TNT Sports Reload - Episode 13Oct 10
Heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou will have his eyes firmly fixed on the main event this weekend as number three ranked contender Ciryl Gane puts his undefeated record on the line against veteran Alexander Volkov.
With Jon Jones' heavyweight debut seemingly on hold for the foreseeable future, the path to a shot at the champ looks as open as it has ever been if one of these two men can make a statement at the UFC APEX.
And as well as a cracking main event, there are some sneakily good fights to look forward during another trip to Las Vegas.
Here's what you should look out for on Saturday night.
Who’s next up at heavyweight?
Two top-ranked heavyweights go toe-to-toe in this sizzling main event from the UFC APEX as number three Ciryl Gane faces number five Alexander Volkov.
Gane has enjoyed a stratospheric rise to the top of the UFC rankings since committing to MMA from his background in kickboxing and Muay Thai.
The Frenchman is undefeated in eight pro bouts, demolishing former champion Junior dos Santos and sweeping aside fellow contenders Tanner Boser and Jairzinho Rozenstruik on his ascent to the summit of the division.
Now coming into his fighting prime at 31, the 6ft 5ins striker looks to be the leading candidate in the next generation of heavyweight contenders to launch a serious assault on the championship.
And speaking to MyMMANews this week, a confident Gane claimed he was relishing the challenge of facing one of the best in the world on Saturday night.
“You know he’s tall, he’s heavy, he’s technical in his striking. Not only his striking but his ground game, his wrestling game,” Gane explained.
“For me, [Volkov’s wrestling] is one of the best in this division so I’m really excited about that because I’m young in my career, I’m really young and this is a good test to know myself. This fight is going to help me find myself.”
I want to fight for the belt, for sure
- Alexander Volkov
Victory against seasoned veteran Volkov is anything but assured; the perennial Russian contender has halted many a hype train over the course of his 13-year career.
The former Bellator and M1 heavyweight king is in good form too, riding high after punishing stoppage wins over Walt Harris and Alistair Overeem in what was ‘The Reem’s’ final UFC assignment.
“I want to fight for the belt, for sure,” Volkov said after beating Overeem.
“We’ll have some good fights in the future at heavyweight, so we’ll see how it finishes and we’ll see what will be my place. But for sure, I would like to take a title shot.
“I feel really excited and I feel great. It’s my time, and I’m coming for the belt.”
Despite all his experience in the fight game, Volkov is only a year older than his counterpart on Saturday night – and the Moscow man, nicknamed ‘Drago’ after the infamous Rocky villain, believes he is only improving with age.
“I work a lot. I feel now I’m in really good shape, but for sure in the future I’ll be feeling better and better,” he added.
“This is not the end of my shape and my form. I will get better and I’m trying to make hard camps, working on all my skills that I didn’t do before, and I’ve become better.”
Don’t miss this one!
All action Moicano
You’re in for a treat whenever Renato Moicano is on the card and Saturday night should be no different.
It’s been a testing couple of years for the Brazilian featherweight contender, who seemingly went from the cusp of featherweight title contention to out of the picture altogether following a poor run of form.
While the stats will paint a poor picture of Moicano’s recent results, 3-4 across his last seven fights, they only tell part of the picture.
The Brasilia native has shared the Octagon with a killer’s row of opponents, from veterans like Jeremy Stephens, Cub Swanson and Jose Aldo to the up-and-comers in Calvin Kattar and Rafael Fiziev.
Now campaigning up at lightweight, the 32-year-old will be hoping he can begin to rediscover some consistency as he seeks to return to winning ways against England’s Jai Herbert.
Nicknamed “The Black Country Banger”, Herbert will have taken a particular interest in the manner of Moicano’s most recent defeats with the Brazilian losing by knockout in each of his last three defeats.
That will make for pleasant reading for a man with eight knockouts from his 10 career victories as Herbert looks to bounce back from defeat against Francesco Trinaldo on his UFC debut last time out.
Kazakhstani fighter Shavkat Rakhmonov lived up to his billing as one to watch according to BT Sport’s very own Nick Peet when he delivered a sensational performance on debut to submit welterweight veteran Alex ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira at UFC 254.
The 26-year-old prospect extended his perfect record to 13-0 with that victory, ending each one inside the distance with seven knockouts to compliment his six submissions and he looks like a potential superstar in the making.
This fight looks like a brilliant piece of matchmaking at this stage in Rakhmonov’s UFC career, pitting him against a grizzled veteran in Michel Prazeres.
The Brazilian has been out of action for two years after testing positive for a banned substance but, with wins over the likes of Gilebrt Burns and Zak Cummings, Prazeres should give fight fans an idea of Rakhmonov’s true level.
Another win would see ‘Nomad’ continue to climb through the levels and potentially set up a tantalising showdown against another rising welterweight star, as floated by Dan Hardy on the UFC 254 Open Mat episode.
“I’m excited to see Shavkat progress,” Dan Hardy said.
“I’m going to throw it out there – I would love to see him matched up with Khamzat Chimaev!”
We can only dream!
Battle of the big boys
Don’t sleep on this battle between two towering light-heavyweights this weekend as both Kennedy Nzechukwu and Danilo Marques go in search of their third consecutive UFC win.
Usually the taller man at 6ft 5ins, Saturday night will see Fortis MMA prospect Nzechukwu surrender a rare size advantage to his 6ft 6ins opponent as he looks to capitalise on a breakout KO win over Carlos Ulberg last time out.
Pocketing a Fight of the Night bonus for his handiwork in triumphing over New Zealander Ulberg back in March, Nzechukwu can expect to have his work cut out in a similarly gruelling affair against Marques.
The Brazilian has taken to life in the UFC like a duck to water, beating Khadis Ibragimov and Mike Rodriguez on his way to a perfect 2-0 start in the promotion.
Marques, who transitioned to MMA in his twenties from a background in taekwondo, may well be one to watch in the 205lb this year.
With four stoppage victories and four knockouts from his eight career wins, the 35-year-old, who is undefeated since 2017, looks like the complete package to this point.
Can ‘The African Savage’ expose the weaknesses in Marques’ game?