Diggin’ Deep on UFC Vegas 18: Overeem vs. Volkov – Prelims preview

After a week away, the UFC is back in action with UFC VEGAS 18 and there’s no shortage of fights. Perhaps most impressive is…

By: Dayne Fox | 2 years ago
Diggin’ Deep on UFC Vegas 18: Overeem vs. Volkov – Prelims preview
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

After a week away, the UFC is back in action with UFC VEGAS 18 and there’s no shortage of fights. Perhaps most impressive is the fact there are 13 fights that will be taking place given all the late cancelations. Fortunately – at least for the fighters as some fans might find the amount of fights to be overkill – those were almost universally able to find replacements. The only exception was due to COVID and the contest was rescheduled for a later date. Unless you’re a fan of former top contenders colliding well past their prime or some bright prospects who are a way away from hitting their stride, there isn’t much to catch here. Regardless, I’ve got you covered.

  • Michael Johnson and Clay Guida have been in the UFC for over a decade and somehow have never crossed each other’s path. Once upon a time, this contest might have been a five-round main event with a high probability of picking up bonus money. At this point, they’re probably fighting for their jobs. Guida has dropped three of his last four whereas Johnson has a miserable 3-8 record over his last eleven. The reason Johnson is still around despite his extended record of misery is he’s proven he belongs, even in losses as he tends to win for at least a round before self-destructing for various reasons. He still has some of the fastest hands in the sport, but he’s short circuited so many times that his confidence is on the fritz. Guida has adjusted to the aging process better than Johnson, in large part because his striking is more technical than it has ever been. His signature hyperactivity has been on the decline and he’s lost some speed, but he’s gone back to pursuing takedowns aggressively. However, while Johnson has always had issues with submission specialists, that isn’t Guida and Johnson’s takedown defense has always been solid. The chance of a Johnson meltdown is always high, but Guida doesn’t have a lot of tools for finishing contests or putting a scare into Johnson. I don’t like it, but I’m going with Johnson. Johnson via decision
  • Most believe Mike Rodriguez was robbed of back-to-back UFC victories for the first time when a bad referee’s call allowed Ed Herman to survive a fight ending sequence and led to Rodriguez being submitted later. It appears Rodriguez’s mental state was shaken, not much of a surprise as he has shrunk at times when things got tough in the past. However, up to that point in the contest, Rodriguez looked great. He’s improved the use of his 82” reach, puts combinations together with greater frequency, and has smoothed out many of his rough edges in the clinch an area that was already a strength. So long as his confidence isn’t rattled, he shouldn’t have too many problems with Danilo Marques, a tough Brazilian grappler. Marques has some power and is comfortable on the mat, but doesn’t come across as particularly dangerous. His size might cause some problems too – he’s taller than the lanky Rodriguez, but doesn’t have his reach – but Marques just doesn’t have the skill set to threaten. Rodriguez shouldn’t have many problems getting back on track. Rodriguez via TKO of RD2
  • It may not be an official loss, but make no mistake Timur Valiev has a bitter taste in his mouth following an unsuccessful UFC debut against Trevin Jones. At one point, Valiev was the apple of the hardcore MMA fan’s eye, putting together a very successful run through WSOF/PFL. However, it also took a while for him to get the UFC and at 31, he’s starting his climb up the rankings when he might be in his prime as opposed to peaking when he begins fighting top competition. Given how impressive he looked against Jones before getting caught is proof of that as Valiev worked over every level of Jones at a crazy pace. Even more impressive, he didn’t bother with his wrestling, an area many believe is his biggest strength. Given the need for a win might be more pertinent than the need to impress, expect his wrestling to come out against Martin Day, who is taking the contest on short notice. Day is a lanky kickboxer with some flash, but hasn’t been able to translate it into finishes. His takedown defense has proven to be better than advertised, but he hasn’t been facing anyone with the reputation as Valiev, nor has his grappling been anything special. Even if Valiev doesn’t go for takedowns, expect that to be lingering on Day’s mind and allow Valiev to do whatever he wants. Valiev via submission of RD1
  • It’s been 17 months since we’ve seen Devonte Smith in the Octagon. Of course, it’s always a long rehabilitation process from a torn Achilles tendon. That injury has been a game changer in other sports – Kobe Bryant was never the same after suffering that injury – but there hasn’t been enough examples in MMA to get a feel for how it might affect a fighter. Fortunately, Smith is still young and was one of the most athletic prospects in the division at the time of his injury. With a 76” reach, the first thought is that he’d be a top-flight sniper from the outside. However, it isn’t in his disposition as his upset loss to Khama Worthy proved. Pressure with lunging jabs and low kicks is Smith’s break and butter and I’d be shocked if he foolishly tries to abandon that approach again. He’ll be fortunate to face a short notice opponent in Justin Jaynes as Alex da Silva pulled out about a week before the event. Jaynes lone UFC win came on short notice with minimal preparation, so perhaps this is an ideal situation for the human bowling ball. Jaynes packs a hell of a wallop in his punches and launches his heavy hooks with aplomb early. Of course, he has a miserable tendency to fade after a round. Smith doesn’t have a great record beyond the opening round himself, but I favor his over Jaynes. Smith via TKO of RD2
