A showdown between two ranked heavyweight fighters is the scheduled main event for this weekend’s UFC fight card in Las Vegas.
Alexander Volkov (#7) will step back into the cage for the second time this year after he was defeated by Tom Aspinall in March. He’ll get a chance to return to winning ways when he faces Jairzinho Rozenstruik (#8) at UFC Fight Night 207 this Saturday night.
Jairzinho hasn’t competed so far in 2022 after managing a 1-2 record last year. His lone win came against Augusto Sakai in June but he was defeated by higher-ranked heavyweight fighters Curtis Blaydes and Ciryl Gane.
Our expert analysts have submitted their breakdowns and picks for the UFC Fight Night 207 main event. You can find the full staff picks and latest betting odds for Volkov vs. Rozenstruik below.
Volkov is the betting favorite at odds of -160 at popular bookmaker BetUS. These odds can be boosted significantly when choosing the “Volkov to win by decision” prop bet with +200 odds. All three of our staff members are predicting Volkov to win by decision on Saturday night.
Volkov is an extremely intelligent vet in the sport, and over the many years of competition he has honed in on a style and game plan that works especially well for him. His greatest physical attribute is his reach, and it’s accentuated by his use of long straight kicks and punches allowing him to pick at his opponent at the very edge of his range while staying safe behind them. His stabbing front kick and jab are especially effective as there is little fat on any of the movements and it can come down the center line, cutting any direct channel. These techniques though, are not the highest impact, and so we do see Volkov forced to stay patient down the stretch, chipping away at the long game, unless a particularly well-timed kick hurts his opponents to the body.
While Volkov tends to chip away at his opponents and build, Rozenstruik is likely the less active fighter but the one with the greater potential for the finish. Instead of investing in poking and prodding, Rozenstruik tends to sometimes sit back and lose out on output a bit knowing that at any time in any round he has the power to put the lights out. This will likely result in a predominantly controlling fight by Volkov in which, Rozenstruik looks for flurrying counters when Volkov gets over-committed with any kind of forward pressure, but on either side it is very likely we see a long night until either Volkov’s volume accumulates to the TKO or Rozenstruik finds the right shot.
In terms of grappling, both men are coming off performances where this area was ultimately their downfall. Rozenstruk was most recently outwrestled to a lopsided decision by Curtis Blaydes and Volkov submitted by Tom Aspinall. Both of these men are highly touted fighters, including on the ground, so while losing in these fashions doesn’t necessarily point towards a great weakness on the mat, the fashion in which it happened points to this being their most vulnerable areas. That being said, Volkov is the definitely more educated grappler, he has good grappling skills regardless, although lacking in some of the explosiveness needed to get back to his feet all the time. He is the more likely one to initiate any sort of takedown but should Rozenstruik end up on top in a scramble his power does become a factor in top control anyway. In general, though I give the edge on the mat to Volkov.
Volkov is going to show his experience by staying as disciplined as possible, he can sit on the outside and take advantage of the sometimes overly patient Rozenstruik by sticking to his range with his kicks and jabs and avoiding leaving many openings. Rozenstruik is the faster, more explosive fighter so he does have the ability to get inside, he just needs to bite on the opportunities to do so. If this happens, however, it’s Volkov who enjoys the possibility of clinching up and looking for strips or whizzer tosses, and that plan B is what makes this fight sway in this favor, he has the overall skill advantage all the out and all the way in and it’s on Rozenstruik to win inside that area in between.
Prediction: Alexander Volkov to win by decision (+200 odds at BetUS)
Alexander “Drago” Volkov has had 12 UFC fights, 5 of which have been Main Events. The 33-year-old heavyweight has consistently performed well in the promotion and has only lost to the upper echelon of heavyweight competitors. Volkov is a massive, 6’7, striker who combines kickboxing, Muay Thai, and karate to create a rangey and dangerous cache of weapons. “Drago” uses his height, reach, and redwood-like legs to force his opponents to fight his fight. He tends to stand at range, bouncing less as he’s aged, and fight behind a stiff jab and endlessly long front kick. Volkov is an expert at using his kicks not only as striking attacks but also as a way to dictate range. He will often push his lead leg forward to kick his opponent’s solar plexus, or upper abs, to force them to stay where he can hit them but they can’t hit him in return. Then, with impressive flexibility, Volkov can extend that front kick into a head kick without telegraphing the change. If an opponent can successfully crash kicking range, Volkov is a technically sound and volume-based boxer who rarely throws a single strike. Instead, he’ll unload a tight combination, which often includes a heavy hook or uppercut, then exit the pocket to get back to his range. The times Volkov has struggled in the octagon are when an opponent can take him down, difficult to do considering Volkov’s defensive wrestling, or when an opponent can counter a kick with a heavy shot. When kicking, often, Volkov will drop his hands to increase flexibility and speed on the kick. Because the kicks come at such as long-range, the counter is rarely a concern; but, when an opponent can successfully counter, Volkov’s chin is there to be touched. Ultimately, Volkov is a sniper who accumulates damage over the course of several rounds rather than the typical one-punch power of many in the division.
