UFC Vegas 18: Overeem vs. Volkov – Fights to Make

UFC Vegas 18 on paper was one of the most stacked Fight Night cards in recent memory. There was a title eliminator, a potential…

By: Dayne Fox | 3 years ago
UFC Vegas 18: Overeem vs. Volkov – Fights to Make
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

UFC Vegas 18 on paper was one of the most stacked Fight Night cards in recent memory. There was a title eliminator, a potential Fight Night main event, and a highly anticipated debutant at flyweight…and none of that even involved the main event! By the end of the evening, there were several consequential conclusions, including some genuinely jaw-dropping moments. Even though it was Alexander Volkov who emerged victorious in a dominant performance, it was Cory Sandhagen’s night as he put to sleep a legend in manner that had never been done before.

So…where do we go now? Does Volkov get a chance to avenge an earlier loss? Is Sandhagen getting a crack at bantamweight gold? Will Beneil Dariush get a top five opponent?

To answer those questions – and a whole lot more – I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methodology from the UFC of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Exceptions will be made from time to time, but with every effort made to keep those to a minimum. Hopefully, by following that model, a few of these bout ideas will actually make it off the page and into the Octagon. Now, let’s get to the fights.

Alexander Volkov

Given Volkov is coming off the most impressive performance of his career, he’s still in a bad position given the logjam at the top of the heavyweight division. Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou will be throwing down at the end of March for the championship and Jon Jones is waiting in the wings to face the winner. Plus, Derrick Lewis and Curtis Blaydes are facing off later this month and they’re probably ahead of Volkov in the pecking order given he has a loss to both of them. However, given the strength of Volkov’s win, he might be able to garner a rematch with Lewis or Blaydes, particularly Lewis given Volkov was eight seconds from a decision win. Either way, the ideal contest for Volkov is a rematch with the winner of that contest; the issue is it isn’t ideal for Lewis or Blaydes. If that contest can’t be made, the only logical fight that makes sense for Volkov is the winner of Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Cyril Gane, also later this month. The problem there is that doesn’t necessarily represent a step up for Volkov. It isn’t an ideal situation, but Volkov will need to stay busy – he isn’t getting a title shot off this win – so I’ll say avoid the potential rematches until there is no other options. Volkov vs. the winner of Rozenstruik/Gane is the best option.

Alistair Overeem

It wouldn’t be a big surprise if Overeem considers hanging them up as he is 40, doesn’t appear likely to enter his name into title talks again and has a LOT of miles on his body. Those tires can’t have much tread left on them. Plus, he looked old against Volkov. Then again, while he has appeared fragile before, this was the first time he looked old. Maybe he can turn the clock back enough to pick up a few more paychecks in the role of a gatekeeper. If he’s good with that, there’s several options available like Marcin Tybura, Shamil Abdurakhimov, and Blagoy Ivanov. Out of those, the one that is catching my attention is Abdurakhimov. He’s been in a similar run to Overeem of winning two or three before faltering in his opportunity against a big name. Plus, Adburakhimov is 39. He needs to make a move soon if he believes he’s a title contender. An opportunity against a big name like Overeem would help him in that endeavor and it’s a winnable fight for Overeem. Book Overeem and Abdurakhimov before they apply for AARP.

Cory Sandhagen

There’s no work to be done here. Sandhagen’s got next between whoever emerges with bantamweight gold between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling. Sure, he lost to Sterling in 88 seconds this summer, which might have given some apprehension about matching them together. Instead, Sandhagen has put together two spectacular finishes that has everyone salivating for his opportunity to come to pass. Sandhagen fights for the bantamweight crown against Yan/Sterling winner.

Frankie Edgar

There’s some who might saw they’d like to see this be the end of the line for Edgar. Long recognized for his toughness and durability, the durability appears to be withering away with three violent stoppage losses in his last six fights when he had previously never been finished in his career. I don’t think Edgar will walk away just yet. It might even be worth wondering if he wants to continue at bantamweight if he doesn’t have a path back to the title. For now, I’ll assume he’s staying at 135. Another fighter who has endured a rough stretch after a long line of success is Raphael Assuncao. He was previously scheduled to face Raoni Barcelos, but that doesn’t appear to be happening anymore, so I’ll assume it isn’t being rescheduled. Edgar and Assuncao should be able to squeeze a fun contest out of one another.

Clay Guida

Credit to the Carpenter for his continued evolution this late into his career, securing him a win over Michael Johnson. It’s too late for him to make a run back to the top – it’s easy to forget he was once in a title eliminator with Benson Henderson – but he proved he can still be tricky out in the middle of the division so long as he can maintain his high energy levels and his chin holds up decently well enough. He’s faced a slew of veteran fighters as of late and expressed an interest in facing some younger talent. I see no reason why not. The only problem there is it leaves open a WIDE breadth of possibilities. Going up and down the roster, the name that stuck out to me was Joe Solecki. He’s an up-and-comer like Guida asked for and has won his first two UFC contests impressively. Why not? Guida and Solecki it is.

