Whereas a win won’t essentially earn them a heavyweight title shot, it retains them within the combine.

In virtually each different division, a combat between two contenders like Alexander Volkov and Curtis Blaydes would in all probability have title shot implications.

That’s simply not the case within the UFC’s heavyweight division, although.

With a trilogy combat between Daniel Cormier and champion Stipe Miocic set for later this summer time and Francis Ngannou firmly entrenched because the next-in-line for a title shot, the winner of Saturday evening’s UFC Combat Night time primary occasion in Las Vegas can’t realistically discuss preventing for the belt subsequent.

By no means ought to that be seen as an indictment of what’s an interesting heavyweight matchup. There won’t be a title combat within the fast way forward for Blaydes or Volkov, however they’re each fighters with the potential to compete for a belt in some unspecified time in the future down the road – and so they doubtless will.

So whereas a win won’t essentially earn them a title shot, it retains them within the combine. That issues, so no one needs to be pondering the stakes are low right here. It’s simply that the Miocic-Cormier-Ngannou scenario must play itself out earlier than both Blaydes or Volkov can realistically take their flip at preventing for the belt.

“It relies on what occurs with Stipe. If he decides to retire, it will likely be a vacant belt and more than likely Ngannou vs. me for that vacant belt,” Blaydes mentioned. “If he decides to not retire, it will likely be Ngannou vs. Stipe and I’ll simply watch for my flip.”

It’s value noting that the logjam on the prime of the UFC’s heavyweight division will not be a nasty factor, by any means. Sure, it could have been good if Miocic had defended his title a minimum of as soon as since he beat Cormier of their rematch final summer time, however the COVID-19 pandemic performed its half in that, particularly as a result of Miocic is a firefighter and had obligations as a primary responder.

However the heavyweight division has by no means been the UFC’s deepest when it comes to expertise. The truth that there are such a lot of fighters competing proper now who might conceivably contend for the title is an indication of how far the load class has progressed.

Volkov and Blaydes’ data present as a lot.

In six UFC fights, Blaydes has misplaced solely as soon as. He’s overwhelmed recognizable names in Roy Nelson and Stefan Struve, and his lone defeat got here after he dominated Derrick Lewis for 3 rounds earlier than letting his guard down and getting knocked out within the closing seconds.

Blaydes’ document is much more spectacular. He’s overwhelmed perennial contenders Alistair Overeem and Junior dos Santos and has gained eight of his 11 fights within the UFC, with one no contest. His solely losses occur to have come in opposition to Ngannou, who’s a once-in-a-generation drive.

You possibly can drop Blaydes or Volkov right into a title combat proper now and there can be few complaints. Much less certified contenders have fought for belts earlier than.

So no, there’s not a title shot on the road, however the UFC has nonetheless booked probably the greatest wrestlers within the heavyweight division, in Blaydes, in opposition to one of many extra achieved and technical strikers, in Volkov.

Whether or not a title shot is on the road or not, Saturday evening’s primary occasion ought to transfer the division ahead and convey us slightly readability on what to anticipate in 2021.

It’s as much as Miocic, Cormier and Ngannou to type out the remaining.

CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE

UFC president Dana White has endured his justifiable share of jokes at his expense since he proposed a “Combat Island” to get fights going throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan to host 4 combat playing cards on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi beginning on July 11 actually isn’t what most individuals envisioned after they heard the phrases “Combat Island” – we had been pondering of fights on a seaside in some tropical paradise – however to White’s credit score, he’s pulled it off.

The UFC introduced its full sleight of fights for the Combat Island experiment, with 4 title fights scheduled for the mid-July run.

Most of these title fights had been beforehand introduced, however the promotion additionally added a rematch between Deiveson Figuredo and Joseph Benavidez for the vacant flyweight championship on July 18. Figerudo beat Benavidez of their earlier assembly with a controversial end, however was unable to assert the belt as a result of he’d missed weight previous to the matchup.

The success of your complete endeavour can’t be judged till all of the fighters return dwelling and are COVID-19-free, however for now, the UFC has quietly gone about its companies of getting the fights began once more and it’s largely labored out OK.

NOTES

It won’t have the most important names on the planet, however Saturday’s card is sneaky enjoyable. Raquel Pennington was preventing for the UFC bantamweight title two years in the past and has solely fought prime opponents since, so her bout with Marion Reneau issues. Josh Emmett is a must-watch, his matchup with Shane Burgos has Combat of the Night time potential, and combat followers are all the time going to tune in for Jim Miller, it doesn’t matter what … All fighters had been on-weight for Saturday’s card except light-weight Frank Camacho, who got here in at 158 lbs. for his matchup in opposition to Justin Jaynes.

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