Russia’s Alexander Volkov may have more American fans on his side than Greg Hardy as he heads into a high-risk, high-reward scrap with the controversial ex-NFL star.
Alexander Volkov made his UFC debut with a record of 26-6 and a reputation as a fun knockout artist. His run in Bellator MMA made sure he wasn’t unknown compared to most debuting UFC fighters. However, in his first few fights in the octagon he didn’t really make that much of an impact. It was not until in late 2017, when he knocked out Stefan Struve, that fans started noticing him. He finally captured everyone’s attention when he destroyed former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum in March 2017.
That is when he was pitted against fellow rising contender Derrick Lewis at UFC 229. Despite dominating most of the bout, he lost the fight after a Hail Mary comeback knockout from Lewis late in round three. Since then he has not competed. MMA fans have a short memory; the sport is simply way too ruthless and volatile for anyone to keep a track of all the rising contenders. UFC Moscow gives Volkov an opportunity to change public opinion back to his favor and return to the spotlight in a manner not many fighters are afforded.
This weekend Volkov will be facing former NFL-star, Greg Hardy. Since making his debut Hardy hasn’t exactly been the most likeable star. That’s an understatement. His checkered past, which includes a domestic violence conviction (dropped on appeal when the victim did not appear to testify) and being bounced out of the NFL are the clear reason. However, it would be foolhardy to deny that Hardy comes with a high level of name value attached.
In short, he draws eyeballs, even if most of those eyeballs are hoping for the closest thing to jailhouse justice Hardy is ever going to see.
If Volkov wants to become a relevant face again, Hardy is the perfect opponent. If he manages to deliver a good performance, the bandwagon-nature of MMA fans is bound to push him to levels of fame he’s not experienced before. Volkov’s resume is already filled with wins over the likes of Roy Nelson, Fabricio Werdum and Blagoy Ivanov. A win here will immediately bring attention to all his credentials, thus further fast-tracking himself to a title-shot. And, as the man that crushed Greg Hardy, should it happen, he’ll just downright be the people’s champ.
However, a loss here will be equally harmful. Hardy might be a known name but he lacks any and all serious credentials as an MMA fighter. A loss against him immediately quashes everything that Volkov has earned so far. Also, the fact that Hardy is taking the fight on short notice and is a considerable step-down when compared to Junior Dos Santos will be very telling if Volkov losses. This weekend’s fight will either accelerate Volkov’s chances to win the title (thanks to a boost in profile), or will throw him down to the pits of the heavyweight division. High risk, high reward at its finest.
UFC Moscow will be live on ESPN+ in the USA, TSN 5 in Canada, and Sony SIX and Sony SIX HD in India on November 9.