Since his MMA debut in 1999, UFC heavyweight legend Alistair Overeem has competed in over 60 professional fights. Despite retirement talks and the dreaded age of 40, Overeem has shown no signs of slowing down and has made it very clear he isn’t done yet. With wins in 4 of his last 5, “The Demolition Man” refuses to let age define him and has his sights set on one last run at the UFC heavyweight championship. Looking to halt the Overeem train in its tracks will be the towering Alexander Volkov. Standing at 6’7”, “Drago” carries a surprising quickness to his striking game and a surplus of weapons. Following a successful end to 2020, Overeem and Volkov find themselves in the middle of a wide open top 10.
One of the biggest headlines surrounding MMA last year was long-time champion Jon Jones’ decision to make a move up to heavyweight. With Jones set to fight the winner of March 27th’s Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou bout later on this year, the rest of the division’s elite are seemingly competing to be the “next man up” in 2022. For Overeem and Volkov, that’s a tough pill to swallow. Ranked respectively at #5 and #6, a win for both would warrant a fight against a top-3 opponent later this year with the chance for a title shot.
Alexander “Drago” Volkov
Alexander Volkov may be the most unique fighter in the UFC’s heavyweight division. Standing at 6 feet 7 inches tall, the lengthy Russian completely redefines the definition of a traditional “heavyweight.” Heavyweights use brute force to shut your lights off with one punch. While that may be true in some cases, Volkov combines speed with sharp technique to make for one of the most versatile heavyweights I’ve ever seen.
Hailing from the mean streets of Moscow, the kickboxer holds a record of 32 wins and 8 losses with 21 wins by (T)KO and just 3 via submission. Volkov made his UFC debut just 4 years ago, but has generated a lot of buzz since arriving. With wins in 6 of his 8 UFC fights, Volkov has sat comfortably in the top 10 for the past couple of years, even knocking out the former champion Fabrocio Werdum.
When assessing Volkov’s style of fighting, his use of all of his limbs when targeting his opponent’s body impresses me the most. According to Scraptitude’s analytics database, Volkov holds the second highest significant strike differential per round in the heavyweight division at 11.15 strikes. This means on average, “Drago” outlands his opponents by over 11 significant strikes per round. The Russian’s combination of experience and output make him a formidable adversary.
“The Demolition Man” Alistair Overeem is one of the most decorated heavyweights in the history of mixed martial arts. With an astounding record of 47 wins and 18 losses, Overeem brings a different level of experience to the octagon. Boasting 25 knockouts and 17 submission wins, Overeem possesses a well-rounded skill set that has allowed him to compete with the highest level strikers, grapplers, and wrestlers the UFC has to offer. Holding wins over Brock Lesnar, Junior Dos Santos, and Mark Hunt, Overeem is undoubtedly a legend of the game, and has an opportunity to leave an everlasting legacy.
At 40 years of age, Overeem has acknowledged his days as a fighter are numbered, coining this push towards UFC heavyweight gold as “one last run.” A former Strikeforce, DREAM, and K-1 kickboxing champion, holding UFC gold is one of the only feats “The Reem” has yet to accomplish.
The most dangerous part of Overeem’s game is his in-fight adaptability. No matter where the fight is taken, he finds a way to compete. Point being, if Overeem is conscious, he’s hard to beat. I’m interested to see how he approaches a volume striker like Volkov. I suspect he will incorporate takedowns and use his frame to overwhelm the smaller, finesse-oriented fighter.
Prediction: Overeem by decision.