MMA fans are in for a rough go of it following the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor madness. A series of lackluster UFC cards are planned for the upcoming months, kicked off by the UFC’s return to Rotterdam. Headlined by a strange clash between European monoliths Stefan Struve and Alexander Volkov, the card does little to inspire excitement. Despite this, we look ahead to the weekend’s main card bouts and break down the action.
Alexander Volkov vs. Stefan Struve
Following his 2012 run which culminated in a TKO victory over current UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, Stefan Struve was thought by some to be the future of the division. Struve has, however, stagnated in the years since, with his lack of development in fight IQ and defensive wrestling being major issues. His best wins in the last five years have been over the corpses of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who Struve failed to finish, and Antonio Silva, may God rest his soul.
Alexander Volkov has looked solid in turning away Timothy Johnson and Roy Nelson since arriving in the UFC. His lack of ability to stop or even decisively beat Johnson is worrying as finishing ability is almost essential to be competitive against the heavyweight elite, but I suspect that Volkov will still have enough pop in his punches to hurt the notoriously chinny Struve.
Struve’s advantages here are his tricky ground game and tremendous reach, so he would do well to keep this fight either on the ground or at long range; I suspect that he will do neither.
I have serious doubts about the efficacy of Struve’s clinch throws against top ten opposition and the aforementioned lack of fight IQ has seen him consistently fail to employ a jab despite how perfectly the weapon suits his frame. Struve has shown a tendency to be drawn into brawls with much shorter men in the past, earning him a reputation as giant who often fights like a midget.
Volkov is a more reliable kickboxer than Struve. Although a guard pull or throw into a submission from Struve cannot be ruled out, nor can a flash of violence that ends Volkov’s night, “Drago” is the more trustworthy fighter in 2017. Volkov wins this by being the more durable and more consistent striker.
Alexander Volkov by KO/TKO, round 3.
Siyar Bahadurzada vs. Rob Wilkinson
Siyar Bahadurzada has been a solid middle to low tier UFC welterweight since being signed in 2012, although his time with the promotion has been plagued by injuries and inactivity. Rob Wilkinson, an undefeated Australian prospect, meets “The Great” in his short notice debut. It should be noted that this is Bahadurzada’s first time fighting at middleweight in the UFC and that Wilkinson is a well build 185er, standing 6”2 tall. Although it was his grappling skills which saw him submit Brandon Thatch in early 2016, Bahadurzada is a striker first and will likely aim to keep the fight standing against Wilkinson.
The Australian’s past fights have seen him employ a strong submission wrestling game and decent hands to amass an 11 – 0 record. With a reach and size advantage, Wilkinson will be looking to stay all the way in or all the way out against the power puncher Bahadurzada, either trying to ground his man from the clinch or keep him on the end of his jab.
This fight will tell us a lot about both Bahadurzada’s chances at middleweight and Wilkinson’s viability at the UFC level. I see Bahadurzada’s experience winning the day.
Siyar Bahadurzada by unanimous decision.
Marion Reneau vs. Talita De Oliveira
Here we have another short notice debutant stepping in against an established veteran. Marion Reneau is 40 years of age but looked relatively good in her last outing, coming alive to almost decapitate Bethe Correia with a head kick in the third round of their fight.
Talita De Oliveira comes in to replace Germaine De Randamie and presents a markedly different challenge. De Oliveira is a raw Brazillian Jiu Jitsu specialist with little to no experience against bantamweights of Reneau’s caliber; I would be surprised if she defeated Reneau here. I suspect that Reneau’s experience, well-roundness and athleticism in spite of her age will carry her to a win.
Marion Reneau by KO/TKO, round 2.
Leon Edwards vs. Bryan Barberena
This is the most interesting fight on the card. Edwards is on a run, having most recently earned very credible wins over Vicente Luque and Albert Tumenov, while Barberena bounced back from a loss to top ten talent Colby Covington with a savaging of Joe Proctor in April.
Edwards has developed into a smart, well-rounded fighter who works well behind a jab and understands how to control the pace of a fight with his grappling. Barberena’s gas tank and aggression remain strengths; they should serve him well against Edwards who likes to tire out and pick apart his opponents as the bout wears on.
This should be a competitive battle that ends with Edwards advancing in the ultra-talented welterweight hierarchy. Barberena has consistently proved me wrong but I have to pick against him once again here.
Leon Edwards by unanimous decision.
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