Alexander Volkov

Per Haljestam/USA Today Sports

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STEFAN STRUVE’S return to his native Netherlands ended in a disastrous defeat, as he was stopped in the third round of what was a mammoth clash in the heavyweight division by Russian Alexander Volkov at the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam.

The seven-foot giant was caught by a series of strikes that he had no answer for and was left slumped against the cage by the former Bellator champion who has now won three straight in the Octagon and announced himself as a potential threat to the UFC’s heavyweight crown.

Struve started well, but he didn’t attempt to take Volkov down, playing right into the hands of the clinical striker, who was more than happy for it to stay on the feet. The end came at 3:30 in the third round.

“The Skyscraper” was walking a tightrope entering the third, as he had previously been warned twice by referee Marc Goddard for eye pokes, but as the fight went on, Volkov seemingly couldn’t miss and a barrage of blows all landed flush on the Dutchman, whose win over current UFC champion Stipe Miocic seems a long time ago.

In the chief support, Siyar Bahadurzada returned to the cage and left with a stoppage victory, as he pummelled Rob Wilkinson in the second round in his first fight up at middleweight. The Dutch based Afghan has admitted welterweight is his plan and after shaking off some rust in the first, added another knockout to his resumé.

The unbeaten Aussie Wilkinson gave as good as he had in the first, but it was Siyar who landed the cleaner, more powerful blows and it seemed a matter of time before a serious shot would have Wilkinson in trouble. It came midway through the second and immediately Wilkinson was reeling and in a world of pain. Mercilessly it was waved off to hand him his first career loss.

Marion Reneau was originally slated to face former featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie in Rotterdam, but instead she overcame a tough challenge from UFC newcomer Talita Bernardo to eventually pick up a stoppage win over the Brazilian with just six seconds to go in the third and final round.

Bernardo was intent on making the most of her late call-up and pick up a win over the ranked bantamweight, however Reneau took everything she had and ground her down for the late win. “The Belizean Bruiser” chained together some superb ground work, but it was her striking that finished the job.

Leon Edwards and Bryan Barbarena met in a closely fought welterweight matchup that opened up the main card. Barbarena has built up a reputation of ruining prospects on the way up and he dropped the Brit in the second, but couldn’t get the job done with Edwards taking it 29-28 on all three scorecards.

The preliminary card was headlined by another Brit in Darren Till, who is still undefeated after a unanimous points decision over a game Bojan Velickovic. Till’s striking was on full display and he was too much for the Serb in a fun fight, taking it 30-27 on all three cards.

Lightweight Mairbek Taisumov earned performance of the night honours with a stunning first round knockout of Felipe Silva inside 90 seconds. Taisumov has been out due to visa issues and a huge right hand ensured it was a successful return for the Russian, as well as a first loss for Silva.

Also picking up performance of the night honours was another Russian in Zabit Magomedsharipov who dazzled against Mike Santiago, eventually getting the job done in their featherweight matchup in the second round by a rear naked choke submission.

The variety of striking that was on display by Magomedsharipov was fantastic and he will have picked up a whole new legion of fans following this win. Keep your eye out for him in the future.

Also picking up a submission win, this time by a rare North-South choke, was Michel Prazeres over Mads Burnell. Prazeres failed the weight the day before, so he lost 20% of his purse, but he was too strong for Burnell, who had a UFC debut too forget in a fight at 159lbs.

Rounding off the rest of the card Light heavyweight Abdul-Kerim Edilov battered an overmatched Bojan Mihajlovic with consummate ease on his UFC debut, earning a second round stoppage, whilst Thibault Gouti also picked up a stoppage win, his first in the UFC, as he proved too much for Andrew Holbrook.

Finally there were points victories for lightweight Rustam Khabilov over Desmond Green in a tight fight, whilst Aleskandar Rakic won every round against Francimar Barroso to cap off an enjoyable night in Rotterdam.