Rozenstruik is also a kickboxer with impressive flexibility and mobility for a man of his size who has also only lost to the top contenders in the division. “Bigi Boy” is a counter striker who tends to fight with low volume but heavy power. He will often stand in the middle of the octagon and look to entice his opponent into walking forward. Once Rozenstruik gets his opponent to come to him, he looks to counter with a heavy kick or combination. Often having the edge in athleticism and power, Rozenstruik is at his best when he has a dance partner who is willing to initiate the exchanges and kickbox with him at range. However, when he’s faced more passive opponents or opponents who can match his athleticism, Rozenstruik has struggled to get his offense going. The x-factor in Rozenstruik’s game is his wrestling. He has showcased impressive explosive wrestling in training camp videos but has yet to attempt a single attempt in the UFC. If he adds a wrestling threat to his powerful kickboxing game, Rozenstruik could level up. However, if he continues to fight with passivity, the top fighters in the division will likely continue to pick him apart with technique and volume.
Volkov looked outmatched in his last fight against Tom Aspinall. Aspinall is a special fighter, someone I fully expect to contend for and possibly hold the belt soon. However, in the heavyweight division, once a fighter falls off, he tends to fall off severely. If the sniping and technical version of Volkov shows up, he should be able to pick Rozenstruik apart for a decision or late finish. But, if Volkov has eroded recently, Rozenstruik should be able to find the chin for an emphatic knockout. I like Volkov to show he still has something left in the tank after 44 professional fights.
Prediction: Alexander Volkov to win by decision (+200 odds at BetUS)
Standing 6’7’’ tall and having a giant back tattoo, Alexander Volkov is one of the most recognizable in the UFC. His memorizing frame has strong utility in the octagon, as he understands how to keep distance and utilize the range that bests suits his game. Moreover, the long limbs of Volkov makes him a difficult opponent to take to the mat for anyone not named Aspinall or Blaydes.
Beyond frame alone, Volkov desires to keep the fight standing and use an impressive combination of strikes – kicks, knees, punches, and elbows – throughout the duration of the fight. In fact, prior to the recent new-age heavyweight fighters coming into the UFC, Volkov’s style of using technical striking greatly differed from the common heavyweight fight of throwing big overhand rights to see which person lands first and KO’s the other.
Even though technical striking is favored, Volkov has plenty of power to finish the fight at any moment and with any form of a strike which is important given the longer one stands across a heavyweight opponent, the longer the threat of being knocked out is. An example of this came in the Derrick Lewis fight several years ago, as even though Volkov successfully implemented his style of using technique over haymaker punches, he eventually got put to sleep by Lewis. Even though Volkov has shown a mild flaw from time to time in the octagon, he has only lost to the top echelon of heavyweights, and even in those fights, Volkov’s style of distance and output allowed him to have success.
Even though the frame of Rozenstruik differs mightily from that of Volkov, the inability to beat the top echelon of heavyweights, while beating the non-elite fighters, is seen for him as well. For Rozenstruik specifically, he sits somewhere in the middle of the traditional heavyweight fighter with Volkov’s style of throwing a wide range of attacks on the feet.
On paper, combining heavy hands with movement and kicks seems like a fantastic combination to have for a heavyweight fight. The major issue Rozenstruik has is the failure to gauge distance, as he will often throw a kick at a range where his opponent can step in with a big overhand. Moreover, Rozenstruik, when desiring to throw a big overhand himself, often steps in, and throws a big overhand, which then opens up the door for his opponent to easily take him down to the mat where he is far from comfortable. But, when Rozenstruik keeps distance management at the forefront of his fight thought, he can find significant success given he has strong kickboxing with underrated takedown defense – when he is in the proper position to defend the takedown.
Both Volkov and Rozenstruik are strong kickboxers who desire to keep the fight standing. The commonality of fight style will likely allow both to have moments of success throughout the scheduled 5-round affair. But, I expect the majority of success to come at the hands of Volkov, even though his inherent distance management of him actually is a positive for Rozenstruik given Volkov will likely “do the work for him”. So, even though the main issue of Rozenstruik with keeping a proper range for his attacks looms less of an issue than in other fights, I believe the stick and move style of Volkov will outpace the relatively mundane movement of Rozenstruik. As such, I expect Volkov to win the majority of rounds, and as Rozenstruik begins to become somewhat frustrated, thus throwing a big overhand right, I would not be shocked if Volkov lands a takedown to eliminate the mistake he made with Derrick Lewis with respect to standing against him for too long.
Bet: Alexander Volkov to win by decision (+200 odds at BetUS)
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.