Heavyweight contenders clash in the headlining bout of the fourth slate of fights inside the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. In the co-main slot, heavy-hitting featherweights duke it out to see who deserves the next shot at a top-5 opponent, and veterans look to gain traction in the wide-open women’s bantamweight division.
While the bare numbers might indicate a clear picture of what might go down in these matchups, the styles behind the numbers add even more context to what should be yet another fun night of fights in the desert.
(All stats according to UFC’s Record Book as of June 17, 2020, and only include active athletes in their respective division unless noted otherwise)
Main Event: Curtis Blaydes vs Alexander Volkov
Key Stats: 55.6% takedown accuracy (2nd all-time among HW), 45 takedowns landed (1st all-time among HW), 1.86 strikes absorbed per minute (1st)
What It Means: Curtis Blaydes always keeps his intentions clear: He wants to wrestle you. He’s gone as far as to say he wants to be the “heavyweight Khabib,” meaning when he wants the fight to go to the mat, it goes to the mat. Continuously, he’s shown few can stop that from happening, and from there, he’s built a devastating reputation with his ground-and-pound.
Key Stats: 82.8% takedown defense (1st all-time among HW), 6.19 strikes landed per minute (1st), +3.42 striking differential (3rd all-time)
What It Means: One of the quicker and more diverse strikers in the heavyweight division, Alexander Volkov has some of the better cardio and work rates among the big boys. He can keep opponents at range with his 81-inch reach and keeps the fight upright when opponents try to shoot in for a takedown.
What to Look for in the Fight:
It’s a relatively classic striker-vs-grappler matchup, but Blaydes showed in his TKO win over Junior Dos Santos that he doesn’t need to wrestle in order to win. That said, Volkov provides another long and technical kickboxer with which Blaydes can test that theory. And although Volkov’s takedown defense has proven relatively strong, Blaydes is debatably the most swarming wrestler on the roster.
Co-Main Event: Josh Emmett vs Shane Burgos
Key Stats: 2.68 knockdowns per 15 minutes (1st all-time among FW), 72 percent significant strike defense (1st all-time among FW), 2.63 strikes absorbed per minute (6th)
What It Means: Josh Emmett believes he carries the biggest power in the featherweight division and, so far, he’s made good on that conviction. He already ranks near the top of the division’s history in terms of total knockdowns, and while he searches for that power bomb, he doesn’t do so recklessly.
Key Stats: 7.09 strikes landed per minute (4th all-time), 90.9% takedown defense (2nd all-time among FW), 50.3% significant strike accuracy (5th)
What It Means: Shane Burgos is constantly moving forward and keeps a high pace that accompanies his slick striking. Always one to mix up his shots to the body well, Burgos throws in just enough kicks to keep his opponents honest, and his hands are as fast and smooth as any in the division.
What to Look for in the Fight
This should be a high-paced slugfest, seeing as Shane Burgos is a part of it, but Josh Emmett’s power is real, so how Burgos chooses to approach the bombs in Emmett’s hands while also pushing the tempo is something to monitor.
Other Fights to Watch (Raquel Pennington vs Marion Reneau)
Key Stats: 854 strikes landed (1st all-time among WBW), 46.1% significant strike accuracy (6th all-time among WBW), 5 decision wins (1st all-time among WBW)
What It Means: One of the division’s longest mainstays, Raquel Pennington can grind it out with the best of them. A physical fighter who is solid anywhere the fight goes, Pennington is a tough puzzle to crack for anyone she faces.
Key Stats: 65.2% significant strike defense (3rd all-time among WBW), +0.53 striking differential (5th), 2:08:31 total fight time (2nd all-time among WBW)
What It Means: Marion Reneau is a durable, strong fighter who hasn’t been finished yet. At 42 years old, Reneau has continued to keep her pace and power in fights before finding the definitive strike or takedown.
What to Look for in the Fight:
This is a matchup of two tough, hard-nosed mixed martial artists who pack power in their strikes more than their records might show. They’re a pair of patient combatants, as well, with plenty of experience, so the margins might be where the fight is determined.