UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs. Volkov Preview

A preview of Saturday’s UFC Vegas 18 card, set to take place in Las Vegas.

Updated: Feb. 4, 2021 • 4:15 PM ET

Alexander Volkov is looking to earn his way to a UFC heavyweight title shot.

Featuring a heavyweight main event between former UFC title challenger Alistair Overeem and former Bellator heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov, the UFC will return to the Apex in Las Vegas for UFC Vegas 18 this Saturday.

Overeem, the UFC’s No. 5 ranked heavyweight, has won two straight fights, most recently defeating Augusto Sakai by fifth-round TKO in September. The 40-year-old is 4-1 in his last five fights with the lone loss coming to top contender Jairzinho Rozenstruik in the final seconds of a fight Overeem was likely winning on the scorecards.

Since challenging heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic for the title in 2016, Overeem is 6-3 and has been a figurative gatekeeper to becoming ranked in the top five of the division. He continues to prove that he’s still a contender in the division and just when you think his time has passed, he finds a way to get a big a win to keep his hopes of once again fighting for the heavyweight belt alive.

Overeem is a former Strikeforce and DREAM heavyweight champion, K-1 World Grand Prix champion and one of two fighters to ever hold world titles in both MMA and K-1 kickboxing at the same time. During his impressive MMA career, Overeem has key victories over Vitor Belfort (twice), Mark Hunt (twice), Fabricio Werdum (twice), Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, Stefan Struve, Roy Nelson, Junior dos Santos, Andrei Arlovski and Alexey Oleynik. However, while Overeem has a Hall of Fame resume, the only thing missing is a UFC title.

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Overeem has taken a realistic approach towards fighting this late in his career and getting another shot at the title that has eluded him.

“There definitely is momentum, because we’re two wins (in a row),” Overeem told MMA Junkie. “I think my fights are good, they’re exciting. I think we’ve got to just keep this trajectory going and another title shot will be there, and that will be my last, because my time is running out, which is fine. I’ve had a great career, I’m having a great career. But we also have to be realistic, and that’s a little bit where the final run comes from. I’m not going to keep fighting until I’m 45. It’s going to be one final run, then it’s going to be thank you everybody for watching, and see you in the next life.”

When discussing retirement, the Dutch fighter knows one thing for sure.

“I would retire immediately (after winning the title),” Overeem said. “There’s nothing to prove after that.”

The No. 6 ranked Volkov is 2-2 in his last four fights after starting 4-0 in the UFC, most recently defeating Walt Harris by second-round TKO in October. After an impressive victory over former champion Fabricio Werdum in 2018, many people believed he was on his way to a title shot. Through three rounds of his next fight, he was well on his way to that accomplishment, but Derrick Lewis’ right hand ended Volkov’s title hopes in the last seconds of the fight. Following a loss to Curtis Blaydes in June 2020, though, Volkov has begun his quest to getting back into the title conversation.

Volkov knows what type of opponent he’ll be facing against Overeem and believes he knows how to defeat him.

“Alistair Overeem used to be one of my favorite fighters when I was at the beginning of my professional career,” Volkov told MMA Junkie. “Surely, we have different styles, but I’ve always been impressed by his physical power, the ability to deliver accurate and hard punches, as well as his work in the clinch. In this regard, I know his strengths and weaknesses very well. Lately, he has worked more economically, but nevertheless, he remains just as dangerous. It is unlikely that our fight will last all five rounds. I’m sure I can catch him making a mistake.”

Defeating Overeem would put the 32-year-old Russian fighter in a good position, but the winner of the bout between No. 2 Curtis Blaydes and No. 4 Derrick Lewis on Feb. 20 will likely be one step ahead of him for a title shot. Miocic will defend the belt against Francis Ngannou for a second time at UFC 260 in March, and former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who could face the winner of Miocic and Ngannou, is lurking after bulking up to a heavyweight frame.

