The Film Room: Alexander Volkov

By Kevin Wilson Nov 6, 2019
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Alexander Volkov will climb back into the Octagon for the first time since his devastating knockout loss to Derrick Lewis when he takes on Greg Hardy in the UFC Fight Night 163 co-main event on Saturday in Moscow. While not an elite athlete, Volkov remains one of the smartest fighters in the heavyweight division, one who knows how to use his length and technique to pick apart more physically gifted opponents.

Volkov steps into the spotlight in this installment of The Film Room.

Standing 6-foot-7 and wielding an 81-inch reach, Volkov is one of the tallest and longest fighters to ever compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight division. However, the difference between him and his contemporaries is that he is a master at using his length; others have looked awkward and slow. To make use of his size, Volkov takes on a kick-heavy style that keeps opponents at distance and allows him to set the pace and range of the fight at all times. Most of his kicks target the body since they are harder to catch and turn into takedowns, but he will occasionally throw some high kicks if his opponent is not much of a grappling threat. The most important kick for a rangy fighter like Volkov is the lead leg teep to the body. Volkov’s opponents are always trying to get inside his guard to take away his reach advantage, and his teeps to the body prevent that from happening. To understand what Volkov is trying to do, all one needs to do is watch some Semmy Schilt fights. Schilt, a 6-foot-11 Dutch kickboxer, masterfully used his height and length to his advantage and provides a blueprint for all tall heavyweight fighters. Despite being extremely slow, Schilt managed to dominate opponents simply by learning how to jab and teep correctly to keep opponents at range, where he could land his long kicks and punches. He also learned how to use this jab and teep to close the distance and land combos in the pocket.

However, what makes Volkov such an interesting contender is his ability to mix in fighting at range with quick exchanges in the pocket, just like Schilt. Notice how Volkov uses his jab and teep to the body to close the distance and set up a quick combo in the pocket. Usually, the jab and teep are used to keep opponents away from you, but just like Schilt, Volkov can also use them to close the distance. A simple double jab to right straight is his go-to maneuver. However, he also likes to throw the teep, step into a southpaw stance and then throw a quick combo, again just like Schilt.

Volkov also makes liberal use of his knees in the clinch since they have a shorter distance to travel than most. Moreover, he has a beautiful intercepting knee to the body that he uses to stop opponents from coming in if his jab and teep are not working. It is usually not advisable for someone as tall as Volkov to initiate the clinch since it negates his reach advantage, but he has done so well with his knees and striking in the pocket that it is difficult to say he is doing anything wrong.

Volkov struggled against aggressive opponents like Timothy Johnson in the past, but his performance against Lewis was promising. Volkov used to retreat on a straight line and back himself to the cage, but now he likes to pop out a jab while circling to the center; and his defensive footwork has looked much better.

The best way to take away someone’s reach advantage is to turn the fight into a grappling match. Fabricio Werdum dominated Volkov on the ground for most of their fight before getting finished in the fourth round, and the Russian lost a couple of fights in Bellator MMA by being controlled on the mat. Since joining the UFC, however, his takedown defense has been better than advertised, as he has defended 74 percent of takedowns inside the Octagon. Hardy does not have the best takedowns, but it would not be surprising to see him simply use his strength to overpower Volkov to the ground. Once on the ground, all it takes is a couple of clean punches for Hardy to finish a fight. This is the ultimate showcase of elite technique versus pure athleticism. Advertisement


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