Alexander Volkov avoided the first two-fight losing skid of his UFC career and picked up a TKO win in the main event of UFC Vegas 56, stopping Jairzinho Rozenstruik before the halfway point of their heavyweight contest.
Volkov, who was on the wrong end of a first-round submission loss to Tom Aspinall in March, likely saved his spot in the UFC heavyweight top-10 with the win. I don’t believe the rankings committee will see Rozenstruik fit for inclusion in that group when the next update of the official rankings takes place.
Speaking of rankings, it will be an eye-opener if Movsar Evloev does not jump into the top-10 of the official UFC 145-pound rankings following his one-sided win over Dan Ige in the co-main event of Saturday’s fight card. Evloev made his win over the durable and hard-nosed Ige look easy.
Volkov entered his bout against Jairzinho Rozenstruik as the No. 7 ranked fighter in the official UFC rankings. I doubt his first-round knockout over his No. 8 ranked opponent will move him anywhere in those rankings, but it should set him up against a fighter ranked above him.
Volkov needed this win.
Movsar Evloev: It would be a genuine surprise if Movsar Evloev isn’t in the top-10 of the official UFC featherweight rankings after UFC Vegas 56. He entered the bout as the No. 13 ranked fighter and over the course of his 15-minute scrap against Dan Ige, he put a prolonged beating on his opponent, who was ranked at No. 10. By the time the fight came to a close, Ige needed several repairs.
Evloev moved to 6-0 in the UFC with the win. He has steadily climbed the rankings and taken on tougher opponents in each of his UFC bouts. Further, he has looked better in each of those outings. Evloev might not be ready for top-5 competition at 145 pounds, but he deserves a shot at an opponent inside the top-10.
Lucas Almeida: Former Jungle Fight lightweight champion Lucas Almeida looked very good in his UFC debut. The 31-year-old Brazilian displayed awesome technical striking abilities in getting the third-round stoppage win over Michael Trizano. The combinations of Almeida were outstanding, especially when he went head to body to finishing with a leg kick.
Karine Silva: Karine Silva had a spectacular UFC debut on Saturday. The 28-year-old Brazilian used a knockdown turned takedown to take control of Poliana Botelho on the mat and rode that to a D’Arce choke submission win in the waning seconds of the first-round.
Ode Osbourne: Ode Osbourne got back to his finishing ways in a big way with a well-timed counter against Zarrukh Adashev. The fight lasted 61 seconds and gave Osbourne the opportunity to call out Jeff Molina, which sounds like it will be a fun flyweight scrap if it comes to fruition.
Alonzo Menifield: If the UFC wanted to cut ties with a fighter who made the promotion look a bit silly, Alonzo Menifield is in line for at least a thank you note from the promotion. Menifield scored a first-round knockout win over Askar Mozharov in the opening fight of the UFC Vegas 56 main card.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz: Karolina Kowalkiewicz ended a five-fight losing skid with an impressive submission win over Felice Herrig in the featured prelim. Kowalkiewicz, a former UFC strawweight title challenger, was aggressive in her striking and assertive in her pursuit of the finish once the fight hit the mat.
The win ended a skid that began in September 2018 and the relief Kowalkiewicz felt in getting the victory was obvious in the way she celebrated after the finish.
With this win — and the way she performed — it will be fascinating to see how she moves forward with the confidence this victory will provide.
Felice Herrig: MMA retirements tend to be less than permanent, but from what I heard from Felice Herrig after her loss to Karolina Kowalkiewicz, I believe her retirement has a chance to stick.
Herrig had been out of action for nearly two years before Saturday’s event. During an emotional post-fight interview with UFC commentator Paul Felder, Herrig mentioned that she had been through two ACL surgeries and that she did not want to go out with a loss. However, she said that if “she wasn’t feeling it in the cage” that this was going to be her last fight and that it was now “just time to move on to something else.”
Damon Jackson: Damon Jackson moved his winning streak to three straight with a controlling victory over Daniel Argueta. What was notable about Jackson’s win was his aggression in getting the fight to a position that favored him and then employing patience and composure in working from that position, which was on the mat, in back control and looking for chokes.
Benoit Saint-Denis: Benoit Saint Denis took a massive knee that left him with a gash in his cheek in the early moment of his fight against Niklas Stolze, but the blow did not faze him, as he finished his takedown and then did a fantastic job of controlling the fight against the fence. With that, Saint-Denis reminded us all that he is a tough customer.
Saint-Denis nearly finished the fight at the end of the first round via choke, but he had to wait until the second-round to get that finish. Saint-Denis was impressive in his second UFC outing.
