Even though Zabit Magomedsharipov and Calvin Kattar headline UFC Moscow in the main event, most of the MMA world’s eyes will focus on the co-main between Alexander Volkov and Greg Hardy. Well, the casual eyes of the MMA world at the very least.
As much as many viewers bemoan Hardy – and we all know why – they still tend to pay a lot of attention to him. Just last month, Inhalergate was talked about far more than Dominick Reyes’ impressive victory over Chris Weidman. Many people wish Hardy would go away, forgetting that offering hate is still offering attention. Regardless, the former NFL All-Pro gets a HUGE step up in competition against Volkov, leading many to believe he’s going to get what’s coming to him. Only time will tell.
The main card of UFC Moscow begins on ESPN+ at 2:00 PM ET/11:00 AM PT on Saturday.
Alexander Volkov (30-7) vs. Greg Hardy (5-1, 1 NC), Heavyweight
I’ll acknowledge it feels like I’m writing about Hardy every other month, mainly because I am. The UFC is keen on allowing the raw product to gain as much experience as possible as that’s the key ingredient to helping any green fighter grow. However, the opponents Hardy has been facing have been anything but UFC caliber. Basically, he’s come as close to can crushing in the UFC as you can get. He’s flashed his physical talents in that time in addition to some progress as a fighter as well. But is he ready for Volkov? In a word, no.
Volkov was thisclose to a potential title shot, dominating Derrick Lewis for over 14 minutes before falling prey to one of the heavy hitter’s legendary comebacks. Up until that last minute, Volkov was showing a mastery of his length that hadn’t previously been on display. Given he clocks in at 6’7” with an 80” reach, that’s a hell of a lot of reach. By far, the biggest concern for the big man has been his takedown defense, no surprise as it can be incredibly difficult to get the leverage necessary at his height. However, he’s shown better submission defense than anyone knew he possessed, highlighted when he was able to survive being taken down on several occasions by Fabricio Werdum, possibly the most skilled grappler in heavyweight history. On the feet, Volkov isn’t noted for his power, but he possesses a deep gas tank and can pour the volume on in a hurry.
As unlikely as it is, Hardy has the physical tools to pull off the upset. He’s explosive, powerful, and appears to be getting more comfortable in the cage all the time. He took a measured approach in his last contest against Ben Sosoli, proving he can go 15 minutes without depleting his energy reserves. However, it should be noted Sosoli wasn’t capable of pushing Hardy the way Volkov will. Basically, Volkov won’t let him coast should Hardy somehow find a way to jump ahead on the scorecards. Hardy hasn’t shown the ability to challenge his opponents on the mat either, securing zero takedowns in the course of his five UFC contests. He’ll have to hope he can navigate Volkov’s long reach and test his chin since he isn’t going to outpoint him. Though it’s possible, it’s unlikely. Volkov via TKO of RD2
Ramazan Emeev (18-3) vs. Anthony Rocco Martin (16-5), Welterweight
Many are assuming Martin is getting a sizeable step down in competition after falling to all-time great Demian Maia in his last contest, but Emeev is very much a wild card in the division, making this an overlooked contest.
Emeev’s UFC run has been met with very little fanfare, securing three decision wins over the course of two years. While those contests tend to be on the boring side, he has neutralized his opponents over the course of all nine rounds he has fought in the UFC with his wrestling and grappling. Overwhelmingly powerful at 170, Emeev has remained effective even when he’s been unable to complete takedowns, forcing the action against the fence. He’s also shown solid durability throughout his career and exceptional submission defense, making it difficult to put him away. Little that he does is pretty, but it’s all been very effective.
Martin has developed a reputation as one of the better submission artists at welterweight. Given Emeev’s grappling skills, he’ll earn those accolades if he can catch his Russian counterpart. Even though Martin moved up from lightweight, he’s very strong. In fact, his strength has been amplified as he’s no longer depleting himself and has the energy to go 15 minutes. Even more impressive is that he’s improved his counter boxing to the point he can win some fights without having to go the mat. However, the one thing that’s missing in his arsenal: takedowns. He’s relied on clipping opponents in the standup or initiating scrambles from the bottom to execute his submission offense. Until he can find a more consistent way to get the advantageous position on the mat, he’s going to be on the fringe of the rankings.
Martin is the recognizable name in this one, but the oddsmakers know what’s up. Emeev has the perfect type of skill set to neutralize Martin, much in the same way Maia was able to. Emeev may not be the grappling expert Maia is, but he’s stronger and a beast in the clinch. Keep in mind Emeev was able to shut down Sam Alvey, a man who now fights at 205. It won’t be pretty, but Emeev will score the biggest scalp of his UFC career to this point. Emeev via decision
- The last time we saw Danny Roberts, he was being embarrassed by Michel Pereira. You know Pereira, the guy doing flips during his fight only to lose by decision to a late-notice opponent. Yeah… that makes Roberts’ loss look terrible in retrospect. However, it shouldn’t be looked into too deeply as he underestimated Pereira’s abilities and Pereira is talented, even if he is foolhardy. Despite his professional boxing background, Roberts hasn’t always been the technical striker you’d expect him to be, though he has partially made up for that with better than expected grappling, particularly off his back. His opponent, Zelim Imadaev, is a wild power puncher noted for attempting mind games before the fight… much like Pereira. Imadeav didn’t show much by way of his takedown defense, but Roberts also has yet to secure a single takedown in his nine fight UFC career. I’ll favor the youngster as Roberts’ durability appears to have faded just enough for me to go in the direction of the younger fighter. Imadaev via TKO of RD3
- In his UFC debut, Khadis Ibragimov came out of the gate like a man on fire, assaulting Da Un Jung like he had insulted his mother. The problem is, Jung survived, Ibragimov quickly depleted his gas tank in the process, and went on survival mode even before the first round was out. I defended him by pointing out he took the contest on short notice, so it’s not like he had a proper training camp to get in shape, so why not go balls out from the gate? Well, he’s taking his contest with Ed Herman on short notice too. Herman’s durability has been hit and miss in the advanced stages of his career, going the distance with some heavy hitters while failing to make it past a minute with others. If Ibragimov can’t finish him off quickly, Herman is savvy enough to find a finish of his own on what will likely be an exhausted Ibragimov. This all comes down to how well you think Herman holds up. Ibragimov via KO of RD1
- Shamil Gamzatov is a hard one to figure out. Undefeated through his first 13 fights, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what he does well. His striking is on the ugly side, though he throws plenty of volume to make up for his lack of technique… often fooling the judges in the process as it is often empty volume. He can score takedowns, but can’t stop them. Lucky for him, Klidson Abreu doesn’t have much wrestling ability either, nor does he provide a consistent threat on the feet, though he does pack a decent punch in his fists. However, he is a major threat on the mat… provided he can get it there. He has proven wily enough to submit the likes of Johnny Walker and Viktor Nemkov, so the Brazilian offers a few tricks that might catch Gamzatov sleeping. Though both have experience against solid competition, Abreu’s level of opposition has been higher. That has me leaning towards giving him the edge. Abreu via submission of RD2