Curtis Blaydes put on one of the most dominant performances of his career at UFC on ESPN 11 on Saturday in Las Vegas. He got the better of Alexander Volkov throughout their five-round main event, though he might still have to wait for a title shot.
Blaydes asserted his dominance from the opening bell. He pumped a couple jabs, setting up a quick double-leg takedown. From there, he kept Volkov on the canvas for the better part of the first round, driving knees into his thigh and buttocks, as well as driving home hard left hands to the head.
Every time Volkov tried to regain his feet, Blaydes tossed him back to the canvas, where he landed more knees and left hands.
Round two began with Blaydes again storming Volkov, this time landing some brutal punch combinations and mixing in low kicks, eventually setting up another explosive double-leg takedown.
Volkov tried to regain his feet, but Blaydes again planted him on the canvas, this time in the middle of the Octagon where he began to ground and pound from inside the Russian’s full guard. Volkov tried to fire elbows off of his back, but Blaydes returned fire with his own brutal elbows crashing into Volkov’s head.
Volkov came out kicking in the fourth frame, but Blaydes deftly evaded the kicks and again brought him to the floor. Volkov returned to his feet, but Blaydes maintained back control, driving knees into his thighs and buttocks again.
Not to be denied, Volkov again returned to his feet. Blaydes shot, but Volkov fought his way through it and began trading shots. Blaydes got the better of him with his jab and then shot another double-leg to put Volkov back on the canvas.
Again working from inside the Russian’s full guard, Blaydes returned to his ground and pound attack, although much slower than in the earlier rounds. Volkov tied up Blaydes’s arms, nearly forcing a stand-up, but couldn’t maintain his grip.
Blaydes tried to get his ground and pound going again, but Volkov drove elbows into his skull before tying up his arms again. This time, he forced the stand-up.
Volkov, realizing he was in desperate straights, unloaded a barrage of punches and shot to score his own takedown. Unfortunately for him, there was little time left in the round to do anything.
Round five opened with the fighters exchanging punches, Volkov getting the better of Blaydes with an uppercut and a sharp jab. Volkov followed with a hard kick, but it wasn’t enough.
Though Blaydes looked extremely tired, he dug deep, shot, and took Volkov to the canvas again.
Volkov bided his time, using hand control to scoot out from under Blaydes and return to his feet, although he ate a hard right hand on the way up.
Blaydes shot again, driving Volkov into the fence with just two minutes left in the fight. Though Volkov peppered Blaydes with a few right hands, Blaydes kept after him and put Volkov on his back, again working his ground and pound from inside full guard.
Volkov drove elbows from his back, but couldn’t do any significant damage as Blaydes maintained control until the final horn.
It probably wasn’t the blistering performance that Blaydes needed to jump past Francis Ngannou to land in a title fight, but it was a dominant performance from the No. 3 contender in the UFC heavyweight division; one that he can build off of as he hopes to get into the championship mix.
“Volkov was a lot harder than I thought to take down. He was real strong,” Blaydes said after the fight.
“It’s always good experience to know that you can go 25 minutes. I’m happy with the win. Volkov is legit. And now I’m looking at that title shot.”
Ranked No. 2 in the division and with two victories over Blaydes, Ngannou will be a tough contender to leapfrog. Fresh off of a knockout victory over Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC 249 on May 9, he is the legitimate top contender in the UFC heavyweight division not named Daniel Cormier.
Stipe Miocic will put his UFC heavyweight title on the line opposite Cormier on Aug. 15 to conclude their trilogy. Though Blaydes wants a crack at the winner, that will likely go to Ngannou.
So where does Blaydes go from here? Even he isn’t sure.
“After that fight, there’s nowhere to go right now. So I’m waiting.”
(Photo courtesy of UFC/Getty Images)
UFC on ESPN 11: Blaydes vs. Volkov Quick Results
Main Card (8 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN+)
Curtis Blaydes def. Alexander Volkov by unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-46)
Josh Emmett def. Shane Burgos by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
Raquel Pennington def. Marion Reneau by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Belal Muhammad def. Lyman Good by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Jim Miller def. Roosevelt Roberts by submission (armbar) at 2:25, R1
Prelims (5 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN+)
Bobby Green def. Clay Guida by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Tecia Torres def. Brianna Van Buren by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Marc-Andre Barriault def. Oskar Piechota by TKO (punches) at 4:50, R2
Gillian Robertson def. Cortney Casey by submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:32, R3
Justin Jaynes def. Frank Camacho by TKO (punches) at 0:41, R1
Lauren Murphy def. Roxanne Modafferi by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Austin Hubbard def. Max Rohskapf by TKO (retirement) at 5:00, R2
Dana White preparing for a second shutdown (UFC on ESPN 11 scrum)
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