Just a few short years ago, Blagoy Ivanov was one of the most feared heavyweight prospects in MMA. The former World Combat Sambo champion, who became famous for defeating the legendary Fedor Emelianenko the semifinals of the 2008 World Sambo Championships, had amassed a dominant (7-0) professional record to match his stellar amateur career in Judo and Sambo including two wins under the Bellator banner in 2011.
In February of 2012, the meteoric rise of Ivanov took a fatal blow, literally, as the vaunted prospect was involved in a bar altercation in his home country of Bulgaria where was he was stabbed just below the armpit, allowing the blade to penetrate his heart. Over the next month Ivanov’s condition deteriorated quickly and the former rising star was placed in an artificial coma following a second surgery to repair the damage to his heart was performed.
That May, Ivanov improved drastically, regaining his ability to speak and was miraculously released from hospitalization. Following this horrific experience, Ivanov was cleared to resume fighting and stated that he was re-energized to return to competition.
Since his unlikely return, the 27-year-old Bulgarian born fighter has done nothing but impress and defy the odds, reeling off four straight wins and improving his undefeated record to (11-0). Ivanov’s two most recent bouts against Rich Hale (21-7) and Lavar Johnson (18-9) were a part of the Bellator Season 10 Heavyweight Tournament, and with these two victories the once promising star now finds himself fighting in the tournament final at Bellator 120.
The decorated sambo champion will face a stiff test in this fight as he squares off against former Bellator heavyweight champ Alexander Volkov (21-4), who is looking to earn a rematch against the current title holder Vitaly Minakov (12-0).
Even without the inspiring comeback of Ivanov, this is an interesting stylistic matchup in and of itself with the 5-foot-11 Blagoy Ivanov going toe-to-toe with the 6-foot-7 Alexander “Drago” Volkov. Volkov likes to use his size, footwork and volume striking to pepper his opponents from the outside and has shown the ability end fights quickly which could pose problem for the smaller fighter.
On the other side of the coin is the bruising Ivanov, who can stop the affair with ease on the feet or on the ground. The former combat sambo champion will likely hold a distinct advantage on the ground over Volkov, and though the rangy Russian Alexander may hold an edge in technical striking department, Ivanov has shown a knack for closing the distance quickly and with power.
With Ivanov’s explosiveness and Volkov’s nonstop pressure, this fight is likely to offer nonstop action standing, or on the canvas, and don’t expect it to reach the judges’ scorecards.