Alexandre Pantoja

Pantoja is sitting just outside the title picture with his win over hyped newcomer Manel Kape, using activity and volume to distance himself in the eyes of the judges. Pantoja isn’t wrong when he claims his earlier loss to Deiveson Figueiredo was close contest and he has a win over Brandon Moreno. Unfortunately for Pantoja, his most recent loss to Askar Askarov is assured to keep a buffer between him and the title until Askarov falls. The problem is there isn’t much near the top of the division that Pantoja hasn’t already faced and there isn’t an obvious candidate to take a step up to test themselves against Pantoja. However, I said there isn’t much at the top he hasn’t faced, not that there isn’t anyone. Joseph Benavidez and Alex Perez are the obvious choices. Benavidez is already booked to face Askarov, so that leaves Perez. Pantoja and Perez should be a dynamite contest.

Manel Kape

Disappointing is too strong of a word to describe Kape’s UFC debut, but it does feel like he could have done more. Regardless, he looks like he could do more than just hang with the likes of Pantoja with a few minor adjustments. So while a step down from Pantoja is warranted, it shouldn’t be more than a step or two. Given the wide open nature of the division beneath the top five or six, that leaves a lot of possibilities. I like the idea of Raulian Paiva. The young Brazilian has picked up a couple of nice wins, but is still looking for a big name on his resume. Kape isn’t a huge name, but he’s bigger than any Paiva has picked up. Plus, I see Kape entering the rankings somewhere near Paiva. Kape vs. Paiva should be a hell of a flyweight showdown.

Beneil Dariush

Even with several impressive finishes during his win streak that is now at six, Dariush wasn’t getting much respect from fans or matchmakers. Now that he has disposed of Diego Ferreira for a second time – and did so in a FOTN performance – maybe Dariush can start getting some love. Unfortunately for him, it’s hard to believe that’s what will happen. With the logjam at the top of the division, no one is willing to give an outsider a crack to join the elite. Even worse, the fight that would probably make the most sense would be against Rafael dos Anjos, but those two are close friends and teammates. That fight isn’t happening. I fear he’ll be getting a fight against someone ranked lower than him – or perhaps not ranked at all – as Dariush is the type of guy who will take those types of fights. However, I’m going to shoot for the stars in what I would deem a realistic fight that would be worth making. Tony Ferguson is still hard to figure out. After 12 wins in a row, he’s lost two in a row. It could be argued he lost to Justin Gaethje and Charles Oliveira and there is no shame in those losses. However, it could be rebutted that he wasn’t competitive in those contests either. No one is sure where Ferguson is in the hierarchy, but a fight against someone considered a step down from those two would clear up a lot. Dariush and Ferguson is the logical direction to go.

Diego Ferreira

While Ferreira didn’t do anything to shame himself in his loss to Dariush – it was an impressive performance on his part too – it’s certainly a huge setback for the Brazilian. Now 36, he’s getting up there and while it isn’t too late to make a run, the clock is certainly ticking very loudly. It would be nice to see the UFC give him a step sideways as opposed to a step back as styles often make fights and Ferreira didn’t look like a fish out of water against Dariush. So who has enough of a name that keeps a decent spotlight on Ferreira but wouldn’t be seen as either a step back or having Ferreira falling upwards? Two names come to mind. Al Iaquinta’s love for the daily grind of MMA seems to run hot and cold, so I have trepidation mentioning him. Kevin Lee is coming off two torn ACL’s – one in each knee – so there’s reason to wonder if Lee would prefer an opponent a step or two lower than Ferreira to test out his knee. Following Lee as long as I have, I don’t see him taking that route. Ferreira should be the one to welcome Lee back from the sidelines.

Karol Rosa

Rosa looked brilliant pounding out Joselyne Edwards. The imagery of her spitting blood as she did so only adds to the hype that has been building behind her. It makes a lot of sense to throw her into the top ten as the division is incredibly shallow and she offers all sorts of promise. However, I don’t like throwing fighters in the deep end before they’re ready. Rosa has had enough resistance in her three wins that I’d hold off on that idea until she picks up one more win. So how about pitting her with another fighter with similar momentum in Pannie Kianzad? It would be hard to argue the winner wouldn’t be ready for the next step up. Rosa vs. Kianzad is the way to go.

Other Bouts: Michael Johnson vs. Yancy Medeiros, Danilo Marques vs. Da Un Jung, Mike Rodriguez vs. Tyson Pedro, Devonte Smith vs. Christos Giagos, Justin Jaynes vs. Brok Weaver, Joselyne Edwards vs. Shanna Young, Lara Procopio vs. Manon Fiorot, Molly McCann vs. Ji Yeon Kim, Seung Woo Choi vs. L’udovit Klein, Youseff Zalal vs. Danny Henry, Timur Valiev vs. Miles Johns, Martin Day vs. Aaron Phillips, Ode Osbourne vs. Francisco FIgueiredo, Jerome Rivera vs. Malcolm Gordon

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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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