Moscow’s Alexander Volkov knows that he could take a giant step towards a future heavyweight title shot if he gets past wily veteran Alistair Overeem in Saturday night’s UFC main event in Las Vegas.
The 6ft 7in Volkov has been impressive in his UFC tenure to date, opening his career in the world’s premier mixed martial arts league with four consecutive wins – the most recent of which was a sensational fourth-round knockout of former heavyweight kingpin Fabricio Werdum.
Volkov came close to extending his run in his next fight but, after dominating Derrick Lewis for much of the three-round fight, he was hit with a Hail Mary overhand from ‘The Black Beast’ that sent Volkov crumpling to the canvas, taking any immediate hopes of a title bout with him.
He got back on track with a one-sided win against former NFL star Greg Hardy but was then soundly outpointed by Curtis Blaydes in his next fight, again ushering the Russian a few rungs down the ladder of contenders.
A TKO win against Walt Harris came next in what was Volkov’s most recent UFC contest last October – a not insignificant finish of a fighter who at the time was rooted inside the UFC’s top ten heavyweight rankings – and Volkov knows that his rise up the ranks will be greatly assisted with a win against Overeem.
“It’s a big honor and challenge to face him in the Octagon,” said Volkov of the task at hand this weekend.
“It means a lot for me because he’s a legendary fighter. It’s like the dream of a young man – to meet your favorite fighter in the Octagon. It means a lot for me and I trained a lot for this. I’ve put everything into this fight.“
The stakes couldn’t be much higher. Eight of the current top ten ranked heavyweight fighters – Volkov and Overeem included – will compete over the course of the next eight weeks, culminating in March’s title match between champion Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou.
This, along with Jon Jones’ recent addition to the heavyweight frame, means that the division is set to for a period of flux as contenders battle for footing in the turbulent divisional rankings – and Volkov knows that if he is to have any real ambitions of raising a gold belt anytime soon, the first step in doing so must come at the expense of Dutch kickboxer Overeem.
The stakes are high, but Volkov says that he is more than ready.
“For sure, it’s really important for me to show my best in this fight – to show who I am, to show where I’m at right now,” he said.
“I’m ready and I will try to do everything possible to do this.”