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Why Alexander Volkov and Jairzinho Rozenstruik need a win at UFC Fight Night 207

The headliners enter Saturday's bout in pursuit of a victory to maintain their top-10 status in the heavyweight division.
alexander-volkov

Alexander Volkov fights Jairzinho Rozenstruik in the main event of Saturday's UFC Fight Night 207 card.

Both fighters are coming off disappointing losses. Rozenstruik (12-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) lost a unanimous decision to Curtis Blaydes in September, while Volkov (34-10 MMA, 8-4 UFC) tapped in a one-sided defeat to Tom Aspinall in March.

"I was prepared for the fight against Aspinall," said Volkov, speaking through a translator. "I felt great when I got there, but something went wrong in the octagon. It's a fight. Sometimes things go right, sometimes things go wrong. I was prepared and I have no excuses. Aspinall was the better fighter that night."

Volkov's coaches from Russia are unable to be present for his fight against Rozenstruik due to visa issues, so he will be cornered by Kenny Johnson from the Black House gym and Tiki Ghosn, his old striking coach from Bellator. But that won't change the consequences of the outcome. Each side desperately needs a win to keep faint title hopes alive.

Rozenstruik has split his past six, and a loss will put his No. 8 ranking in jeopardy – and the same can be said for No. 7 Volkov, who has dropped two of his past three. But Volkov enters this fight, which is an early start time on ESPN+, buoyed with great confidence after an intense training regimen built around cardio and strength work in the mountains of Kislovodsk.

"I found three weeks to train in the mountains at elevation," Volkov said. "It was very intense preparation. I did a lot of sparring and running and lifting and wrestling. It was nonstop, and then I went back to Moscow for a couple more weeks. Then I went to the United States in L.A. to prepare, and now I'm in Las Vegas for the final touches before the fight."

A native of Moscow, Volkov is well-aware of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But he did not go beyond the surface when asked about it, instead stressing that his entire focus is on the upcoming fight.

"The operation going on is taking a toll on everyone in the whole world," Volkov said. "But my focus is on my fighting career and this fight coming up."

Volkov knows the importance of this fight, especially considering the loser is likely to plummet out of the top 10.

"I am ready for the fight," Volkov said. "I respect the power of Rozenstruik, especially in his hands. He's a very formidable opponent, and I'll be careful about his technique and his power. For me, I'm going to use the opportunity to look to knock him out."

This story first published at SI.com/MMA.