Fighters who struggle to defend takedowns ought to steer clear of Curtis Blaydes whenever possible.
The Elevation Fight Team export made life miserable for former Bellator MMA titleholder Alexander Volkov, as he executed 14 takedowns—an all-time record for the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight division—and largely cruised to a unanimous decision in the UFC on ESPN 11 headliner on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Scores were 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47, all for Blaydes.
Volkov conceded five takedowns in the first round, three more in the second, one in the third, three in the fourth and two in the fifth. Pinned beneath the relentless Blaydes for extended periods of time, the 6-foot-7 Russian absorbed significant ground-and-pound and never managed to get his offensive game to full throttle. Even as fatigue became an ally in the latter stages of the match, Volkov saw his brief periods of success—he bloodied Blaydes’ lip with a knee strike and connected with a clean head kick—grind to a halt in the clutches of another takedown from the exhausted Colorado-based contender.
In the aftermath of UFC on ESPN 11 “Blaydes vs. Volkov,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Curtis Blaydes vs. Derrick Lewis or Jairzinho Rozenstruik: While Blaydes has momentum in his corner, his two losses to Francis Ngannou loom large in terms of where he stands in the heavyweight pecking order. A four-fight winning streak notwithstanding, the 29-year-old finds himself stuck in a logjam behind the three men who are ranked ahead of him: Stipe Miocic, Daniel Cormier and the aforementioned Ngannou. What that means for his immediate future remains to be seen; Miocic and Cormier will complete their trilogy in August, with Ngannou likely waiting in the wings for the winner. There are other suitable options in the Top 10. Lewis will toe the line against Alexey Oleynik in the UFC Fight Night 176 main event on Aug. 8, while Rozenstruik will lock horns with Junior dos Santos at UFC 252 on Aug. 15.
Josh Emmett vs. Calvin Kattar-Dan Ige winner: Emmett posted his third straight victory and did so in scintillating fashion, as he took a unanimous decision from the hyperaggressive Shane Burgos in a featherweight co-main event that provided non-stop action from start to finish. The Team Alpha Male mainstay swept the scorecards with 29-28, 29-28 and 29-27 marks from the judges. Emmett suffered an apparent knee injury in the first round, put the pain aside and relied on sweeping hooks from both hands to keep the New York native at bay. He left his mark on the match in the third round, where he twice floored Burgos with left hands, the second knockdown nearly leading to a finish. Kattar and Ige have been booked opposite one another in the UFC Fight Night 172 headliner on July 15.
Raquel Pennington vs. Ketlen Vieira-Yana Kunitskaya winner: Bursts of power punches and a damaging clinch carried Pennington to a unanimous decision over Marion Reneau in their three-round women’s bantamweight feature. All three judges sided with Pennington: 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28. Reneau had no answer for the physicality with which she was confronted. Pennington moved forward with punches at opportune times but did her best work at close range, where she unleashed standing elbows to the head and jarring knees to the body. “The Ultimate Fighter 18” semifinalist has won six of her last nine bouts, losing only to Amanda Nunes, Germaine de Randamie and Holly Holm—the three top-ranked women at 135 pounds. Vieira will face Kunitskaya at UFC Fight Night 175 on Aug. 1.
Belal Muhammad vs. Neil Magny: The ranks of those who have ignored Muhammad continue to thin. The Roufusport standout extended his winning streak to three fights with a unanimous decision over former Bellator champion Lyman Good in their three-round welterweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28 for Muhammad, who has rattled off seven victories across his past eight outings. The 31-year-old Chicago native kept Good off-balance with lateral movement and stance switches, all while mixing in punching combinations to the head and kicks to the lower leg and body. Muhammad withstood a late surge from the Team Tiger Schulmann rep, secured two third-round takedowns and spent the waning moments attached to his counterpart’s back fishing for a rear-naked choke. The resurgent Magny laid claim to a unanimous decision over Anthony Rocco Martin at UFC 250 on June 6.
Jim Miller vs. Charles Rosa: Miller rebounded from a Feb. 15 decision defeat to Scott Holtzman, as he submitted Roosevelt Roberts with an armbar in the first round of their featured catchweight clash at 160 pounds. Unable to build on back-to-back victories over Alexander Yakovlev and Brok Weaver, Roberts bowed out 2:25 into Round 1. Miller executed a takedown off an ill-advised kick inside the first minute, immediately threatened the neck and caught the armbar during an ensuing scramble. After a brief struggle, Roberts tried and failed to power out of the maneuver, saw his arm bent beyond its bounds and verbally submitted. Miller’s last four wins have all resulted in first-round submissions. Rosa returned to the winner’s circle at UFC on ESPN 10, where he eked out a split decision over Kevin Aguilar on June 13.