Preview: UFC Fight Night 190 ‘Gane vs. Volkov’

Gane vs. Volkov

By Tom Feely Jun 25, 2021

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Much like its predecessor, UFC Fight Night 190 on Saturday in Las Vegas is essentially a one-fight show, but it could still provide some excitement. The Ciryl Gane-Alexander Volkov headliner is not your typical mindless banger in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s heavyweight division. However, the next two fights down on the card figure to bring the typical mix of intrigue and strangeness that the heavier weight classes provide. The back half of this main card is all gravy. Bouts pitting Andre Fili against Daniel Pineda and Tim Means opposite Nicolas Dalby are entertaining veteran affairs on paper, and Renato Carneiro’s clash with Jai Herbert should be fun for as long as it lasts.

Now to the preview for the UFC Fight Night “Gane vs. Volkov” main card:

Heavyweights

#3 HW | Ciryl Gane (8-0, 5-0 UFC) vs. #5 HW | Alexander Volkov (33-8, 7-2 UFC)

ODDS: Gane (-170), Volkov (+150)

Gane became a top heavyweight prospect to watch almost immediately upon his pro MMA debut. A talented kickboxer from France, “Bon Gamin” landed in Quebec’s TKO Major League MMA promotion and quickly ran shop in impressive fashion. It took all of three fights in less than a year before Gane got the UFC call, and while that would normally be much too soon for most prospects, he already had nothing left to prove at a regional level. Gane spent the last half of 2019 passing every test in front of him inside the Octagon with flying colors. He easily handled Raphael Pessoa, Don'Tale Mayes and Tanner Boser on the feet and even finished the former two opponents with some submission work on the mat. That set up Gane for a breakout 2020 campaign, but it was mostly a lost year thanks to injuries and issues with both the Frenchman and his prospective opponents. He did end the year with a December win over Junior dos Santos that put him in line to be tested by the heavyweight elite. That test came in a February main event against Jairzinho Rozenstruik, which was a mixed bag. Rozenstruik was by far the most dangerous opponent of Gane’s career, and the Frenchman faced little trouble in coasting to a decision win. However, that easy win came at the expense of any excitement whatsoever, as Gane used his length and mastery of range to stay safe, leaving Rozenstruik to try and force the issue—something that never came close to happening. It was an impressively dominant performance on a technical and strategic level, but it did leave Gane with some detractors, even if it does not seem to have hurt him in terms of his viability as a main eventer. He gets another headlining spot here, this time against the surging Volkov.

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A former Bellator MMA champion, Volkov figured to make an impact upon hitting the UFC, but it was unclear if he would ever get over the hump to true title contender status. There is much to like about Volkov—his 6-foot-7 frame obviously stands out, and he has clearly shown the requisite durability needed at heavyweight—but there have also been some obvious weaknesses. His entire range-based approach can fall apart against the few strong wrestlers that heavyweight has to offer—Curtis Blaydes scored a dominant five-round victory over Volkov roughly a year ago—and his lack of knockout power does keep his more dangerous opponents in the fight. Volkov is normally durable and evasive enough for that not to matter, but it came back to bite him in his most memorable defeat, a come-from-behind knockout loss to Derrick Lewis that punched the latter’s ticket to a title shot. Since the Blaydes loss, Volkov has seemingly discovered some additional power, putting away both Walt Harris and Alistair Overeem, and it will be interesting to see how those gains hold up, especially since he might need to find a finish against Gane.

This is the most interesting test yet for Gane and a fascinating fight for both men. They both usually rely on picking apart the more rudimentary knockout-hunting ways of their heavyweight peers, so this provides a different dynamic that may actually result in five fun rounds. Gane’s defensive progression has been a pleasure to watch. In his earlier fights, he seemed primed to get knocked out by the first opponent who could reach him with a hard counter, only to have shored up those weaknesses by the time he faced Rozenstruik. It will be interesting to see how he reacts against an opponent who is consistently able to touch him; while Gane still has the longer reach on paper, Volkov is the first opponent who can both essentially match his frame and is willing to throw enough volume to make that a constant issue. Gane should still be able to dictate the terms of the fight more often than not. He is the faster and more fluid fighter, and the threat of his wrestling and grappling provides an interesting wrinkle that could pay dividends. Volkov’s takedown defense has long been his clearest liability, and while he has put in some work to shore up that hole, it is still far enough from decent that Gane could find that to be an effective way to mix up his attack. It also feels unlikely that Volkov can continue his streak of finishes. Harris has shown some particularly poor form in recent fights that devalued that knockout somewhat, and Overeem’s durability is a well-known liability at this point. While this could still turn out as a close decision—neither man has the clear one-hitter-quitter power that makes for a decisive heavyweight win—Gane should be the clear favorite, even if Volkov should thankfully make the Frenchman work for the victory much more than Rozenstruik did. The pick is Gane via decision.

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