Alexander Volkov defeated Alistair Overeem via TKO in the second round to overtake the Dutchman in the Heavyweight rankings and emerge as a new top contender in the division. 40 year old Overeem was intending to have one last run for the title after making his MMA debut way back in 1999, but it was the six foot seven giant Volkov who put those dreams on pause with an emphatic win.
Volkov started the first round with a burst of energy, coming in with a flurry of punches to the head that were blocked well in the opening seconds after cornering Overeem against the fence. The opponent replied quickly with a huge shot to the body of Volkov, as well as attempting several leg kicks that were checked by the Russian.
With only a couple minutes left in the round, Volkov already showed signs he was after a knockout finish, as he dropped Overeem with a counter left hook to the head. Overeem covered up with Volkov hammering away, but the number fifth ranked in the standings intelligently scrambled away to survive an early scare in the contest. From this pivotal moment, Volkov grew in confidence and started to take control of the fight.
In the final 60 seconds of the round, the 32 year old piled the pressure on to look for a first round stoppage. A series of hooks and a knee to the head of Overeem caught him in trouble, aiming to just survive the round. Overeem defended himself but was down one round as the end looked inevitable heading into the second.
The second round started with clear damage appearing on the face of Overeem, showing some shots of Volkov may have slipped through the initial guard. Volkov continued to showcase his power with some brutal jabs that Overeem was unable to defend, and causing his opponent to slow down as a consequence of fatigue.
The pressure eventually paid off when multiple one two combination jabs and hooks caused Overeem to stumble as he was getting beat up on the feet. Overeem attempted a single leg takedown when he acknowledged his time was almost up, but Volkov stuffed it and looked to finish the bout once and for all.
Another one two jab combination to the head finally sent Overeem to the canvas, where it was immediately stopped by referee Jason Herzog. The stoppage had been on the cards for most of the fight, and Overeem did well to take as much punishment as he did in the earlier minutes.
Both fighters shared a moment together afterwards in what was a great contest to end the night. Although the end may be near in the career of Overeem, one in which has been spectacular involving over 65 fights, Volkov looks to be heading in the other direction and could challenge for the belt in the near future.
Cory Sandhagen executed a stunning knockout in the first round to beat Frankie Edgar in what was already a potential knockout of the year contender. Both men were coming into the fight aiming for a Bantamweight title fight in the coming months, but it took just 28 seconds for Sandhagen to emerge victorious in style.
The fight started with the pair exchanging leg kicks and using faints to implement their high pressure style of fighting. Sandhagen out of nowhere pulled off an incredible flying knee which connected cleanly to the skull of Edgar, and sent him crashing to the ground stiff as a board.
That is now back to back spectacular knockout wins for Sandhagen, who stopped Marlon Moraes with a spinning wheel kick in his last bout in October. Subsequently, he could now fight the winner of the Bantamweight title match up next month when current champion Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling battle it out.
Edgar has now recorded his first loss at Bantamweight since making his debut in the division just last August. The 39 year old has competed in three weight divisions in the UFC, but what is next for the widely likeable UFC vet?
Rest of the card
In a night filled with UFC legends competing, it continued with Clay Guida defeating Michael Johnson via unanimous decision (30-27×3) in the Lightweight division. Guida first competed in the UFC in 2006, and gained a first win in two years against the fast and powerful Johnson.
Guida started the fight closing the distance and changing levels to avoid the ferocity of strikes that his opponent possesses. Although Johnson was able to land a couple of one two hooks to the head that opened a cut on his forehead, Guida replied with multiple vicious hooks of his own that damaged the eye of Johnson early on.
Guida also used his level changes to execute a smart takedown, in which he took control on the ground and wore Johnson out in an attempt to diminish his power when the fight was back on the feet. The strategy worked, as Guida became much more efficient in the striking exchanges afterwards, including being the more dominant fighter in clinch positions.
It was an impressive performance from the 39 year old who looked comfortable for the majority of the contest, and held an enjoyable viewing for long time UFC fans.
Iranian Lightweight Beneil Dariush beat Diego Ferreira via split decision (28-29, 29-28×2) for his sixth straight victory. Dariush has been tipped as the ‘dark horse’ of a stacked Lightweight division, and continues to make strides to break into the top 5 rankings.
Dariush was doing his most damage on the ground as he was getting tagged by Ferreira on the feet in the first couple of rounds. He was controlling ground position with some slick elbows and top pressure despite accepting damage beforehand when both men were standing.
Dariush’s striking improved in the final round, but Ferreira was still able to counter and connect clean strikes to the head as he had done most of the fight. Dariush ended the bout with a rapid double leg takedown, and narrowly edged the victory in a fun and intriguing contest to watch. It was also awarded ‘Fight of the Night’.
There was no shortage of stoppages on the card, as Danilo Marques defeated Mike Rodriguez via technical submission in the second round of their bout. In the grappling heavy contest, the Brazilian wriggled his way to lock in a rear naked choke that sent the 32 year old American to sleep in the final 10 seconds of the round.
Meanwhile in the prelims, Ode Osbourne knocked out Jerome Rivera after just 26 seconds of the first round in a Featherweight match up. Osbourne landed with a counter left hook in response to a failed leg kick by his opponent, sending Rivera to the ground and beating the co main event stoppage by just two seconds.