UFC 254 Betting Pick: Alexander Volkov vs Walt Harris

One of the most interesting and likely entertaining fights of the entire night at UFC 254 from Fight Island could be Alexander Volkov vs Walt Harris.

The Russian striker towers over most of the UFC’s Heavyweight Division but Walt Harris is 6’5″ tall with a 77-inch reach.

The Big Ticket truly lives up to his nickname.

I’m sure most all of you have heard the story of Walt Harris and his daughter, Aniah Blanchard, who, at the age of just 19 was abducted. After 2 months of searching, her remains were found and her death was ruled a murder.

Less than 6 months later, Walt Harris had to step inside of the octagon and fight the formidable Alistair Overeem.

The Alabama native gave it everything he had and he almost finished the Dutch mixed martial arts legend but after the Reem barely survived being finished with punches in the first round, Walt had nothing left in his gas tank.

I think it was inevitable that he was going to have an adrenaline dump inside of the Octagon. It was just a matter of when, after he got the quick knockout win or after he unloaded in hopes of doing so. I’m not sure what to expect from Walt Harris this time.

My gut tells me that he went home after the fight with Overeem and was potentially overwhelmed by emotions.

Maybe overwhelmed is not the best word but what I’m trying to say is that Walt Harris never had the extended time that he needed to mourn the death of his daughter, Aniah Blanchard.

They searched for her for 2 years and forced themselves to be positive.

Then, after they found out that she was murdered, Walt Harris only had one month and then he had to start training camp for a fight against one of the greatest heavyweight mixed martial artists and kickboxers of all time.

Maybe if he had one and then his next fight was just two months later, I think Walt Harris could have fought off that deep debilitating type of depression.

It’s been 5 months, though, and Walt trains at a small gym back home in Alabama.

Normally I would want a fighter that I’m potentially betting on to train at a big gym or at least with some of the best coaches in the world around him but Walt just doesn’t have that where he is in Alabama.

I like the family atmosphere type of gym for his particular situation.

The man is an incredible athlete. He fights in spurts though and he is dangerous but I think his opponent on Saturday night, Alexander Volkov, more often than not will be able to survive against Walt.

If Harris wins, it will most likely be by knockout and the potential for that is…

Let’s take a look at the measurables for these two behemoths.

Alexander Volkov Walt Harris
Fight Record: 31-8 Fight Record: 13-8
Age: 32 Age: 37
Height: 6’7” Height: 6’5”
Reach: 80” Reach: 77”
From: Moscow, Russia From: Homewood, Alabama, USA
Fight Camp: Strela Fight Team in Russia Fight Camp: Spartan Fitness in Birmingham, Alabama

We have to note the difference in height and reach here.

It’s not massive but it is a few inches. That’s also a couple of inches in height as well for the Russian.

Alexander Volkov is used to having a reach advantage, though.

Walt Harris is also used to having a reach advantage but it’s not like he particularly fights like that.

It’s not usually his choice to keep his range, stay on the outside, and pick his opponents apart from there.

The age difference comes into play here.

I know they are heavyweights but Walt Harris has never had the best gas tank.

He is a former football player and we are all familiar with that sport and how short their bursts are compared to an MMA round of 5 minutes.

I’ll stop there with all the talk about who are the better athletes because the best athletes born pure athletes are football players because they make the most money, the sport has been around much longer, and they make much more money.

If you’re talking about which athletes are the best overall as far as attributes matching endurance with strength or speed with size, mixed martial artists are better athletes.

The next time you have that discussion with your friends or co-workers, you have to ask them what their definition of an athlete is before you get too deep into it.

I believe Volkov is definitely the more technical striker.

He can surely get caught, though, by Walt Harris.

Walt Harris can really move when he wants to.

People are trying to compare the Derrick Lewis fight Volkov had with his upcoming match up against Walt Harris and they are not the same fighter.

Yes, they both fight in spurts.

Each man punches incredibly hard.

Both guys have questionable takedown defense.

it’s the movement of each man that sets them apart from each other.

Alexander Volkov, even though he lost his fight to Derrick Lewis, was controlling that contest the entire time until he fell asleep in the last few seconds and, well, he fell asleep again.

This time he was aided by a concussion.

Whoops!

Said the c-word.

Sorry, Uncle Dana!

You don’t really hear the word concussion mentioned very often on a UFC broadcast.

I never noticed this but a friend of mine who isn’t a fight fan or at least he wasn’t until I made him one but he noticed that they never said concussion.

