UFC on ESPN 11: Blaydes vs. Volkov predictions, best bets

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
Yahoo Sports

LAS VEGAS — Alexander Volkov doesn’t need to guess how Curtis Blaydes is going to attack him. He won’t have to worry about Blaydes’ development as a striker, because Blaydes has been shockingly public about his game plan for their heavyweight fight on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN+) in the main event at UFC Apex. 

Blaydes plans to use his wrestling to control the fight and take Volkov off his feet.

Blaydes is quietly developing into an elite heavyweight, and it’s not out of the question that he could stand in front of Volkov and win the fight that way. 

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But Blaydes has said in interviews almost since the fight was signed that he plans to wrestle, and in a tweet on Thursday he said he would be “ragdolling” Volkov. That could be misdirection, obviously, but that would seem to play into Volkov’s hands.

Blaydes should pressure Volkov and close the distance on him. That will enable several things to occur: First, it will take away some of Volkov’s range to use his kicks because at 6-foot-7 he has long legs. Second, it will make him vulnerable to the takedown and third, it will force him to move and potentially wear him out in a long fight.

Blaydes’ only losses were to Francis Ngannou, and he’s faced the better level of opposition. He’s been getting better each time out, even as his opposition level has gone up. He knocked out former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos in his last outing, not ever getting a takedown.

Blaydes has been a popular play at the MGM Grand Sports Book and he’s been bet up to a -400 favorite. Volkov is at +310 on the other side. 

It’s the perfect matchup for Blaydes, so I’ll lay the 400 and take a shot on Blaydes to win. I rarely play parlays, but I’m going to parlay Blaydes by KO/TKO/DQ at -185 with Lauren Murphy at even money to defeat veteran Roxanne Modafferi.

Modafferi figures to have the edge on the ground, but Murphy is physically strong and has improved grappling. I think she’ll be able to get up if she is taken down. The longer the fight goes on the feet, the more it favors Murphy.

So I’ll lay 100 on a two-team parlay of Murphy at even money to win coupled with Blaydes by KO/TKO/DQ at -185.

Other plays: 

  • Tecia Torres at +185 to defeat Brianna Van Buren.

  • Will go the distance at -160 in the Belal Muhammad versus Lyman Good fight.

  • Fight will start Round 3 in the Jim Miller-Roosevelt Roberts fight at -135.

  • Finally, I like Raquel Pennington at -180 to defeat Marion Reneau.

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