Alexander Volkov channeled his inner Ivan Drago at the expense of an all-time great and perhaps put himself in position for a career-altering opportunity in the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight division.
Volkov erased Fabricio Werdum’s early gains and knocked out the two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist in the fourth round of their UFC Fight Night 127 main event on Saturday at the O2 Arena in London. The 40-year-old Werdum bowed out 1:38 into Round 4, his future as murky as it has ever been.
Initially, it did not go well for Volkov. Werdum executed a takedown inside the first minute and applied his ground-and-pound while chewing up clock from top position. However, Volkov escaped to his feet late in the first round, tagged the longtime Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with a right uppercut and left him with significant damage to his right eye. Werdum continued to push for takedowns but only once managed to advance to the Russian’s back. His submission advances denied, he became increasingly desperate as Volkov made the most of his opportunities in the striking exchanges. Early in the fourth round, Werdum made his final stand and let his hands fly. Volkov responded in kind, floored him with a pair of right uppercuts and drove a devastating standing-to-ground punch into his face to finish it.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Werdum vs. Volkov,” here are four matches that ought to be made:
Alexander Volkov vs. Stipe Miocic-Daniel Cormier winner: Volkov with his knockout of Werdum extended his current winning streak to six fights and improved to 4-0 since joining the UFC roster in November 2016. The former Bellator MMA champion has defeated Werdum, Stefan Struve, Roy Nelson and Timothy Johnson in his four Octagon appearances, emerging as a contender for the heavyweight crown. Volkov, 29, has not lost since he suffered back-to-back defeats to Tony Johnson and Cheick Kongo under the Bellator banner nearly three years ago. Miocic will defend the undisputed heavyweight title against Cormier in a champion-versus-champion superfight at UFC 226 in July.
Jan Blachowicz vs. Ilir Latifi: Blachowicz threw the oddsmakers a curveball and avenged one of his seven career losses in the co-headliner, as he captured a three-round unanimous decision from the favored Jimi Manuwa. FightMetric told the story: The former KSW champion outlanded Manuwa by a staggering 124-37 margin and was responsible for the bout’s only takedown. All three judges scored it for Blachowicz, awarding him 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 marks. His arrow pointed in the right direction at 205 pounds, the 35-year-old Pole has rattled off three straight victories. Latifi last competed at UFC on Fox 28 in February, when he choked Ovince St. Preux unconscious with a standing guillotine. “The Sledgehammer” was victimized by a Blachowicz body kick in 2014.
Leon Edwards vs. Neil Magny: One of the most underrated fighters in the sport, Edwards notched his fifth consecutive victory with a third-round technical knockout on the resurgent Peter Sobotta. Since losing to Kamaru Usman in December 2015, the former British Association of Mixed Martial Arts champion has beaten Sobotta, Bryan Barberena, Vicente Luque, Albert Tumenov and Dominic Waters in succession and established himself as a serious threat at 170 pounds. The 26-year-old Edwards’ stock has never been higher. Magny last competed at UFC 219 on Dec. 30, when he took a lopsided unanimous decision from onetime World Extreme Cagefighting titleholder Carlos Condit.
Tom Duquesnoy vs. Alejandro Perez: Duquesnoy, 24, bounced back from his first loss in almost five years, as he claimed a unanimous verdict over Terrion Ware in a three-round bantamweight showcase. While the former two-division BAMMA champion did not set the world fire with his latest effort, he still has time to develop the prodigious physical and technical skills that made him one of MMA’s hottest prospects prior to his signing with the UFC. Perez last fought at UFC Fight Night 123 in December, when he outpointed Iuri Alcantara across three rounds. “The Ultimate Fighter Latin America” winner owns a 5-1-1 record in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.