Our main event of the evening features two top-five contenders in the heavyweight division, each looking to take the next step towards a fight for the title. Derrick Lewis is a winner of three straight, including a second-round knockout of Alexey Oleinik in his most recent fight this past August.
Curtis Blaydes is 9-2 with one no contest (popped for weed after a 2017 win resulting from a leg injury,) with his only losses coming at the hands of Francis Ngannou. Derrick Lewis happens to be one of only two UFC fighters to have defeated Ngannou. Blaydes is riding a four-fight win streak which includes knockouts of Junior Dos Santos and Shamil Abdurakhimov, as well as unanimous decisions over Justin Wills and Alexander Volkov.
Curtis Blaydes is arguably the most dominant wrestler heavyweight division history. He ranks first all-time in the division in takedowns, control time, and top position time, and ranks second all-time in takedown accuracy. He averages an astounding 6.6 takedowns per 15 minutes, and succeeds on over half of his takedown attempts.
Blaydes has pretty good boxing skills, which allow him to close the distance he needs to get inside for single and double leg takedowns. He is excellent at getting onto his opponents backs and controlling them for rounds at a time, schoolboy wrestling style. And naturally so, he was an undefeated state champion in high school who set his school record for takedowns, and won a junior college national championship in the heavyweight division.
He controls wrists, slips in leg hooks and maintains a dominant position, looking to ware opponents down. They work to their feet, and he slams them back down with body locks and outside trips. When he goes for it, he has some nasty ground and pound.
Blaydes’ jab is usually enough to get him into the pocket, but when it isnt, he looks to stay on the outside and work in and out, throwing single shots or two-strike combos. He’s very athletic and is a tough target to hit. He has shown the ability to land some powerful straights against good strikers, but we find it hard to believe he’ll wait very long before attempting to bring Derrick Lewis to the ground.
When his grappling isn’t working Blaydes tends to throw a bit wild and can sometimes expose himself to damage. However, he has shown the ability to stop fights in the blink of an eye with his hands. He’s confident in his hands, but if he becomes over confident in this department against Derrick Lewis, he might find himself getting stopped early.
Lewis is the most prolific knockout artist in UFC heavyweight history, totaling 11 wins by knockout during his UFC tenure. All things considered, winning by knockout is Lewis’ only chance to win this fight.
Although his wrestling has improved, Lewis is not going to be able to survive in grappling exchanges with Blaydes. He’ll have to keep it standing, sit down on hit punches and throw bombs. Which he usually does anyway. Lewis has insane power in both hands but especially his right. He has great speed on his high kicks for a heavyweight, but really only throws his switch kick, and it can be predictable at times.
At the end of the day, we think it’s pretty obvious how this is going to go. Lewis is going to go straight after Blaydes from the opening bell. Blaydes is going to have to avoid big shots early and, if he can, he’ll enjoy a significant wrestling advantage over a tired Derrick Lewis. He will most likely win the fight by finishing Lewis on the ground, but there is some value in Blaydes by decision.
Blaydes is not, however, worth his -400 price tag outside of parlays, and might not be the safest moneyline play. Like we mentioned earlier, Blaydes can expose himself at times, and Lewis legitimately only needs to land one shot to begin a finishing sequence. Lewis has also shown some improved conditioning, though he hasn’t been tested for a full five rounds yet. This one could be worth a small hedge on Lewis by KO/TKO at +350, but we won’t be playing that hedge.
Blaydes by KO/TKO at -135 is our confident pick for this one