It’s an afternoon of fights this weekend as the UFC hosts the daytime affair UFC Fight Night: Gane vs. Volkov.
The main event showcases two of the best heavyweights on the planet. The third-ranked Cyril Gane meets No. 5 Alexander Volkov. Both men come into this fight on the heels of impressive victories. Gane outdueled Jairzinho Rozenstruik over 25 minutes in his last appearance, while Volkov knocked out Alistair Overeem in the second round of their meeting in February. A standout performance will catapult the winner to the front of the line for a heavyweight title opportunity.
The co-headliner is another heavyweight affair. Longtime light-heavyweight contender Ovince St. Preux makes his second appearance in the weight class when he takes on Tanner Boser. Boser is on a quick turnaround after losing a controversial split decision to Ilir Latifi only three weeks ago. The Canadian has now dropped back-to-back decisions since rattling off consecutive knockout victories. Meanwhile, St. Preux most recently suffered a knockout loss to Jamahal Hill. The longtime UFC light heavyweight is now 2-4 over his last six bouts. Both of these men are in desperate need of a victory.
A light-heavyweight contest between Kennedy Nzechukwu and Danilo Marques is also featured in the main-card lineup. Nzechukwu stepped into this contest on short notice to replace Ed Herman. Both men are riding the high of recent highlight-reel victories. Nzechukwu stopped Carlos Ulberg via TKO in his last fight, while Marques finished Mike Rodriguez with a rear-naked choke in his last outing.
In addition to the aforementioned bouts, the main card also includes a featherweight contest between longtime Team Alpha Male stalwart Andre Fili and Daniel Pineda. The opener is slated to be a lightweight clash in which former featherweight Renato Moicano makes his second appearance at 155 pounds when he squares off against Jai Herbert.
UFC Fight Night: Gane vs. Volkov is a matinee event, with prelims beginning at 1 p.m. ET and the main card following at 4 p.m. ET. All the action takes place inside the UFC Apex in Las Vegas and airs live on ESPN+. Combat Press writers Andrew Sumian and Matt Petela preview the card as they go Toe-to-Toe.
Ciryl Gane has impressed in his last two fights, with victories over Junior dos Santos and Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Now, the UFC has lined him up with Alexander Volkov. Will Gane keep rolling and maintain his unbeaten mark against the towering Russian?
Sumian: This highly anticipated heavyweight clash of strikers has to be one of the most interesting match-ups of the year. Both Volkov and Gane are powerful, thunderous 265ers that aim to swiftly and effectively eliminate any opposition as soon as the bell rings. The winner of this heavyweight clash will likely be in the position for a title fight eliminator or perhaps even a title shot with an impressive performance. The pressure is on.
Gane has certainly taken the UFC world by storm after compiling an impressive 5-0 mark inside the Octagon to bring his overall record to 8-0. The French prospect boasts one of the most complete stand-up games in the UFC today due to his Muay Thai background and powerful frame. He most recently delivered an impressive one-sided decision victory over the aforementioned fellow contender Rozenstruik. He uses his calm and composed Muay Thai stance to advance on his opponent as he looks to land powerful elbows and kicks.
Despite setbacks against Derrick Lewis and Curtis Blaydes, Volkov has been able to position himself as a top-five heavyweight by compiling a 7-2 UFC record with notable wins over Roy Nelson, Fabricio Werdum, Walt Harris and Alistair Overeem. The Russian skyscraper packs a powerful punch and flusters his opponents with fluent combinations. He relies on heavy volume in an effort to set up an eventual finish via strikes. He most recently scored back-to-back knockout victories over Harris and Overeem.
This fight should ultimately come down to who has more success in the striking department. These heavyweights are powerful, fluid strikers who are capable of raining down serious punishment. Despite Gane’s hype and undefeated streak, Russia’s “Drago” will turn in his third straight finish when he dismantles Gane using his movement and volume striking en route to a TKO victory in the later rounds.
Petela: This fight will be a high-level chess match that plays out over the full 25 minutes. Gane has undoubtedly shown moments of brilliance in the Octagon with his last-second heel hook of Don’Tale Mayes and the brutal TKO of dos Santos. He won’t put himself in harm’s way when he has a clear path to victory, even if that path involves going the distance.
This fight will be similar to Gane’s recent outing against Rozenstruik. Volkov is an extremely technical striker with the ability to capitalize on any mistake that Gane makes, so Gane will be overly cautious and turn in a risk-averse performance. One or two heavily landed punches per round will be all we see from Gane, but it will be enough. His technical footwork will ensure that Volkov never has a chance to gain any momentum and struggles to use his high-volume striking with much effectiveness.
While this fight will result in another big name added to Gane’s resume, it won’t be the type of performance he needs to fully insert himself into the title picture. The lasting question after this contest will be whether or not Gane has what it takes to headline a high-priority fight card.
Even at heavyweight, where anything can happen in the blink of an eye, Gane has seemingly lost a great deal of the momentum he had gained after rattling off five straight finishes to begin his MMA career. As he gets into fights against the best of the best, the Frenchman has increasingly shown that his first priority is securing the victory, not adding to his highlight reel. That’s a smart way to fight, and with the thunderous power he holds, there will be a smattering of knockouts along the way. However, this won’t gain him much favor with the UFC brass.
Ovince St. Preux is trying his hand at a heavyweight bout again. How much better, if at all, will he fare against Tanner Boser than he did against Ben Rothwell?
Petela: OSP’s sophomore appearance in the weight class will go much better than his debut. That doesn’t necessarily say much about his long-term prospects at heavyweight, but it does say a lot about the UFC’s matchmaking.
