Well, the MMA world is returning back to normal as the UFC will be hosting its first event following the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor phenomenon. Although it feels to good to be back, we’re not getting a very warm welcome by the Las Vegas-based promotion. UFC Rotterdam, or also known as UFC Fight Night 115, is likely to be one of the more lackluster UFC cards of 2017. Despite the lack of star power, this card still features a few noteworthy fights, leading with the headlining slot where top 10 heavyweights Stefan Struve and Alexander Volkov collide. This card also hosts the return of Siyar Bahadurzada – after being away more than a year from competition – and an interesting contest between rising welterweights Leon Edwards and Bryan Barberena.
What: UFC Rotterdam (UFC Fight Night 115)
Where: Ahoy Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands.
When: Saturday, Sept. 2. The six-fight UFC Fight Pass preliminary card begins at 11:45 a.m. ET, and the four-fight main card begins at 3 p.m. ET also on UFC Fight Pass.
Alexander Volkov vs. Stefan Struve
This is a great booking that not only makes sense ranking wise, but that also brings a fun Pride FC feel given Alexander Volkov and Stefan Struve’s towering frames.
Struve (28–8) has turned things around. The 7-foot fighter managed to pick up some momentum in 2016 knocking out Antonio Silva and submitting Daniel Omielańczuk. Prior to that, Struve had gone 1-3 and appeared to be on a downfall. Struve is a skilled kick boxer that attacks with a diverse arsenal strikes. The Dutch fighter is arguably most dangerous on the ground, as he possesses a crafty guard and has the ability to fish for submissions from many different positions.
Volkov (28–6) is an extremely experienced fighter despite not having many fights under the UFC banner. The Russian fighter has held heavyweight titles in M-1 Global and Bellator. “Drago” is a very quick striker that likes to rely on straight punches. Volkov also likes to fight in the clinch and is not afraid to go to the ground even though his best skill set is on the feet. The 28-year-old reminds be a lot to Eddie Alvarez in the sense that he’s not too difficult to wobble, but extremely hard to finish.
I think this bout is close, and it will probably be very competitive. Struve has more punching power than Volkov, but Volkov has a big edge in speed. Struve is not quick on his feet that helps his opponents break in past his range and into theirs. I see Volkov coming in quick and tagging Struve with quick, straight punches. I also believe Volkov’s strong ability in the clinch will help him control Struve while scoring on the judges’ cards. The Russian fighter will have to be extra careful, as he can get caught or baited into a submission from the clinch.
Here we have an undefeated prospect making his UFC debut on short notice against a seasoned veteran.
Siyar Bahadurzada (22–6–1) came into the UFC with plenty of hype, as he was riding a six-fight win streak with five being stoppages. In his promotional debut, Bahadurzada flattened veteran Paulo Thiago in just 42 seconds. From there, Bahadurzada dealt with a series of injuries that only allowed him to fight three times in past five years. It’s unknown what version of Bahadurzada will show up on Saturday, but we can only expect a heavy hitter with a solid chin and strong grappling.
Meanwhile, Rob Wilkinson (11-0) has managed to make his way to the UFC, besting his opposition with a well-rounded game. Wilkinson is a good striker with strong takedowns and dominant top game. Wilkinson is not particularly a master in any area, but he’s pretty solid everywhere. Wilkinson’s downfall is that he slows down quick, which causes his attack output to drop.
This bout is tough to pick, but Bahadurzada should be able get a victory here. The Afghan fighter has a good takedown defense and enough power to make Wilkinson hesitant to strike with him. I think Bahadurzada will stuff takedowns, move forward, and score with big shots. “The Great” also has a big edge in experience, which should help him secure the win.
Marion Reneau vs. Talita Bernardo
This bout has what it takes to be an exciting contest, I think.
There’s very little footage on Talita Bernardo (4-1) so it’s hard to gauge where she’s really at and how she matches up with Marion Reneau. From what I can see, Bernardo is a very strong and powerful women for bantamweight. Bernardo fights aggressive and has good takedowns and ground game. Not only can the Brazilian land heavy ground-and-pound, but she can also set up submissions.
Reneau (7-3-1) is far more experienced than Bernardo. The 40-year-old might not be the power house Bernardo is, but she’s durable and has a great gas tank. Reneau is also a skilled striker with a very technical ground game.
Bernardo has managed to stop all of her opponents in quick fashion and her only defeat comes by way of decision. I think Reneau is more than capable to stay out of trouble early in the fight, and I see her striking, cardio and experience getting her a decision victory over Bernardo.
Leon Edwards is a very technical striker with a great takedown defense and proficient defensive grappling. Edwards can put together quick combinations that can cause a great deal of damage. He might not known as a power puncher, but he is dangerous on his feet, as he’s very precise with his shots. On top of that, Edwards is great at avoiding takedowns, and if taken down, he’s great at staying away from submissions and working his way back to his feet.
Bryan Barberena is not as technical as Edwards, but he has physical abilities that can come in handy in this fight. Barberena is a tough, gritty fighter that can do it all, just as long as he’s the one pressuring. He has decent takedowns and he’s persistent with them. He also has good boxing and can pack some power behind his punches.
This is a fun fight, but I find Edwards to be a bad matchup for Barberena. Edwards fights extremely composed and always looks to have a good deal of energy in every round. I don’t think Barberena has the wrestling skills to takedown and control Edwards for long and on the feet, I find Edwards to have a big advantage in speed and technique. I see this being a competitive three-round fight with Edwards getting his hand raised at the end.
Darren Till def. Bojan Veličković