission attempts, but it was efficient ground domination. Bit boring though. Third round, Casey kept her busy with strikes, but the takedown came… and Robertson actually finished! That’s something. 

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