Boser’s last fight was just three weeks ago, when he came out on the wrong end of a decision for the second fight in a row. His most recent loss to Ilir Latifi was a controversial one. The Swede took the split nod, but Boser held a 45-10 striking advantage. This quick turnaround in fights will end up being far from a wise decision for the Canadian fighter.
St. Preux isn’t exactly coming into this contest with a hot hand either. In his last fight, he missed weight by one and a half pounds and then suffered a second-round TKO at the hands of Jamahal Hill.
St. Preux will push a higher pace throughout the entirety of this bout, in large part due to Boser not being fully recovered from his last appearance. It will be far from an emphatic victory for the former Tennessee Volunteer football player, and neither man will come away with all that much momentum.
Sumian: Despite OSP’s extensive experience in the UFC over the last decade, he won’t be able to keep Boser winless for the third time in a row. The 29-year-old Boser is still one of the top heavyweight prospects and will remind everyone of this when he knocks out the unpredictable St. Preux.
Boser is eager to return to the win column after the robbery in his last UFC appearance. This leaves St. Preux to be on the receiving end of a “Performance of the Night” showing from his Canadian counterpart.
What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?
Sumian: Justin Jaynes. The 31-year-old Michigan native is in the midst of a three-fight skid, with all of those losses coming by way of finish. He is in desperate need of a victory to stay afloat. Unfortunately, he takes on the always game and dangerous Charles Rosa, who will likely deliver Jaynes his fourth loss in a row and send him packing from the UFC.
Petela: Yancy Medeiros. He has already lost three fights in a row and hasn’t really found a home in either the welterweight or lightweight division. If there is one thing that he has going for him, it’s that he rarely ever takes part in a boring fight. However, in this new age of the UFC, even an entertaining veteran like Medeiros won’t be immune to a roster cut. He can’t afford to come up short against “The Bosnian Bomber” Damir Hadžović.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Petela: The night’s opening bout between Yancy Medeiros and Damir Hadžović. This match-up has all the makings for a fan-friendly slugfest. Both fighters have an inherently exciting style and are more than willing to bite down on their mouthpieces while throwing caution to the wind. When you couple that with the recent struggles that both men have endured, this fight could very easily steal the show early on.
Sumian: Andre Fili and Daniel Pineda take the cake. Fili is an exciting featherweight who is constantly sticking and moving in his UFC bouts. He has been involved in some fun fights, including scraps with Michael Johnson, Calvin Kattar and Yair Rodriguez. The 35-year-old Pineda is in his second tenure with the UFC. He delivered an outstanding elbow knockout over Herbert Burns, but he then suffered a knockout loss of his own courtesy of Cub Swanson. In that bout, Pindea was more than willing to stand and exchange with one of the most exciting strikers in UFC history. Fili and Pineda have combined for 39 career finishes and will deliver one of the most exciting fights of the day.
Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?
Sumian: Tanner Boser. He will finish OSP early and in impressive fashion as he looks to get back on track.
Petela: Renato Moicano. The Brazilian’s lightweight debut did not go well, as he fell via first-round knockout to Rafael Fiziev. This fight will play out much differently. On paper, it might not look like Moicano has the greatest opportunity to stop his opponent. Jai Herbert has never been submitted, while all of Moicano’s finishes have come via submission. However, expect to see the best version of Moicano in this fight. He’ll get the submission, likely with a rear-naked choke that he secures with a sneaky setup.
If you need to step away from the fights, do it during the…
Petela: Co-main event. This fight will be boring. Boser hasn’t shown much urgency in his last two outings. Now, up against a powerful veteran striker like OSP, he will be abundantly cautious. Neither man will do much damage. The flush connections will be few and far between as well. The best way to watch this fight will be via GIFs posted on Twitter.
Sumian: The fight between Charles Rosa and Justin Jaynes. This featherweight duel comes down to a case of ground control that leads to a unanimous decision in favor of Rosa. Unfortunately, there will not be much excitement here, as Rosa, the better grappler, will smoothly control the pace on his way to victory.
Pair this card with…
Sumian:Rocky IV. As the real-life version of Rocky’s Russian adversary takes center stage on Saturday night, it is only fitting to take a trip down memory lane and watch one of the most iconic boxing movies in history. The smaller Rocky took on a tall and intimidating Russian phenom and pulled off the win. The caveat here is that this “Drago,” unlike his movie counterpart, will turn in an impressive victory and continue to march toward a title shot.
Petela: Your favorite board game. This is a lackluster card. Outside of the main event, there aren’t a lot of fights that have any meaningful impact on their respective divisions. So, make sure you have a back-up plan in place for when you inevitably get a little bored. Personally, I recommend Scattergories, but that’s only because nobody in my family has a chance at beating me when we play.
Main Card (ESPN+, 4 p.m. ET)
HW: Ciryl Gane vs. Alexander Volkov
HW: Ovince St. Preux vs. Tanner Boser
LHW: Danilo Marques vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu
FW: Andre Fili vs. Daniel Pineda
LW: Renato Moicano vs. Jai Herbert
Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 1 p.m. ET)
BW: Raoni Barcelos vs. Timur Valiev
WW: Michel Prazeres vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov
WW: Nicolas Dalby vs. Tim Means
LHW: Marcin Prachnio vs. Ike Villanueva
Women’s BW: Julia Avila vs. Julija Stoliarenko
FW: Charles Rosa vs. Justin Jaynes
LW: Yancy Medeiros vs. Damir Hadžović
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