Tony Gravely: Tony Gravely scored a magnificent first-round knockout over Johnny Munoz Jr. With Munoz dropping for a takedown attempt, Gravely came up with a short right-hand uppercut that caught his opponent right on the button. Gravely then unloaded with ground strikes to bring the fight to a close at the 1:08 mark of the first stanza.
Jeff Molina vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov: The flyweight bout between Jeff Molina and Zhalgas Zhumagulov was an entertaining fight.
Zhumagulov showed more aggression than usual, at least in the early moments of the contest, while Molina did well with his high output striking. However, it must be noted that Zhumagulov held Molina to a 37 percent connecting rate on his significant strikes, which was a UFC-career low percentage for Molina.
The one negative in this fight appeared to be a mistake from Zhumagulov in the second round. He wobbled Molina with a strike and instead of pursuing more damage or a stoppage, he went for a takedown with less than a minute left in the round.
Rinat Fakhretdinov: Rinat Fakhretdinov employed a very heavy top game and strong wrestling on his way to a win over Andreas Michailidis.
Fakhretdinov put in a workmanlike performance. He might not get a lot of fans from the “swangin’ and bangin’” contingent, but he was impressive in forcing Michailidis to bend to his will over the course of their 15-minute welterweight fight. He was patient, he did not overextend himself and as we saw when he had the fight in his corner, he is a very coachable fighter.
If I can offer one criticism on Fakhretdinov it is that he could have been more aggressive in looking for a finish in the third stanza when he had his opponent hurt, tired, drained and bloodied.
Erin Blanchfield: Erin Blanchfield was the fighter to watch ahead of this event, thanks to her wins that closed out her Invicta FC run and the 2-0 start of her UFC career. On Saturday, the 23-year-old flyweight moved to 3-0 in the UFC and picked up her first finish with the promotion, scoring a nasty guillotine choke submission on J.J. Aldrich — who had called out Blanchfield.
What stood out about Blanchfield in this outing was how she responded to the first adversity of her UFC career. There was no panic in her game, which shows her confidence and maturity.
Blanchfield is not a ranked fighter, but that seems like it is just a matter of time. Blanchfield is still learning and still progressing, but she is a fighter that needs to be on your radar.
Chris Tognoni: Referee Chris Tognoni took a point from Alex Da Silva for grabbing the fence with his toes during the second round of his fight with Joe Solecki. Tognoni gave too many warnings for my taste, but he did take a point and he did so in a way that didn’t stop the action or take Solecki out of his dominant position.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik: Jairzinho Rozenstruik opened his UFC career with four straight knockouts. With his loss to Alexander Volkov at UFC Vegas 56, he is now on a 2-4 run. With his setback to Volkov, the only thing keeping Rozenstruik in the official UFC rankings is the lack of depth in the heavyweight division.
Dan Ige: Dan Ige dropped to 1-4 in his past five outings with a one-sided loss to Movsar Evloev in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 56. Ige is a tough fighter, but that toughness was the only thing he had going for him in this setback.
Askar Mozharov: When the pre-event talk of a fighter focuses on his record and how many of those wins and losses were real, well, that does not bode well for that fighter. When that fighter goes out and gets stopped in the first round, that’s not good either. I don’t expect Askar Mozharov to get a second UFC fight after he made the UFC look bad and then got knocked out by Alonzo Menifield.
Daniel Argueta: After being controlled on the mat for most of the first 10 minutes of his fight opposite Damon Jackson, Daniel Argueta had some success on the feet in the third round. Instead of capitalizing on that advantage, Argueta went for a takedown, got reversed and controlled on the mat.
Niklas Stolze: Niklas Stolze had a short, but incredibly rough fight against Benoit Saint-Denis. The moment that Saint-Denis fought off a choke attempt in the second round and then put the fight to the mat, Stolze visibly deflated. Not long after that, he tapped to a Saint-Denis choke.
Jon Anik: Knowing scoring and judging has been a hot topic, it was a bit disappointing to hear Jon Anik comment on the “all-important control time” when it came to the Rinat Fakhretdinov vs. Andreas Michailidis fight.
As I — and others — have made clear, control time by itself is not something that comes into play when scoring a fight. It is not the primary scoring criteria. Effective grappling and striking is the primary criteria. Fakhretdinov used that control to score with his striking and grappling, ideally Anik would have added that context to his mentioning of the “all-important control time.”
Mark Smith: I lost count of how many times referee Mark Smith warned Andreas Michailidis about grabbing the cage in the first half of the first round of Michailidis’s fight opposite Rinat Fakhretdinov, but it was at least five times. Smith needed to take a point. He didn’t. He failed.
UFC commentators: Despite the focus on judging and scoring over the past few weeks, UFC commentators Jon Anik and Paul Felder misrepresented the scoring criteria a few times during the event. I stand by my assertion that the commentary team needs to improve when they discuss scoring and judging.