UFC heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes dominated Alexander Volkov with wrestling Saturday night, earning his fourth consecutive victory in a suffocating unanimous decision.
Featherweight Josh Emmett won a unanimous decision over Shane Burgos in a thrilling joint performance during the penultimate bout of the latest show from the fan-free UFC Apex gym in the mixed martial arts promotion’s hometown.
Blaydes (14-2) showcased his superior wrestling skills from the start against Volkov, taking down the towering Russian within the first 10 seconds and then dominating the first 3 1/2 rounds. Volkov (31-8) landed his own takedown late in the fourth and nailed Blaydes with a few strikes early in the fifth, but Blaydes pushed through and won by bending the fight to his clear strengths on the ground.
“It’s always a good experience to know you can go 25 minutes, and there’s things you need to work on, but you learn them in a win,” Blaydes said. “I need to work on my conditioning after the third round, but I’m happy with the win. Volkov is legit, and I’m one step closer to a title shot.”
The 6-foot-7 Volkov flew to the U.S. with no clear idea how he will get home to Russia due to travel restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic. He had won seven of his last eight fights, but hadn’t competed since his one-sided victory over Greg Hardy in Moscow last year.
Blaydes won on the judges’ scorecards 49-46, 48-47 and 48-46.
Blaydes and Francis Ngannou are the most likely contenders to get the next shot at the UFC heavyweight title after champion Stipe Miocic completes his trilogy with former two-belt champ Daniel Cormier at UFC 252 on Aug. 15. Ngannou is responsible for the only two losses of Blaydes’ career, winning their bouts in 2016 and 2018.
Emmett and Burgos put on the performance of the night with a fascinating slugfest, with Emmett winning 29-28, 29-28 and 29-27. The 35-year-old Emmett (16-2) persevered through a knee injury in the first round to land two knockdowns and a dominant third round, but Burgos absorbed tremendous punishment and thought he had earned a decision.
“Dana, I told you, get that checkbook ready!” Emmett shouted immediately after the fight in the direction of UFC President Dana White, who hands out the promotion’s bonuses for outstanding performances.
The event was the fourth of five consecutive UFC shows held over five weekends with no fans on its corporate campus. After next week’s show headlined by Dustin Poirier’s meeting with Dan Hooker, the UFC will move to Yas Island in Abu Dhabi for four shows in 14 days, beginning with UFC 251 on July 12.
Veteran Jim Miller finished Roosevelt Roberts with an armbar in the first round of his latest milestone fight. The 36-year-old Miller (32-14) matched Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone’s record 35th appearance in a UFC cage, and his 21st UFC victory left him trailing only Cerrone (23) and Demian Maia (22) in the promotion’s history.
Former bantamweight title contender Raquel Pennington (11-8) earned only her second win since 2016 with a clear decision over 42-year-old high school teacher Marion Reneau. Pennington’s fiancée, Tecia Torres, snapped her four-fight skid since 2017 with a one-sided decision over Brianna Van Buren on the early undercard.
Justin Jaynes had a storybook UFC debut, stopping Frank Camacho with strikes in just 41 seconds. The 30-year-old Jaynes accepted the fight only three days ago when Matt Frevola was pulled from the Las Vegas card because of a teammate’s positive coronavirus test.
In two matchups pitting seasoned veterans, Lauren Murphy won a unanimous decision over fellow veteran flyweight Roxanne Modafferi, and Bobby Green controlled his win over Clay Guida.