Co-main event

Saturday’s co-main event will have major title implications in the bantamweight division, as No. 2 ranked Corey Sandhagen will fight former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, who Sandhagen admits is likely a future Hall of Famer.

“As far as his career, the guy is a future Hall of Famer probably,” Sandhagen told MMA Fighting. “I think when you’re in the sport long enough, you start to realize for a guy to have this long of a career and to find that kind of success, especially for me as a younger guy in the sport and not as much experience, when you look at Frankie for him to do what he’s done in his career and for him to still be around and to still get a win over a top-10 guy and still competing with the best guys in the world with how long he’s been doing it — that’s for real and that’s to be taken seriously.”

Meanwhile, Sandhagen is coming off one of the best knockouts of 2020 when he defeated former title challenger Marlon Moraes with a wheel kick in the second round of their bout in October. The victory was a big rebound for Sandhagen after a quick submission loss to Aljamain Sterling at UFC 250 in June that ended his seven-fight winning streak.

After starting 5-0 in the UFC, the 28-year-old Sandhagen was likely a victory over Sterling away from a title shot, but he could find himself there once again with a win over the No. 4 ranked Edgar. Sterling will challenge champion Petr Yan for the title at UFC 259 in March and with a victory on Saturday, Sandhagen could await the winner of that fight.

Impressed by Edgar’s last fight, Sandhagen knows what he’s up against this weekend.

“He didn’t look like a 38-year-old guy fighting however-old Pedro Munhoz is,” Sandhagen said. He looked really good in that fight. I think this sport is really tough when you lose because everyone just assumes, or it’s really easy to write you off, and I think that’s what happened with Edgar. But I think that he’s still really, really good, and I think he can still beat me if I let that happen.”

For Edgar, the split-decision win over Munhoz was the rebound he needed after losing two straight fights, one of which being a bad TKO loss to Chan Sung Jung in 2019. The former lightweight champion has defeated some of the best fighters the UFC has had to offer, including Cub Swanson (twice), Yair Rodriguez, Jeremy Stephens, Chad Mendes, Urijah Faber, B.J. Penn (thrice), Charles Oliveira, Gray Maynard and Sean Sherk.

The 39-year-old Edgar knows he needs a top level performance against Sandhagen to be considered for a title shot.

“The ’35-pound division is really hot right now,” Edgar said on the Real Quick with Mike Swick podcast. “I’ve got to go in there and make a statement. I’ve got to go in there and finish Cory if I want to get that title shot, and that’s what I’ve been working on this whole camp — going in there, pressuring him and really making him wilt in there and showing some experience. I have more experience than anybody in this game for the most part; not too many older fighters in the UFC than me right now, so I’ve got to utilize that to my best ability and make this happen.”

Edgar added, “To me, this really could be a No. 1 contender fight. He’s No. 2, I’m right behind him. Aljo (Sterling) and Petr Yan just got booked, I believe March 6, so it’s a perfect time. We fight the month before these guys. See what happens with them and then hopefully the winner of ours gets the winner of that.”

 

The rest of the main card on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. EST

Flyweight bout - No. 5 Alexandre Pantoja vs. Manel Kape

Featherweight bout - No. 13 Cody Stamann vs. Askar Askar

Lightweight bout - No. 10 Diego Ferreira vs. No. 13 Beneil Dariush

 

Prelims on ESPN+ at 5 p.m. EST

Lightweight bout - Michael Johnson vs. Clay Guida

Light heavyweight bout - Mike Rodriguez vs. Danilo Marques

Featherweight bout - Timur Valiev vs. Martin Day

Catchweight bout (160 pounds) - Devonte Smith vs. Justin Jaynes

Women’s bantamweight bout - Karol Rosa vs. Joselyne Edwards

Women’s flyweight bout - Molly McCann vs. Lara Procopio

Featherweight bout - Seungwoo Choi vs. Youssef Zalal

Featherweight bout - Ode’ Osbourne vs. Jerome Rivera

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