Heavyweight: (c) Alexander Volkov (19-3 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) vs. Vitaly Minakov (12-0 MMA, 3-0 BMMA)

The next title fight to take place after the three at Bellator 106 is between two of the top heavyweights outside of the UFC, both Russian, and it takes place tomorrow night – Friday, November 15th live on SPIKE T.V. Vitaly Minakov, Bellator’s 2013 Summer Series Heavyweight Tournament winner, earned his shot against the Bellator heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov who won the vacant title after beating Richard Hale in the Bellator Season 7 Tournament Finals.

Minakov, 28, is one of the most exciting prospects in mixed martial arts today having gone undefeated at heavyweight in 12 fights with nine first round finishes. Before making the transition to mixed martial arts, Minakov put huge focus towards a successful career in both Sambo and Judo becoming a four-time World Sambo Champion, a four-time Russian Sambo Champion, and a one-time Russian Judo Champion. Needless to say, Minakov’s strengths are like most Sambo specialists – he has amazing throws, trips, slams, and is deadly in the clinch. In his twelve wins, he’s earned himself an impressive seven knock outs and four submissions.

Volkov began his mixed martial arts career a year earlier than Minakov and has fought a total of 12 more times. While he’s lost three times to Minakov’s zero, he has faced tougher competition in his 22 fight career sharing the cage with the likes of Ricco Rodriguez, Brett Rogers, and Vinicius “Spartan” Queiroz (a current Season 9 Heavyweight Tournament Finalist). Volkov currently trains at the Red Devil Sports Club in St. Petersburg, Russia training with the likes of Gegard Mousasi, Alexey Oleinik, and at times even the great Fedor Emelianenko. Volkov specializes in striking, and at 6’7″ he compliments his 81 inch reach with a black belt in Kyokushin karate. Of Volkov’s 19 wins, he has earned himself 15 finishes – 14 of them being knock outs, and 11 of those finishes taking place in the first round.

The keys to victory appear, on paper, to be the same as most grappler versus striker match ups. Volkov is going to look to stuff the take downs of Minakov, avoid the clinch, and maintain his balance during trip attempts as well as positional dominance in the clinch to avoid any unexpected throws or slams. On the feet, he will use rangy strikes (likely a stiff jab-straight combination) and utilize his immense 11 inch reach advantage. Minakov, on the other hand, will look to close the distance quick landing his overhand right which he has had much success with in the past (and sets it up nicely with feints and level changes) as well as dominating in the clinch, imposing his Sambo style on the lanky Volkov. Whoever keeps the fight in their realm of expertise should be able to take the fight.

@MMAMikal ‘s Prediction: Vitaly Minakov defeats Alexander Volkov via submission (armbar) in round two.

While Minakov’s most recent showing wasn’t as impressive as his prior fights and Volkov looked better than ever in his most recent showing, the skill set of the Sambo world champion seems almost tailor made to defeat Volkov. Minakov has a very quick shot and will most certainly be able to force a clinch fight with Volkov in the early rounds where he should be able to use his explosiveness and force the fight to the ground where Volkov is still rather inexperienced in. Minakov has very explosive submission attempts and he should be able to find a hole in Volkov’s bottom game after peppering him with ground and pound. He will likely be able to secure an arm and lock in an arm bar while he’s still fresh early in the second round.