  • Wait… didn’t we just get introduced to Joselyne Edwards last month? Indeed we did, and Edwards impressed with her short notice victory over Wu Yanan. In addition to showing off her kickboxing chops that those who followed her career were familiar with, she let it be known that her submission abilities translated as she took a step up in competition. There’s still plenty of wrinkles that need to be ironed out – particularly on defense – but she already looks like one of the top prospects at women’s bantamweight. Unfortunately for her, she’s facing who might very well be the top prospect at women’s bantamweight in Karol Rosa. Much like Edwards, Rosa didn’t enter the UFC with a lot of hype, but made a fast impression with her overwhelming brand of offense. She isn’t the most diverse striker, but she throws a LOT of jabs, hooks, and low kicks, working over all levels. She showed a little bit of wrestling in her most recent contest too. Edwards can pull this one off as she looks like a better pure athlete, but Edwards’ tendency to hold her head high – and overall lack of defense – has me leaning towards the offensive minded Brazilian. Rosa via decision
  • It’s easy to forget Lara Procopio remains on the UFC roster. She didn’t enter the UFC with a lot of hype and lost her only UFC contest… 17 months ago. That’s more than enough time for her to slip the mind. However, there’s plenty of reason to be excited about her future. Still only 25, her debut loss came to one of the top prospects in WMMA in the aforementioned Rosa. Procopio gave Rosa one hell of a run for her money, all while doing it outside of her proper weight class. Procopio mixes her strikes to all level with precision you wouldn’t expect from someone with her experience, all while maintaining a heavy pace throughout the contest. Much of that describes her opponent Molly McCann, a fan favorite out of England. However, McCann isn’t quite as clean technicallly and isn’t on the athletic level of Procopio. However, she is far more experienced and has developed a functional wrestling game since coming into the UFC. Purely based on natural talent, Procopio would take this by a landslide. We all know the fight game doesn’t work that way and McCann has proven herself to be a student of the game. Even with that said, I’m going with Procopio, but I expect the margin of the decision to be razor thin… and for the contest to be a favorite for FOTN. Procopio via decision
  • Even though he’s coming off his first UFC loss, there aren’t many who are down on Youseff Zalal. Still only 24, most were expecting his prospect loss to happen sooner than it did as he’s far from a finished product. That said, Zalal is coming along well, making strides in his striking in every contest. His jab is becoming his best weapon and he’s proven he can hit the occasional takedown… so long as he isn’t facing a brickhouse of a wrestler. That doesn’t describe Seung Woo Choi in the least as the South Korean prefers to stand in the middle of the cage and trade leather. He’s got enough power to put his opposition to sleep and his chin is sturdy enough to make it work on a regular basis as well… so long as he can convince his opponent to take that route. Choi’s biggest issue is his inability to make his opponent fight his fight. Zalal is far more forceful in getting the type of fight he wants. Choi is unlikely to outpoint Zalal, but it wouldn’t be an impossibility to see Choi secure a violent finish. The former is far more likely. Zalal via decision
  • The UFC didn’t do DWCS product Ode Osbourne any favors when they threw him in against Brian Kelleher in Osbourne’s official UFC debut. The lanky bantamweight was overwhelmed by the far more experienced Kelleher and couldn’t make it three minutes. To Osbourne’s credit, the reason the UFC threw him in with Kelleher is he flashed all sorts of potential prior to that contest. A counter striker by trade, he’s still figuring out how to use his 72” reach and proved himself to be a better grappler than expected when he punched his ticket to the UFC with an armbar. One of the factors that did him in against Kelleher was not responding all that well to pressure. Hopefully, he’s improved as Jerome Rivera has done his best work up close and personal. Of course, Rivera is not only taking this contest on short notice, he’s fighting not one, but two divisions up from his usual home as this contest is taking place at 145. Rivera is a big flyweight and Osbourse, though lanky, isn’t the most physical bantamweight. Perhaps that’s a moot point. Rivera is the better all-around fighter, but Osbourne is more explosive. Rivera’s defense is also spotty, so I’ll go with Osbourne. Osbourne via TKO of RD1
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About the author
Dayne Fox
Dayne Fox

Dayne Fox is a contributing writer and analyst for Bloody Elbow. He has been writing about combat sports since 2013 and a member of Bloody Elbow since 2016. Dayne primarily contributes opinion pieces and event coverage. Dayne’s specialties are putting together the preview articles for all the UFC events and post-fight analysis. Outside of writing on combat sports, Dayne works in the purchasing department of a construction company, formerly working as an analyst. He is also a proud husband and father. In what spare time he can find, he enjoys strategy games and is a movie enthusiast. He is based in Utah.

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