UFC on ESPN: Blaydes vs Volkov - Three takeaways from the Vegas event

Here are key takeaways from the UFC Vegas 3 event held on Saturday.

Curtis Blaydes has now won four straight fights and lost only one of his past 11 outings. - TWITTER (@UFC)

Curtis Blaydes beat Alexander Volkov by unanimous decision in the heavyweight main event clash at UFC Vegas 3 on Saturday. Four of the five bouts on the main card went the distance, while Jim Miller tied Donald Cerrone for the most fights contested in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) history.

Here are the main takeaways from the event:

BLAYDES EDGES CLOSER TO A TITLE FIGHT

Despite not living up to the talk as claimed by UFC president Dana White, United States star Blaydes dominated his Russian opponent Volkov in a wrestling-heavy main event at the UFC Apex.

Blaydes, ranked #3 in the heavyweight contender’s list, has now won four straight fights and lost only one of his past 11 outings. He is now tied with Francis Ngannou, #2 in the rankings and the only man to beat Blaydes in UFC, for most heavyweight wins since 2016.

Blaydes’ performance on the night has possibly made him the next challenger for the belt in his division. However, he has to wait until UFC 252 on August 15, when reigning champion Stipe Miocic defends his title against Daniel Cormier in a third fight between the two superstars.

“There’s nowhere to go right now. It’s always a good experience to know you can go five rounds. I realised I’m a heel. I know a lot of fans don’t like it. I’m okay with that and one step closer to a title shot,” said the American MMA artist after his fight against Volkov, suggesting that he’s ready to wait without being in action before a future heavyweight title bout.

White, however, wants Blaydes to keep fighting after tiring out in round three of five in the main event, which was mostly fought on the ground and involved several takedowns. “With his performance tonight and his cardio, I wouldn’t wait around if I was him. I’d stay active and stay busy. When you talk s*** like he talked this week, man you better come in and whoop somebody's a**,” he said.

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Blaydes could potentially complete a trilogy with Ngannou next, before his encounter for the belt or face Derrick Lewis, #4 in the rankings, for the first time.

EMMETT AND BURGOS SHINE IN THREE-ROUND SPECTACLE

If the co-main event is a five-star affair, then the contenders in the final fight of the night have a task in their hand to better it. But there was no way that Blaydes and Volkov could have outplayed this contest between Josh Emmett and Shane Burgos in Las Vegas. Dubbed as the ‘fight of the year’ by many UFC stars and fans online, this one was an instant classic. Both Emmett and Burgos had a point to prove and needed the win to move up the rankings in the featherweight division.

After two of the most closely-fought and hard-hitting rounds this year, Emmett, despite hyperextending his left knee early on in the first round, got the better of his challenger with some significant strikes. “He fought me super well, he’s a tough guy, and I wish him nothing but the best. All the respect in the world,” the 35-year-old said after beating Burgos.

Emmett now moves forward in his MMA career with an eye on Alexander Volkanovski’s featherweight belt. But a future title shot can only be confirmed after Volkanovski puts his championship on the line versus Max Holloway at UFC 251 on July 12.

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As of now, Emmett can either wait to face the winner of the encounter between Calvin Kattar and Dan Ige on July 15 or that of the rumoured Yair Rodriguez-Zabit Magomedsharipov bout on August 29.

VETERAN MILLER STILL HAS IT IN HIM

The night was special for Miller because after his two-minute and twenty-five-second win over Roosevelt Roberts he equalled Cerrone’s record of most bouts contested in the company’s history - 35. This quick submission (armbar) win against an opponent, who is 10 years younger and five inches taller than him, earned 36-year-old Miller a ‘Performance of the Night’ award. So what’s next for Jim ‘A-10’ Miller?

Most pundits predicted a victory for the younger Roberts in the opener of UFC on ESPN 11’s main fight card. But Miller put aside the odds and finished off his rival in less than half-a-round, showing that he’s still capable of putting up eye-catching performances. “He’s very talented, but I felt that I had a pretty significant strength advantage. When he was defending, he was doing a really good job, but I knew he was going to make a mistake. I was just waiting for it,” Miller said during the post-fight interview.

Just before the clash, Miller had said he targets ending his career with at least 40 bouts. “If all goes well, I plan to get another fight end of August, early September. I’ve had some longer layoffs than I wanted. Forty should be relatively easy,” he had claimed before UFC Vegas 3.

After this showing of his, ‘Old Man’ Miller clearly has at least one more top-level fight in him.