Alistair Overeem and Alexander Volkov will both look to boost their chances of receiving a UFC heavyweight title shot in 2021 when they step inside the Octagon on February 6, but who will have their hand raised and put themselves in the mix to face the winner of Miocic-Ngannou 2?
At this point it would be an understatement to say that Overeem has ‘many miles on the clock’. When he walks to the Octagon on February 6 he will be heading into the 67th fight of his professional mixed martial arts career, but the one thing he has not managed to do in his previous 66 outings is become a UFC champion. He has won titles all around the world, but UFC gold is the one accolade that has eluded the London-born Dutchman and while he will not win a title here, a victory would move him a step closer to achieving that goal.
Overeem’s first crack at the crown ended in failure as he was knocked out in one round by Stipe Miocic just over four years ago, and when he went 2-2 in his next four fights you would have been forgiven for thinking that he would never get another shot at the heavyweight belt. But every time the 40-year-old looks like his days in the upper echelon, he answers his critics and doubters in style. Overeem has gone 4-1 in his last five fights, and that one defeat could have very easily been a win. He was on course for a decision win when Jairzinho Rozenstruik uncorked a punch from the Gods to halt the contest with just four seconds left. Overeem bounced back by taking out Walt Harris and Augusto Sakai last year, but can he now win three fights in a row for the first time in four years?
Looking to deny him is Alexander Volkov. The 32-year-old Russian made a flying start to lfe with the UFC as he reeled off four straight wins to storm up the heavyweight rankings, with his most high-profile success being the fourth-round stoppage of former champion Fabricio Werdum almost three years ago. However, his form since then has been like riding a rollercoaster – there have been ups and downs.
Volkov tasted his first UFC defeat when he was knocked out by Derrick Lewis in October 2018 and although he won his next fight a year later, a decision win over a ‘green’ Greg Hardy was never going to put the rest of the division on notice. A decision defeat to Curtis Blaydes in June 2020 stalled his career once again. But he rebounded in October with a second-round stoppage of Walt Harris and if he can follow that up with a win over Overeem he will once again put himself firmly in the mix for a title fight before the end of the year. But can Volkov record what would be his biggest win for almost three years?
Nope! I have to recommend backing Overeem to have his hand raised on February 6. The former Strikeforce and DREAM heavyweight champion has been knocked out multiple times in recent years and in facing Volkov he is facing a man with plenty of finishing power, but the one thing the veteran fighter has shown in recent times is a more patient and tactical approach that helps him stay out of danger. If he had shown that approach for a few more seconds against Rozenstruik he would be 5-0 in his last five fights. Overeem learned his lesson from that though, and for me he is just too skilled for his opponent. Volkov’s defence against striking leaves him prone to being cracked with a big shot, which Overeem is most certainly capable of delivering, and the Russian’s takedown defence is another Achilles heel in his game. Overeem has the grappling skills to exploit that. This is Overeem’s fight to lose and as long as he fights smart, he should get the job done inside five rounds.