Alexander Volkov and Walt Harris can see the promised land from where they now stand in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s heavyweight division. Whether or not they can cross the minefield ahead of them remains an open question.
Volkov and Harris will collide in a pivotal three-round showdown at UFC 254 this Saturday at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Their fight—like all others on the card—may be overshadowed by the Khabib Nurmagomedov-Justin Gaethje main event, but it still carries lasting implications for two Top 10 heavyweight contenders.
The 6-foot-7 Volkov has rattled off seven wins over his last nine appearances. However, he finds himself on the rebound following a five-round unanimous decision loss to Curtis Blaydes in the UFC on ESPN 11 headliner on June 20. The resurgent Harris, who will give up three inches in reach and two inches in height to the gangly Russian, owns a 3-1 record with one no contest across his past five outings. “The Big Ticket” last competed at UFC on ESPN 8, where he succumbed to second-round punches from Alistair Overeem on May 16.
As Volkov and Harris move toward what figures to be an action-packed affair in the Middle East, a look at some of the numbers that have accompanied them to this point:
31: Years of age for Volkov, who was born in Moscow on Oct. 24, 1988.
4: Heavyweight champions, including Volkov, in Bellator MMA history. The others are Kole Conrad, Vitaly Minakov and Ryan Bader. At 337 days, Volkov’s reign ranks as the shortest of the four.
15: First-round finishes to Volkov’s credit, accounting for nearly half of his career win total (31). His list of victims includes Siala-Mou Siliga, Roy Boughton and Attila Vegh.
94: Significant strikes by which Volkov outlanded Stefan Struve at UFC Fight Night 115, where he drew the curtain on the 6-foot-11 Dutchman with punches 3:30 into the third round. It ranks as the second-greatest single-fight discrepancy in the history of the UFC heavyweight division, bested only by Tim Sylvia. “The Maine-iac” posted an advantage of 112 significant strikes in his second-round technical knockout of Wesley Correia at UFC 39 on Sept. 27, 2002.
151: Combined victories between the eight men—Blaydes, Minakov, Derrick Lewis, Cheick Kongo, Tony Johnson , Pat Bennett, Maxim Grishin and Akhmed Sultanov—who have beaten Volkov. Their cumulative winning percentage sits at a healthy .763.
37: Years of age for Harris, who was born on June 10, 1983 in Birmingham, Alabama.
13: Harris wins by knockout or technical knockout, accounting for 100% of his professional total. Eleven of them have taken place inside one round.
1: Submission defeat on the Harris resume. He tapped to an armbar from two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist and former UFC heavyweight titleholder Fabricio Werdum just 65 seconds into their UFC 216 encounter in October 2017.
4: Sub-minute stoppage victories under Harris’ belt. He dispatched Justin Thornton with punches 16 seconds into their confrontation at a Hess Extreme Fighting event on March 15, 2011, punched out Cedric James 22 seconds into their clash at Fight Time 7 on Oct. 7, 2011, cut down Sergey Spivak with punches 50 seconds into their UFC Fight Night 151 scrap on May 4, 2019 and blew away Alexey Oleynik with a knee strike and follow-up punches 12 seconds into their UFC on ESPN 4 pairing on July 20, 2019.
9: Knockdowns landed by Harris in the UFC, tying him with Mark Hunt, Roy Nelson and Matt Mitrione for fifth on the promotion’s all-time list for heavyweights. Only Junior dos Santos (14), Andrei Arlovski (10), Cain Velasquez (10) and the aforementioned Overeem (10) have more.
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