They would say knockout KO or use some other kind of terms like flatlined or something but never concussion.

Hey, I get it.

It’s bad for business.

Alexander Volkov only other loss inside of the Octagon came against Curtis Blaydes who just wrestled him to death.

Walt Harris is not a wrestler and I do not see him taking down Alexander Volkov at all.

He is going to go out there and try to knock his head off.

There is zero question about that.

The first round will be a very scary round for Volkoff and from there, he will most likely have to worry about the spurts.

Technically, the key for the Russian is to lower his level.

Even though he isn’t likely to face a level change/takedown attempt from his opponent, I really like the idea of Volkov bending his knees so that he does not leave a gap between his shoulder and his chin when he throws his jab.

I am well aware that Alexander Volkov knows his stuff.

He is a great striker.

And he is definitely familiar with punching down towards opponents.

If he stands tall, though, because he isn’t worried about a takedown attempt from Harris then I do believe Walt will find his chin at some point.

Can the Russian recover from there?

I don’t know.

I do favor Alexander Volkov in this fight.

Let’s see what the boys over at BetOnline.AG think about this one.

Moneyline

  • Alexander Volkov -150
  • Walt Harris +125
Round Total

  • Over 2.5 (+100)
  • Under 2.5 (-130)
Decision Prop

  • Fight goes (+125)
  • Fight doesn’t go (-165)

Wow.

I had the Russian capped at about (-200).

I like what I see here with the betting odds on the favorite from Moscow.

As far as the round total goes, I would stay away because both men are very dangerous. This is the heavyweight division. If you’re betting on Walt Harris, you are betting on a knockout. That is something that you must accept. I don’t like to bet on a knockout with (+125) betting odds.

If you are a small underdog, I would like you to have potentially two paths to victory like maybe he could get a couple of takedowns but I just don’t see it against Volkov, especially with him coming off of his fight against a tremendous wrestler in Curtis Blaydes.

I think his takedown defense got much much better during his fight camp in preparation for Curtis, and I also believe that he leveled up in that skillset from that 5-round fight with Blaydes.

Conor McGregor was dominated in the grappling exchanges against Khabib Nurmagomedov and Cowboy Cerrone, who has a very underrated double leg takedown, was light years behind the Irishman in the wrestling department in their fight this past January, just 73 years ago.

Turns out, losing can make you much better.

Who knew?

We are getting about a 6% Edge on the sportsbooks here with this play on Volkov at (-150).

I think he gets it done two out of every three times against the Big Ticket if not 7 out of 10.

Pick:

Prediction
Alexander Volkov

In Conclusion

Walt Harris is definitely a live dog in this fight but he isn’t live enough for just a (+120) payout.

Alexander Volkov, though, at just (-150) is very affordable.

He is the bigger man, the more technical striker, and we have reason to believe that it is likely that the Russian is in a better state of mind than his American Challenger.

Just so you guys know, I would have Volkov at (-200) or better whether or not I thought Walt Harris was coming into this fight very depressed or on top of the world.

I have Alexander as the better kicker, the better puncher, and the smarter fighter.

The big-ticket is as dangerous as any heavyweight on the planet. He has one-punch knockout power with the speed of a 205 pounder.

I just think he takes one out of three and the betting odds are telling me that he is going to win 4 out of 10 so it doesn’t make any sense for me to bet on Walt here unless I’m just chasing that dragon hoping to celebrate a Big Ticket of my own with Walt who we would all love to see get the win.

Emotions are a part of the game for MMA fighters but as handicappers we have to shut that stuff down.

Fandom is no more.

We have fighters that we fade and we have fighters in which we are riding their momentum.

Okay, maybe you can still be a fan but you better not be throwing serious money down on your favorite fighter.

Heck, bet against him or her and you are guaranteed to win either way.

As far as the movement of this betting line, I believe it is on the move towards the (-200) number we were talking about earlier.

So, you know what that means.

Bet now or forever hold your horses.

Mike Pruitt / Author

Mike has been covering sports professionally since 2017 but on the amateur scene for 25 years since when he was 12. Before the internet changed the world, he would keep detailed statistical box scores of NFL and NBA contests, write recaps, and voluntarily commentate games and fights alone in his room. Mike's military experience, Bachelors Degree, and employment thereafter were always rooted in engineering, science, and teaching. Now he enjoys being able to express himself through writing about football, golf, and car racing among other sports but most of all fighting as his life has been rooted in mixed martial arts including competing and teaching for the past 15 years.