What UFC PPV card would be complete without a heavyweight slugfest? This one shouldn’t disappoint, pitting two experienced strikers against in a battle of top-ten contenders.
Alexander Volkov is the more experienced fighter with 39 professional bouts under his belt, emerging victorious in 31 of them, including 21 finishes. He’s 5-2 in the UFC, including knockouts over Stefan Struve and Fabricio Werdum, before being knocked out by Derrick Lewis after dominating the fight for fourteen and a half minutes, beating Greg Hardy by Unanimous decision, and, most recently, losing a major decision to Curtis Blaydes.
Walt Harris is 13-8 with one NC (failed drug test after beating Andrei Arlovsky by split decision) in 22 professional fights, fourteen of which have been in the UFC octagon. He has finished all of his wins by knockout, and all but two of his losses have been finished. He was one a three (really four) fight win streak before being knocked out by Alistair Overeem in May of this year.
Alexander “Drago” Volkov is a menacing presence who fits the description for his nickname, standing 6’7” with a 81-inch reach, though his reach is equal to that of Harris. He’s comfortable fighting from the outside, taking his time, and landing jabs and straights. He’s a dangerous counter-striker with great hooks and uppercuts. He has deceptive striking speed and unreal power. He does have the ability and the aggression to press forward, mixing up shots to the body with body his hands and his kicks.
Volkov has great takedown defense but he likely won’t need to use it in this fight. Harris likely won’t be attempting many takedowns, aware that Volkov is going to have the grappling advantage. Volkov will likely try to finish this fight standing before taking it to the canvas. He does great work in the clinch with his underhooks in and has decent single leg takedowns. He does have three submissions on his record, two rear naked chokes and a triangle, and he actually took Derrick Lewis to the ground, took his back, and tried to sink in a rear naked.
Walt Harris is an athletic power striker who likes to get busy early. He has a great right uppercut, and powerful hooks. He has showcased some powerful knees. He mainly targets the chin, does mix in some body work but is pretty much swinging for the fences with every strike. In a lot of the fights in his career, this approach has earned him finishes within the first two rounds. In the others, it has cost him his gas tank, caused him to over extend himself, and either get knocked out or lose a decision.
The knockout losses have come more often than the decision losses. Simply put, Harris goes for broke most of the time he’s in the octagon. The one time he has come out measured, against Adnrei Arlovsky, he won a split decision, but Arlovsky isn’t on the same level as a striker that Volkov is, and Harris’ output in that fight was slow to say the least. The more patient approach also worked for him against Daniel Spitz, and allowed him to find a knockout late in the 2nd round.
Harris showed a lot of maturity in those fights, and went on to win two straight in the first round. He came out firing again against Overeem, and though he scored an early knockdown and landed some clean shots, he was gassed out finished after. It’s hard to believe he’s going to come out and go after Volkov the same way.
Volkov is going to have the advantage in almost every facet of the fight. These fighters are of equal power, but Volkov is a much more intelligent striker, a better grappler, and has better cardio. We think he’s a cheap favorite at -160. Volkov will likely be able to find a knockout, but he’s a far more advanced grappler than Harris and very well could find a submission, so we like him inside the distance as a value play. The only way Harris wins is by knockout, so that will be the hedge play at +225. If you don’t like picking a side, you can be confident in this fight to end inside the distance at -165, but we recommend hedging with Volkov by decision at +225
Our official picks for UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gathje will be available this Saturday 10/24 at 9:00 am EST.