There are big finishes in the cage, and big finishes career-wise. On Saturday, Alexander Volkov and Cory Sandhagen scored knockouts that check both boxes in their main and co-main event fights at UFC Vegas 18.
A title shot loomed for the winner of Sandhagen vs. Frankie Edgar. As talented as the bantamweight division has become, the fight very much felt like a bonafide title eliminator.
The heavyweight main event between Alistair Overeem and Alexander Volkov was less clear. Curtis Blaydes fights later this month, and has the best claim to the winner of Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou 2 in March. But a Blaydes loss could open things up, should he fall to Derrick Lewis. All that was needed was a big win, in the cage on Saturday, to muddy the waters.
Both Sandhagen and Volkov had those. Sandhagen took all of 28 seconds to land a flying knee on Frankie Edgar, who hit the ground like a sack of potatoes. A scary sight, but Edgar proved to be okay after the fact — as okay as one can be from that sort of concussive blow. For Sandhagen, who now has two straight statement wins, it’s almost surely a title fight next.
The towering Volkov did everything he could to ensure the same outcome for himself. Volkov lit up Alistair Overeem, rocking the Dutch heavyweight several times and bloodying him badly before finally scoring the knockout blow in the second round.
Both men were awarded Performance of the Night awards for their efforts on Saturday. The Fight of the Night at UFC Vegas 18, meanwhile, went to Beneil Dariush vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira 2. The rematch, six years in the making, saw the pair trading across three full rounds. Dariush earned his second win in their career series, albeit by split decision.
All four fighter will take home an extra $50,000 for their efforts.