Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski plans to be the first to break Jeremy Kennedy when the two collide at UFC 221 this weekend.
Since debuting in November 2016, Volkanovski (16-1) is yet to find a worthy challenger in the UFC. The 29-year-old began his time with the organization with an impressive beatdown of Yusuke Kasuya at UFC Fight Night 101. He backed up that performance with a unanimous decision victory over Mizuto Hirota in New Zealand before then being scheduled to face the undefeated Jeremy Kennedy (11-0) at UFC Fight Night 121 in Sydney. However, a severe neck injury kept Kennedy from competing and Volkanovski was instead matched up with a familiar face in Shane Young.
After cruising to another unanimous decision, Volkanovski now finds himself with the same opportunity that he was presented last year. Can he be the first to defeat Jeremy Kennedy?
Despite being able to power through all of his opponents so far, Volkanovski is expecting an intense challenge at UFC 221 in Perth, Australia.
Motivated by the step up in competition, Volkanovski explains that he has been preparing for the worst in training.[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”16″]”I’ve really stepped it up when it comes to the cardio and training hard, just knowing that he is going to try and grind me. Even though I know I can finish it early, I am preparing for the worst.”[/perfectpullquote]
Like Volkanovski, Kennedy is preparing for a ‘war of attrition’ and it is clearly apparent that these two fighters respect the skillsets that are being brought to the table in Perth. The Australian is expecting a challenging first round at UFC 221 as they both attempt to get their wrestling going early.[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”16″]”It’s going to be a tough first round, I reckon, he’s going to try and break me, but I’m going to break him. We’re both going to see who is going to break each other. I’m very confident that I’ll be breaking him.”[/perfectpullquote]
A touch of difference
Possibly the most exciting aspect of this matchup between Volkanovski and Kennedy is that they have reasonably similar styles. They have been victorious in the UFC because of their overwhelming top pressure and grappling dominance.
While Volkanovski never goes as far to say that Kennedy is one-dimensional, he takes confidence in believing that he has more ways to defeat his opponent.[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”16″]”He’s just going to break knowing that I won’t tire. Will he get me down and if he does will he hold me down? Because I’m very good at getting back up, too. I wouldn’t say he’s one-dimensional, he’s very good at what he does. But, what’s going to happen when his go-to doesn’t work for him? He’s gotta worry about my hands and all of my other tools. I’ve got so many more tools than him.”[/perfectpullquote]
The Australian is regarded for his heavy hands and a successful strategy in Perth might require a touch of all aspects of his game.[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”16″]If I want to play a range game, I’m good at that, even though I’m shorter, if I want to pressure or grapple, I’m good at that too. If he surprises me with anything, I’ve got so many other things that I can throw at him.[/perfectpullquote]
Close to home
Volkanovski recently traveled to New Zealand for two weeks to work with the team at City Kickboxing. The preparation might seem vastly different to that of Kennedy, who has invested heavily in his training camp in Las Vegas, but Volkanovski expressed that he likes to stay close to home because he doesn’t want to leave the family for too long.
One of the clear differences between the two camps, however, is the selection of training partners. At City Kickboxing, Volkanovski has been working with the likes of Dan Hooker, Israel Adesanya, and Kai Kara-France. Kennedy, on the other hand, has been flying training partners into Las Vegas who closely resemble Volkanovski’s style.
The Australian assures that although these martial artists might try to resemble his style, there is no one quite like him.[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”16″]”There’s no one that is going to be just like me. Everyone who watches me fight knows about my pressure and knows that I hit hard, but when they train with me they always say that the pressure was so much more than they expected. I’ve always got them thinking and always worried about what I’m doing. I don’t think his training partners will be doing that.”[/perfectpullquote]
As for this weekend, though, Volkanovski envisions a second-round finish:[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”16″]”I usually say the first-round KO, but I’ve got a feeling that this one will be the second round. He will be tough. He’ll try and grind and keep away from my hands. If I don’t catch him early, he’s going to try and hold. We’ll see a good scramble but then I’m going to break him and get the finish in the second round.”[/perfectpullquote]
The prospect of having his hand raised will mean more than just a victory this weekend. Instead, it will open up the gates for Volkanovski to challenge for a position in the UFC’s official featherweight rankings.
Alexander Volkanovski (16-1) vs. Jeremy Kennedy (11-0) is a scheduled featherweight matchup at UFC 221 in Perth, Australia, this weekend.
Jake Nichols is The Body Lock's Editor in Chief. Previously, he was the MMA Editor at RealSport.