Heavyweights#7 HW | Alexander Volkov (30-7) vs. NR | Greg Hardy (5-1)
ODDS: Volkov (-270), Hardy (+230)
Heavyweight fights are usually weird enough, but a late change has turned this one into even more of a sideshow.
A former Bellator MMA champion, Volkov became an immediate title contender upon his entry into the UFC. He is not always the most exciting fighter, but “Drago” does a solid enough job of using his 6-foot-7 frame to keep opponents at bay and pick them apart. The Russian was chugging right along to a title shot on the strength of a strong win over Fabricio Werdum, but in late 2018, Volkov felt the wrath of Derrick Lewis, as the Texan came back to score a third-round knockout, then informed the world that his “balls was hot.” Volkov was set to headline this card against Junior dos Santos, but with the Brazilian dealing with a gnarly staph infection, he now draws Hardy in a strange bit of matchmaking.
The UFC has bent over backwards for Hardy and not gotten much in return. The NFL cast Hardy aside as soon as his domestic violence record outweighed his production, but the UFC was all too eager to scoop him up and start featuring him prominently. Hardy has not really shown much to counter the criticism, either inside or outside of the cage. He does not have much to offer, except knockout power, and has mostly been isolated by his physical gifts; and as soon as things start going against Hardy, he quickly goes off the rails, whether it was throwing a blatantly illegal knee to get disqualified against Allen Crowder or his use of an inhaler in between rounds against Ben Sosoli.
There has been some thought that Hardy, as a large fighter who hits hard, could replicate the success Lewis enjoyed, but that sells “The Black Beast” short. Hardy does not possess the wrestling to tire out Volkov, the heart to overcome early adversity or even the athletic burst that Lewis has shown when surging in for the knockout. Volkov is not an amazingly hard hitter, but given his willingness to use his reach, Hardy should start looking for a way out as soon as it becomes apparent that the Russian can keep hitting him without much consequence. The pick is Volkov via first-round stoppage.
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