Alexander Volkov knew what he had to do against Jairzinho Rozenstruik not long after he began watching some of “Bigi Boy’s” older fights.
Rozenstruik is one of the UFC heavyweight division’s biggest punchers, but his downfall is a less-than-stellar defense. Volkov’s plan was to push Rozenstruik against the cage and fire at him when he didn’t have space to move.
As the Russian suspected, Rozenstruik left plenty of openings and Volkov took full advantage. A big straight right hand hurt Rozenstruik and sent him stumbling. Volkov opened up with a flurry of shots, most of which were landing on the chin.
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Referee Herb Dean leaped in at 2:12 of the first to stop it and give the seventh-ranked Volkov the victory in the main event of UFC Vegas 56 Saturday at Apex in Las Vegas.
The bout was critical for both men. Heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou remains injured and isn’t expected to return until late in the year. Former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has moved to heavyweight and is expected to debut later this year against ex-champion Stipe Miocic, though no date has been set.
Ciryl Gane, Tai Tuivasa, Curtis Blaydes, Derrick Lewis and Tom Aspinall are all ranked ahead of Volkov. The winner of Saturday’s bout could stay in that mix with the loser dropping into the second-tier.
Rozenstruik briefly protested the stoppage, but he was blasted with a hard right right on the chin and then took a series of clean shots on the chin.
The loss was his second in a row and third in his last four. After opening his UFC career by going 4-0 with four knockouts, he’s 2-4 since and has been finished twice.
Volkov needed the win because he was coming off of a first-round submission loss to Tom Aspinall.