Alexander Volkov ate a huge knee from Stefan Struve late in the first round of their UFC Rotterdam main event on Saturday, opening up a huge cut under his left eye.
In the second, he took pokes to both eyes from his opponent.
In the third, Volkov won the fight.
Volkov, a former Bellator heavyweight champion, scored the highest profile victory of his career and showed off a breathtaking degree of toughness by finishing Struve via TKO. The time of the finish in the bruising main event of UFC Fight Night 115 at Ahoy Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Netherlands was 3:10.
“I feel great, thanks everyone for their support, thanks to everyone from Russia and from around the world,” Volkov said. “Thank you Stefan for the fight.”
The opening round saw the 7-foot-tall Struve and the 6-foot-7 Volkov try to figure out each other’s range. Struve picked things up late, landing front kicks and overhands, and finally landing the big knee. Volkov responded with a flurry of his own in the round’s waning seconds.
Things got down and dirty in the second round, as the action was stopped twice due to Struve’s eye pokes. Referee Marc Goddard let both fouls slide without a point deduction.
In the third, Volkov picked up the pace as Struve faded. A left hand to the face dropped Struve and the fight was waved off soon thereafter.
The victory was the fifth straight for Volkov (30-6) as the Moscow native improved to 3-0 in the UFC. Struve (28-9), fighting in his Netherlands homeland, had a two-fight win streak snapped.
In the co-feature bout, Siyar Bahadurzada (23-6-1) competed for just the second time in the past four years, and the Afghani welterweight appeared to take out his frustrations on previously undefeated Australian Rob Wilkinson (14-1).
Competing at middleweight, Bahadurzada got warmed up in the opening round by dropping Wikinson with a wicked body kick, followed by a seamless transition into a head-and-arm choke. In the second, he dropped Wilkinson again and poured on the strikes until referee Leon Roberts finally waved it off at the 3:10 mark.
“Come one, come all, they’re not going to come close to me when I’m healthy,” Bahadurzada said after his second straight victory. “I’m ready to fight. It has been very tough for me the last four years, injuries have kept me away, but I’m back.”
Marion Reneau scored a stoppage finish in a bantamweight bout on the main card, but her short-notice opponent made her work for it. Reneau met Talita Bernardo, a late substitute for Germaine de Randamie. Bernardo (5-2) proved scrappy and arguably won the first round with her aggressive grappling game.
But Reneau maintained her composure. Reneau dominated the final round and rained down ground-and-pound strikes until referee Kevin McCarthy waved off the bout with just six seconds remaining in the fight.
With the victory, Reneau (8-3-1), who turned 40 in June, ran her undefeated streak to three fights (2-0-1).
“I felt pressure knowing I had a lot to lose with an opponent coming in with 10 days’ notice, but I wasn’t going to let it go to the judges,” Reneau said. “I want to face one of the top 10 next, but girls in the top 10 turn down fights and are too busy taking selfies. They’re not fighting at all.“
Leon Edwards is starting to put together a run in the welterweight division. The British competitor scored a unanimous decision of Arizona’s Bryan Barberena (13-4) on across-the-board scores of 29-28 for his fourth straight victory.
Edwards (13-3) spent the better part of the bout outgrappling Barberena and working for submissions. The tough Barberena managed to steal the second round by dropping Edwards with an uppercut and nearly finishing him, but Edwards rode out the round and reasserted himself over the final five minutes to seal the victory.
“I’m not fighting again now unless I get a top-15 guy, or even top-10,” said Edwards, who won for the sixth time in his past seven fights. “I’m on a four-fight win streak, I keep improving and I’m only 26 years old.
In a lightweight undercard bout of note, Darren Till improved to 15-0-1 with a unanimous decision over Bojan Velickovic (15-5-1). Till, a native of Britain who spent years training in Brazil, outworked his opponent for the better part of 15 minutes and earned across-the-board 30-27 scores.
“I’m actually quite emotional right now because I’m still unbeaten in the UFC,” Till said. “I’m still young and I’m beating all these top competitors. Every day I can see my goal getting closer. I’m not here just to be another guy; I want to be the next Muhammed Ali, I want to be the next Georges St-Pierre, the next Conor McGregor.”
Till is now 3-0-1 in the UFC and has a next opponent in mind.
“I want to fight [Santiago] Ponzinibbio next,” Till said. “If he says he’s the best striker and I say I am, we need to fight. I don’t care about rankings; me and him need to fight.”
Lightweight Mairbek Taisumov wasted little time in his return to the Octagon after a long absence. A wicked one-punch counter shot caused a charging Felipe Silva (8-1) to faceplant for a memorable knockout at just 1:24 of the opening round.
Taisumov (27-5), a Russian by way of Austria, had not fought in nearly a year and a half, but he picked up where he left off with his fifth straight victory, all via finish.
“I feel so good to be back fighting and I’m so happy to get the win,” Tasumov said after his 26th career finish. “It’s been so hard for me being away for so long but I’ve just been training hard, training with the very best. I was with so many national teams just getting better in ground game, and my overall game. I always try to finish my fights but I never give a prediction on how it is going to happen. I’m just happy to get such a good finish. I deserve the top-10 guys now.”